The much-anticipated Jio phone launch is expected at today's Reliance Industries AGM, which kicks off at 11am in Mumbai. Chairman Mukesh Ambani will take stage to give his annual update on how the various companies of the group are faring, but all eyes will be on the latter part of the speech where Jio-centric announcements are likely to feature, with the affordable mobile firmly in focus.
This comes roughly a year after the 2016 Reliance AGM, where Ambani announced the public launch of the Reliance Jio telecom network. The venture went on to transform how the telecom industry operates, something that may also be expected of the Lyf/ Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone considering its rumoured price tag as well as its rather long list of features. Mukesh Ambani's speech will be broadcast live on YouTube and other mediums.
The Jio feature phone price is among the biggest bones of contention as reports have pegged the price anywhere between Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,500. When the report of the Jio feature phone first trickled out, the price was said to be between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,500 between two variants, though this later changed to Rs. 500 by a separate report. The latest report on the matter of the Jio feature phone price once again suggests a price tag between Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 1,500, noting that the final price is yet to be decided. The handset’s manufacturing cost is said to be $27-28 (roughly Rs. 1,800), and the consensus is that it will likely be subsidised by Jio in order to keep it within the reach of feature phone users, the company's target segment.
Intex has confirmed to Gadgets 360 that it is in final stages of talks to manufacture the Jio feature phone, but the deal is yet to be struck. If the deal goes through, the first Intex-made Jio feature phones could hit the market later this quarter. Now, reports have said the handset will be unveiled at the Reliance AGM on July 21, but hit the market on August 15. So the first batch of Jio phones will likely be imported from China, where the company is said to be partnering with OEMs such as Zhejiang Techain Electronics Technology Co., Shenzhen CHINO-E Communication Co, Crave and Megaphone.
The company aims to sell as many as 100 million units of the device in the first year of its launch, and another 100 million the following year. For context, sample this – IDC says a total of 136.1 million feature phones were sold in India in 2016, a year in which consumer migration from feature phones to smartphones declined (compared to the previous year). This is a huge target, but not something that would be impossible for the company, as it has shown itself to be the fastest to 100 million users with the Jio telecom venture.
The Jio feature phone might be a low-end, basic handset, but it will apparently have features that will help it stand toe-to-toe with smartphones. From video calling and Internet tethering to a custom software (KAI OS) & app marketplace (KaiOS Plus) and access to JioTV and JioCinema apps, the company is said to be stuffing everything in the device. In fact, the latest report says the handset will come with a cable that will allow users to connect it to TV to play content from the JioTV and JioCinema apps on their television. It is also said to have support for a digital voice assistant with support for Indian languages.
As for the specifications, Jio feature phone reportedly comes with is a 2.4-inch colour display, 512MB RAM, 4GB of internal storage, up to 128GB microSD card support, dual SIM functionality (Nano SIM + Standard SIM), 2-megapixel rear camera, and VGA front camera. Reports also say users will get 2000mAh battery, FM radio, and Bluetooth 4.1 + LE with the handset. Jio plans, priced around Rs. 80-90, are also expected to be announced for the feature phone buyers.
Alongside the feature phone, the Mukesh Ambani-backed company will reportedly launch a new low-cost plan for Jio users, priced around Rs. 80-90. This rumoured Jio plan will likely come with bundled data, SMSs, access to Jio apps etc.; all calls are free on the network. It is not yet clear whether the plan will be available only for buyers of the feature phone, or will also be extended to existing users accessing the network on a smartphone.
The Jio feature phone is as big as, or maybe even bigger than, the telecom network that was launched a year ago. The 4G VoLTE network put a phone with Jio SIM in the hands of over 110 million people, and is claimed to have boosted India to the top of globally charts in terms of data consumption, with the bulk of it on the company’s network. But growth has been slowing down, and the Jio network had its slowest growth in user base since launch in April. With a low-cost Jio feature phone in the market, the company would be able to tap the millions of consumers who are yet to move to its mobile network because of the high costs associated with a smartphone.
We discussed the impact of Nokia and Jio on the feature phones market in India on our weekly technology podcast Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.