With some reports on Monday suggesting Reliance Jio is already looking to look away from its much-hyped Jio Phone, the company has said that it is still committed to the 4G feature phone that was announced at the Reliance AGM in July. Jio had earlier claimed to have received 6 million pre-bookings for the Jio Phone and the company insists it plans to follow through.
In a statement to Gadgets 360, a Reliance Jio spokesperson said, “Jio Phone, ‘India ka smartphone’ is committed to fulfilling the country’s digital vision. Jio welcomes the initial 6 million Indians who are moving to digital life with the JioPhone and will soon announce the next JioPhone booking date.”
Media reports earlier on Monday claimed development on Jio Phone is being halted as the company explores an Android phone to provide more apps on the platform to users. The handset is based on KAI OS, a fork of the HTML5-based Firefox OS.
However, Gadgets 360 has learned that Jio is working on bringing more apps to the Jio Phone app store, with a focus on the needs of rural consumers. These include the travel apps to book bus tickets, as well as entertainment apps. As reported earlier, it is also in talks to bring Facebook and WhatsApp on its platform. However, as of now, the Jio Phone app store only feature the company’s proprietary apps, such as JioMusic, JioCinema, and others.
The Jio Phone is aimed at the bottom end of the Indian mobile phone market, at consumers who are yet to switch from feature phones to smartphones. According to some estimates, the company originally aimed to sell 100-200 million units of the handset over the next couple of years. Its highlight, of course, is the access to 4G Internet and the zero ‘effective price’; at the time of purchase, though, they still need to pay Rs. 1,500. Users can stream music and videos, browse the Web, and even mirror content playing on the phone onto a TV using a proprietary cable.
However, the rollout of the handset has been slow, with the first Jio-branded phone becoming available for pre-bookings only once since its unveiling in July. The delivery has been slow as well, with consumers in urban areas getting their units in late October for bookings made in August.
In the meantime, rival telecom operators have started partnering with phone makers to bringing down the cost of not just feature phones but also Android phones, thus lowering the entry barrier to smartphones. Airtel has partnered with Karbonn and Celkon to offer Android phones at as low as Rs. 1,349 effective price, while Vodafone has lowered the same to Rs. 999. BSNL gives consumers a 4G feature phone at Rs. 2,200, and unlimited Internet access with its Rs. 97 recharge.
In fact, Jio has done something similar to what Airtel and Vodafone did in the recent past, and brought down the effective price of two Lyf-branded Android handsets; Lyf is owned by Reliance Retail, a part of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries. Under that offer, the effective price of the Rs. 4,699 Lyf C459 came down to Rs. 2,392, while that of the Rs. 4,999 Lyf C451 was brought down to Rs. 2,692.
Notably, instead of exploring another phone, Jio can just choose to bring down the prices of these handsets – or other Lyf phones – further by giving deeper discounts, à la Vodafone and Airtel.