Mukesh Ambani caused a storm after announcing the JioPhone smart feature phone that was effectively free of cost. Millions of people have already pre-ordered the phone with shipments having started post Diwali. However, based on a new report, production of the JioPhone has stopped as Reliance Jio is now looking to work on an Android smartphone to take on Airtel and Vodafone. 

Sources close to FactorDaily reported that production of JioPhone has stopped as the telcos is now focusing on bringing out an Android-based phone. To recall, the JioPhone runs on KaiOS, which is a version of Firefox OS. The latest report cites lack of apps supported by KaiOS as a reason behind Jio switching over to Android. The JioPhone as of now does not support apps for Facebook and WhatsApp, among others.

“There are not enough apps compatible with KaiOS but people are working on developing special versions for the JioPhone,” a company insider told FactorDaily. Jio has reportedly been in talks with Facebook and Google to bring versions of Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube apps to the JioPhone.

What this means for the JioPhone

The latest report, however, doesn’t answer whether Jio has met with the over 6 million pre-bookings of the JioPhone since announcement. The company had stopped taking pre-orders in August citing an overwhelming response. It promised that shipping of the pre-ordered JioPhones would begin post Diwali, and it is still unclear as to how many people have received their handsets.

Reliance Jio chairman in July said that the company has set a target of producing 5 million JioPhones every week, but with productions having halted now, that promise seems to have fallen flat. “It’s not that the target is changing…but a walled garden approach doesn’t work in mobile phones, it hasn’t worked in the past and it will not work in the future,” another source told FactorDaily.

There is also no word on whether Jio will discontinue the JioPhone after it launches the Android-based phone. A Jio executive said that the company will manufacture at least 10 million KaiOS-based JioPhones, which means all who have already pre-ordered the handset are likley to get it soon.

Jio’s Android phone to take on Airtel and Vodafone

As of now, there is no detail regarding the pricing strategy of the Android-based Jio phone. But with Airtel and Vodafone having launched cheap 4G smartphones like the Karbonn A40 Indian and Micromax Bharat 2 Ultra, respectively, Reliance Jio will look to bring an effective pricing scheme for its phone as well. As a smartphone, it may be difficult for Jio to keep an effective zero pricing as it did with the KaiOS-based JioPhone.

Airtel and Karbonn’s 4G Android smartphone comes at an effective cost of Rs 1,399 while Vodafone and Micromax announced a smartphone at an effective price of Rs 999 provided that customers stay with the phone and the maintain a minimum monthly recharge amount for a period of three years. On Monday, Airtel announced a second 4G smartphone in partnership with Celkon, called Celkon Smart 4G that comes at an effective price of Rs 1,349. These entry-level smartphones by rival telecom operators seem to have pushed Jio to launch its own Android smartphone.

Also Read: Airtel announces Celkon Smart 4G smartphone at effective price of Rs 1349

While Jio looks to make the Android-based phone more consumer friendly by bringing modern-day apps, Google will also stand to benefit from tying up with Jio. The Android-based JioPhone will likely sport Android Go, a slimmed down version of Android 8.0 Oreo that is aimed for entry-level smartphones. For Google, having Android Go inside the JioPhone will help the company expand its reach further.

“The expertise Google can bring with software is immense… It makes sense for Reliance to wait and go with Android Go. For Google, JioPhone can be an important vehicle to go after the next billion users,” said Faisal Kawoosa, principal analyst with CyberMedia Research.



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