Reliance Industries said on Friday that its low-cost 4G smartphone, created jointly by the Indian group’s Jio telecommunications business and Alphabet’s Google, will be available in stores starting this Diwali season for 6,499 rupees ($87).
Reliance said in a statement that the smartphone, which is the result of a $4.5 billion Google investment in Reliance’s digital sector last year, will cost 1,999 rupees upfront and consumers may pay the remainder in monthly installments.
The phone runs on a modified Android operating system called Pragati, which means progress, and is geared at first-time smartphone customers with features including rapid translations in 10 Indian languages and a voice assistant that can read the text aloud.
The device relationship with Jio, according to a comment by Google CEO Sundar Pichai earlier this week, is about investing in local languages other than English so that many more Indians can utilise smartphones.
“So I view it (the phone) as laying the foundation… And, you know, I think over a three- to five-year time frame, it will end up having a lot of impacts,” Pichai said in Alphabet’s third-quarter earnings call.
The pricing of the Jio-Google smartphone will also present a significant challenge to Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and BBK Electronics, which owns the Realme, Oppo, and Vivo brands and currently control a $2 billion market for sub-$100 smartphones in India, the world’s second largest smartphone market.
Jio also intends to utilize the phone to steal 2G customers from Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel.
According to Navkendar Singh of tech analyst IDC India, the smartphone’s price might put it out of reach for a major portion of users of basic feature phones, putting a damper on Mukesh Ambani’s ambitious aim to make India “2G free.”
“This is not affordable… Jio is expecting a feature phone or 2G user to almost quadruple their telco spend per month,” Singh told Reuters. “That doesn’t mean this won’t sell, it will, but this misses the affordability mark by a mile.”
(Adapted from Reuters.com)