Reliance Jio announced its new ultra-affordable 4G smartphone, JioPhone Next, at its 44th AGM. Integrated into the partnership with Google, the smartphone will run on an optimized version of the Android operating system with cutting-edge features specially designed for new smartphone users. With the JioPhone Next, Reliance Jio will primarily target more than 300 million multifunction phone users and a portion of nearly half a billion users who have not yet purchased their first phone.
The JioPhone Next will go on sale from September 10, 2021. Although the official price has not yet been revealed, it is expected to be available for under Rs 5,000. Just like the company’s 4G compatible smartphone, JioPhone; the new JioPhone Next is expected to disrupt the entry-level smartphone market. This represents a great opportunity for Jio and its partners, but also brings many challenges to its competitors such as Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL.
Opportunities for Reliance Jio and its platform partners
Attract new users to the Android platform: Android is the world’s most popular smartphone operating system, now powering more than three billion devices worldwide. As Google seeks to further increase its share, the ultra-affordable 4G smartphone for India, the world’s second-largest smartphone market, is unlocking untapped potential by attracting hundreds of millions of new users to its Android platform and services.
Voice search and user interface: The target audience for JioPhone Next are consumers beyond the subways, many of whom do not speak English. Support for voice interaction in the regional language will help bridge the digital divide and language barrier. State-of-the-art features such as on-screen translation that reads text aloud in the user’s language will help increase Google’s text-to-speech service attachment rate. Voice search can also help users find content, whether it’s a recipe or songs on apps like YouTube, without typing. As more and more users interact with voice, Google is also getting more data in different accents and dialects to further optimize Assistant and voice search.
Activate richer visual experiences: Besides voice, Jio also focused on the on-camera experiences that the JioPhone Next enables. This includes AI-enabled low-light mode allowing users to click clear, brighter photos in difficult lighting conditions. Integration with Google Lens will allow users to click on a photo of text and translate it into the language of their choice. Jio also highlighted augmented reality (AR) experiences in partnership with Snapchat, which integrates India-specific AR filters directly into the default camera app.
Increase content loyalty between services: Jio will seek to pilot its content and services such as JioCinema, JioTV, JioSaavn music, etc. While these applications also existed on JioPhone, the smartphone offers a larger screen to experience video content. Jio also recently partnered with Worldreader, which offers children’s books to help under-supplied households with the support needed to develop vital literacy skills. The e-book library includes topics such as nature, science, social studies, story books, folk tales, as well as health and hygiene-focused topics that can come in handy on time. current COVID. Jio also has his team collaboration and video calling app called JioMeet, which he can leverage for educational purposes – where homeschooling has become the new normal.
Increased focus on e-commerce and payments: JioMart has played a crucial role during these COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, allowing users to order groceries from the comfort of their own homes. The application also integrates a collection of fashion and accessories, and the possibility of purchasing quality jewelry. The integration of JioMart and WhatsApp is also in initial testing, which will introduce a new commerce solution that will connect merchants and consumers. Jio also integrates local kiranas from non-metropolitan cities on its platform to allow users to order groceries and more directly from WhatsApp. The payment space is another area where Jio has focused with Jio Payments Bank. It not only allows peer-to-peer payments to be made but also peer-to-merchant payments.
Implications for the various industry players
Competitors of Jio: Without a doubt, the JioPhone Next holds a value proposition for the target audience. But the biggest challenge for incumbent carriers is to protect their existing 2G and 3G subscriber base from the loss of Jio. Telecom operators like Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL will need to forge successful partnerships with OEMs to deliver a compelling device at a similar price and move 2G / 3G users to 4G. This move also opens up revenue opportunities to increase ARPUs, as these users will need data to consume rich content on smartphones. But it will also be difficult to offer a device optimized for smoother experiences at an ultra-affordable price.
Device OEM: The entry-level segment includes smartphones from OEMs such as Lava, iTel, Karbonn, Gionee and Micromax, among others. The JioPhone Next targets this segment, and Jio’s close partnership with Google makes it an attractive option to consider. But OEMs can learn from this partnership and build similar models and aim to enter markets outside of India, such as the Middle East and Africa, among others.
Content providers: As new smartphone users come to the platform to experience a world of new and interactive features and services, audio and video content will play a larger role. JioPhone users who upgrade to JioPhone Next already have access to a wide range of video content. But OTT gamers will also need to think from the perspective of the entire ecosystem to make their content available on smartphone hardware as low as possible.
Component players: If you look at entry-level smartphones under the $ 75 price tag, these devices are powered by Unisoc, MediaTek, and Qualcomm chipsets made on a matured 28nm process. But with the opening of a new market with more than a billion potential users, chipmakers have the opportunity to introduce more powerful and energy-efficient chipsets. Even for display makers, this is a potential new market, moving from the small screen on multifunction phones to the larger LCD screens on entry-level smartphones. Opportunities also exist for cover glass manufacturers like Corning, Asahi and others. Finally, camera module vendors also have a great opportunity to introduce a good camera sensor in this ultra-affordable price, unlocking richer photography and videography experiences for new smartphone users.
Alternative platform providers: When the multifunction phone market stagnated without innovation, KaiOS turned the space around by designing a custom operating system optimized for smartphones. By working with partners like Jio, Google and Facebook among others, KaiOS has successfully deployed applications like WhatsApp, Facebook, Google Search, Maps, YouTube, etc. by optimizing them for the non-touch operating system. However, with Jio wooing Google Android to target the next half a billion users, KaiOS must pivot to capture most of the 4G market as the 5G transition dawns. KaiOS will have to catch up with Google and come up with a disruptive alternative to the touchscreen Android operating system. They will also need to work closely with Jio’s competing operators and OEM partners to deliver these devices to their target audiences. Maybe KaiOS goes from friend to foe.
All in all, an ultra-affordable 4G smartphone will be a game-changer for carriers by providing cutting-edge features to new smartphone buyers. But the overall experience is something no one has been able to crack until now. Google failed earlier with the Android Go and Android One programs, but the new approach to integrating key features and services into the operating system could prove successful this time around. This success can then be replicated by Google in other major markets around the world and capture the next billion users.
(The author is Global Content Manager at Counterpoint Research)