Mumbai, July 22, 2017: In a move seen as disrupting the bottom of the mobile phone market, Reliance Industries, who rolled out the Jio service a year ago, have followed up with a compelling offering for erstwhile feature phone users.
Said Mukesh D. Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, speaking at the company's Annual General Meeting yesterday: "Today, Jio is going to reinvent the conventional feature phone with a revolutionary device, an unmatched Indian innovation, Made in India, by young Indians and for all Indians: India ka Intelligent SmartPhone : Jio Phone."
"JioPhone is a truly revolutionary phone that will transform the lives of 500 million feature phone users", he added. The phone will harness the Jio 4G LTE network.
He gave details of the tariffs for the JioPhone:
On the JioPhone, voice will always be free, where currently it is charged at Rs 1.2 to 1.5 per minute. Jio will give them access to unlimited data on the JioPhone -- for Rs 153 per month ( with a Fair Usage Policy limit of 1/2 GB per day).
Jio engineers have created an innovation a special and affordable “JioPhone TV cable” that connects JioPhone with any TV, not just a smart TV, so that all JioPhone users can enjoy viewing on the big screen of their existing television sets. Users can opt for the existing Jio Dhan Dhan Dhan Rs 309 pack that would allow users to watch almost 3-4 hours of videos daily, of their choice, on a large screen. For users who might find it difficult to commit to Rs 153 per month, Jio is offering .2 sachets - a weekly plan for Rs 53 and a 2-day plan for Rs 23, that provide similar value.
Finally JioPhone will be available to all Indians for an effective price of Rs 0. Jio plans to collect a fully refundable, one-time, security deposit of Rs 1,500 with every JioPhone refundable after 36 months upon return of the phone.
The scheme launches on August 15 with pre booking from August 24 and delivery starting September.
"JioPhone will make the 2G feature phone obsolete", Ambani said in conclusion.
IndiaTechOnline analysis: Is it a good deal?
Giving away a phone for very little upfront payment, against a commitment to subscribe to a service for a fixed tenure, may seem radical in India, but is standard practice in the West. Operators like Verizon have used it for years, bundling a service package with a heavily subsidized iPhone.
However it is difficult to understand why Jio would require customers to return the phone after 5 years. By then, they would have paid over Rs 5500 in monthly subscription. And by that time the phone in all likelihood would be obsolete. Remember, by 2020, India will in all likelihood, see early rollouts of 5G services.
Coming to the handset itself, the announcement during the AGM made jointly by Ambani scions Akash and Isha confirmed that this was a candy bar type phone with a 2.4 inch QVGA display that is 240 by 20 pixels. It is 4G LTE ready and comes pre loaded with Jio Music, Jio Cinema and JioTV apps. A long press on number 5 activates an SOS message that gives selected recipients the phone's location. Its main attraction for feature phone users will be the voice assistant that has hitherto been available only on smart phones. It is ready for use in e-pay applications using the Universal Payment Interface. Another smart phone feature that will soon be available is NFC or Near Field Communication that will facilitate 'tap and pay' at POS terminals. Details like memory size, camera, etc were not revealed and whatever has appeared in the media seems to be mainly hearsay.
Mukesh Ambani said the phones would be made in India in the last quarter of this year, implying that early supplies might be imported. |
Is it a smart phone as Ambani flashed on screen during his speech? The JioPhone seems to be a hybrid -- a feature phone with some smart phone features. The small, and relatively low-resolution screen and the lack of touch would make this primarily a feature phone. It is the 4G LTE network and the much cheaper data pricing that gives it the feel of a smart phone package.
It remains to be seen if JioPhone is indeed the giant killer that early media hype is making it.