Jio Phone has been the reason behind the buzz in the mobile phone industry as it was announced with smartphone-like features, that too for free. Even though buyers will have to shell out a refundable, upfront cost of Rs. 1,500, it has nevertheless seen a new frenzy in the low-end feature phone segment, which has been stagnant since smartphones gained traction. In fact, Idea has already announced it has plans to launch its own 4G feature phone to rival the Jio Phone, while Intex has launched its own model recently. These add to the Lava 4G feature phone already available, and more manufacturers are said to be joining the fray. Of course, not many of these will have the content ecosystem Jio Phone already enjoys. If you are not sure about the Jio Phone, whether it runs your favourite apps, the Jio plans it comes with, how many SIM cards it supports, and have other similar questions related to the device, we are here to help.
The Jio Phone will be made available starting August 15 in a beta programme, but units will be available in limited quantities. Jio Phone bookings will start on August 24 for the general public, both online and offline. You can make place your Jio Phone booking via the MyJio app or from an offline Jio store (the company is opening 10,000 more offline stores this year). Those who pre-book the handset will start receiving their order in September on first come, first serve basis. The company plans to deliver 5 million units each week.
There are two prepaid plans that you can sign up to with the Jio Phone. Both have a one month (28 days) validity, and include 'unlimited' data, unlimited calling, and SMS. The plans are for Rs. 153 and Rs. 309 respectively, and on the surface look very similar, but there's one difference. With the Rs. 309 plan, users will be able to use the Jio Phone-TV cable to mirror their phone screen onto any TV, so that Jio's streaming services can be enjoyed by the whole family. The Rs. 153 plan come with 500MB daily FUP for the high-speed data.
At the same time, Ambani also noted that for users who don't want to commit to a monthly plan, Reliance Jio also has a couple of sachet plans that give shorter term access to data. For two days, Jio Phone users can get the Rs. 24 pack, or they can opt to spend Rs. 54 for a week of usage. Note that these plans are exclusive to Jio Phone users and cannot be subscribed by other Jio users.
In his AGM speech, Reliance Chairman Mukesh Ambani pointed out the majority of phone users in India do not have smartphones, pegging the figure at 50 crore (out of 76 crore mobile phone users). Because of the high smartphone prices, they are unable to access the 4G-only Jio network, meaning not only are they unable to get access to high-speed Internet and free voice calls, but also that they are out of Jio's reach as a monetisation opportunity. The Jio Phone is meant to address this audience, and thus is an affordable, 4G VoLTE-capable feature phone with 'smart' apps.
Yes, the Jio Phone's got all of the Jio apps - that means Jio Music, Jio Cinema and so on, and access to these is bundled with the prepaid plans for the phone, so even on a feature phone you'll be able to enjoy streaming services. It supports other apps as well, including Facebook, though WhatsApp is not supported at the moment. The phone also supports 22 Indian languages, and voice commands. You can send messages, place calls, search the Web, and so on, using voice commands.
Jio Phone does not run WhatsApp, one of the most popular apps in the country, at the moment. This does not mean the app will not be supported on the platform later on, but the company has not said anything about it so far. However, we did spot Facebook and Mann Ki Baat apps on the phone.
Another interesting feature of the Jio Phone is NFC support - with this, users will be able to make payments from a linked bank account via UPI, or through POS machines in place of a debit card. This will be enabled later via a software update, although the hardware is already present. The mobile also comes with an integrated panic button.
While company went in detail regarding the features, there was not as much focus on Jio Phone specifications. As a feature phone, the device has an alphanumeric keypad, and a small 2.4-inch colour screen. Apart from the presence of a rear camera, FM radio, Bluetooth, NFC, and of course 4G VoLTE, not much is confirmed at the moment. The company has confirmed to Gadgets 360 that the phone will come in single SIM configuration, and will work with Jio SIM card only as it is compatible with 4G VoLTE networks. Qualcomm and Spreadtrum revealed on Twitter that their chips will be used in the handset.
The Jio Phone looks awesome but is there any catch? We discussed that on our weekly technology podcast Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.