A Reliance Jio feature phone has been part of the rumour mill since January this year, and it seems the time for its launch is finally here. An HSBC analyst has reportedly said in a research note that the smartphone will be Rs. 500, and many expect the Jio feature phone to be unveiled on July 21, the day of the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Limited. A Rs. 500 feature that supports 4G VoLTE speeds can be a big lure for users stuck on 2G feature phones due to prohibitory costs of smartphones, giving a new avenue for growth to Reliance Jio.
According to an Economic Times report, the HSBC research note says the Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone will be subsidised by as much as $10-15 (roughly Rs. 650-970) in order to achieve the price point of Rs. 500. The company is said to have placed an order of 18-20 million units for the handsets with Chinese vendors such as Zhejiang Techain Electronics Technology Co., Shenzhen CHINO-E Communication Co, Crave and Megaphone. Shipments will start in late July or early August.
While the Reliance Jio 4G feature phone is expected to be announced at the July 21 AGM, it will reportedly hit the market on August 15. The feature phone is expected to be launched under the Lyf brand, which is a part of the Mukesh Ambani-backed Reliance Digital.
Along with the 4G feature phone, Reliance Jio is said to be launching a more aggressively priced tariff plan to reach more users. This new Jio plan is said to be priced at Rs. 80-90, but it is not yet known whether the tariff will be limited only to buyers of the 4G feature phone or for customers using the network on smartphones as well. Just this week, the company launched a new offer that provides customers with 224GB of 4G data, but this is limited only to those buying a new JioFi device, and not for existing users.
In its April regulatory filing, the operator said it has 112.55 million users on its mobile network. A low-priced, 4G-enabled feature phone with a complimentary tariff plan will give Reliance Jio access to millions of consumers who still use 2G handsets due to the prohibitory costs of smartphones. Of course, this move is expected to further increase the competition in the telecom industry, which has been bleeding since Jio started operations in September last year.
According to previous leaks, the Reliance Jio 4G VoLTE feature phone will come in two variants: one featuring a Qualcomm processor, and the other with a Spreadtrum chip. In terms of specifications, Jio 4G feature phone is said to have a 2.4-inch display, 512MB RAM, 4GB internal storage, microSD card support, 2-megapixel rear camera, VGA front camera, Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. With 4G VoLTE support, buyers will be able to access digital content on the feature phone courtesy the free subscription to Jio apps. In fact, leaked photos of the device show dedicated hardware buttons in the front for MyJio, JioTV, JioCinema, and JioMusic apps. Voice calls and SMSs are also expected to be free with the device.
Reliance Jio is also expected to launch a broadband service – named JioFiber – soon, which might just be announced at the AGM as well. The service is already under testing right now in six cities, though the company said it has plans to expand the trial to more cities. A flyer for the Jio broadband service says users will get 100GB data and 100Mbps speed with connection, and the service will be free for the first three months. However, they will have to pay a refundable security deposit of Rs. 4,500.
With the rumoured Jio feature phones and JioFiber broadband service, the operator seems set for another few months of growth, which showed signs of stagnation in the mobile 4G business in April. If the abovementioned low-cost tariff for Jio feature phone is extended to existing users as well, Reliance Jio may just give itself another avenue for user growth, though it will mean the extension of the bloodbath that the telecom industry has been seeing for nearly a year.
We discussed the Reliance Jio data leak, new Reliance Jio plans, and JioFiber's impending launch in India on Orbital, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.