Photo Credit: YouTube/ Jio
JioPhone Next was announced by Mukesh Ambani at Reliance Industries' 44th Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Thursday. The new Android smartphone has come as a result of the partnership between Reliance Jio and Google that was announced last year and was revealed by both Mukesh Ambani and Google head Sundar Pichai. It offers an optimised Android experience on top of an entry-level hardware to attract the masses.
The JioPhone Next also offers Google Play store access and features including voice assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, and language translation. Speaking at the Reliance AGM, Ambani said, "India still has nearly 300 million mobile users who are unable to escape from inefficient and exorbitant 2G services… because even a basic 4G smartphone remains unaffordable for these users. Last year… Sundar and I had talked about Google and Jio co-developing a next-generation, feature-rich, but extremely affordable smartphone." While many features of the upcoming phone were revealed, and its launch date of Ganesh Chaturthi, September 10, the price of the phone was not announced yet, only that it will be "the most affordable smartphone not just in India, but globally."
JioPhone Next price in India is yet to be revealed. However, the phone is slated to be available for purchase from September 10.
The JioPhone Next is designed for people looking to upgrade from 2G to 4G connectivity along with an affordable smartphone. The new offering is based on a custom Android operating system that has been specifically designed by Google for Jio.
The 4G smartphone comes preloaded with OS-wide Read Aloud and Translate Now features. Read Aloud allows the system to read on-screen text when a user taps the ‘Listen' button. Translate Now, on the other hand, offers the ability to translate any text available on the screen. Both new features can be used on webpages, apps, messages, and photos.
Google has additionally utilised Google Assistant to offer voice-assisted features on pre-installed Jio apps on the JioPhone Next. The Google Assistant integration can also be used to play music on JioSaavn or for checking account balance through MyJio.
The JioPhone Next also includes a rear camera along with an LED flash. There is also a preloaded HDR mode. Further, Google has partnered with Snap to integrate India-specific Snapchat Lenses into the phone's camera.
Google has also promised to provide support for the latest Android releases and security updates on the JioPhone Next. Additionally, the phone comes preloaded with Google Play store along with Google Play Protect.
"JioPhone Next is powered by an extremely optimised version of the Android operating system that has been jointly developed by Jio and Google, specially for the Indian market," said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries, at the virtual AGM. "This is a testimony to a global technology giant, and a national technology champion, working together to make truly a breakthrough product that can be first introduced in India, and then taken to the rest of the world."
Excited to announce the next steps in our partnership with @RelianceJio to accelerate India's digitization, starting with a new affordable Jio smartphone with an optimized @Android experience, and a 5G collaboration between Jio & @GoogleCloud.https://t.co/Wi9DExPU6b— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) June 24, 2021
In July last year, Jio Platforms received an investment of Rs. 33,737 crores from Google. That deal, which was a part of Google's India Digitisation Fund, included the plan to build the affordable Android phone.
This is notably not the first time when Jio has brought its in-house handset for consumers. The telco back in July 2017 introduced the Jio Phone as its smart feature phone with 4G connectivity. That model received an update in 2018, with the launch of the Jio Phone 2. The upgrade included a QWERTY keyboard and a wider screen over the original phone.
On Twitter, IDC's Navkendar Singh seemed a little sceptical of the JioPhone Next adoption. He tweeted that it would be challenging to make a viable smartphone priced under the entry-level segment (between Rs. 4,500–6,500) due to issues including weakening rupee and GST as well as rise in second-hand smartphone market. He also noted that it is currently unclear that who would distribute the phone, and in case of a hybrid channel of online and offline, who would educate the user base to use the preloaded apps.
What is the best phone under Rs. 15,000 in India right now? We discussed this on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Later (starting at 27:54), we speak to OK Computer creators Neil Pagedar and Pooja Shetty. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.