BSNL and Micromax have joined hands to launch Bharat-1, a 4G feature phone that will take on Jio Phone as well as the recently unveiled Karbonn A40 Indian Android smartphone launched in partnership with Airtel. Priced at Rs. 2,200, the new Bharat-1 will come with "unlimited" voice calls and "unlimited" high-speed data at Rs. 97 tariff from BSNL. The new BSNL-promoted Bharat-1, which is being called the 'Desh ka 4G phone', will become available for purchase from Friday, October 20 via retail stores.
A standard feature phone on the outside, the Micromax Bharat-1 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon chipset with provision for 4G VoLTE. On the back of the phone of the phone is a 2-megapixel camera, and a VGA shooter in front. It is powered by a 2000mAh battery, has 4GB internal storage and microSD card support up to 32GB. The dual-SIM handset supports 22 local languages and provides buyers access to 100 live TV channels, and Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma said there will be tons of songs and videos as well. At Rs. 97 tariff plan, you can do everything on this phone, he added. In contrast, the minimum Jio Phone recharge is of Rs. 153.
Sharma said the Bharat-1 phone will cost customers less than Jio Phone down the line. The "effective cost" of using the Micromax Bharat-1 will be Rs. 3,364 in the first year, compared to Rs. 3,336 that a user of Jio Phone would spend on the device, Sharma said. But if a customer uses the respective devices for two years, the Reliance Jio's Jio Phone would end up costing them Rs. 5,172, whereas the Bharat-1 would cost them Rs. 4,528. Three years down the line, the Bharat-1 will cost customers Rs. 5,692, while the Jio Phone cost them Rs. 6,008 during the same period.
While the STD and local calls will be free (on roaming too), there is some fine print worth noting when it comes to data. BSNL will provide 5GB of high-speed data (without any daily cap on Internet consumption) with 28-day validity on its Rs. 97 recharge; once the 5GB data is exhausted, the speed will be curtailed to 80kbps and user can continue to browse the Web without any charge at the lowered speed, a Micromax spokesperson told Gadgets 360.
At a media event, which saw Manoj Sinha, minister of communication and Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary to Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology of the Government of India deliver speeches, BSNL executives said they see the launch of Bharat-1 as an opportunity to grow its user base. The Bharat-1 feature phone comes pre-loaded with BHIM UPI payments app, as well as BSNL's wallet app, the executives said.
A lot is riding on the Bharat-1 for Micromax, which has lost much of its smartphone market share to Chinese smartphone makers in the last two years. The company, which once launched dozens of smartphone models each year, has launched only a handful of models this year. The company wanted to watch the "Chinaman" exhaust their resources, Rahul Sharma, co-founder of Micromax said in a recent media event.
But the company's Bharat-1 is expected to face stiff competition from Reliance Jio and Airtel. Reliance has already committed to ship more than six million Jio Phone handsets, a device it sells for "free". The company is expected to resume the pre-orders for the Jio Phone later this year. If that competition wasn't enough, earlier this month telecom operator Bharti Airtel partnered with Karbonn Mobiles to introduce a 4G-enabled smartphone at the price of a feature phone.
The company said the Karbonn A40 Indian smartphone would be sold at Rs. 1,399 (a price cut of about 60 percent). On top of this, the phone includes a monthly pack of Rs. 169 from Airtel. The potential customers are required to make a down payment of Rs. 2,899 for the smartphone, however.