Jio Phone is easily among the most eagerly anticipated mobile phones in recent history, a mass market handset that offers high-speed Internet access and smartphone-like features without burning a hole in the pocket. In fact, Jio Phone is essentially free, though there is a Rs. 1,500 deposit that buyers need to make. Unveiled on July 21, it wasn't until August 24 that the handset went up for pre-orders, but deliveries have reportedly just started and will be completed by Diwali for the 6 million people who pre-booked it. We have managed to get our hands on a Jio Phone unit, and here are our first impressions.
After reviewing lots of smartphones, the Jio Phone feels completely different. It is a feature phone and is built like a standard candybar with a small screen and numeric keypad. It is small and very comfortable to hold; your thumb can reach all corners of the keypad without the need to stretch. Considering its price, we must say that this phone feels well-built. The quality of plastic used is good and the rubber buttons offer good clicky feedback.
The screen measures 2.4 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 240x320 pixels. Below the screen are two function buttons, a big D-pad with a button in the centre, call and disconnect buttons, and the number pad. At the back, there's a 2-megapixel camera and a loudspeaker. There's also a VGA camera in the front. The Jio Phone has a Micro-USB port for charging, and comes with a charger that has a fixed USB cable. It also has a 3.5mm headphone socket. The back cover of the Jio Phone can come off to reveal the removable 2000mAh battery. There's a Nano-SIM slot and a microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 128GB.
With the Jio Phone you are on the Jio Network, and the custom tariff plan gives users unlimited calls and text messages. In our experience, the phone instantly latched onto the network without any issues as soon as it was switched on. The Jio Phone is powered by a dual-core processor and has 512MB of RAM plus 4GB of internal storage so you'll need a microSD card for media.
The Jio Phone runs on KaiOS which is a new mobile operating system. You get a grid-style menu of app icons which are easy enough to understand. The D-pad makes navigation simple. Each of the D-pad buttons also doubles as a shortcut to quickly launch specific applications. Basic functionality like calling is super-fast and the phone could place a call very quickly on the Jio VoLTE network. For anyone planning to exploit the tariff plan's 4G data allowance, there is no hotspot feature on the Jio Phone.
Of course, Jio Apps are preinstalled, including JioMusic, JioTV, JioCinema and more. JioStore is the app store which lists eight Jio services including the preinstalled ones. Popular apps such as Facebook and YouTube aren’t available just yet but are expected to arrive soon. You can use the inbuilt Web browser to access both Facebook and YouTube without any problem. Long-pressing the D-pad's centre button launches the voice assistant feature. It can handle basic voice commands to let you call or open a message to contacts, or launch apps. We tried it out in Hindi as well as English, and found that it did deliver results in both languages.
We tried to stream music using the JioMusic app and it worked perfectly. We also tried JioCinema and JioTV, and found that streaming over 4G was pretty smooth. We were able to stream entire full-length movies. There's a decent selection of choices, but the Jio Phone's screen isn't great for watching videos on because of its size and poor viewing angles.
The Jio phone has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with geolocation. It also has quick toggles that can be used from the main screen. The battery seemed to perform well during our time with the phone. We also used both the cameras and found that we needed a very steady hand or photos would come out blurry. Photos have a resolution of 1600x1200, while videos are recorded at up to 720x480 pixels. The front camera takes 640x480 pixel stills and up to 352x288 videos. We'll have more details on all these aspects of the Jio Phone and more in our full review, coming up soon.
After spending about a day with the Jio Phone it is safe to say that battery life is good, and the user interface is easy to learn. We will carry on testing it and keep updating you with details, so be sure to stay tuned to Gadgets 360.