I bought the Jio Phone recently, just to get a feel of what most of India actually uses to access the internet.

It’s a fascinating phone, a completely different paradigm to the ones we are used to in the Android and iOS worlds.

Onboarding and Cost

The phone itself costs INR 1500. You can buy it online and head to your closest Reliance store and get it.

Onboarding to me is the complete flow of how I get to using the phone.

In this case, it also means getting the SIM with the phone.

Now, mobile sims in India require a significant amount of KYC information, its a little absurd if I’m being perfectly honest.

I am not taking a stand either way when it comes to Aadhaar in this post, however, the onboarding for the Jio phone is completely done through Aadhaar biometrics.

It’s a 5 minute process at the end of which you pay for your plan and you have your phone.

The cost of the plans?

The cheapest plan is INR 49, with which one can get 1 Gb of data a month and free calls, SMS’s.

For INR 153, one can get 1.5 Gb of data a day! That’s a little nuts.

Operating System

To start with, the OS is a fork of B2G which was the successor to the Firefox OS. The OS is called KaiOS which was developed by KaiOS Tech, a company based in San Diego.

Here’s a thread from HackerNews from about a month ago with some interesting takes on the product itself.

All the apps on the platform are based on HTML5 which presents its own problems, but, while it in no ways feels native, its pretty amazing whats possible on the device given its a feature phone.

Features

The phone comes with JioVoice and Google Assistant. I found that to be a little nuts initially.

The phone also has a T9 keyboard, which is a good throwback.

But, here’s the thing, if you’ve spent time on the behavior of the next set of users coming online through mobile, most of them communicate through images (read vernacular memes) or by sending voice texts. It’s a pretty interesting change, and in India anyway, its led by the fact that most phones come with the LatinIME keyboard inbuilt and the vernacular keyboards are not functional enough to be honest.

To go voice first is I think a great idea, while it may not have the ultimate T9 user that I am, it does have significant use for the demographic it caters to.

The phone also comes with a pretty basic back and front (for pixelated selfies) camera.

The phone has a half-decent battery life, although, if you are using data services, it doesn’t come close to what feature phones offer ( source: I use a feature phone )

App Store

The phone has a closed App Store because that’s the way KaiOS wants it.

To develop for the platform, you have to sign up with Kai, and they’ll approve you and then you can start developing for the platform.

This is similar to how most App Stores start out, it’ll be interesting to see whether/when Kai does decide to open it up for developers.

The store itself has, as expected, a very small selection of approved apps.

But, as expected, they work, as expected.

This might be a good idea considering that they are the first interface to the internet for the majority of users that get onto the platform in India.

Adoption

Jio, the network, has about 170 million subscribers and growing.

Jio Phone itself, had about 6 million pre-bookings and were projecting 40 million phones sold by the end of 2017.

Going by those numbers, atleast 50% of the Jio subscribers must be on the Jio Phone, which is quite incredible for a phone that launched less than a year ago.

Conclusion

Overall, I am super excited about what’s next from KaiOS and Reliance.

Opening up the platform a little bit more could spell trouble for a lot of Android and iOS smartphone makers.

While this phone is in no way comparable/a direct competitor to the smartphone market, it is a direct competitor in the market it is creating at its price point.

In truth, I am super excited about the cost of my mobile plans coming down as well haha.

Hope this was informative in some way.

Sainath