Yesterday came a report that Reliance Jio is killing the JioPhone and instead going to focus on a new phone, which will be cheap or even possibly “effectively free”, that will run Android. In contrast the JioPhone runs on a version of Firefox OS — KaiOS is what Jio calls it. Although it is lightweight, the problem with the current JioPhone is that it can’t run popular apps like WhatsAppp and Facebook.
The report yesterday by FactorDaily noted that there is a rethink within Jio about its 4G feature. The report noted that Jio has halted the production of the JioPhone. Yes, the JioPhone is free. Or rather, it is effectively free. But if it can’t run the apps that many people want, it may not help the company push it. Hours after the Factor Daily report came and other people started writing about the supposed end of JioPhone, the company came out with a statement. It said:
“JioPhone, India ka smartphone, is committed to fulfilling the country’s digital vision. Jio welcomes the initial 6 million Indians who are moving to digital life with the JioPhone and will soon announce the next JioPhone booking date,” said the spokesperson.
So what does it mean? You must have seen many reports, based on this statement, saying that JioPhone production has not been halted. But that is interpreting this statement. It is not clearly mentioned that JioPhone production has not been halted in Jio statement. In fact, the statement is very vague.
To read between the lines, here is what we think is happening:
— There is indeed a rethink within Jio about the future of the JioPhone and strong chances are that a decision has been taken to alter the course. This is the reason why the JioPhone bookings were halted suddenly in August and since then have not been opened again. That is nearly two months since then, and yet Jio has not started the bookings.
— The current focus within the company seems to be delivering the JioPhone that were booked earlier.
— It is possible that after fulfilling these orders Jio may have a few more units of JioPhone with it. To sell them, the company may announce a limited booking process again. This could the reason why the Jio statement talks of next JioPhone booking date.
— Nothing is final yet within Jio. It’s just that they are thinking of the future direction for the JioPhone and are seemingly leaning towards Android for the future variant of the JioPhone as it will allow to run the apps that people want to run as well as compete with the likes of the Karbonn A40 Indian, Micromax Bharat 2 and Celkon Smart 4G that other telecom operators have announced along with bundled data plans.
— It is important to note that if there is a pivot within Jio about the JioPhone, it doesn’t mean end of JioPhone. It will only mean end of the JioPhone 4G feature phone. This is the reason why the Jio statement notes that “JioPhone, India ka smartphone, is committed to fulfilling the country’s digital vision”. This JioPhone can be any other. Jio can very well call the next version of device, which uses Android, with the same JioPhone name.
— Just to summarise: The fact is that JioPhone rollout has been very slow. It was announced in July. It was opened to pre-booking for just a few days in August. Deliveries started just now for all the phones that were pre-booked, and even now most people haven’t got it. It is clear that within Jio there are a few things that are holding the JioPhone back. Now we have a report that the company actually wants to move to a lean smartphone instead of 4G feature phone. The report makes a lot of sense, even though Jio’s statement re-affirming its commitment to the JioPhone is not wrong.