JioPhone Next, co-developed with Google, to be most affordable smartphone globally: Ambani

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New Delhi, Jun 24 (PTI) Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani on Thursday said Jio and Google have jointly developed Made for India 'JioPhone Next', a power-packed and affordable smartphone that will be available from September 10.

Ambani promised that JioPhone Next will be the most-affordable smartphone, not just in India but globally, although the pricing was not disclosed.

The companies have also expanded their partnership, wherein Jio and Google Cloud will collaborate on 5G technology.

Speaking at RIL's 44th annual general meeting, Ambani asserted that an ultra-affordable 4G smartphone is essential to make India '2G-mukt' (free of 2G). India still has nearly 300 million mobile users who are unable to escape from inefficient and exorbitant 2G services since most basic 4G smartphones remain unaffordable, he added.

'I am pleased to announce that Google and Jio teams have jointly developed a truly breakthrough smartphone that we are calling, JioPhone Next…that has been jointly developed by Jio and Google…especially for the Indian market,' he said.

To be available from September 10 on Ganesh Chaturthi, JioPhone Next packs a punch with cutting-edge features including voice assistant, language translation, automatic read-aloud of screen text, and smart camera with augmented reality filters and security updates.

'As you have come to expect from Jio, it is my promise that JioPhone Next will be, by far, the most-affordable smartphone not just in India but globally,' Ambani said.

Last year, Google had announced an investment of Rs 33,737 crore for a 7.7 per cent stake in Reliance Industries' technology venture Jio Platforms. The tech giant had teamed up on technology initiatives, including development of affordable smartphones for the price-sensitive yet tech-savvy Indian market.

The fully-featured smartphones will support the entire gamut of applications from both Google and Jio, as well as Android PlayStore through which users will have access to the full universe of Android apps.

'This is a testimony to a global technology giant and a national technology champion working jointly to make a breakthrough product... that can be first introduced in India… and then taken to the rest of the world,' Ambani said.

Jio has democratised digital connectivity in India, offering the highest quality, most affordable 4G broadband services in the world, he added.

'Sundar (Google CEO Sundar Pichai) and I had talked about Google and Jio co-developing a next-generation, feature-rich, but extremely affordable smartphone… aimed at providing first-time internet access for 2G users,' Ambani said while making the JioPhone Next announcement on Thursday.

Pichai said an optimised version of the Android OS has been developed especially for this device.

'It's built for India and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users, who will experience the internet for the first time,' he said.

Pichai said Google's vision is to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and empower businesses with technology.

The smartphone is built for India and will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time, he added.

For users who might not be able to read content in their language, the phone will allow users to translate what's on their screen with a tap of a button, and even have it read back to them in their own language.

'Read Aloud' and 'Translate Now' are now operating system (OS)-wide features that will work with any text on users' phone screen, including web pages, apps, messages, and even photos.

The smartphone comes equipped with a fast, high-quality camera that will yield clearer photos at night and in low-light situations. Google has also partnered with Snap (parent company of photo sharing app Snapchat) to integrate India-specific Snapchat Lenses directly into the phone’s camera.

Rival Bharti Airtel, meanwhile, welcomed the low-end smartphone initiative announced by Reliance Jio and Google.

'We support every effort that triggers the upgradation of feature phones to smartphones so as to bring more Indians online,' it said in an e-mail response claiming that as customers with entry-level devices upgrade to quality smartphones (priced over Rs 7,000), they demonstrate a strong preference for Airtel.

India is among the biggest smartphone markets globally with devices under Rs 10,000 accounting for a significant share. According to Counterpoint Research, India's smartphone shipments grew 23 per cent year-on-year to reach over 38 million units in the March 2021 quarter, the highest-ever first quarter shipments.

New product launches, promotions and financial schemes, as well as higher demand on account of work and study from home amid the pandemic have been strong drivers for the market in the last few quarters. The top-five players in the Indian market include Xiaomi, Samsung, Vivo, Oppo and Realme.

The feature phone market registered a 14 per cent y-o-y growth during the quarter driven by strong shipments of JioPhone under its new model and subsequent promotions, as per Counterpoint. PTI SR MBI HRS hrs

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