Reliance Jio Infocomm is understood to be in talks with Chinese contract manufacturers like Techchain, FortuneShip and Uniscope to explore manufacturing of 4G VoLTE feature phones. Sources said that currently talks are at a very nascent stage and it is early to gauge what kind of orders the company would ultimately place and by when with these or other contract manufacturers.
Though an e-mail query to Reliance Jio went unanswered, sources explained that the company is keen to introduce 4G VoLTE feaure phones in the market and for this it has sought some engineering samples from the Chinese contract manufacturers. It is only after the engineering samples are tested and verified that testing samples are tested, which is followed by any commercial order being placed.
So far, Jio has followed a model under which once commercial orders are placed, the handsets are initially imported with the understanding that over a period of time the manufacturer would start producing them within the country. Currently, majority of feature phones do not have 4G capability and the cheapest smartphone having 4G capability is produced by Jio’s Lyfe brand at a cost of Rs 2,999. If the company is able to produce 4G feature phones, the price would be lower than that and would help the company grab a very sizeable market share as around 55% of the market still belongs to feature phones.
Home grown mobile handset maker Lava launched 4G VoLTE-enabled feature phone Lava 4G Connect M1 in February this year priced at Rs 3,333. Domestic manufacturers like Micromax and Intex are also set to launch 4G VoLTE feature phones by June in the price segment of sub-Rs 2,000.
“Indian handset market will see a jump in 4G feature phones sales after July this year when Reliance Jio is expected to come in the picture with lower priced 4G feature phones, as the prices of these phones are currently high in Indian market,” said Jaipal Singh, Market Analyst of research firm International Data Corporation (IDC).