With Reliance Jio announcing the JioPhone, we can soon expect other network providers like Vodafone, Airtel and Idea Cellular to come up with their own devices soon. While Jio has announced the August launch of the 4G enabled phone, it will surely disrupt the feature phone market. Apart from offering free voice calls on a phone, the Jio Phone will also bring a huge chunk of the Indian population into the internet framework. This move by Reliance seems to be another shot in the arm for the Digital India initiative, as more and more people jump on the data highway. Reliance Jio is planning to add 5 million Jiophones every week and similar phones from incumbents likely to be in the market in a few months too, maybe priced a bit higher. But India will have millions of VoLTE phones by 2018. Meanwhile, Idea Cellular has confirmed that it will soon come up with its own phone, though it will be priced around Rs 2500.
Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, has said that it will not follow the new entrant Reliance Jio by launching a VoLTE-enabled feature phone. But, Airtel has said that it will ‘aggressively’ come out with more offers to ring fence its subscribers and grow market share. However, Idea Cellular has planned to launch its own phone in the market. Meanwhile, the company has raised concerns regarding net neutrality with Reliance Jio. This is interesting because critics of the Jio Phone has bee raising this doubt ever since the announcement. The questions are being raised because the Reliance Jio 4G phone will only reportedly allow the apps of the operator’s choice. Idea said that the Jio Phone will not allow most of the apps which a customer prefers and the choice of apps may not work because it is forcing consumers to use an individual operator’s apps.
While we are not sure what apps will be present on either of the phones by Reliance Jio and Idea Cellular, we know that WhatsApp will not be there on the JioPhone initially at least. At that price, the JioPhone will sure have some features missing, but a missing WhatsApp might be a cause of concern for many users. WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in the world with 1.3 billion active users, over 200 million of them just in India. Meanwhile, Idea Cellular has specifically confirmed that the new phone will give choices to the users, including the choice to select the operator of his/her choice, as well as popular applications like Google, Facebook or Whatsapp. If this turns out to be true, Idea will have a huge edge over the Jio Phone.
However, it must be noted that the phone by Idea will be priced higher and you won’t get your money back too. Also, most of the buyers already belong to the feature phone segment, and they may or may not want access to many apps which smartphone users look for. Additionally, the JioPhone would support apps including Jio Cinema, Jio Music, JioTV, Jio Money, and Jio news. There is no doubt that the JioPhone, given its price and features, is a bid to empower the forgotten feature phone user to enter the next level. But then this phone too comes with its own list of compromises. While there will be many who would be happy to own a 4G feature phone for an effective price of Rs 0, but people who want to move to a smartphone may want to extend their budget a little to get a phone which offers more.