The announcement was made during RIL’s 43rd Annual General Meeting.
Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Limited is working with Google on low-cost smartphones running a localised version of Android software. The announcement was made during RIL’s 43rd Annual General Meeting. Though concrete details about the partnership weren’t shared, Ambani talked about 4G, even 5G smartphones costing a fraction of their current cost with deep emphasis on a value-engineered smartphone operating system designed specifically for the Indian market.
Reliance Jio launched the JioPhone, a 4G-capable “smart” feature phone, in India in 2017. It was followed by a second-generation product, aka JioPhone 2, in 2018. Rumours that Jio has been working on an entry-level 4G smartphone, to replace the JioPhone feature phone, have been doing the rounds since the time the company launched the original. The announcement made during RIL’s 43rd Annual General Meeting confirms that such a smartphone is indeed in development though the launch window still remains a mystery.
What’s interesting is that RIL isn’t being shy talking about its yet-to-launch affordable 5G smartphone (or 4G smartphone) even though 5G is still a no-show in India. The confidence comes from the fact that Jio has already set up core architecture and seems ready to switch to 5G as soon as the spectrum auction comes around — we still don’t know when that will happen though.
As mentioned earlier, special emphasis is being given to the software that will drive Jio’s upcoming smartphone(s). Google already has the Android Go platform specifically catering to low-cost handsets. Whether Jio and Google are looking to customise Android Go further for the Indian market or working on an entirely new localised Android is something that only time will tell. The JioPhone and JioPhone 2, for some context, run a custom fork of Firefox OS, called KaiOS.
At the company’s 43rd Annual General Meeting, Mukesh Ambani also announced that Google was investing 33,737 crore into Jio Platforms. “The investment will build on Jio’s and Google’s existing efforts to expand the benefits of digitisation across the length and breadth of India, beyond the current 500+ million Internet users in the country,” RIL said in a statement. The investment also carries with it the commercial agreement to jointly develop an “entry-level affordable smartphone with optimisations to the Android operating system and the Play Store.”
This is notably Google’s first investment in India from its Rs 75,000 crore Google For India Digitisation Fund which aims to help accelerate India’s digital economy.