Home / Tech / KaiOS, which builds software for JioPhone, gets major funding from Google

KaiOS, which builds software for JioPhone, gets major funding from Google

As part of the investment, KaiOS will be bringing Google services like Search, Maps, Assistant and even YouTube to smart feature phones like Reliance JioPhone.

Updated: Jun 28, 2018 15:07:07

By Kul Bhushan, Hindustan Times

Google bets big on smart feature phones with its latest investment in KaiOS, the company that build software for Reliance JioPhone. (HT Photo)

KaiOS, a company that makes operating systems for smart feature phones like Reliance JioPhone, has raised $22M Series A investment led by Google. As part of the deal, KaiOS will incorporate Google services such as Search, Maps, Assistant and even YouTube into its software.

This will pave the way for future smart feature phones, mostly available under Rs 2,000, to come with full-fledged Google services. KaiOS says these applications have been personalised for the company’s OS platform, which uses web-based open standards such as HTML5, JavaScript and CSS.

“This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the Internet, especially in emerging markets,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.

“We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone, whether they are using desktops, smartphones or feature phones,” said Anjali Joshi, vice-president, product management, Next Billion Users. “Following the success of JioPhones, we are excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users across the world.”

Google’s focus on smart feature phones

The large demography of India that still uses lower-end phones and grapple with slower connections has been accorded top priority as far as Google’s future high-end products and services are concerned. For instance, it has introduced a stripped-down version of Android, called Android Go, which runs on phones with low-end specifications in India.

The Reliance JioPhone has revolutionised the entry-level phone segment by packing ‘smart’ capabilities in feature phone form. The JioPhone even supports 4G VoLTE and has a voice-based browser.

According to the latest report from Counterpoint Research, the Reliance JioPhone grabbed the top spot in the global feature phone market in the first quarter of 2018. “The JioPhone became the best-selling feature phone model in Q1 2018, and was also the best-selling feature phone brand in Q1 2018. It was followed by Nokia HMD, iTel, Samsung and Tecno,” the report said.

Counterpoint’s Handset Tracker – Q1 2018 ( Counterpoint )

“Companies like KaiOS and Reliance Jio are working to add more value to 4G feature phones, thereby making it more appealing for bottom-of-the-pyramid users who are not comfortable with the touch form factor, lack of vernacular content and quality smartphones below $40. Further adoption can be driven by possible introduction of new apps e.g. Facebook, Google Assitant, maps, search and digital payments,” it added.

Google announced the launch of Assistant for JioPhone users late last year. In February, it reported a six-fold growth in Assistant usage across India.


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