Google and Reliance Jio may be secretly working on an affordable smartphone that will work exclusively on the latter’s 4G network. The phone is expected to be launched before the end of this year, according to industry sources aware of the development.
Google branding will help boost Reliance Jio’s plans to sell cheaper 4G handsets and reach a larger market. It will also ensure that Jio apps are more tightly integrated into the Android platform, improving the performance significantly.
“Such a smartphone will help Rjio increase data adoption — helping it render movies and music better over its network. It will also improve the overall quality of service delivered on the Jio network.
“For Google, this would mean access to a large number of new users who would be connecting to the internet for the first time. It may also help the company assess its low-cost handset strategy,” said Sanchit Gogia, CEO at Greyhound Research.
While RJio and Google declined to comment on the development, industry sources said that the two have been working together even on developing software for RJio’s smart TV services, which will be launched later this year.Android One
This will be Google’s second attempt at launching affordable smartphones in India after the not-so-successful Android One project. The technology major had launched the Andorid One project in India in September 2014, wherein it worked closely with brands such as Micromax, Karbonn and Spice to ensure the phone performed well despite being priced at just ₹6,500.
This meant Google managing the design, development, marketing, and support of these devices while all manufacturing was carried out by the partnering original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
Android One also saw Google putting a lot of emphasis on regional languages as the phones allowed users to not only type in Hindi but also use the voice assistant in Hindi.
Working with Jio, Google is reattempting Android One, albeit with just one player, this time around.
“Android One had too many OEM partners, with each phone from every brand looking exactly the same, leaving no distinction for the vendor. Moreover, at the same time, Chinese players like Xiaomi launched their phones at similar price with a lot more features, essentially killing the idea of Android One completely,” said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner at Convergence Catalyst.