Technology, Smartphones, Games

JioPhone with smartphone features announced: effectively free with a refundable deposit of Rs. 1500

Reliance Jio has announced a new basic phone with smartphone features, called the JioPhone, at the company’s 40th AGM in India. The device was announced by Mr.Mukesh Ambani, and aims to get feature phone users who use expensive 2G networks, to switch to 4G with VoLTE, at an affordable price.

JioPhone Official

We are not really sure what operating system the JioPhone runs on. But it does have smartphone features besides access to Jio’s 4G VoLTE network connectivity. One such feature is a digital assistant, which is kind of like Google Now, and is likely just called Jio. It can be activated by pressing the microphone button, after which you can make a voice command. A demo showed that it can be used for voice activated text messages (SMS) to a contact, which the JioPhone intelligently recognized and sent the SMS to the correct contact.

JioPhone Voice Activated Internet Search

JioPhone Voice Activated SMS Messaging

And this voice command activated assistant, can also be used for searching the internet. The screenshot shows a voice search for "When is Ganesh Chathurthi?" and the result which shows the exact result for the query.

JioPhone Voice Activated Music Playback

The Jio assistant can also play Music when you ask it to play a specific song. And there is something very interesting here, the on-stage demo showed the voice assistant can recognize Hindi, which possibly means it will work with other Indian languages. If you think that is incredible, wait till you hear this. The JioPhone has NFC support for digital payments, and will have automatic software upgrades.

JioPhone NFC

You can set emergency contacts to speed dial, and when you press the corresponding option, it will send an emergency call via SMS to the contact, which includes your last known location’s name, and latitude, longitude.

JioPhone Emergency SMS

JioPhone Technical Specifications:

As far as the tech specs goes, we only know this. The JioPhone sports a 2.4-inch QVGA display, with an alphanumeric keypad with 4-way navigation (arrow keys) around a centrally-placed microphone button. The phone looks decent, in terms of design. There is a microphone, speaker, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a microSD card slot, FM Radio, a torchlight and a rear camera. The OS will support call history, contacts, ringtones, etc just like a normal feature phone does. Honestly we can't expect more for such a low price. Even a basic 4G phone costs upwards of Rs. 3,000.

JioPhone Official Technical Specifications

JioPhone plans

JioPhone users can pick one of three available recharge plans:

  • Rs. 24 for 2 days validity
    Rs. 54 for 7 days validity
    Rs. 153 for 28 days validity.

JioPhone Data Plans 2

JioPhone Data Plans

If you compare the plan prices with the Rs. 153 plan (5.56 Rupees per day) the temporary packs are quite expensive at Rs. 12/day and Rs. 7.71/ day. There is no question about that, it is simple math. But, we must keep in mind, that there are people who cannot afford Rs. 153 immediately, but may need an emergency recharge pack, which is what the Rs. 24 and Rs. 54 plans are for. We must respect Jio, for thinking in this way, to enable internet access for everyone.

And it really highlights how other service providers are looting money, even from people who cannot afford to pay much.

All three plans have the same benefits: unlimited calls, SMS (likely limited to a 100/day as per TRAI guidelines), and unlimited data. This could be truly unlimited data, as the phone may not be Wi-Fi enabled, which means there will be no option to tether the device. That means you can't use it for your other devices, but that's ok, as the JioPhone is targeted at feature phone users, not us tech geeks.

Update: NO it is not unlimited data, according to the press release, the JioPhone Rs.153 plan has a 500MB data limit per day.

JioPhone Price:

The JioPhone has been priced at Rs. 0, but to prevent misuse, Jio will collect a one-time security deposit of Rs. 1500, which will be refunded to the user after 3 years. So that makes the phone effectively free, and you only have to pay for monthly usage.

JioPhone Price

JioPhone Price 2

JioPhone Price 3

The JioPhone will be made in India, from Q4, 2017. This obviously means that the devices which will be available from August are manufactured elsewhere, and likely assembled in India. But it’s good to know they declared it before hand.

JioPhone made in India

JioPhone availability:

The JioPhone will be available for trial/testing from August 15th, for all Indians. You can pre-order the phone from the Jio app, or stores, from August 24th. The device will be available in September, 2017.

JioPhone Trial

JioPhone Preorder

Truly, this is amazing for people who cannot afford smartphones. The JioPhone is revolutionary.

Disclaimer for trolls: I’m not a Jio fanboy, I have criticized Jio multiple times in the past for their bad speeds, shady switching from unlimited data, etc, My opinions about the JioPhone are not influenced by my criticisms of the service so far, but what I think it can do for the average Indian, be he a farmer or a daily worker.