Idea Cellular has emerged as the first telecom operator head on as it has announced plans to launch a 4G feature phone of its own to take on the Jio Phone. This comes soon after Airtel announced it will not launch a handset,and will be priced around Rs. 2,500.
However, in Idea 4G phone’s favour will be the presence of popular apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, and Google. While not much is known about the Jio phone yet, but it does not have WhatsApp “at the moment.” It is not yet clear whether WhatsApp support will be added later on.
Idea Cellular Managing Director Himanshu Kapania said it remains to be seen as to how the proposed Jio Phone, which does not have features like a smartphone, serves those wanting to browse the Internet. “While clearly, it has an appeal for customers with voice usage, what appeal does it have for customers who have an Internet requirement, we will have to wait to see,” he said.
He said the Aditya Birla Group company, which is being merged with larger rival Vodafone, is working with handset makers to launch a phone that will be slightly more expensive than the Jio Phone but offer customers the freedom of choice. This new handset will give all the choices to a customer, including to choose the operator of his/ her choice, popular applications like Google, Facebook, or WhatsApp, Kapania stressed.
Kapania said the Jio Phone comes with a new operating system, has a smaller screen-size and does not offer touchscreen, as against the prevalent smartphones where 97 percent are on the Android operating system and have an over 4-inch touchscreen.
“We are looking at how much features can be brought down, how much bill of material can be brought down (to reduce prices) and test consumer response in each of these,” he said, adding market research efforts will also go into understanding if they are fine using any other operating system.
In the early 2000, after the then Reliance Infocomm launched an aggressive offering under the Reliance Mobile brand, the telcos had successfully worked with the handset makers to lower handsets prices and abate competitive fears.
“Both the handset manufacturers and telecom operators need each other to make sure that the offering to the consumer is strong enough when you have to make a choice between a bundled offer and a telecom operator with a locked handset,” Kapania said.