Jio launches low-cost smartphone with Google; device to hit markets in Sept

'Ultra-affordable' JioPhone Next will make India 2G-mukt and 5G-yukt, says Mukesh Ambani at Reliance’s annual general meeting

Mukesh Ambani
RIL Chairman Mukesh Ambani said JioPhone Next is packed with cutting-edge features like the Google Assistant and automatic read-aloud of screen text.

Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), at its 44th annual general meeting that was held virtually on Thursday, unveiled the smartphone JioPhone Next in an alliance with Google.

Just as the launch of Jio in 2016 disrupted the telecom services market significantly, the entry of JioPhone is also expected to overhaul the Indian smartphone space, taking millions online, thanks to its affordability.

“JioPhone Next has been launched. It will be an Android smartphone powered by an operating system (OS) for the Indian market,” said Ambani, who is RIL’s Chairman. “It will be available in India from Ganesh Chaturthi (September 10) and will be the most affordable smartphone globally.”

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Optimised version of Android

The need of the hour is to produce an “ultra-affordable 4G smartphone” that would make India “2G mukt (2G-free),” said Ambani, adding that RIL sought to make the nation “5G yukt (5G-enabled)”.

“JioPhone Next is powered by an extremely optimised version of the Android OS. While being ultra-affordable, JioPhone Next is packed with cutting-edge features like the Google Assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, language translation, smart camera with augmented reality filters and much more. This is testimony to a global technology company and a national technology champion working jointly to make a break-through product,” he added.

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Speaking about the collaboration, Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google and Alphabet, said in an RIL press release: “Our vision is to bring affordable access to information for Indians in their own language, to build new products and services for India’s unique needs, and to empower businesses with technology. I’m excited that today, we can announce the next steps in this vision, starting with a new, affordable Jio smartphone, created with Google.

“Our teams have optimised a version of our Android OS especially for this device. It will offer language and translation features, a great camera, and support for the latest Android updates. It is built for India and it will open up new possibilities for millions of new users who will experience the internet for the very first time.”

The RIL statement said that for users who might not be able to read content in their language, the phone would, with a tap of a button, translate what’s on their screen, and even read it back to them in their own language.

It may be recalled that in July 2020, Google had picked up a 7.7% stake in Jio Platforms for about $4.5 billion. This was among a series of fund-raises that Jio Platform made last year.

The new phone will host Google’s Android OS and Play Store, and RIL will price it such that the nation’s masses would be able to afford the device. News reports said the new device is likely to be the most affordable 4G smartphone worldwide.

Clean energy push

Also at the virtual AGM, Ambani said RIL plans to increasingly transform itself as a clean energy enterprise. “Let me tell you, in all humility, that new energy is the most exciting, most challenging and most purpose-driven mission I will be pursuing in my life,” he said.

RIL has lined up initiatives that would require an investment of about ₹75,000 crore over the next three years.

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Among the initiatives, RIL will build four ‘Giga Factories’ that will manufacture and integrate the key components of the new energy ecosystem, said a Money Control report. “For the production of solar energy, we will build an integrated solar photovoltaic module factory,” he said. For the storage of intermittent energy, RIL will build an advanced energy storage battery factory.

It will also build an electrolyser factory to produce green hydrogen, and a fuel cell factory that would convert hydrogen into motive and stationary power.

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