Google and Jio joined hands last year to co-develop entry-level smartphones in a multi-billion-dollar deal. There were speculations that the two companies would launch a cheap 5G smartphone in India, but today’s announcement doesn’t live up to those rumors. Instead, what we’re getting is a 4G smartphone, called JioPhone Next, running a special version of Android.
The handset got a brief mention at Reliance Jio’s annual event, where we got a glimpse at what the phone will look like. Without going in-depth on the software, Google’s Sundar Pichai noted that the JioPhone Next will run a version of Android optimized for it. It's unclear if it will be yet another OS for entry-level hardware next to Android One and Go Edition, or if it will be based on these efforts.
You can expect the phone to come preloaded with a host of Jio apps that are immensely popular among Jio subscribers, along with support for automatic read aloud, Snapchat-like AR filters for its camera app, and Google Assistant for voice input in English and other local languages.
Left: Google Assistant. Center: The read-aloud feature. Right: Night mode.
Reliance’s chairman said during the keynote that the Next will be “the most affordable smartphone,” right in line with other products Jio has launched so far. We should have more clarity on pricing and hardware specifications closer to its release on September 10.
While the JioPhone was the event's highlight, the Jio-Google partnership also runs deep into Jio’s other businesses. As announced today, the telecom giant will leverage Google Cloud's capabilities for its 5G deployment in India and other digital businesses that include its retail arm, health services, and its music streaming app.