Reliance Jio and Google partner to develop entry-level smartphone for India
Earlier today, Google revealed that it had signed an agreement with Indian telecom giant Reliance Jio to invest ₹33,737 crores (~$4.5 billion) in Jio Platforms Ltd. for a 7.73% equity stake in the company. This marked the first investment from Google’s recently announced Google For India Digitization Fund, which aims to accelerate India’s digital economy by funding ₹75,000 crores (~$10 billion) in the region over the next five to seven years. Alongside the investment, the two companies have announced a commercial agreement to develop an entry-level smartphone for the Indian market. Curiously, at the Reliance AGM held earlier today, Reliance announced that it will develop an OS in collaboration with Google.
In a blog post regarding the matter, Google notes that it will develop an entry-level affordable smartphone in partnership with Jio Platforms which will feature “optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store.” While the company hasn’t revealed exactly what optimizations will be made for the new smartphone, the idea behind these optimizations leads us to believe that this is Android Go that is being talked about here. Android Go has been designed from the ground up for entry-level hardware and is tailored for devices coming in with low RAM and low storage.
“Google and Jio Platforms have entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store. Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones. This effort will unlock new opportunities, further power the vibrant ecosystem of applications and push innovation to drive growth for the new Indian economy.”
Thus, Google’s and Reliance Jio’s collaboration on this end would signal an upgrade for Jio as well as for the Indian masses. Jio has already tapped the absolute entry-level market with devices like the JioPhone and JioPhone 2 feature phones, but both of these are KaiOS-run feature phones. Collaboration on the Android platform will open the doors for Android apps on these low budget devices, marking their users as potential consumers to Google and increasing their data consumption for Jio. For the users, they do get a cheap and optimized smartphone that isn’t just a feature phone with Google Assistant. Jio further plans to leverage the learnings from this program and apply it to the 5G ecosystem, once it makes an entry.
As we mentioned earlier, Reliance Jio’s AGM event spun this announcement into Google and Jio collaborating on a new OS. However, we could not uncover further details on a “new Operating System” just yet. Whereas on the other hand, Google’s simultaneous announcement in written format talks about a phone more than an OS. Hence, in the absence of further details, we believe that Google and Jio are collaborating on a low-budget, entry-level, heavily optimized Android device. We’ll update the article with more details once they become available.