Reliance Jio, which has been disrupting the telecom space in India by slashing mobile data prices, today fired its latest salvo: a 4G phone with an asking price of zero. The fine print is that buyers have to pay a deposit of INR 1,500 (US$23) “to prevent misuse.” The deposit will be returned after three years.
The 2.4 inch screen JioPhone with an alphanumeric keypad will look like a feature phone, but it can connect to the internet and install apps. It comes preloaded with Jio apps for movies, music, shopping, and so on. Its unlimited 4G data plan is priced at INR 153 (US$2.4) monthly. Jio already offers free voice calls and SMS.
JioPhone will make the 2G feature phone obsolete.
Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and chairman of Reliance Industries, made the announcements at the company’s AGM today in Mumbai. “JioPhone will make the 2G feature phone obsolete,” he declared.
Thanks to the advent of affordable smartphones, India now has 462 million internet users. But that still leaves two-thirds of the country’s 1.3 billion people off the grid. That’s far lower than the global average: half the world’s 7.5 billion are connected to the internet.
The JioPhone aims to correct that. Even the lowest priced smartphones are beyond the purchasing power of hundreds of millions in India, Ambani pointed out. It also puts Reliance Jio at the center of connecting those at the bottom of the pyramid, and opens up new possibilities for tech companies targeting this so-called “next billion.”
Beta testing of the JioPhone will begin August 5 and booking will start August 24. The phones are available on a first-come-first-served basis.
Converted from Indian rupees. US$1 = INR 64.3391.
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