Google Invests US$ 22 Million on JioPhone Operating System KaiOS

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After tying-up with Reliance, KaiOS saw 15 per cent growth in Indian market and became the second-most popular OS in the country, ahead of Apple’s iOS

KaiOS funding, Google funding KaiOS, JioPhone KaiOS, JioPhone funding, JioPhone
Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

Google has announced its decision to invest US$ 22 million on the operating system of feature phones – KaiOS. It is a Linux-based operating system (OS) that runs on feature phones with smartphone features. The funding is seen as a way to introduce Google-driven services such as YouTube, Google Maps, etc. on these feature phones.

A popular choice from the failed Mozilla Firefox

KaiOS evolved as a result of a failed experiment for a Mozilla Firefox OS. This operating system runs on several prominent Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) for mobile devices such as Nokia 8110 4G, Micromax, HMD Global and TCL and mobile carriers such as Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile and Reliance Jio’s JioPhone. In fact, in March 2018, Reliance Industries had purchased a stake of 16 per cent in KaiOS for US$ 7 million in cash. This tie-up made the operating system even more popular in India and KaiOS-run feature phones’ market share increased to 15 per cent, making it the second most popular operating system in India, ahead of Apple’s iOS and trailing only the Android smartphones.

Anjali Joshi, Vice President, Product Management, Next Billion Users at Google, said, “We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone whether they are using desktops, smartphones, or feature phones.”

“Following the success of the JioPhones, we are excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world,” she added.

Next Billion business unit also works in customising Google experience and services according to the requirements of growing Internet users such as public WiFi programme and neighbourhoods application.

How will this partnership help feature phone users?

Since its launch last year, over 40 million KaiOS feature phones have been shipped till date, all around the world. According to data provided by Counterpoint research, KaiOS shipments reached as high as 23 million in the first quarter of 2018 itself. The same research also showed that tie-ups between KaiOS and HMD Nokia and JioPhone had contributed to this growth and also caused smartphone shipments go down by 14 per cent in the same time period.

Sebastien Codeville, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of KaiOS, said: “We’re excited to work with Google to deliver its services on more mobile devices. Having an intelligent voice assistant on an affordable mobile phone is truly revolutionary as it helps overcome some of the limitations a keypad brings.”

He added, “This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the Internet, especially in emerging markets.”

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