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Google and Jio delay their India smartphone launch

·3-min read

The JioPhone Next, the much-awaited smartphone designed by Google and India's Jio Platforms to tap hundreds of millions of users in the world's second-largest internet market, won't launch on Friday, the Indian technology giant said Thursday midnight.

In a statement issued just now, Jio Platforms said it has been testing the smartphone with a "limited set of users for further refinement" and is "actively working to make it available more widely" around the time of Diwali festival, which is scheduled for early November.

The Indian firm, which operates the largest telecom network with over 400 million subscribers, blamed global semiconductor shortages for the launch delay and said it expects the additional two months "will" mitigate that.

The JioPhone Next smartphone, unveiled in June this year, was scheduled to launch on Friday. Neither of the firms had given any indication in recent days that they may have to postpone the launch. "The companies remain committed to their vision of opening up new possibilities for millions of Indians, especially those who will experience the internet for the very first time," the Indian firm said in a press statement.

Mukesh Ambani, India's richest man and the chairman of Reliance Industries, which operates Jio Platforms, unveiling JioPhone Next at an event in June this year Image Credits: Jio Platforms

Powered by "extremely optimized Android” mobile operating system, the JioPhone Next phone is marketed to be an "ultra-affordable 4G smartphone" to tap the roughly 300 million users in India who are still on slower networks. The two firms have said that they plan to eventually launch the smartphone in other markets as well.

At an event in June, the two firms said the JioPhone Next will feature a “fast, high-quality camera” which will support HDR, and will be protected by the latest Android releases and security updates. It will also ship with a range of features, including Read Aloud and Translate Now that will work with any text on the phone screen, including web pages, apps, messages and even photos, the two firms have said.

Analysts have said in recent weeks that the JioPhone Next -- whose price and tech specifications are yet to be revealed -- could disrupt the Indian smartphone market -- the world's second largest -- and help the telecom network further solidify its dominance in the country.

"At present, there are 430 million smartphone users, 115 million JioPhone users [Jio's "smart" featurephone] and 320 million featurephone (2G) users in India. We believe smartphone users with devices priced above $100 are unlikely to opt for a sub $100 device," analysts at Jefferies wrote in a report to clients this week. "That leaves 25% of smartphone users, i.e. 105 million smartphones, 115 million JioPhone users and 320 million featurephone users as the addressable market for JioPhone Next. Assuming replacement cycle of 2 years for smartphones and 3 years for JioPhone/featurephones, the addressable market for JioPhone Next could be 200m devices annually."

The smartphone is the latest collaboration between the two firms. Last year, Google invested $4.5 billion in Jio Platforms and that's where it first announced the plans to develop cheap smartphones with the Indian telecom operator. Facebook and scores of other firms have also bought stakes in the Indian firm. Jio Platforms operates a number of businesses, including telecom giant Jio Infocomm, which competes with Airtel and Vodafone Idea; and e-commerce firm JioMart, which competes with Tata-owned BigBasket, SoftBank-backed Grofers and Amazon and Walmart's Flipkart.

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