Google leads $22 million investment in KaiOS (that powers JioPhone)
KaiOS, the company that has built an operating system (OS) for the unique category of smart feature phones and powers the popular Reliance JioPhone, has raised $22 million in Series A funding led by Google. In the win-win deal, KaiOS will natively incorporate Search, Maps, and YouTube into its software, thus making Google's services accessible to users of low-end phones as well.
KaiOS is Linux-based, light on resources Operating System, that is designed to work on feature phones without a touch-screen. Although the OS was known in phone circles for some years now, JioPhone made it truly mainstream in India. Priced at Rs. 1,500, JioPhone is a feature phone but with 4G connectivity. It runs limited apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Google Assistant.
"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," said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.
The deal will allow Google to reach the demography of India that struggles with slower internet connections and uses lower-end phones priced below Rs. 2,000. The company is also expanding into newer markets with Android Go, which is an optimized version of Google's latest Android Oreo OS. It is specially designed for low-configuration smartphones.
According to Counterpoint Research, the JioPhone was globally the best-selling feature phone in Q1 2018. Further, the overall feature phone market in India doubled during the same period. Despite being low-end, the JioPhone supports 4G VoLTE and has a voice-based browser.