JioPhone, the much-awaited essentially "free phone" that comes at a refundable price of Rs 1,500, will be made available to the general public starting tomorrow (September 24).
The 4G VoLTE-enabled feature phone announced with much fanfare at Reliance Industries' 40th annual general meeting in July, is expected to face a stiff competition in the coming days from similarly priced 4G smartphones.
No denying that the JioPhone is a game-changer, and comes with many interesting features at an extremely competitive price. However, it also has its drawbacks, ones that its rivals will look to exploit in order to fence their existing customers against Jio's impending attack.
Ahead of its launch, let's talk about reasons why the JioPhone may not make much sense for you.
Let's start by decoding the phone's biggest marketing line. The "Rs 0" price tag. At the unveiling of the phone, Mukesh Ambani announced that this "smart feature phone" will be available to consumers for free, but a deeper look at the fine print reveals it's anything but that. The phone, in all honesty, provides great price to performance ratio, but calling it free will be a lie.
The device is available for a deposit of Rs 1,500 which can only be claimed after using the phone for a minimum period of three years. Plus, there's also a catch here. The customer will only be eligible for the refund if the phone has been in in regular use. According to Reliance, if the account remains inactive for three months, the customer will be no longer be eligible to get the deposited amount back.
At the time of the announcement, it was the only device of its kind to come with smartphone-like features at such an affordable price. However, much has changed since then. JioPhone's announcement and a need for affordable 4G smartphones have not only led to manufacturers carving out a new low-end 4G smartphone segment in the market, but also led to telecom operators like Airtel and Vodafone stepping into the ring with their own products.
First, it was Idea that announced plans of stepping into the ring with an ultra-affordable smart 4G phone, and then Airtel, which is now planning to make its move to counter Jio's threat.
However, unlike Idea, which will come with its own hardware, Airtel is in talks with multiple handset makers to bring in a phone bundled with large amounts of data and voice minutes ahead of Diwali at an attractive price of Rs 2,500.
The two stepping into the ring with affordable 4G smartphones of their own will only make it difficult for Jio, which is looking to add to its revenues by snatching away the 2G feature phone user base from its rivals.
Lack of supported applications
The JioPhone was announced by Mukesh Ambani with the sole purpose of poaching users from its rivals and making them part of the Jio revolution. It has a very competetive price and some interesting features too, but what it does lack are some widely used applications that have become central to how we use our smartphones.
JioPhone has been revealed to bring with it a lite version of Facebook's app and some other Jio apps, however, what its missing out on, is the popular messaging app – WhatsApp – which may not even come to the JioPhone in the future. It also lacks many applications like YouTube, which is widely used in India.
Supply chain issues and manufacturing issues
Even if you gloss over these issues, there's still no guarantee that you can get your hands on the JioPhone anytime soon.
The device which went on pre-booking on August 24 was expected to start deliveries on September 1 on a first-come-first-serve basis. However, because of the overwhelming response for the "smart feature phone", the deliveries for the first batch were delayed to September 24, and there's no guarantee the same won't happen to the future batches too.
Additionally, there's also news that Reliance has tied up with two different manufacturers to make the phone – Intex and Foxconn. This could lead to slight difference in the build quality and overall performance of the device, which could prove to be a deal-breaker for some.