Google backs JioPhone operating system provider KaiOS

Google backs JioPhone operating system provider KaiOS”

Meanwhile, the two companies are working to bring Google Assistant, Maps, YouTube, and Search to KaiOS.

KaiOS Technologies Inc., developer of the emerging operating system for smart feature phones, KaiOS, today announced a $22M Series A investment from Google to help bring the internet to the next generation of users.

"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 can not access the internet, especially in emerging markets", said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies, in a statement.

The mobile world is dominated by smartphones with shipments of over 1.5 billion units past year. And their sales are actually growing faster right now than their souped-up cousins. The most widely known example of a KaiOS-powered phone is the JioPhone, which was launched in India as a smart 4G VoLTE feature phone. The Jio Phone-4G combine reportedly increased KaiOS's share in the Indian market.

Google's KaiOS investment could be seen as a way of introducing its services to feature phone users who might eventually graduate to smartphones. Those same users might also be more apt to buy an Android device if and when they upgrade from a feature phone to a smartphone.

"We're excited to work with Google to deliver its services on more mobile devices", said Codeville, the KaiOS CEO. Keep in mind that these phones typically have old school keypads, a voice-operated digital assistant will represent quite a jump in usability. The company was acquired by Google from Andy Rubin and his co-founders back in 2007 and the mobile OS was soon found running on the first Android device. And while those devices and the wider ecosystem never really took off, KaiOS has fared significantly better.

KaiOS works with manufacturers like TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax and has partnerships with carriers such as Reliance Jio, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. In fact, it overtook Apple's iOS to attain the second place in the list with Android on top.

Jio Phone uses KaiOS, which allowed it to attain 15% market share in India for the OS-maker up against the likes of Android and iOS.

The large demography of India that still uses lower-end phones and grapple with slower connections has been accorded top priority as far as Google's future high-end products and services are concerned. Early this year, KaiOS-powered Nokia phones had gotten a suite of Google apps.

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