Billionaire Mukesh Ambani may have actually found a way to bridge the product gap between his ultra-affordable 4G VoLTE feature phone and a smartphone.
Ambani is reportedly in talks with the engineers of WhatsApp for a light-mode version of the popular messaging app for JioPhone, which will make its debut in September.
The discussions, according to a report by Factor Daily, are at a very nascent stage and the plan, the report quoting a source said, was to optimise the messaging app for JioPhone.
Ambani’s JioPhone product predicament was recently highlighted by JP Morgan in report. The US-based firm was skeptical over Jio’s proposition to hold on subscribers with Rs 153 a month plan. “In all likelihood, if the consumer can afford to pay at least Rs 153/month for three years (JioPhone ARPU pricing),s/he is quite likely a smartphone user well before this three-year period runs out,” it said in the report.
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Smartphone penetration for Airtel and Idea have crossed 40% of their subscriber base even as a significant part of them are not broadband (3G/4G) users yet. The finding points out that the low-end of this smartphone user base operates at clear sub-Rs 200 ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) and consumers would likely to consider the pros and cons of downtrading to JioPhone from a smartphone.
It is this gap that Ambani wants to bridge and he may have found a way around it with WhatsApp. With more than 200 million active daily users in India and more than a billion worldwide, WhatsApp could give Ambani’s JioPhone the heft it needs, especially when its competitors are already working on affordable Android-based smart feature phones – Idea’s Rs 2,500 and Intex’s Turbo+ 4G – that can support Facebook and WhatsApp.
“Some of the (JioPhone) challenges relate to feasibility, while others relate to the product being attractive and attractively-priced enough to induce habit-changing consumption,” the brokerage said.
Reliance Jio that forayed into commercial fourth generation or 4G technology-based services in September 2016, has launched JioPhone some weeks back at a refundable Rs 1,500 security deposit for a lock-in period of three years to compliment Jio services. The JioPhone is scheduled to hit the markets in September, while pre-bookings will start from August 24.
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