bsnl-logoBSNL has started bundling a phone manufactured by Pantel called Bharatphone, reports Times of India. The phone is priced at Rs 1,799 according to the company’s website, but it will be offered by BSNL for Rs 1,099. It is not clear if the customer has to make any upfront payment for the device. The device has a 3-inch TFT screen, 8GB expandable memory and a 1.3 mega pixel camera.

BSNL chairman RK Upadhyay says that the mobile has been designed especially for e-governance applications. That being the case, it is not clear if the device will come pre-bundled with the e-governance apps that are available on DeITY’s app store. It is also worth noting that there aren’t any noteworthy apps for Java devices on this store. Apart from two apps for translating messages, all available Java apps only list verdicts by various High Courts. Even BSNL no longer seems to have a Java app.

At the same time, there are hundreds of apps for Android, dealing with RTI, getting duplicate birth certificate, Aadhaar enrollment and marriage registration, among others. It is not clear why BSNL did not offer a similar bundle for an Android phone and instead decided to back a Java-based phone, especially when the objective was to deliver e-governance services on a cheap and inexpensive device!

According to BSNL website, it offers 250MB of data and 100 minutes of voice calls per month for 12 months or 100 minutes of voice calls per month for 6 months for smartphones offered by Pantel. Bharatphone however is not a smartphone by conventional standard. It runs on a Java-based OS, with a regular feature phone keyboard and has hardly any internal memory. It is worth noting that the telco has similar deals with Indian manufacturers like Champion and Exotic, but it’s not clear how much those devices are offered for.

PS: While writing the story I noticed that DeITY maintains two app stores, one for web apps at apps.nic.in and the other for mobile at apps.mgov.gov.in. Apart from these two, there is another app store that has apps created by Indians using data provided by the government at data.gov.in. Why not merge the three? Also, there are no restrictions on linking to this app store, unlike the Prime Minister’s website.