JioPhone and JioPhone 2 will now have WhatsApp starting 20 September. WhatsApp has developed a native app for JioPhone, which runs KaiOS, a feature phone OS. Reliance had said in July that a software update would enable native apps for WhatsApp, YouTube and Facebook on its phones. A native Facebook app was rolled out on the JioPhone in February.

The WhatsApp app will have the ability to exchange photos and videos, text and voice messages. The company has said that all data exchanged on WhatsApp will be end-to-end encrypted, the same as it is for smartphone users of WhatsApp. WhatsApp claims to have 200 million monthly active users in India; while Jio claims to have sold 25 million JioPhone handsets.

In its AGM in July, Reliance also announced the JioPhone 2 at an introductory price of Rs 2999.

JioPhone in India

The JioPhone was launched a little over a year ago in July 2017. The 4G device is powered by KaiOS, which builds smartphone-like features into feature phones. JioPhone is available for a refundable deposit of Rs 1500, which is a significant amount for a newly-connected cost-sensitive Indian customer.

Within 6 months of its launch, JioPhone became the top feature phone brand in India by shipments for 2017, overthrowing market leader in the segment Samsung, according to a study CounterPoint Research.

The feature phone market in India is performing better than the smartphone market; shipments (sold to retailers) of feature phones in India doubled YoY in Q1 2018, while the smartphone market remained flat in the same period, per the Counterpoint Research study. That report also attributed the surge in popularity to the JioPhone range.

KaiOS history

In March this year, Reliance Retail bought a 16% stake in KaiOS Technologies, a US-based company which provides operating system for JioPhone, for around $7 million. Reliance Retail paid around $3.6 for each of 19,04,781 common shares. KaiOS’ flagship product ‘KaiOS’ originates from the Firefox open-source project, and enable mobile and IoT devices. Apart from Jio in India, KaiOS powers phones in Canada and USA through partnerships with Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile. The company’s website claims to have 30 million people as users of KaiOS devices.

In June this year, KaiOS raised $22 million from Google to integrate Google services like search, maps, YouTube and its voice assistant into more KaiOS devices.