Google and Jio reveal a low-cost smartphone that's 'made for India'

The cheap smartphone will come with Google and Snapchat's services built in.


Last summer, Google became the latest tech player to invest in India's biggest mobile network, Jio. Its 7.7 percent stake was the second-largest after Facebook's 9.9 percent share, while Intel and Qualcomm had previously picked up far smaller fractions each. Upon announcing the deal, Google said it would work with Jio on low-cost Android phones built for India's mobile-first society. Today, it has revealed the first fruits of that collaboration: the JioPhone Next, a low-cost smartphone with voice and camera features designed for locals.

The device features onscreen and in-camera translation tools that can read aloud text from messages, web pages, apps and photos. Combining the companies' strengths, users can ask Google Assistant to play tracks on Indian music streaming service Jio Saavn or check their balance on the My Jio payments app, in addition to requesting cricket scores and a weather forecast. Google is also promising to deliver regular Android security updates for the JioPhone Next.

What's more, it says the device will feature an upgraded camera over other low-end handsets, complete with improved nighttime and low-light photos and a HDR mode. Leaning on its existing relationship with Snap, the JioPhone's camera will also integrate Snapchat's augmented reality lenses, which will be customized for local users. Snap recently struck a similar partnership with Samsung to add its Lenses to the native camera in the Galaxy A-series lineup of mid-range devices.

According to India's Business Standard, the JioPhone Next will launch in India on September 10th and later roll out to additional countries. By most accounts, Google already dominates India's smartphone market. According to analysis firm IDC, the most popular smartphones in the country run on Android. The company has also targeted feature phone buyers by investing in KaiOS, a mobile software that features Google and Facebook's apps and services.

Beyond Android phones, Jio will also use Google Cloud for both its retail services and as part of its 5G rollout.