Google and Reliance Jio announced today that they will collaborate on an entry-level Android device for India. This was the part of an announcement of the search giant investing $4.5 billion in the Indian company in exchange for a 7.7% stake.
Reliance’s chairman, Mukesh Ambani, said that this phone will have 4G connectivity, and readiness for 5G connectivity whenever the technology becomes available in India.
In a blog post, Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, said that the smartphone will have optimizations to Android and Play Store for Indian customers:
Google and Jio Platforms have entered into a commercial agreement to jointly develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store. Together we are excited to rethink, from the ground up, how millions of users in India can become owners of smartphones.
However, these enhancements don’t mean that Google is releasing a special Android fork.
In the past couple of years, Jio has launched its ‘smart’ feature phones, JioPhone and JioPhone 2, with internet connectivity and apps such as Google Search, WhatsApp, Facebook, and YouTube. The company said it has sold more than 100 million of these KaiOS powered devices.
But with this new affordable smartphone in partnership with Google, Jio wants to offer mainstream Android to folks who are not yet connected to the internet. Ambani said that more than 350 million Indians still use a 2G-enabled feature phone, and this new phone will enable them to use internet at higher speeds — and thereby access richer apps and content.