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JioPhone will be the first KaiOS device to get WhatsApp

JioPhone's clout is forcing developers to bring their apps to the feature phone.

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Reliance Jio announced today that the JioPhone will get support for WhatsApp, one of the most widely used messaging service in India. At the annual general meeting held early today, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani announced that three most popular apps YouTube, WhatsApp and Facebook will be available for JioPhone from August 15.

To recall, the JioPhone is a feature phone launched last year as an attempt to expand Jio’s coverage to the Tier II and Tier III cities. The device runs KaiOS, a Linux-based mobile operating system that brings functionalities seen on smartphones to the feature phone segment. Ahead of today’s announcement, Reliance JioPhone already had access to Google Assistant, the digital assistant from search giant Google.

Now, the feature phone-centric operating system is turning much smarter. Reliance JioPhone became the first KaiOS device to receive Facebook when the social media giant brought its app to the feature phone on February 14. Now, it is becoming the first device to get support for WhatsApp as well. WABetaInfo had first reported that WhatsApp is building native app for JioPhone and Facebook also indicated that its app development team is considering support for KaiOS.

Now, KaiOS tells BGR India that the app is coming to the platform but will only be applicable to JioPhone for now. The company is indicating that the app won’t be available on other KaiOS-based devices like Nokia 8110 4G next month. KaiOS is one of the fastest growing mobile operating system, which recently surpassed iOS to become India’s second most popular operating system for mobile devices.

App Annie recently reported that India has become the world’s fastest growing market for mobile apps on both Android and iOS combined. It noted Facebook as the most downloaded app across both the platforms while WhatsApp took the third spot. The social messaging application is being used by over 200 million users in the country and its next set of users could come from JioPhone.

Watch: JioPhone First Look Video

WhatsApp currently works with Android, iOS, Windows Phone and Nokia’s Symbian 40 platforms. It recently dropped support for BlackBerry OS and KaiOS will be the fifth platform to be supported by the service.

At the AGM today, Ambani announced that the company has sold 25 million units of JioPhone. For WhatsApp, it now has the opportunity to tap into a user base of 25 million people waiting for the best messaging experience. WhatsApp hasn’t responded to our queries yet, but the app could be part of a long term partnership with KaiOS.

Juho Sarvikas, Chief Product Officer of HMD Global, another major supporter of KaiOS, sent a tweet which hints at WhatsApp coming to Nokia 8110 4G, widely referred to as banana phone. The announcement today shows the clout of JioPhone in India’s feature phone-dominated market. Jio aims to sell 100 million features phones with the launch of JioPhone 2. If it succeeds then more developers will follow on the footsteps of Facebook and Google, which completed $22 million investment in KaiOS and announced plans to bring apps like YouTube and Maps to the platform.

  • Published Date: July 5, 2018 5:17 PM IST