Finland’s Jolla is planning its second act in the Indian market by shifting its focus from smartphones to 4G feature phones. The company is said to be in advanced talks with a ‘large telecom operator’ and an original device maker (ODM) to launch 4G feature phones based on Sailfish operating system. The operating system for 4G feature phones will serve in addition to the company’s downloadable Sailfish X operating system for smartphones.
With the launch of 4G-enabled JioPhone last year, the feature phone market has received a renewed focus with 4G becoming a key word for the segment. India is believed to be a 500-million-strong feature phone market and most of those users are not expected to upgrade to a smartphone anytime soon. This gives a real opportunity for feature phones to get smarter and offer a unique user experience. “The feature phone is something that came to us through a customer case from India. This is something we are definitely looking forward. The product [operating system] is ready on our side, and it is now more about the go to the market operation,” Sami Pienimäki, CEO of Jolla told ET.
Jolla says it will not restrict itself to just one partner but will launch with a single partner for start. The company says that Indian market is looking for feature phones offering good level of customization so that user experience can be better than that of JioPhone and it plans to achieve that by pre-installing Android apps.
The JioPhone runs on KaiOS, a smart operating system for feature phones, developed by an American software company. With KaiOS, JioPhone has received support for apps like Facebook and Google Assistant and there are also reports of WhatsApp working on a standalone app for the operating system at a later stage. The JioPhone also comes bundled with suite of Jio apps for video streaming and watching live TV on the go.
Jolla says its partners in India are ones who don’t want to offer Android Go-based products since it will offer Google services as default, even if consumers don’t want them. The Sailfish OS for 4G feature phones will support the Qualcomm Snapdragon 205 mobile platform and chipsets from MediaTek and Spreadtrum. The announcement comes as brands such as HMD Global and China’s Transsion prepare to introduce their 4G-enabled feature phones in the market.
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Jolla was seen as a potential alternative to Google’s Android but it had a tumultous time of late and had to abandon a lot of its projects. The company has pivoted to the license model while corporate solutions in Russia, China and Latin America continue to serve as bread and butter for the company. It seems that Russia is the primary market for its software licensing model where it has created partnership with recognized brands.
Jolla plans to re-enter the Indian market in the second quarter of this year and also plans to make its downloadable Sailfish X OS available to consumers. It is also planning to expand its footprint to other markets including Thailand in addition to European Union regions.