Shortly after Airtel announced its Rs 1,399 4G phone in partnership with Karbonn, the Vodafone-Idea Cellular combine is also contemplating a similar device. Reports suggest that the two incumbents may be approaching domestic budget-phone makers like Lava and Karbonn to manufacture a sub-1,500 4G-enabled device. All this, in response to Reliance’s JioPhone that was announced in August, and recorded six million bookings in the first round. Also Read - Airtel Rs 79 vs Vodafone-Idea (Vi) Rs 79 prepaid plans compared: Data, calls, and other benefitsAlso Read - Airtel introduces new Rs 79 prepaid plan in place of Rs 49 pack: Here are the benefits
The top four telcos Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio are now gunning for the absolute lower-end of the market, which consists of 400-500 million users who are still on feature phones. Many of them could even be on 2G networks. While the ‘effectively free’ JioPhone offers Jio’s content services along with 4G functionalities, the Karbonn A40 Indian which is being significantly subsidized by Airtel under its Mera Pehla 4G Smartphone initiative is a smartphone running on Android Nougat. That is a delicious proposition at that low a price point. ALSO READ: Nokia hints at a potential 4G feature phone to rival Reliance JioPhone Also Read - Best Airtel prepaid plans under Rs 500: High-speed data, free access to streaming services, and more
The specifications of the rumored Vodafone-Idea feature phone, however, are not clear yet. Though analysts reckon that it could be a series of low-cost models instead of just one device. And unlike Airtel, which chose to extend its partnership to an already existing device, Vodafone and Idea are working with manufacturers for fresh handsets. “We re in discussions with all three telcos but plans have not been finalized,” Gaurav Nigam, product head at Lava, reportedly said. ALSO READ: Reliance JioPhone is on a quest to dominate the rural telecom market in India
Meanwhile, Vodafone India also has a contract with Chinese player itel for feature phones, but right now 4G-enabled sub-1,500 segment seems to be the focus for telcos. Finnish manufacturer Nokia too is closely following the developments in the space. At present, Nokia has four feature phone models in the Indian market, one of which is the revamped version of the iconic 3310. But none of these devices have 4G capabilities. “We are watching how this materializes. If we see a viable business proposition, we will definitely consider it [4G feature phone] and participate,” Ajey Mehta, India VP for HMD Global, recently said.