JioPhone Next, which was Reliance Jio’s bid to introduce affordable 4G handsets, is seeing a limited uptick, according to a rural survey done by IIFL, a finance and investment services company.
JioPhone Next, which was launched in 2021, was supposed to introduce affordable handsets for the feature phone users, who cannot afford to buy smartphones in the ₹7,000-10,000 range.
Contrary to expectations, the sale of Reliance’s affordable smartphone has been poor. The IIFL report stated, “Retailers in the larger towns stocked JioPhone Next; but cited sales being poor despite a 25 per cent price cut from the original listed price of ₹6,499.”
Reliance Jio has done three launches of JioPhone over the years. Each model was supposed to be an affordable alternative to mobile phone models being supplied by other OEMs. JioPhone Next was launched in collaboration with Google, and the telecom operator has also mentioned in recent earnings announcements that it will be launching a 5G handset in collaboration with the American tech giant.
These collaborations are a part of the $4.5-billion investment by Google into Jio Platforms, however recent reports suggest that the Reliance-Google collaboration for a affordable 5G handset is unlikely, and Reliance is likely developing the affordable 5G handset without the input of the American tech giant.
According to the IIFL report, while JioPhone sales were robust in 2018 and 2019, sales are down to a trickle now. Some retailers stated that since Jio now sells JioPhone at ₹3,000 to the retailer, end-user pricing is much higher than 2G handsets making affordability a challenge. Some of them also cited a defective lot in subsequent batches as a dampener.
While launching the JioPhone Next, experts had observed that buyers could reduce the price of the new JioPhone further by returning the older JioPhone models. However, the report observed, “The original JioPhone offer was based on customers paying ₹1,500 security deposit, using the handset for 3 years before returning it to the retailer and getting a refund of the ₹1,500 deposit. However, all retailers we surveyed said that customers have not returned the handset after 3 years. We also found that Jio was selling batteries for the JioPhone handset to cater to the replacement demand of existing JioPhone users.”
However, IIFL’s rural survey had good news for Reliance’s OTT ambitions, “Watching IPL matches on the Jio Cinema app is becoming increasingly prominent in both Mumbai and rural areas,” the report said.