From rumors and leaks to an official announcement, Jio’s feature phone has had a long journey. Jio’s 4G LTE network has already turned the Indian telecom scene on its head, and the company is now looking to shake up the feature phone market with the humbly titled JioPhone, the country’s first 4G-enabled feature phone. The JioPhone is slated to start shipping to consumers in September, with bookings to open on August 24.
What is the JioPhone? Is it free, or is Jio charging you a fee to get your hands on one? What about its features? Let’s find out.
Is the JioPhone free?
This is no doubt the most important question of all. The simple answer to the question would be a resounding no, only it isn’t so simple. The JioPhone is free to anyone who intends to use one for three years or more, but you have to pay an upfront fee of ₹1,500, which will be refunded in full after three years when you return the handset to the company. You don’t have to return the phone after three years; you can continue using it for as long as you wish, but the refundable money will be returned only when you decide to stop using the JioPhone.
In addition to the ₹1,500 refundable charge, you will also need to recharge the phone with the ₹153 data plan every month, which offers 500 MB of data per day for 28 days. If you don’t recharge, you don’t get to use the phone’s online features, but basic features will continue to work.
Two shorter validity packs are also being offered. There’s a two-day plan that costs ₹24, and a weekly plan that costs ₹54. There’s also a plan that costs ₹309 a month and will let you connect your JioPhone to a television or monitor for viewing content on a large screen, using a cable provided by Jio.
As with data plans for Jio’s SIM cards, voice calls, SMS, and internet are all inclusive in each JioPhone plan, along with free access to Jio apps (including JioCinema and JioMusic).
- You need to pay a ₹1,500 refundable fee for the JioPhone, which will be returned to you if you decide to stop using the phone and return it to Jio after three years.
- The monthly plan starts at ₹153 for 500 MB of data per day, and the ₹309 plan will get you access to the ability to connect the JioPhone to a television or monitor.
- A weekly plan will be available for ₹54, while a two-day plan will cost you ₹24.
- Each plan includes unlimited voice calls and SMS, while data is capped at a certain amount per day (500 MB on the ₹153 plan; details on other plans’ daily limit is not clear at this point).
How do I book a JioPhone?
The easiest method to book a JioPhone is to register your interest on Jio’s website. Go to this page, enter your details, and hit the Submit button. Jio isn’t asking for consumers’ addresses just yet, but it will no doubt reach out once actual bookings start on August 24. Jio is aiming to deliver 5 million handsets each week starting September, with handsets reaching consumers on a first come first serve basis, meaning you could in for a long wait depending on when you place an order.
You can also register for the phone offline at any of Reliance’s Jio stores. The JioPhone will be booked against a consumer’s Aadhar number, and only one phone is allowed per Aadhar account, unless you run a business, in which case you will need to furnish the necessary details (such as the Pan/GSTIN number and the number of required devices) at the Jio website or at an offline Jio store.
What features does the JioPhone offer?
The JioPhone may just be the most feature-packed feature phone (pun not intended) to hit Indian markets, owing to support for 4G LTE and apps that let you watch videos and listen to online music (via Jio’s proprietary apps, such as Jio Music or Jio Cinema). The phone also has an NFC chip for digital payments, although support for the feature will be added via a software update later on.
The JioPhone will come in two models, one powered by a Qualcomm chip (the Snapdragon 205) and the other powered by a Spreadtrum chip, but both should offer the same real-world performance as this is a feature phone we are talking about. The phone has a 2.4-inch QVGA display, a microSD slot, FM radio support, 4-way navigation (probably not as advanced as Google Maps, but one that gets the job done), and a torchlight with a dedicated button. There is support for 22 Indian languages, and the JioPhone also supports voice commands, so you can simply tell the phone to play music or videos via the preloaded Jio apps using your voice.
For security, the JioPhone will have a panic button; long pressing the digit 5 on the keypad will make the phone send an SoS. It’s not clear how the SoS function will work, but it will likely send an SMS and/or place a call to the selected emergency contact, or even to the national police helpline.
If you’re wondering about advanced features such as WhatsApp support, well, the JioPhone doesn’t have them. The reason is simple: WhatsApp and other such apps do not offer a version for feature phones, so it would be impossible for Jio to offer them on the JioPhone. The JioPhone’s aim is to bring internet connectivity to the crores of users who still have no access to the internet on their current feature phones, so WhatsApp and other such services are not the focus for the company.
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