Reliance Jio is making Indians fall in love with good old feature phones all over again.
During the first quarter of 2018, India’s feature phone market doubled from a year ago while smartphone sales remained flat, data from Hong Kong-based market intelligence firm Counterpoint Research show.
The surge was mainly fueled by Mukesh Ambani-owned Reliance Jio which launched an “effectively free” 4G feature phone in 2016, along with extremely cheap data plans, said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint. Jio stoked demand further when it launched an even cheaper 4G data plan this January at just Rs49 ($0.7) a month, with unlimited voice calling and 1GB data.
This has helped the firm’s feature phone market share race from 0% last year to 36% by January-March 2018, according to Counterpoint.
The poor quality of low-end smartphones is also a factor in this. “The lack of vernacular or regional content, UI (user interface), and good quality smartphones below Rs2,700 have been some of the driving factors for JioPhone’s growth,” Pathak said.
Fueling the market
Driven by feature phones, India’s overall mobile phone market grew 48% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2018, according to Counterpoint.
“However, we expect demand to start picking up from early Q2 2018 onwards, driven by a faster replacement rate of existing 2G and 3G smartphone users upgrading to 4G mobile phones,” said Karn Chauhan, research analyst at Counterpoint.