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Google and Jio collaborate on ‘ultra-affordable’ JioPhone Next

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Releasing in India on September 10th

The JioPhone Next.
Image: Jio Platforms

Indian tech giant Jio Platforms has collaborated with Google on a new affordable smartphone called the JioPhone Next, Jio’s parent company Reliance announced today. The Next is aimed at helping the roughly 300 million users in India who are currently on 2G networks upgrade to 4G, TechCrunch reports. It will be released in India on September 10th, before coming to other markets at a later date.

Reliance chairman Mukesh Ambani said the JioPhone Next would be an “ultra-affordable 4G smartphone,” but didn’t reveal exact pricing or full specs for the device. However, the company did say it will include voice assistant support, translation features, and a camera with support for augmented reality. The phone is running on an optimized version of Android OS designed specifically for the device, Google says, though XDA Developers has spotted that it appears to be using the Go-version of the Google Camera app, which indicates it shares some similarities with Google’s low-powered Android Go operating system.

Google and Jio first announced they were working together on an affordable smartphone last year, when Google invested $4.5 million in Jio Platforms. Today, Google says its work with the company is also expanding thanks to a new partnership that will see Jio Platforms parent company Reliance make use of Google’s Cloud platform, shifting its core retail business onto Google’s infrastructure.

The JioPhone Next is part of Google’s multi-year attempt to bring Android and its services to lower-powered, more affordable devices. It announced its Android One initiative in 2014, and followed this up with Android Go three years later in 2017. It’s also invested in KaiOS, an operating system designed for feature phones, in order to make its services available on even more basic devices. As more and more of the developing world comes online, Google is making a big effort to ensure it’s there to meet them.