A year ago, Reliance Jio disrupted the Indian telecom market with free LTE services, followed by attractive tariff plans. A year after, the same operator is aiming to create waves with a feature phone- the JioPhone. However, this device is aimed at 500 million people in India who can't afford a smartphone.
At the time of announcing the JioPhone, Mukesh Ambani said that the company is aiming to sell five million JioPhones every week. Nevertheless, the company has taken pre-bookings only once, and in which it received six million bookings, and is currently in the process of delivering the JioPhones.
It isn't surprising that a lot of people are in the queue to purchase the feature phone, considering the affordable price tag of Rs. 1,500. Of course, there might be many people who would have rejected the delivery after reading the updated terms and conditions from Reliance Jio, and there's a huge possibility that the demand for JioPhone will not be the same as it was in the first prebooking.
If the JioPhone is its primary highlight, the second one is the attractive tariff plan. Reliance Jio is offering a bundled tariff plan of Rs. 153 which gives 500MB data per day and unlimited voice calls for 28 days. It also provides access to Jio's digital entertainment apps such as JioCinema, JioTV, etc.
After Reliance Jio announcing a 4G VoLTE feature phone, BSNL has partnered with Micromax and recently launched the Micromax Bharat 1 4G VoLTE smartphone with a bundled tariff plan of Rs. 97 that gives 5GB high-speed data and unlimited voice calls for 28 days.
And it seems like this ploy from telecom operators is working as Indian consumers are ready to purchase a feature phone in 2017 just to enjoy bundled tariff plans. If JioPhone is a classic example of consumers interest in affordably priced 4G VoLTE feature phone, then the hidden success of the phone will be the tariff plan.
A 4G feature phone might not give you the best experience as a smartphone, but you get unlimited voice calls without any limit, at least in JioPhone.
Telecom operators like Airtel and Idea Cellular already made it clear that they won't be going after the feature phone craze, but they will be launching affordable 4G VoLTE supported smartphones. Airtel has already launched Karbonn A40 Indian 4G smartphone with a bundled tariff plan of Rs. 169 which also gives 500MB data per day and unlimited voice calls. Idea Cellular is soon expected to launch a bundled 4G smartphone as well.
Having said that, when JioPhone launched, it was the only device with such an affordable tariff plan, but now, we have a BSNL tariff plan of Rs. 97, although with some limitations. And lastly, we have the smartphone-bundled tariff plan from Airtel and Vodafone of Rs. 169 and Rs. 150 which also offers similar benefits as Jio's Rs. 153 plan.
All in all, on one side we have operators such as Reliance Jio and BSNL with 4G feature phone scheme, and on the other side, incumbent operators such as Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular with affordable 4G smartphone scheme. Either way, Indian consumers will accept these as long as they get affordable tariff plans.