With the launch of Reliance JioPhone, a prominent question which consumers had was whether it will support WhatsApp. It was then reported that JioPhone might not be able to support most of the Android apps including Facebook and WhatsApp. That seemed obvious given that Jio Phone runs KaiOS. However, fresh reports from FactorDaily claim that Reliance Jio and Whatsapp are working together to develop a special version of the instant messaging service which will work on JioPhone.
Although Jio has its own messaging service (JioChat), it would be a great boost to have India’s dominant messenger WhatsApp onboard for JioPhone. Given that the phone will be available for free to users (Rs. 1500 security deposit, refundable after 3 years) along with extremely cheap data rates, a lot of people are expected to buy the phone. Even though it’s just a feature phone, 4G VoLTE connectivity opens up new possibilities for the phone. It is now being said that JioPhone will also support Facebook and YouTube. And if all goes well, WhatsApp too.
Currently, JioPhone won’t be able to support WhatsApp with its KaiOS base that comes from Firefox operating system. Reliance Jio already has good ties with Facebook but creating a separate version of WhatsApp will come with its own set of technical challenges. However, WhatsApp currently has 200 million active users and Jio won’t want to lose on such a huge audience. Similarly, Jio is the fastest growing network in India and now after the introduction of JioPhone, WhatsApp should be equally interested in the collaboration too.
Since JioPhone will be mostly bought by people who currently don’t own a phone, WhatsApp might look forward to capitalize on this new wave of internet users enabled by JioPhone. Previously, Facebook’s Chief Financial Officer David Wehner had also acknowledged Jio’s contribution in the growing usage of the social network in India. Now, with the creation of this new version, WhatsApp might hope for the same.
Having a separate version for Nokia feature phones a few years ago helped WhatsApp propel its growth in developing markets like India. With new feature phones making a comeback in the Indian market with 4G VoLTE, it will be interesting to see brands develop lite or toned down versions for such phones. Usually, this practice is restricted to services/products with a huge global customer base.
Eg.: Google creating a lite version of Android for low-end smartphones named ‘Android One’. Facebook has a lite version of its own app as well as a separate lite version for Messenger as well.
WhatsApp currently sees 1 billion active users on its instant messaging platform, this in itself is a mammoth sized audience. Thus, it won’t be surprising if WhatsApp launches a lite version of its app to cater the long tail of customers who will be getting phone internet access for the first time. In fact, Whatsapp is already committed to support Nokia’s Series 40 until the end of 2018. That is a very long time frame to transition out an old OS. This speaks of how important Whatsapp considers being available for users across different platforms. Perhaps for Nokia, they owe an extra bit for the support during their early days.
It is just an early report and whether we will see a different version of WhatsApp for JioPhone is still unknown. But if WhatsApp goes this route, it would be another shot in the arm for Jio!