A $4.5 billion deal between Google and India’s Reliance Industries for a new smartphone is shaking-up the world’s second-largest mobile market, industry executives and analysts say.
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance, said Google would build an Android operating system to power a low-cost “4G or even 5G” smartphone that Reliance would design.
Reliance, India’s largest publicly traded company, has not provided details about the customer price, specifications, timing or who will build the new phone. The venture is being conducted through Reliance’s Jio Platforms subsidiary.
The company’s goal of providing every person in India with a smartphone may be aided by winning subscribers from rivals Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, which still carry hundreds of millions of users with only basic 2G phones.
Jio Platforms has attracted investment from Intel and Qualcomm, and its 387 million users will give Google a significant competitive advantage.
Industry experts view this alliance as a direct threat to Chinese vendors like Xiaomi and BBK Electronics, which have led the $2 billion market in India for low-end smartphones that cost less than $100.00, and expect Google-Jio to compete directly on price, posing a threat to those companies’ market share.
Google’s Android team aims to ensure access to apps related to health, communications and jobs, as well as ease of use for first time smartphone owners, according to Sameer Samat, vice president for Android and Play at Google, in a statement to Reuters.
The Google-Jio phone would also likely be optimized for the Jio network and offer users improved performance combined with Jio’s video and music libraries.