Mukesh Ambani-led telecom operator, Reliance Jio, is now planning to launch feature phones supporting VoLTE technology from Rs. 999 onwards. These feature phones will also offer free voice calls to Jio subscribers.
A large amount of mobile subscribers are expected to buy these VoLTE feature phones when Jio launches them at Rs. 999 and Rs. 1,500 during this quarter. This might act as a huge hurdle to the smartphone manufacturers who are expecting to see a boost in the shipments of their entry-level smartphones.
“If VoLTE feature phones come into the market, then there won’t be a driving force pushing for the upgrade to smartphones; rather it will be an upgrade from feature phones to VoLTE feature phone,” said Faizal Kawoosa, principal analyst at Cybermedia Research.
People might just buy another feature phones in order to be able to enjoy free voice benefits offered on the Jio network, instead of investing in a smartphone. The chances of this happening in rural areas is a lot more than the urban areas. As a result of this, the smartphone market in India could remain stagnant this year due to lack of adoption by new smartphone users.
“It will be a challenging time for the smartphone market, which could see flat growth in 2017,” Faizal added.
Jio VoLTE Feature Phones Specifications
These upcoming VoLTE feature phones are expected to be priced at Rs. 999 and Rs. 1,500. The likely hardware specifications would include a dual-camera combo (front and rear), and might also come bundled with Jio app suite including JioTV, JioMoney, and more.
It is not clear whether these phones will support other apps too, but they should support some of the extremely popular apps like Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.
Expected Smartphones Shipments In 2017
Market analysts are of the opinion that smartphone market growth estimates in the country will need to be revised downwards post the launch of Jio VoLTE feature phones.
Please note that the Q1 2017 is already expected to witness 40% YoY decline in the smartphone shipments owing to demonetization, and will see some signs of recovery only in the later part of the year.
International Data Corporation (IDC) expects the market to grow in lower double digits, whereas Counterpoint Research predicts the market to grow 23% in 2017. Counterpoint believes that such a huge growth will be fueled by under-penetration of smartphones, 4G roll-outs, and fierce price wars.
Whatever happens, the ultimate winner will be the consumers who will be spoilt for choice. I would certainly replace by ageing dual-SIM feature phone with the Jio VoLTE phone for enjoying the unlimited voice benefits and so would the million others.
Would you still consider buying a 4G smartphone when you can make unlimited voice calls using a feature phone too? Do let us know your thoughts via the comments.