As the rate of smartphone sales continues to slow down and decline, a software application startup called KaiOS— which launched in 2017 from the ashes of Mozilla’s failed Firefox OS mobile task as a company of an internet-based feature phone OS, feature phone apps, and corresponding HTML5 app store that all work over sophisticated mobile information networks– is betting that there is still a huge, rewarding market for cheaper, lower-end feature phones, and it’s announcing a slew of news this week on the road to leading it.
With 85 million phones now delivered in more than 100 markets with handset brand names like Nokia and India’s Jio, KaiOS now has an expanded collaboration to put more Google services natively into KaiOS phones, particularly much deeper combination with Google Assistant and Google Maps, and the launching of a YouTube app– among the most popular apps of all on smart devices– for KaiOS. For context, KaiOS (based in San Diego however with the majority of its R&D in Taiwan) raised $22 million from Google in 2015 and had actually currently worked to put standard Assistant and Maps functionality on its phones
( We likewise understand KaiOS is on the cusp of another huge round.)
Alongside this, KaiOS is releasing a number of new handsets with feature phone handset makers; offers for KaiOS-powered phones with establishing market carriers Ooredoo and Orange; and the launch of numerous brand-new services: its first advertising SDK, KaiAds; and Life, a suite of services for novice mobile service users to assist them figure out how to use their phones and offer material and functionality around things like mobile banking and access to health, education and other services.
Ooredoo is active in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and it will roll out phones first in its house market of Qatar. While Orange is the incumbent carrier in France, its efforts with KaiOS will be focused initially on its footprint in Africa.
While the main mobile story in the last 10 years has been about the ineluctable rise of smartphones increased by Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and a big series of handset makers using the latter to push the boundaries ever more on what it suggests to have a portable computer system in your pocket, KaiOS Sebastien Codeville states that this does not inform the entire story.
In establishing markets, it’s about offering something less pricey than smartphones but filling them with all the features that a mobile phone affords, a vital way of bridging the digital divide in locations where a phone will be a person’s only way to access the internet.
” Yes, smartphones are quite economical as the least pricey models are now priced at around $35, but KaiOS is $15-20 It’s still half the rate of a mobile phone,” he stated in an interview. “There are 2G function phones priced at $7-8 dollars, but they don’t have access to most mobile services. KaiOS is something in between.” It likewise helps that KaiOS is easy on battery life, with a handset normally able to last 5 days on one charge.
In more mature markets, it’s about picking off specific classifications of users who have actually not been well dealt with by mobile phone makers. “Elders are looking for phones with keyboards since of mastery problems. The usage of a touch panel is difficult for them,” he stated. “And manual workers might be looking for more rugged items, and others might just desire buddy phones that can help them mostly disconnect on the weekend, or can be used for sports. Smart devices are not great solutions for these, either.”
This, in reality, is why a business like Google, whose Android running system has helped to introduce the presence of the sub-$50 mobile phone, is working with KaiOS. “We are a distribution platform to customers that they can not access,” stated Codeville.
While Assistant and Maps have actually been on KaiOS phones before now, the deeper integration will indicate a couple of various things. First, KaiOS phone users in more regional markets, particularly India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil, will now be getting the services. And second, those who are utilizing functions like Maps or Assistant will now also have the ability to get in requests using their voice– a crucial part not simply due to the fact that you may be using these when you’re on the relocation, however due to the fact that text entry into keyboard phones can be fiddly.
” If you take a look at the emerging markets, we have actually seen that the variety of Assistant users has actually multiplied by 7,” Google’s Behshad Behzadi stated earlier today as part of a larger announcement to broaden Google’s language and device assistance on mobile “The primary reason for this is that for the brand-new users which are pertaining to this innovation for the very first time, voice is actually the most convenient and most natural method for them to utilize their phones. It’s eliminating a technology barrier for these users.”
Regardless of their close working and financial investment relationship, Codeville likewise confesses that Android is also KaiOS’s most significant rival, too, given that it is the OS that powers the devices that are probably to rival function phones in regards to price and functionality.
Android may be a rival, but it’s also a template of sorts for KaiOS. Up to now, the feature phone startup has actually made little earnings from licensing, said Codeville, but business design for KaiOS is mainly focused around incomes from its app store, and soon from what it hopes will be a great deal of marketing around material and apps that individuals utilize through the KaiOS browser, in the kind of KaiAds.
Readily available to designers in the kind of an SDK, this is a supply-side platform that will tailor ads to work specifically on KaiOS and other feature phones, a section that hasn’t truly been dealt with that well up to now since so lots of feature phones have actually smaller screens compared to smart devices, and have not really been developed to work with internet-based services. Among the key functions of KaiAds, the company states, is that it renders ads in 200 milliseconds or less.
If marketing is KaiOS’s stick, then its suite of ‘how-to’ material and services, Life, will be the carrot, so to speak. Codeville would not presume regarding state that this is the business’s effort at business social duty– “We’re simply a start-up,” he objected– but he did confirm that the service does serve a double function. It’s not simply an effort to get individuals more acquainted with using the services, but in doing so, it will help grease the wheels of KaiOS’s company model.
” If we wish to be sustainable and have a long term life of our own, we have to establish the monetization,” he said. Life, he included, will be really localised and will roll out country by country, most likely starting with areas in Africa.