Today, Google announced an investment of $22 million in KaiOS Technology Inc. for increasing the accessibility of internet to the next generation of users. Google has already engaged in the development of specialized apps such as Files Go and Tez to engage the next generation of internet users known as the ‘Next Billion Users.’
The specialized apps are also optimized for addressing specific concerns such as limited internet connectivity. This investment of Google is slated to improve the popularity of YouTube, Assistant, Maps, and other Google services among feature phone users.
KaiOS has developed an operating system by its name which is suitable for feature phones that are available with different native apps as well as services similar to that of smartphones. In accordance to the investment, KaiOS would work on the integration of Google services such as Voice Assistant, Search, YouTube and Maps in devices running KaiOS.
According to the CEO of KaiOS, Sebastian Codeville, the investment from Google would assist in an improved rate of development of deployment of KaiOS-powered smart feature phones globally that can enable connectivity with a large population which is still unable to access the internet noted profoundly in the emerging markets.
Presently, the domain of mobile technology is dominated by smartphones with sales of approximately 1.6 billion smartphones last year. However, feature phones have also started to gain momentum which could be validated by estimates suggesting approximately 450-500 million feature phones being shipped in 2017. Feature phones are characterized by minimal hardware specifications such as a T9 dial pad and a small 2-3 inch screen thereby improving the possibilities of their use in developing countries where smartphones cannot be accessed easily.
The investment of Google in KaiOS could be perceived as a measure for the introduction of its services in the feature phone category where users would eventually move towards smartphones. On the other hand, there are promising opportunities for the evolution of feature phones and improvement in their functionality which implies the possibilities for holding on to feature phone users.
KaiOS is generally utilized in phones that are manufactured by OEMs such as Micromax, Alcatel, and Nokia (HMD Global) and collaborates with carriers such as AT&T and Sprint. The most significant deployment of KaiOS till now has been identified in India’s Reliance Jio which offers a personal range of KaiOS handsets supported with the low-cost data packages provided by Reliance Jio.
This has resulted in the growth of KaiOS’s share in the Indian phone market to 15 percent while outrivaling Apple’s iOS to grab the second spot after Android. This substantial growth in the market share in India which has the potential for high growth could have been a profound reason for appealing to the interests of Google.