Not iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, this is the phone that millions of people want

Besides basic messaging and calling features, the smart feature phone supports users to connect to the Internet with a low-cost mobile data and use some basic software.

When it comes to phones that millions of users expect, many people often think of smartphones of cult brands like Samsung or Apple. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, millions of users in Ivory Coast, India and Indonesia are first exposed to the Internet through devices costing about $ 25.

These products look like Nokia's low-cost phones about 20 years ago. Besides basic messaging and listening capabilities, they support users to connect to the Internet with cheap mobile data packages and some basic applications.

A basic phone with Internet connection

They are smart feature phones. This is the fastest-growing mobile phone segment but the least mentioned in the mobile industry. These devices often appear in poor countries around the world, providing users with a basic way to access the Internet.


In 2018, global smartphone sales began to slip when the market became saturated. Meanwhile, this basic phone line has increased sales 3 times compared to the same period in 2017, reaching about 75 million units. It is said that about 84 million units will be produced in 2019. While some countries have begun deploying 5G technology, about 3.4 billion users worldwide are still not connected to the Internet. Most of them use basic phones, only feature call, texting and not support wireless connection.


Kamlesh Kumar is currently working as a fruit seller on the sidewalk in New Delhi. Every month, he earns about 80 USD. Two years ago, the 35-year-old man decided to upgrade his phone. However, he was not economically eligible to pay for any cheap smartphones, although they only cost about $ 100. Therefore, he opted to buy the JioPhone, which was released by Reliance Jio Infocomm. Kumar only has to pay less than 2.5 USD per month for mobile data usage. Currently, he is able to listen to Bollywood music while working, using Google virtual assistant to search for songs on YouTube. At night, his family crowd around this device to watch movies.

Smart feature phones are not only cheap, but they also have a closer physical keyboard. In addition, their battery life can meet the demand for many days. However, of course, these devices also exist many weaknesses. They handle tasks quite slowly, support only basic cameras and a few basic applications available, and have a small-sized screen.

Popular in poor countries

These devices are popular in India thanks to telecommunications company Reliance Jio. In 2016, senior executives found the need to use cheap data from millions of users but they could not access smartphones. Therefore, the company cooperated with KaiOS Technologies to develop the JioPhone model. KaiOS operating system is optimized for devices with a physical keyboard and small memory. To date, Reliance Jio has sold more than 60 million devices in the Indian market.


Realizing the potential of smart feature phones, a series of giant technology companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google or Twitter adjusted their applications to be suitable for use on this model. In 2018, Google also invested $ 22 million in KaiOS.

French telecommunications company Orange SA recently launched a cheap smart feature phone with mobile data package in Ivory Coast, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon. As expected, this device will soon reach the African and Middle Eastern markets. Some other models in Indonesia sold by WizPhone manufacturer also cost about 7 USD. KaiOS is working with smartphone manufacturers in Brazil to develop this model here.

By: Kelly Jonas

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