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  1. How Google could help an Android alternative reach the IoT throne KaiOS is racking up tens of millions of users by catering to the feature phone market. Its momentum with carriers could turn it into a formidable IoT player. Android accounts for about 85 percent of the global smartphone market; iOS accounts for virtually all of the rest. So it has stood for most of the past decade despite a host of failed challengers that entered the market before and after Android's debut. But one operating system is adding tens of millions of users by bringing new functionality to a device that has been all but forgotten in the U.S. KaiOS, which I first wrote about last April as an engine for minimalist phones, is an open source OS. It was spun out of an effort within TCL (owner of the Alcatel and BlackBerry phone brands) from the remnants of Firefox OS. It is well on its way to becoming the modern-day spiritual successor to Symbian, which was once a dominant operating system for feature phones. Indeed, HMD Global, the heir of the Nokia phone brand that was once Symbian's greatest champion and that claims to still be the global leader in feature phones, is using KaiOS in its 8110 "banana" slider phone. However, its biggest success to date has been India's JioPhone. Android has problems, and Google knows that and has plans to replace it with something better. But the Android name won't be going anywhere. While optimized for keypad input, it features a web browser, email client, and other essential apps. It also features an app store, although, in the world of KaiOS, carrier is king. For example, while it is an outlier, the only KaiOS phone available in the U.S. is the Alcatel Go Flip, available via prepaid carriers such as Cricket and Simple Mobile. It lacks the app store. However, while many feature phones top out at 3G and lack Wi-Fi, KaiOS's support for Wi-Fi and 4G should provide connectivity long after major carriers sunset their 3G networks in the next few years. Even as Google continues to target lower price points for Android phones, it recognizes the value it can derive from KaiOS. The company invested $22 million in the effort last year and is the preferred search engine and voice assistant for KaiOS phones. The latter aligns well particularly well with Google's push of its Assistant, the limited input options of many KaiOS phones and larger percentage of illiterate users in developing economies adopting the OS. Feature phones will likely retain a sustainable market for the foreseeable future, but KaiOS is also making a play for the Internet of Things. This is one of the many markets in which Google has struggled to expand Android's reach, recently scaling back its Android Things effort. For Google, Android Things is a developer retention play; the Android model of driving revenue through apps, content and advertising don't apply. KaiOS' carrier customers, though, can leverage IoT devices to sell managed services, particularly as they gear up parts of their 5G networks developed specifically to handle their low-power, low-speed requirements. Still, even though KaiOS devices could eventually outnumber Android devices, there are a number of caveats and reasons why it wouldn't pose much of a competitive threat. First, while the number of IoT devices could eventually outnumber the number of humans and, by extension, mobile phones, KaiOS would likely capture only a fraction of that market. And even if its raw installed base numbers came to dwarf Android's, the widely disparate needs of IoT devices would negate treating such a hardware/software combination as a viable horizontal platform in the way we think of Android or iOS. Still, as the smartwatch market has shown us, there are bound to be edge cases and KaiOS's easily navigable interface, app capabilities and modern connectivity could wind up powering many devices that would otherwise enable Android developers to leverage their skill sets. Source
  2. On cheap data and freebies, Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio forced its way into the telecom market last year and scared the incumbent, eating into their subscriber base and revenue. Now its JioPhone is likely to emerge as a strong challenger of mobile phone operating systems. That's due to the operating system KaiOS that powers JioPhone taking over iOS in India and becoming the No. 2 operating system after Android. KaiOS has gained a 15 per cent market share in India over the last one year, according to market intelligence firm DeviceAtlas. "The natural conclusion is another OS eating into their market dominance, and our data reflects this. The new entrant — KaiOS — has already overtaken iOS as the second most-used OS in India. With 15 per cent of total traffic, it beats Apple devices into third (with 9.6 per cent )," says the latest DeviceAtlas report. Android rules the Indian market at close to 70 per cent share. But KaiOS is eating into the share of both the operating systems. "Both iOS and Android lost market share in India. In a country of over 1.3 billion people, a few percentage points can make a huge difference to a manufacturers bottom line," says the report. It says the popularity of KaiOS stems from the massive success of Reliance’s Jio phones. According to Counterpoint Research, KaiOS has been able to push the feature phone demand in India, also helping Reliance Jio to become the leading feature phone brand with its 4G-powered JioPhone in Q1 2018. “KaiOS has helped bridge the digital divide for hundreds of millions of feature phone users who were not upgrading to smartphones due to steep learning curve or pricing or digital illiteracy," Tarun Pathak of Counterpoint told ET. KaiOS works with manufacturers like TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax and has partnerships with carriers such as Reliance Jio, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. KaiOS powered phones have grown 11400 per cent in just one year with shipments close to 23 million units in Q1 2018, according to Counterpoint, which said that less people bought smartphones in Q1 than last year partly due to the uptick in feature phone demand driven by the rise of KaiOS powered phones and HMD’s Nokia brand comeback. HongKong-based KaiOS Technologies Inc., the developer of the KaiOS operating system for smart feature phones, last month received a $22 million investment from Google as part of the American company’s ‘Next Billion Users’ programme. Following the partnership, Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search will be available to KaiOS users. < Here >
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