Google hopes that the company’s services, such as search, maps and voice assistants, will become the center of attention for the next billion users in emerging markets. To this end, Google is becoming a startup investor. Google has invested $22 million in KaiOS , which develops the same-named operating system for feature phones, which includes multiple native apps and other smartphone-like services. As part of this investment, KaiOS is committed to integrating Google’s services, such as search, maps, YouTube and voice assistants, into more KaiOS devices. The company announced earlier this year that it will pre-install Google apps on Nokia phones with the KaiOS system.
Kabas CEO Sebastien Codeville said in the announcement : “This funding will help us quickly keep up with the development and global deployment of the KaiOS smart feature phone, helping us connect to the huge number of devices that are still not online. Population, especially in emerging markets.”
Currently, our mobile world is dominated by smartphones. Last year, the global smart phone sales to reach about 1.6 billion . However, feature phones are also evolving. It is estimated that the shipments of feature phones in 2017 will be between 450 million and 500 million units, and these phones will grow faster than smartphones.
Mobile phones equipped with KaiOS perform well in feature phones. In the market where feature phones are strong, KaiOS phones are becoming more and more popular. In India, KaiOS has surpassed Apple iOS, becoming the second most popular system after Android . KaiOS tells us that so far, KaiOS phones have shipped more than 40 million units.
Google’s investment in KaiOS can be seen as a new way to push the company’s services to mobile users, who may end up choosing to upgrade to a smartphone. However, while these users are still using feature phones, Google still has the opportunity to retain users. Functional phones are still evolving and their capabilities are becoming more powerful.
KaiOS CEO Codwell said: “We are very happy to work with Google to provide Google services on more mobile devices. Installing Smart Voice Assistant on a cheap mobile phone is truly revolutionary and helps solve the keyboard limits.”
KaiOS is a US project that started in 2017 and builds on Mozilla’s failed Firefox OS system and is also a branch of the Linux codebase. Firefox OS originally wanted to be the basis for HTML5-based, low-cost smartphones. However, Firefox OS equipment and its ecosystem have not achieved meaningful development. However, KaiOS performs much better.
The KaiOS system is currently used in handsets such as Nokia, Micromax and Alcatel, and works with operators such as Sprint and AT&T. The company has offices in North America, Europe and Asia. So far, the company’s most important deployment comes from Reliance Telecom of India. With cheap 4G data services, Reliance Telecom is challenging the Indian telecom market.
Reliance Telecom offers a range of autonomous KaiOS phones bundled with its low-cost data traffic package. It is reported that KaiOS’s share of the Indian mobile phone market has increased to 15%, surpassing Apple’s iOS, second only to Android. (The sales of Reliance Telecom’s autonomous devices have increased the total number of functional phones in India, which has an impact on the Indian market.)
In a high-growth market like India, KaiOS’s market share is enough to generate Google’s interest.
Anjali Joshi, vice president of product management at Google’s next billion users, said in the announcement: “We want to make sure that Google’s apps and services are available to everyone, whether they use desktops or smartphones. It’s still a feature phone. After the success of JioPhone, we are happy to work with KaiOS to further optimize the way smartphones get information from around the world.”
In addition, Google’s “Next 1 Billion” business is also committed to customizing Google’s experience and services to suit the needs of new Internet users in emerging markets, including the launch of new services such as this community application and successful public WiFi. project.
Although Google is continuing to develop the Android smartphone platform, the company also hopes to expand its services to other platforms. This is the case with Kabiz.
In February of this year, KaiOS announced that it will include services such as Google Search, Google Maps and Google Voice Assistant on the Nokia 8110 feature phone. It seems that the agreement with Google will make these services available to all KaiOS phones.
Obviously, Google services are not the only ones in the KaiOS system. Earlier this year, the company also joined the applications from Twitter and Facebook . In addition, the company also mixes KaiOS-specific apps, including the upcoming WhatsApp, with other basic HTML5 web apps.
The investment in KaiOS is the latest in a series of venture capital investments directly conducted by Google. Alphabet’s GV and Capital funds are also making such investments. Google has also invested in a service platform Dunzo , and with operators Orange , expand investment and possible acquisitions in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.