First announced at Reliance’s Annual General Meeting earlier this season, it is a 4G and VoLTE empowered attribute phone, but the main reason for the frenzy about it is that it is effectively free – the hardware, at least. Buyers will have to pay Rs. 1,500 as a security deposit, but that’s refundable after three years if you return the phone and meet all of the terms and conditions. Reliance began accepting pre-bookings for the smartphone in August with deliveries promised to begin in September.
It looks and feels like a basic attribute phone but includes a couple of smart capabilities which make it stand out. With Jio’s entire lineup of programs supported, it is possible to play movies and tunes on the go. Plus, the tariff plan includes enough free information for folks to actually make use of these capabilities. While this all sounds impressive, what is it like to actually live with all the Jio Phone? We tell you all about it.
Reliance Jio Phone feel and look
The Jio Phone looks and feels like a typical feature phone, with a little screen and a numeric keypad on the front. The entire thing is made of plastic and we have to say that it is of a fantastic quality. Weight is manageable and it fits well in the hand. The curved sides and borders mask the size of this phone quite well and it doesn’t feel bulky to hold or carry.
The display measures 2.4 inches and has a resolution of 240×320 pixels. Vertical viewing angles are poor and colours appear washed out, but that’s to be expected keeping the price of this device. There’s a recessed earpiece and a VGA front-facing camera above the screen. Below it are two function buttons, a D-pad, phone and disconnect buttons, along with the number pad. The buttons are well spaced and easy to achieve, and offer fantastic feedback when pressed.
The back of the Jio Phone has only the 2-megapixel camera and loudspeaker. The rear cover is removable and so is your 2000mAh battery. This phone has a single Nano-SIM slot and a microSD card slot. There is a Micro-USB port at the bottom together with a 3.5millimeter headphone socket. At the top, there is an LED torch which may be activated by long-pressing the up button on the D-pad.
In the box you receive the Jio Phone and a charger with an attached Micro-USB cable. Predictably, an Airtel SIM failed to be recognised.
Reliance Jio Phone specifications and software
The Jio Phone is a feature phone however, the specifications do look relatively impressive. It is powered by a dual-core processor made by either Qualcomm or even Spreadtrum, also has 512MB of RAM. There is 4GB of internal storage from which just about 1GB is available to this user. Jio has booked 1GB for programs while the remaining portion of the area is for software updates and program caches. Storage isn’t an issue since you are able to use a microSD card of up to 128GB. It is possible to transfer files to and from a PC using a USB cable after enabling USB mode.
For connectivity, the Jio Phone has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Bluetooth can be used to move files to or from other devices, and streaming music to a car head unit also functioned. The Jio Phone can connect to Wi-Fi networks to access the Internet without using cellular data. These connectivity options aren’t always encouraged by characteristic phones, which aids the Jio Phone stand out. There is 4G and VoLTEsupport and the phone latches onto the Jio network quite quickly. But, there is no hotspot feature so users hoping to make use of their daily free data allowance on other devices will be disappointed.
We have seen a great deal of questions regarding the operating system the Jio Phone works on. To clear up them, the Jio Phone runs on KaiOS, which is a fork of Firefox OS. It looks like plenty of work has gone into improving the software, because the Intex Cloud FX (Review) running on Firefox OS had a few rough edges. There is a grid-style menu with easily identifiable app names and icons, and you use the D-pad to navigate about it. You can’t reorder the icons but you can pin favourites to the top of the list. The Jio phone comes with an app store named JioStore, however, it has nothing but Jio programs at the moment.
On the home screen, the four buttons of this D-Pad in addition to the function and call buttons double up as app launch shortcuts. These are all predefined, and we couldn’t find any way to remap them to programs of our choosing. Alerts from all programs are clubbed together and could be accessed using the left function button on the home screen. The Settings app is nicely laid out and options are simple to find. There is a software update feature for over-the-air updates, which is rare in the feature phone segment. This should enable Reliance to introduce new attributes for the Jio Phone with time.
The feature phone has geolocation which uses GPS, mobile tower triangulation, and Wi-Fi data if available to pinpoint locations. This is used for your SOS emergency function, where an individual can long-press the 5 button on the number pad, and the phone will send an SOS message with location coordinates to predefined contacts. The Jio Phone additionally has NFC for payments but this isn’t currently available and might be enabled via a software upgrade at a later stage.
Additionally, there are other nice touches in the software – stored contacts are auto-suggested if you type in a number to dialup, there is T9-style predictive text input for typing, there’s a quick settings panel that you could get to by hitting the up arrow on the homescreen, you are able to start video calls quickly by long-pressing the telephone button, and there are granular security and privacy controls in the Settings menu. However, navigation is a little slow and you need to forego expectations of smartphone-level functionality. Interestingly, we noticed that when typing or dialing a number, the keypad’s slightly delayed beeps made the experience feel laggy even though it wasn’t. After the phone was muted, we had the ability to type quicker.
The phone comes with multiple Jio apps preinstalled. And We had the ability to stream music using Jio Music without some issues. JioTV and JioMovies may also be used to stream TV shows and movies respectively. The fact that the subscription to them all is now free is a big bonus for anyone who buys this phone.
On the other hand, the screen is tiny and isn’t suitable for watching movies at length, especially due to its poor viewing angles. Streaming video plays in landscape in the Jio programs, but files on our microSD card just played in portrait using the video player app. In both cases there were huge letterboxes and no way to rotate or harvest video to fill the display. There will be a TV cable accessory, which should prove to be a fantastic investment. It also isn’t easy to adjust the volume, due to the lack of physical buttons. This is true when playing media in addition to just generally using the phone.
The phone also includes a voice assistant named HelloJio which can be triggered by long-pressing the D-Pad’s select button. It may comprehend basic commands to dial a contact by their name or start a specific program, but it is slow. This is a useful feature for people unfamiliar with technology, helping them do things without having to know the phone’s user interface.
Popular social media apps like Facebook and WhatsApp aren’t available on the Jio Phone at the moment but the company is reportedly working to add them. But you do get an inbuilt Web browser which may be used to log in to Facebook. During our review period we also managed to get the internet version of this Telegram messaging program to work on the Jio Phone, and we can also use YouTube the exact same way without any difficulties. Hotstar and Amazon Prime Video, however, were unusable in the Jio Phone browser.
With the combination of bare-basic hardware and KaiOS, speed definitely isn’t going to fit even the cheapest price smartphones, and while you will need to wait for apps to load, the consumer experience isn’t frustrating. Needless to say, you may only run one program at a time. We did play a couple of games on JioGames and while they are incredibly basic, they didn’t seem too bad. The performance of the Jio programs is dependent on Internet connectivity. We had good 4G coverage during the review period and didn’t need to wait more than a few minutes to get a movie or song to begin streaming, but this might change when millions more Jio Phone users are on the community.
The phone sports a 2-megapixel camera in the back with no flash, and a VGA camera in the front. At this price, the inclusion of two cameras is rare, but we still didn’t have high expectations from them. The camera program is quite basic and only gives you options to take stills and videos, plus a self timer. However, the phone requires shots in portrait orientation when held upright and can’t detect rotation, so even if you hold it sideways, you wind up with vertical frames and your articles tilted 90 degrees. You’ll need to rotate stills and videos in software after.
Photos taken with the 2-megapixel rear camera have a resolution of 1600×1200 pixels. Landscape shots lack detail and there is fair quantity of noise. Close-ups are much better in comparison. Motion blur is unavoidable regardless of the conditions if you are shooting anything that isn’t absolutely still. Nighttime camera performance is strictly moderate and you will need a steady hand to have a good shot. Topics are visible only if there is adequate lighting, and will barely be visible in low light. Photos look much better on the phone display than on a pc when seen at full size. You can choose your video resolution – high quality translates to a resolution of 720×480. Again, the quality isn’t horrible and videos are usable, but you can’t anticipate any fine details. Motion isn’t smooth and you can’t set the exposure or focus.
Selfies have a much lower resolution of 640×480 pixels and also have noise like the back camera. It would be unfair to compare the Jio Phone to modern-day smartphones, but photos are often blurry and shaky unless you have a perfectly steady hand and decent lighting. The highest video resolution is 352×288 so this capability will probably not come in handy.
Harness to view full-sized Jio Phone camera samples
We had been curious to see how the Jio Phone would perform in regard to battery life. It has one of the biggest batteries for a feature phone at 2000mAh, but in the exact same time has 4G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS which are proven to drain power. With regular use which included calls, a little bit of internet surfing and streaming tunes from JioMusic, we found that the phone would still have approximately 80 percent of its power after 24 hours, which might indicate that with judicial use, the phone might last for four full days (if not more) before needing to be charged.
Following a 15-minute voice call, we discovered the battery drain to be two percent while a 30-minute call resulted in a 5 percent drain. We also streamed TV displays, and a 30-minute episode streamed over 4G resulted in a 7 percent drain. A similar evaluation using Wi-Fi led in a 6 percent drain. Leaving the phone untouched for 12 hours also resulted in only a three percent drop. If you want to save battery life there is power saving mode which switches everything off, turning this into a basic feature phone.
Jio Phone in pictures
Even the Jio Phone isn’t targeted at smartphone users however at first-time buyers and feature phone users that wish to upgrade without spending much. It is aimed at bringing people from well-known tier-II and tier-III cities online, especially those who have never touched a computer and cannot dream of paying for Internet access even at current prices. Can it succeed? The brief response is that it does have the potential to do this. The hardware is capable and the software delivers a fantastic enough experience.
The Jio apps sweeten the deal further as you get completely free access to movies, TV and music. The ability to receive OTA updates means that more attributes can be introduced in the long run. However, you should read the fine print on Jio’s website, which details the hidden costs of this tariff plan and the terms and conditions of claiming the refund, before you make a decision. Additionally, availability is likely to be constrained for a while, and long term reliability and durability remain to be viewed.
For those looking for a means to find online and communicate with other people in a rock-bottom price, the Jio Phone really doesn’t have direct competition. The combination of this phone hardware, the system and the tariff strategies might be a force that truly changes our society – and therefore are already making the competition work tougher. With all its characteristics, it can truly be called a intelligent characteristic phone, and if you have successfully pre-booked one, you won’t be disappointed.