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Google aims lower than Android Go with new $22m investment

Google has invested $22-million in the KaiOS feature-phone platform that powers the Nokia 8110 4G and JioPhone.

Published onJune 28, 2018

The Nokia 8110 4G.

KaiOS is one of the fastest growing mobile platforms right now, bringing smart functionality to feature-phones in emerging markets. Google has evidently been paying attention, because the Mountain View firm has made a $22-million investment in the company.

The KaiOS team announced the news on the company website, saying the investment will help accelerate development and deployment of the platform. The team said that, in addition to the cash injection, the two firms would cooperate to bring Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search to KaiOS.

This isn’t the first time we heard of Google supporting the platform, however, as HMD touted most of these apps for its KaiOS-powered Nokia 8110 4G (seen in the main image) at MWC 2018 in February. Going back even further, Google announced in December 2017 that it would bring Assistant to the platform.

What does KaiOS bring to the table?

KaiOS on a feature phone.

The feature-phone platform has been a hit in India, thanks to the popular JioPhone device. Available for roughly 1,300 rupees (~$19), the JioPhone offers a 1Ghz dual-core processor, 2.4-inch 320 x 240 display, 4GB of expandable storage, a 2MP main camera, and a VGA selfie camera.

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KaiOS is essentially derived from the FirefoxOS project, making use of web technologies and powering phones with 256MB of RAM or higher. It also enables a host of traditionally smart features, such as a web browser, app store, NFC, media playback, email, and dual-SIM support.

You’d think Google would push its own Android Go platform instead, but the truth is that feature-phones are still cheaper. And in emerging markets, where there simply isn’t wiggle room to spend an extra $30 on a phone, it makes sense for Google to embrace them.

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