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Expect new form factors, markets and tweaks for KaiOS in 2019

From Google Voice Typing and important fixes to new launch markets, KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville had plenty to talk about.

Published onJune 13, 2019

Google Assistant on a KaiOS phone.

It’s been a pretty big year for KaiOS, as the platform received another substantial round of funding from several firms (including TCL and Google). It’s also made in-roads into the African continent and achieved plenty of Google app support in the process.

After spending time with a $17 KaiOS phone earlier this year, it’s easy to see why the platform is gaining traction. KaiOS is bridging the gap between smartphone and feature phone thanks to features like Wi-Fi, apps, and Google Assistant.

Read: KaiOS is doing well in India, but it’s pulling some big numbers in US too

The Google support isn’t stopping there either, as the companies previously announced that Google Voice Typing would be coming to KaiOS devices. So when can we expect it to land on devices?

“We already deployed it on some of the devices, and we are going to deploy that as a standard feature very soon. But it’s already in deployment. For the devices already shipping, it’s a software update,” KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville told Android Authority. Otherwise, the CEO says they don’t have a plan to bring any more specific Google apps to the platform at this stage.

Improvements and additions incoming?

MTN Smart S KaiOS phone, showing the browser.

Codeville also noted that they’re working to make the platform more efficient for devices with a tiny amount of RAM. This was particularly notable on the $17 KaiOS phone (MTN’s Smart S), with frequent app crashes and generally stuttery performance in the likes of WhatsApp and the browser. The team adds that they’re also fixing or have fixed a few other pain points we noted in our review, such as laggy typing, frequent storage alerts, and cloud functionality. But what about other absent features like copy/paste and multitasking?

“Our team is working to implement both multitask and tabbed browsing features for 512MB RAM devices. As for the copy/paste feature specifically, this is something we’re working on actively and looking for alternatives, as this action occupies a bulk of RAM storage on smart feature phone devices,” the company told us.

The KaiOS team is addressing several pain points on current low-end devices, such as laggy typing and the lack of tabbed browsing.

Codeville also elaborated on the possibility of using Chrome’s Chromium engine for its own browser: “We don’t plan to use Chromium as a browser at this stage, it’ll be too heavy for the device we target. But we’re definitely improving the browser experience on the device.”

Google Assistant on such a cheap device is a game-changer in many ways too, showing off the power of machine learning. Codeville says they’re currently working on another machine-learning project with several partners, with the aim of bringing new services to the platform in the second half of the year. The CEO didn’t reveal any more details, but between photography, performance, and security, there are plenty of uses for machine learning on mobile anyway.

Where to next for KaiOS?

KaiOS on a feature phone.

Codeville says they are working on “new form factors and new services which are not directly (related to) the smart feature phone” sector. The CEO says they’ll launch the new product at the end of this year, without giving any more information regarding these new initiatives.

In terms of expansion plans, Codeville says they plan to expand to more countries and operators in Africa and the Middle East. Furthermore, Codeville says they’ll be launching in Brazil and Mexico from the summer before expanding to more Latin American markets.

“A little bit later in Q3, we’ll deploy to more countries in Asia,” Codeville adds, specifically mentioning Indonesia. “The goal for us is by the end of the year to be present in most of the countries around the world.”

In the U.S. and intrigued by the platform? Well, Codeville says there will be “several” devices coming to the market in 2019. Would you buy a KaiOS device? Let us know in the comments!

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