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Google and India’s Jio Platforms Announce Budget Android Smartphone JioPhone Next

Google and Jio first announced they were working together on an affordable smartphone last year when Google invested $4.5 million in Jio Platforms. The upcoming Google-Jio smartphone will use a version of Android that was specifically designed for the device.

JioPhone Next is aimed at helping roughly 300 million users in India who are still on the 2G network upgrade their gadgets to access faster networks.  The phone, which is “powered by extremely optimized Android” mobile operating system, will first launch in India on September 10 ahead of the festive season in the country, and will eventually be made available outside of India, said Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, at its annual general meeting Thursday.

The JioPhone Next will be an “ultra-affordable 4G smartphone,” claimed Ambani, though he didn’t reveal the price or the hardware specifications of the handset.

In a virtual appearance at Reliance AGM, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has also entered a 5G cloud partnership with Jio Platforms. “It will help more than a billion Indians connect to a faster and better internet, support businesses in their digital transformation, and help Jio build new services in sectors like health, education, and more — laying a foundation for the next phase of India’s digitization,” said the chief executive of Google, which last year committed to investing $10 billion in India.

As part of the 5G cloud partnership, Google is also winning a major Google Cloud customer in Reliance, said Pichai.

“They will be able to take advantage of Google’s AI and machine learning, e-commerce, and demand forecasting offerings. Harnessing the reliability and performance of Google Cloud will enable these businesses to scale up as needed to respond to customer demand,” he added.

“We have worked closely with the Jio team on engineering and product development on useful voice-first features that enable these users to consume content and navigate the phone in their language, deliver a great camera experience and get the latest Android feature and security updates,” Google said in a statement.

The JioPhone Next will ship with a range of features, including reading Aloud and Translate Now that will work with any text on the phone screen, including web pages, apps, messages, and even photos.

The JioPhone Next is a “momentous step in our Android mission for India and is the first of many that our Android product and engineering teams will embark on in India,” Google said in a statement. “We are also actively expanding our engineering teams in India, as we continue to work on finding ways to answer the unique needs of India’s smartphone users.”

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