KaiOS, now with 85M feature phones, doubles with Google, provider offerings and more – TechCrunch

As smartphone sales continue to slow and wane, a software startup called KaiOS – which emerged in 2017 from the ashes of Mozilla's failed Firefox OS Mobile project as a provider of an Internet-based feature-phone operating system (OS), One phone apps and the corresponding HTML5 app store, all operating on modern mobile data networks, are counting on the fact that there is still a big, lucrative market for cheaper, lower feature phones, and this week a whole lot of news it is announced it.

With 85 million handsets now shipping in more than 100 markets with handset brands such as Nokia and the Indian Jio, KaiOS now has an expanded partnership to natively integrate more Google services into KaiOS phones, in particular deeper integration with Google Assistant and Google Maps and the debut of a YouTube app ̵[ads1]1; one of the most popular apps on smartphones – for KaiOS. KaiOS (headquartered in San Diego, most of its research and development in Taiwan) raised $ 22 million from Google last year and had already worked on getting the basic Assistant and Maps functionality to its phones and Google itself has announced today great efforts to expand voice and device support.

(We also understand that KaiOS is approaching another big round.)

KaiOS is also launching several new handset handsets with mobile phone manufacturers. Offers for KaiOS-powered phones with emerging market players Ooredoo and Orange; and the introduction of several new services: the first advertising SDK, KaiAds; and Life, a series of services for first time mobile service users to help them figure out how to use their phone, and provide mobile banking content and functionality, as well as access to health, education and other services.

Ooredoo is active in North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, and it will first introduce phones in its home market of Qatar. Although Orange is the established airline in France, its efforts with KaiOS will initially focus on its presence in Africa.

While the main story of mobile devices in the last decade has been talked about the inevitable rise of smartphones by Apple's iOS, Google's Google, KaiOS Sebastien Codeville says that Android and a wide range of mobile phone manufacturers who use the latter to push the limits Expanding on a portable computer in your pocket, says this does not tell the whole story.

In Developing Markets It's about offering something cheaper than smartphones, but charging them with all the features of a smartphone, a crucial way to overcome the digital divide in areas where a phone is the only option to access the internet.

"Yes, smartphones are quite cheap, as the cheapest models are now available at around $ 35, but KaiOS is between $ 15 and $ 20. It's still half the price of a smartphone, "he said in an interview. "There are 2G phones priced at 7-8 dollars, but they do not have access to most mobile services. KaiOS is something in between. "It also helps that KaiOS spares battery life, as a handset normally holds a charge for five days.

In more mature markets, it's about cutting out certain categories of users who have not done so well addressed by smartphone manufacturers. "For reasons of dexterity, seniors look for cell phones with keyboards. Using a touch panel is not easy for them, "he said. "Workers may be looking for more robust products. Others may wish to use only fling phones, which usually allow them to disconnect at weekends or be used for sports. Smartphones are also not good solutions for this. "

That's why a company like Google, whose Android operating system has helped usher in the sub-$ 50 smartphone, is working with KaiOS. "We're a distribution platform for clients they do not have access to," Codeville said. However, he admits that Android is also the biggest competitor of KaiOS.

Android may be a rival, but it's also the driving force behind KaiOS. So far, the Phone Startup feature has made small revenue from licensing, Codeville said. However, KaiOS 'business model focuses mainly on the revenue from the app store. In the near future, it's about making a lot of advertising for content and apps that people use in the form of KaiAds through the KaiOS browser.

Available to developers in the form of an SDK, this is a supply-side platform that will tailor displays specifically to KaiOS and other feature phones, a segment. This has not been addressed so well, with so many feature phones versus smartphones have smaller screens and are not really designed for use with Internet-based services. The key feature of KaiAds, the company says, is that ads are rendered in 200 milliseconds or less.

If advertising is KaiOS's stick, then the suite with "how-to" content and services, Life, is the carrot, so to speak. Codeville would not go so far as to say that these are the company's corporate social responsibility efforts – "We're just a startup," he protested, but he confirmed that the service serves a dual purpose. It is not only an attempt to familiarize people with the use of the services, but also helps smear the wheels of KaiOS 'business model.

"If we want to be sustainable and have a long life of our own, we need to develop monetization," he said. Life would be very local and roll out country by country, probably starting with regions in Africa.

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