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Ruling the feature phone market globally at number one, Reliance Jio’s feature phone, JioPhone has achieved a feat never attained by any other Indian brand.

With a 15% share in the global market, this 4G feature phone belongs to the retail section of Reliance Industries (RIL). Other players in the market include Finnish phone giant, Nokia with 14% share at No. 2, African Itel with 13% at No.3, and South Korean smartphone company Samsung and Itel’s associate brand Tecno sharing the fourth spot with 6% each in the March 2018 quarter.

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According to Counterpoint Research, the global feature phone market expanded at an annual rate of 38% in Q1 2018, the reason mostly being shipments of Reliance JioPhone in India and Nokia HMD’s return. India alone added up to about 43% of all the feature phone shipments in Q1 2018.

Reliance JioPhone was also the best-selling feature phone model in Q1 2018, and Jio was deemed the best-selling feature phone brand in Q1 2018.

This data reveals that India is still a heavy consumer of feature phones, though smartphones have been steadily on the rise in the country. According to research analyst, Shobhit Srivastava, around half a billion feature phones are still sold every year, catering to roughly 2 billion feature phones users globally.

Srivastava adds that the loyalty of feature phone users arises from reasons like preference for simplicity, lighter, robust form-factors, longer battery life, and lower cost.

“Some feature phone users also suffer from digital, economic or literacy divides and face barriers to adopt relatively expensive smartphones and data plans. In addition, this preference also stems from the fact that low-cost smartphones tend to offer poor performance and poor quality. Feature phone segment still has a huge opportunity that remains to be exploited by the mobile industry,” he added.

Companies like KaiOS and Reliance Jio are making 4G feature phones more attractive, appealing to the bottom of pyramid users, who are still uneasy using touch features. Dearth of local-language content and quality smartphones below USD 40 are also reasons that discourage buying of smartphones. Introducing features like Facebook, Google Assistant, maps, search and digital payments also makes the modern feature phone look better equipped while economical.

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While Reliance Jio 4G feature phone reaches the top in the worldwide feature phone market, the feature phone list is still ruled by 2G. However, as new 4G feature phones are introduced to the market, 2G might have to give way to its better equipped 4G cousins. Nokia has launched 8810 models and is planning to introduce a 4G version of its 3310 model.

Currently, JioPhone also rules the Indian feature phone market. The company has been selling its feature phones for INR 1,500, refundable after three years, along with a consumer recharge for a minimum monthly sum of INR 49. Mukesh Ambani’s introduction of Relaince Jio disrupted the mobile phone market in India with low prices and offers, even as its competitors Bharti Airtel and Vodafone scrambled to keep up.


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