In case HMD’s surprisingly successful reboot of the classic Nokia 3310 last year wasn’t enough to prove there’s still solid demand for feature phones, the rebooted Nokia 8110 also generated quite a bit of buzz at MWC 2018 back in February.
Let’s not forget about the Reliance JioPhone either, which started a genuine craze in India last summer, reaching nearly 40 million unit sales by this spring. What you may not have realized is the derogatory “dumb phone” label doesn’t technically apply to the 8110 4G and Google Assistant-supporting JioPhone.
Both handsets are actually based on a “smart” software platform called KaiOS, developed by a homonymous company founded just two years ago in the US. Operating out of offices around the world, including San Diego, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Paris and Bangalore, KaiOS Technologies is already boasting partnerships with Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile, as well as Google, Facebook, Twitter and Qualcomm.
Of that impressive lot, one particular Mountain View-based search giant wants to help the project accelerate its growth and achieve the ambitious objective of “connecting the next billion users.”
Google is putting $22 million where its mouth is in Series A funding, which will “fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones.” The short-term goal is to have the platform up and running on over 100 million such “smart feature” devices worldwide by the end of the year, as well as bring customized, memory-efficient Google Assistant, Maps, YouTube and Search experiences to KaiOS users.
Basically, since Google no longer needs to worry about the possible rise of a third smartphone OS, the company is looking to take the initiative and be an early investor in a promising alternative for Android and iOS aimed specifically at emerging markets. That sounds like a pretty good plan, doesn’t it?