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A phone for Rs. 299? Yes please!

It may sound unbelievable, but a feature phone at this price is a reality

brunch Updated: Aug 12, 2017 22:51 IST
Rajiv Makhni
The Intex Turbo+ 4G has features similar to the Jio phone and a great price point too.
The Intex Turbo+ 4G has features similar to the Jio phone and a great price point too.

Let’s address the thought that immediately exploded in your mind. No, not another Freedom 251 kind of disaster. This one is for real. It’s not a fantasy phone, not a marketing gimmick to get free publicity, not a flight of fantasy phone to be delivered months from now and not a scam to make money. I’ve spent a few days with it, it works and can be bought right away in large numbers.

Detel D1

The Detel D1

Now for the fine print. It’s a feature phone, as basic as it gets, voice calls (great quality speaker), SMS, FM Radio, good battery life (15 days on standby) and some more feature phone type of features. But look at that price again.~299! That’s the price of a cup of coffee (even more now with GST), half the price of a single movie ticket or one-fifth the price of a good meal. For ~299, you get a proper phone in a packaged box, a charger, and one-year warranty. Even within the feature phone market, it absolutely decimates the price barrier and holds the potential to shake things up like never before. The outside of the box says ‘Lo Kar Lo Baat’, a colloquial reference to the fact that with this phone, all those who could not afford a phone but dreamt that one day they too would buy a phone can now own and speak on one for the first time.

For ₹299, which is the price of a cup of coffee, you get a proper phone in a packaged box, a charger, and a one-year warranty

The new emperor is an old king

With this ~299 phone, the absolute return and dominance of the feature phone market in India is now complete. It’s one of the only places in the world where feature phones still outsell smartphones. Such phones are preferred by a large population either due to price or its inherent simplicity. In this already-on-fire market, a number of catalysts have further ignited it into an explosive one.

Jio phone

Jio phone.

The first real salvo has come from Jio. A 4G feature phone that is deemed free. You pay ~1,500 and three years later, you return the phone and get your ~1,500 back. While many dismiss it as a way to collect huge funds for three years, this phone has truly gotten everyone excited. I’ve had people with iPhones asking me how they can lay their hands on this phone. However, many questions still remain to be answered about this phone (battery life on a 4G network, will it have a hotspot feature, are you stuck with a phone for three years and what if you don’t want to pay for monthly data?). While the free phone idea is great on paper, some customers may still have difficulty in paying ~1500 at the start.

Intex

Right after the Jio phone came the announcement of the Intex Turbo+ 4G. What was even more surprising was the original rumour that Intex was actually making the Jio phone for Reliance. To make things even murkier, the Turbo+ has very similar specs to the Jio phone and a price point that’s right there too.

FRND

The FRND phone.

The makers of the Centric range of smartphones, are already setting the feature phone market on fire with their range of FRND phones. Rumours are strong that they too will have something major out soon to compete in the same category.

Others

Vodafone and Idea also are hinting towards a 4G feature phone from their stable and it’s obvious that Airtel will have one too. The next three months will see the feature phone market turn into a bloodbath with various giveaways, price cuts, schemes and cut-throat offers. The smartphone market will look very boring in comparison.

Fifty crore people already use feature phones in our country. India may soon teach the rest of the world a lesson on how to leave no one behind in the mobile technology revolution. Lo Kar Lo Baat!

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, August 13, 2017

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