It doesn’t look like the Reliance Jio’s JioPhone will get the WhatsApp messaging app any time soon. While JioPhone is being hailed as a game-changing proposition from the RIL, one of the issues that was raised about the device was the lack of support for WhatsApp and other popular apps which even first-time users will want to log into.
Reliance JioPhone runs KaiOS, and while it comes loaded with Jio apps, including JioTV, etc, popular apps like WhatsApp, etc are not yet available on the app. However, a recent report on Factor Daily had claimed WhatsApp could soon be coming to the JioPhone and the two companies were in preliminary talks. The report had indicated that WhatsApp could launch a special version of the app for the JioPhone, which is a feature phone.
However, in an interaction with the Indian media, WhatsApp software engineer Alan Kao indicated they were not aware of any plans to expand to other platforms. The question was raised around end-to-end encryption and whether WhatsApp would have to find a way around this if it launched a version of the app for 4G VoLTE feature phone. “I’m not aware of any plans to expand to other platforms,” said Kao, though he pointed out that even on BlackBerry 10 OS, Nokia Symbian, Windows Platforms, WhatsApp had always given priority to encryption.
So far WhatsApp has not officially commented on the report, which talked about the app coming to JioPhone. But the latest response appears to confirm that for now there’s no plan as such. Of course, Reliance Jio has its own JioChat app, but a feature phone version of WhatsApp in a market like India will have huge implications.
Either way a version of any of the popular apps for a feature phone will require a lot of technical work, and will of course have to be much lighter than a regular smartphone app. To justify that WhatsApp will first need to see some numbers on the JioPhone and KaiOS. As of now the phone has not really hit the market and all talk of it becoming a hit are in the realm of speculation.
Reliance JioPhone is supposed to open for pre-bookings from August 24, though users can already register for the device from the Jio website, via SMS and the Jio retail stores. JioPhone is officially going to go on sale in September, and has an effective price of Rs 0, but comes with a refundable Rs 1500 deposit that has to be paid up front. The phone also has monthly plans at Rs Rs 153, Rs 54 and a two-day plan that costs Rs 24. The Rs 153 plan comes with 500 MB data per day, and is valid for 28 days. Reliance Jio is keeping voice calls (Local, Roaming) free for both incoming and outgoing.