Reliance JioPhone Next First Impressions: Looks Weak on Specs, But PragatiOS Might Carry it Through

JioPhone Next is affordable but there is a big catch.

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The idea around the JioPhone Next is not to put yet another smartphone on the market, but one that’s cheap and fast enough for millions of feature phone users to upgrade to. It was hyped as the “most affordable smartphone anywhere in the world,” and while many expected that meant a sub-Rs 5,000 smartphone, the ongoing chip shortage and supply chain disruptions had other plans.

JioPhone Next launched at Rs 6,499, which isn’t as groundbreaking as was previously presumed, but is still just a tad cheaper than the cheapest Redmi and Realme smartphones. Reliance roped in the expertise of Google and Qualcomm to make the JioPhone Next. Designed and manufactured in India, the spec-sheet may not look quite impressive for the average smartphone user, but it could be enticing enough for someone still stuck with a 2G phone. Here’s my first impressions –

JioPhone Next Specifications and What’s in the Box

JioPhone Next specs are not the most impressive, but they are passable considering the price. Under the hood, the phone runs on a Snapdragon 215 processor and comes with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Thankfully, the storage can be expanded up to 512GB with a microSD card. The phone carries a battery of 3,500 mAh. In the camera department, the rear of the JioPhone Next features a 13MP single shooter and 8MP on the front for selfies. While the JioPhone is a dual SIM phone, one SIM slot is locked to Jio. Also, mobile connectivity is only available on Jio SIM. 

In the box, it’s pretty much the basics – you get the JioPhone, a guide, a warranty document, a removable battery, and a Jio charger with a microUSB pin. As you can see, I had the blue variant but the device also comes in a black option.

JioPhone Next Display, Design and Build Quality 

The looks of the JioPhone can only be considered through the lens of its competition, which is Redmi 9A, Nokia 2.2, Realme C11, etc. Most phones, in the same price bracket, feature the popular punch hole design on the front. When I saw the huge bezels on the JioPhone Next, it didn’t make much sense to me. If it’s any consolation, the 5.45-inch 720p HD+ display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3 and comes with anti-fingerprint coating.

The phone comes with a full-plastic body with a detachable perforated back. A Jio logo is on the back along with a huge speaker grill at the bottom. The phone is quite sturdy and fits perfectly into the palm of your hand. If you prefer a small form factor in phones, then the JioPhone Next is perfect for you. The phone comes with a microUSB port at the bottom and a headphone jack at the top.

All in all, it’s an average design with a strong build. From the first impressions, it looks like one of those old-school phones whose parts get scattered when they fall, but when you put them together, the phone miraculously works every time.

JioPhone Next PragatiOS

PragatiOS is an optimized version of Android. Since it was developed by Google, Reliance is promising the latest software updates as well as security updates on the phone. However, there is no information on when or if the JioPhone Next will receive the Android 12 update.

The OS is designed to keep in mind the target audience. To that extent, there are a few features to simplify the user experience including Translate Now and Read Aloud. Although both features are available to all Android users with Google Lens, they are better integrated in PragatiOS. For instance, Translate Now is part of the camera app in the JioPhone. If you bring the camera to a text and tap on Translate, the phone will recognize the text and translate it to your preferred language. The phone supports ten localized Indian languages for now. Read Aloud is another feature where the phone will narrate the on-screen content with a simple tap on the Read aloud option located in the Recent apps menu. 

Another good thing about PragatiOS is that it emulates the Pixel UI. Hence, the phone has minimal bloatware and essential apps such as YouTube, Gmail, Facebook, Instagram come pre-installed on the device. The stock Android UI is a big plus point that the JioPhone Next has over the smartphones from Realme and Redmi. 

Speaking of apps, the camera app is another big highlight of the JioPhone Next. Since it’s the same GCam Go app from the Android Go smartphones, you get all its features such as HDR mode, Google’s iconic portrait mode, Night sight and more. Additionally, there are Snapchat AR filters within the app. I haven’t tested the camera fully, but it looks good in my first impressions. 

JioPhone Next Price and EMI Plans

To make JioPhone affordable, Reliance has taken a leaf out of the iPhone’s contract system in the US. Similar to Apple, Reliance is offering JioPhone yearly contract plans to Indian customers. If you choose one of the EMI plans, you can get the phone for a subsidized price of Rs 1999 and a processing fee of Rs 501. After that, you will have to pay the remaining amount in monthly installments. The selling point of these EMI plans is that the data packs are bundled in the EMIs i.e you will not have to buy a separate Jio plan.

Now, there are multiple plans to choose from. The cheapest is of Rs 300 per month for two years. In this plan, you get 5GB of data and 100 minutes of talk time every month. Meanwhile, the most expensive plan includes paying Rs 600 per month for 18 months. With this, you get 2.5GB of data every day along with unlimited voice calls. Similar to standard Jio plans, you get free access to JioTV, JioCinema, JioSaavn, among others. 

The catch with the EMI plans is that you are bound to pay a little extra than the original price of the device. For instance, if you choose to pick the large plan (Rs 450 for 24 months), you are effectively paying Rs 13,300 for the JioPhone Next. This includes Rs 1999 subsidized amount, Rs 501 processing fee and Rs 5400 total installment fee. If we deduct the cost of the bundled Jio plan, generally priced at Rs 2121 for 336 days, the effective price of the device will still come down to Rs 11,179. Overall, the best option would be to purchase the device upfront, without involving  financing plans, for Rs 6499. 

Conclusion and Registration

The JioPhone Next’s “most affordable smartphone” tag comes with a lot of caveats. If you ignore the pricing and the fact that you can only run the internet from a Jio SIM, it appears to be a good package. PragatiOS steals the show and camera features are too good to be ignored. Of course, this is only my first impression and we will only know the real deal when the phones come in for a review. 

JioPhone Next will begin its sale on November 4th. If you want to show interest, you can do that from Jio’s official website or send a “Hi” message on the WhatsApp number 7018270182. You can also show interest in buying the phone by visiting a JioMart digital retailer.

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