KaiOS is actually shaping up to become the third major mobile operating system in the world after iOS and Android. The famous Nokia Banana phone and Jio phones are powered by kaiOs.
Also, Google has just invested 22 million dollars into a seeming competitor of its own Android. So KaiOS calls itself the Emerging OS.
what exactly KaiOS is?
It’s an OS that makes feature phones, or what we used to call dumb phones, kind of smart. It adds 4G, WiFi and GPS capabilities, mobile payments through NFC an app store and a lot more.
KaiOS has already overtaken iOS as the 2nd most popular mobile OS in India. Globally already 40 million phones have been sold running KaiOS and the company claims to be on track to hit the 100 million mark by the end of 2018.
Even the KaiOS store seems like a runaway success, as it has many of the most important apps like WhatsApp, Twitter, YouTube and even the Google Assistant.
KaiOS is actually a modified version of FireFoxOS, which was Mozilla’s own, fully functional modern smartphone OS built for touchscreen phones. FireFoxOS to phones is kind of whatChromeOS is to PCs.
It has a Linux Kernel on top of which runs a browser, that is made to look like an OS, and can obviously browse the web. Not only it open websites, but also web-apps that can pretend to be native apps.
How KaiOS Emerged?
Mozilla abandoned FireFoxOs project in 2016, since the adoption rate of FireFoxOS was quite slow, but Mozilla being Mozilla, obviously also opensourced the whole OS.
So after they abandoned it, KaiOS picked it up, modified the UI to be better suited for feature phones with physical keyboards, stripped it down even further, to the point where it can run on really low-end hardware. Slapped a few first party apps like a news reader and weather on the device, together with the KaiOS store for 3rd party apps and voila, KaiOS was born.
What technologies do KaiOs uses?
Now, KaiOS has been quite strict about who they let into the app store, because they want to make sure that only optimized apps get in there that have their excessive background data syncing and excessive animations turned off, understandable.
What makes KaiOs cost effective?
KaiOs phones don’t need a touchscreens, which, according to them, are the most expensive components of the average smartphone, they only require 256 MB of storage, and run not only on Qualcomm chips. So KaiOS hardware doesn’t have to be, but can be super cheap.
How Reliance Jio have given boost to KaiOs?
Jio Phone from India is given away to consumers basically for free with Jio’s 4G plans, which seam ridiculously cheap.
1GB a month for the equivalent of $0.75, or 42GB a month for the equivalent of $2.35.
Which, uh, let’s just say makes me a little envious. This combination of cheap Internet data and a feature phone. with more advanced features helps in getting online very large group of people.
Well, over 450 million feature phones were sold in 2017, and after many years of declining sales, last year, the feature phone industry started growing again, just as smartphone sales are flattening.
Especially India and Africa have seen big increases, so feature phones are a huge market that’s actually growing.
KaiOs supports 4G
Now, traditionally, mobile carriers have been pretty unhappy about people using feature phones. Because not only can they not sell expensive data packages to them every month, which is basically their whole business model, but, these phones usually also rely on old, outdated technologies like 2G and 3G.
So these carriers have to maintain and keep updating their old legacy networks, when in reality they would just much rather focus on 4G and maybe even 5G.
But KaiOS can kind of help them with both of those issues. They have 4G support, including voice over LTE calling, so carriers don’t need to support 2G and 3G networks for KaiOS users, and carriers can finally charge feature phone users for mobile internet access, which they love to do so much.
why Google invested $22 million into KaiOS?
What on earth is Google doing here? And why have they invested $22 million into KaiOS when it is pretty obviously a competitor to Google’s two consumer facing platforms, Android and Chrome. Cause remember, this is not only a mobile OS, it’s essentially also a Firefox browser.
And why does Google develop apps like the Google Assistant for what is still a very small platform?
So when faced with a competitor, Google can have two different approaches. Approach one is to use its quasi monopoly to try to kill the competitor before they become too successful, like it did with Windows Phone or like it’s doing with Amazon’s platform right now.
Google never brought their services to the Windows Phone platform and actively fought companies who made third-party clients for them.
They are now doing very similar things with the Echo and FireTV platforms, where they are trying to keep YouTube off these devices with all their might.
The thinking is: people really want Google services, and denying a platform quality access to them can be deadly for the platform.
On the other hand, with platforms it doesn’t want to or can’t kill, like iOS and KaiOS, Google does the opposite. It floods these platforms with Google services, and in KaiOS even with a financial investment, to try to control as many user interactions on them as possible.
You know, if you can’t beat them, join them. Google can, simply put, buy its way into this new mobile company. So even if in a couple of years it will become a major platform like I think it will, Google will be there to not only control it, but also profit off of it.
The JioPhone has a prominent voice assistant button on it that launches their very own Jio Assistant, and that one alone has served over 200 million voice commands already, so obviously Google wants to attack this market.
- The number pad isn’t exactly a great input method, plus feature phone users are often less comfortable with navigating complex visual UIs.
- KaiOS took what is essentially open source code and turned it into a very closed, locked down ecosystem.
- In this operating system, at least on this hardware, if you try to use heavy, unoptimized websites like, I don’t know, the Verge for example, is basically unusable.
I am not sure I like Google becoming a bigger monopoly by gobbling up smaller platforms that could challenge it in some way, not a big fan of that. But other than that, pretty cool project!
I think Google investing into KaiOS is a super smart move. If played well, it means that hundreds of millions of people who experience the internet for the first time will do so using Google services.
But, If you are a smartphone lover, then I have a few recommendations for you, to buy smartphones under Rs 10000.