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What Is KaiOS? The Android Competitor You've Never Heard Of

Image result for kaios
When you think of the smartphone OS wars, we have two warring factions, Android and iOS. For about 5 years this was the way it's been. But in the distant past there were three smartphone Operating Systems. Android, iOS and Windows. The three way battle for OS supremacy raged on and before long the triopoly became a duopoly. With Windows phone being more or less dead the two major Operating systems only had each other to worry about for the longest time. Now the incumbents have a new kid on the block to worry about , KaiOS. But wait if KaiOS is so great how come no ones ever heard of it before?


But First Some Background

Image result for kaios
KaiOS is built on the ashes of the Firefox OS, For phones that aren't necessarily smart. You remember those old phones that you used to rock back in 2009? Yeah phones like those. The aim of KaiOS is to bring down the features of a smartphone down to a feature phone. So for that very same reason KaiOS is a fully functional modern OS with options for WiFi, VOLTE, and a whole host of other features that you'd only expect to find in a smartphone and not a feature phone. The OS is geared towards phones with physical keypads. Therefore it's no surprise that most of the phones that run KaiOS are feature phones. But with smartphones dominating global phone shipments you might think that the development of KaiOS would be an exercise in futility, You're spending millions of dollars on a product meant to run on a tiny sliver of the phone market. According to most statistics smartphones are predicted to run circles around feature phones. But as with predictions they can sometimes be wrong.

Disruption In The Indian Market
The success story of KaiOS begins in India. Back in 2016 Reliance Jio entered the Indian telecom market offering unlimited LTE data and voice calling for free. As expected Jio acquired quite the subscriber base in a short span of time. They have a subscriber base of about a 186 million as of the latest information available today. Now that might seem like much but considering that India is a country that is 1.1 billion strong, It seems like Jio could do better. Unlike most economies in the world India's telecom sector is dominated by feature phones as smartphone penetration in the country is still quite low. So for Jio to really tap into the Indian market they needed a feature phone, a phone that most of the rural folk of India might buy. For this they made the creatively named Jio phone. A feature phone that could tap into Jio's 4G-LTE only network to provide VOLTE calls, video calls, live streaming and such. For such a phone to be realised you could not use Java based or Symbian based Operating systems as they just weren't up to the task. This is where KaiOS comes in. KaiOS' smartphone leanings allowed smartphone grade apps to be implemented on a phone that was more or less straight out of 2006.

So How Big Is KaiOS Now?

KaiOS has had quite a year, With KaiOS having grown 11,400%.
KaiOS is so big that KaiOS is now the second biggest OS in the Indian market, Recently surpassing iOS. KaiOS is poised to see more growth as the KaiOS powered Jio phone seems to be building up some momentum.The Jio phone is attractive as it doesn't come with the steep learning curve that most smartphones do.But why is India so pivotal in this picture? It's no secret that Google's been wanting to bring the next billion online. Google's efforts of Android  Go and Android One were all attempts to get Android onto low powered cheap devices that are popular in countries like India. With smartphone growth in most economies stalling and with low smartphone penetration in India, The Indian markets offers significant growth potential for Google. Thus making the  News that KaiOS has beaten iOS would lead one to believe that iOS is facing still competition from KaiOS, but in-fact it is Android that is feeling the KaiOS pinch. KaiOS has grown at the expense of Android. If it not for the JioPhone everyone who bought a Jio phone might have gone on to buy an Android device. This is evident in the numbers. Android which once had a 97% chokehold on the Indian market now is at 71%.

How Did KaiOS Succeed Where Microsoft Failed?

It really does seem paradoxical how could a small startup succeed where the entire might of the Microsoft empire failed. It's widely accepted that Windows failed on smartphones as it barely had any App Support. In the case of KaiOS, most of the people using it hadn't come from a phone that could run apps, therefore the lack of apps was forgivable on KaiOS. But now that KaiOS is gaining some serious traction Giants like Facebook and Google are giving the platform some serious thought. Recently it was announced that KaiOS would be getting Youtube, Facebook and WhatsApp. It's not a stretch to assume that more apps will follow given the install base of KaiOS. KaiOS even has a Hindi speaking Google Assistant built in. Google went a step further to invest $22 Million in the company that owns KaiOS. Google plans on introducing Google services to users who might one day upgrade upto a smartphone.

  

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