JioPhone Next First Impression: Affordable Smartphone In A Class Of Its Own

Reliance Jio is set to unveil its next big, and possibly the most awaited, smartphone this Diwali. The JioPhone Next comes after the massive success of JioPhone, a blockbuster that has sold more than 110 million units. The feature-rich albeit unassuming device has connected millions of Indians to the internet for the first time. And now comes JioPhone Next, an affordable smartphone with features unheard of in the same price bracket. The JioPhone Next was announced by Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and MD of Reliance Industries, at the company’s 44th AGM in June and is being made in partnership with Google.

The JioPhone Next is priced at Rs 1,999 (down payment) plus Easy EMI schemes for 18 or 24 months. It can even be bought for a one-time payment of Rs 6,499.

This made in India and made for India phone is set to go on sale from Diwali (November 4) with the hope of ushering in millions of more Indians into the smartphone universe. From the first impressions of the phone, it looks the hope could very well come true.

On the outside, the JioPhone Next looks like any other Android phone, but the difference is inside (and in the price). The JioPhone Next seeks to solve the key problems that plague the budget Android smartphone market: sluggishness and lack of updates. At its core is the Snapdragon QM215 chipset, designed for Android Go (a less resource intensive version of Android) along with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. The phone runs Pragati OS, which appears to be based on Android Go.

The interface is free of clutter and the good thing here is that Jio hasn’t attempted too many customisations which is the bane of many Android forks. There are quite a few pre-installed apps (much of which cannot be uninstalled). These, in addition to the usual Google apps, including Jio’s wide family of apps such as JioCinema, JioGames, JioMart, JioMeet, JioSaavn, JioTV and MyJio. Also installed are the Meta family of apps, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. A number of the pre-burned apps are in fact lighter versions customised for Android Go devices, such as Assistant, Gallery, JioCinema, Facebook and JioTV.

The phone runs Android 11 with the September 5, 2021, security update out of the box. The promise of regular over-the-air updates automatically puts the JioPhone Next much ahead in the line. This dual-SIM device supports nano-SIM cards and also has a slot to add up to 512 GB of external storage, which should be more than enough for most users.

It has a slot for a 3.5mm jack. However, the box doesn’t include a pair of earphones (a little too much to expect from a budget phone). The battery is a largish 3500mAh. In my limited usage, it seems to be holding up fine, but then any verdict on the battery can be reached only after extended use.

The box includes a charging adapter and a USB Micro-B cable. I was half expecting a Type-C. But then I guess this is because of chipset limitations. The 13-megapixel camera on the back and the 8 megapixel one on the front do their job well. The HDR enhancement improves images considerably. Even in the dark, the night mode captures details to satisfactory levels.

The 720×1140 screen is bright and responsive, though a little prone to visible fingerprints. The single speaker on the back is loud enough for general usage.

While using the JioPhone Next for regular use, often you do not realise that this is a budget phone, until you lock the phone and have to unlock it again. The lack of a fingerprint sensor might appear to be a big deal in more expensive phones, but not the JioPhone Next.

In all, the JioPhone Next packs in a lot more bang than the buck, you would be paying for this. Only Rs 1,999 upfront and the rest depending on the plan you choose for.

Aided with intuitive and easy to use apps such as Google Assistant Go and support for several Indian languages, the JioPhone Next appears well placed to usher in millions of unconnected Indians to the Indian internet universe. At the same time, it appears to be quite an able device for children who now need a phone for online education. Or even as a secondary/backup device for the connected Indian.

JioPhone Next is in a class of its own with no other visible competitor matching up to its feature and price combo.