KaiOS Technologies, the company behind the KaiOS for smart feature phones, set aggressive expansion plans across the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, with the aim to take its user base to 150 million by the end of the year from 100 million currently.
Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies (pictured), told Mobile World Live it is adding about 5 million users a month and is focusing on the Middle East and Africa for next 12 months. In late Q2, it will also start shipments to Mexico and Brazil, which will be its entry points to all of Latin America.
Last week the company announced it raised $50 million in a series-B funding round led by Cathay Innovation, with participation from existing backers Google and TCL.
It recently forged agreements with Orange and MTN, adding to a tie-up in late 2017 with Reliance Jio in India, which accounts for the majority of the users of its OS.
Codeville said Orange is shipping KaiOS-powered devices to 12 countries, while MTN is targeting 15 countries.
In the second half of the year, it will move into Vietnam, Indonesia and Bangladesh, while continuing its push in India.
“We’re now in the phase to become more international” in pursuing its objective to be an enabler to access the digital world, he said. “We also will see more balance between shipments to India and the rest of the world.”
Supported by low-cost data plans, he said the devices have all the capabilities of a smartphone, including enabling mobile payments, giving users the full mobile internet experience. Despite the smaller display, he noted people still are watching a lot of video.
Since launching two years ago, Codeville said he found “there are a lot of people without internet, more than we thought. Our OS can significantly contribute to reducing the cost of the device, which is the key barrier to owning a phone”.
While much of its focus is on emerging markets, offering entry-level low-cost handsets, it also targets developed markets with non-touch devices designed for older people who don’t want a smartphone. Its first such launch was in the US, with handsets featuring large keys.
In developed markets, it also is helping operators migrate off their 2G networks by offering subscribers more attractive 3G and 4G feature phones.
Codeville said the price gap between a 2G feature phone and a 4G smartphone is still huge, with the cheapest LTE model going for about $45 compared with $7 to $10 for a 2G feature phone. The price of a 3G feature phone is closer to a 2G version than a 3G smartphone and with subsidies it can almost match the price of a 2G feature handset.
The cost of smartphones isn’t dropping much because the specifications of the devices keeps rising, with more memory, faster processors and higher-resolution displays, he said.
“There are 3 billion people not connected to the internet, with 1.5 billion using feature phones, so we see space to grow.”
He estimates the global feature phone market is growing by about 500 million annually, if the grey market is incluced.
In addition to cost factors, Codeville noted devices running on KaiOS are built to be more durable, with screens that won’t break easily and a much longer battery life, which is an important feature in areas where access to power is an issue.Subscribe to our daily newsletter Back