Jio Phone First Impressions

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  • The Jio Phone is effectively free after a refundable deposit of Rs. 1500
  • it is powered by a dual-core processor with 512MB of RAM, and runs KaiOS
  • It supports 4G and VoLTE, and both calls and text messages are free

Reliance Jio took India by storm when it announced the Jio Phone at its Annual General Meeting earlier this year. The most exciting thing about this 4G & VoLTE-enabled feature phone is that it is effectively free, because you only need to pay a deposit of Rs. 1,500 which can be returned to you after three years. Reliance opened pre-bookings of the Jio Phone back in August, with deliveries set to start from September 21. We finally managed to get our hands on a Jio Phone and here are our first impressions.

After reviewing lots of smartphones, the Jio Phone feels completely different. It is a feature phone and is built like a standard candybar with a small screen and numeric keypad. It is small and very comfortable to hold; your thumb can reach all corners of the keypad without the need to stretch. Considering its price, we must say that this phone feels well-built. The quality of plastic used is good and the rubber buttons offer good clicky feedback.

The screen measures 2.4 inches diagonally and has a resolution of 240×320 pixels. Below the screen are two function buttons, a big D-pad with a button in the centre, call and disconnect buttons, and the number pad. At the back, there’s a 2-megapixel camera and a loudspeaker. There’s also a VGA camera in the front. The Jio Phone has a Micro-USB port for charging, and comes with a charger that has a fixed USB cable. It also has a 3.5mm headphone socket. The back cover of the Jio Phone can come off to reveal the removable 2000mAh battery. There’s a Nano-SIM slot and a microSD card slot that accepts cards of up to 128GB.

With the Jio Phone you are on the Jio Network, and the custom tariff plan gives users unlimited calls and text messages. In our experience, the phone instantly latched onto the network without any issues as soon as it was switched on. The Jio Phone is powered by a dual-core processor and has 512MB of RAM plus 4GB of internal storage so you’ll need a microSD card for media.

The Jio Phone runs on KaiOS which is a new mobile operating system. You get a grid-style menu of app icons which are easy enough to understand. The D-pad makes navigation simple. Each of the D-pad buttons also doubles as a shortcut to quickly launch specific applications. Basic functionality like calling is super-fast and the phone could place a call very quickly on the Jio VoLTE network. For anyone planning to exploit the tariff plan’s 4G data allowance, there is no hotspot feature on the Jio Phone.

Of course, Jio Apps are preinstalled, including JioMusic, JioTV, JioCinema and more. JioStore is the app store which lists eight Jio services including the preinstalled ones. Popular apps such as Facebook and YouTube aren’t available just yet but are expected to arrive soon. You can use the inbuilt Web browser to access both Facebook and YouTube without any problem. Long-pressing the D-pad’s centre button launches the voice assistant feature. It can handle basic voice commands to let you call or open a message to contacts, or launch apps. We tried it out in Hindi as well as English, and found that it did deliver results in both languages.

We tried to stream music using the JioMusic app and it worked perfectly. We also tried JioCinema and JioTV, and found that streaming over 4G was pretty smooth. We were able to stream entire full-length movies. There’s a decent selection of choices, but the Jio Phone’s screen isn’t great for watching videos on because of its size and poor viewing angles.

The Jio phone has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with geolocation. It also has quick toggles that can be used from the main screen. The battery seemed to perform well during our time with the phone. We also used both the cameras and found that we needed a very steady hand or photos would come out blurry. Photos have a resolution of 1600×1200, while videos are recorded at 320×240 pixels. The front camera takes 640×480 pixel stills. We’ll have more details on all these aspects of the Jio Phone and more in our full review, coming up soon.

After spending about a day with the Jio Phone it is safe to say that battery life is good, and the user interface is easy to learn.

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