Airtel-Reliance Jio battle heats up yet again but on a whole new battleground

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Indian telecom giants Airtel and Reliance Jio have been at loggerheads even before Jio made its super grand entry into the telecom space in India. The two telcos have fought for the top spot to become the number one telecom operator in the country but now it seems like the two are busy fighting it out to gain the position of 'the most affordable smartphone' in India.

Airtel today announced yet another partnership with smartphone maker Celkon to offer 4G smartphone at Rs. 1349. Reliance Jio had announced its Jio phone earlier this year at a famously "effectively free" price of Rs. 1499 wherein customers will have to pay for the services only for a fixed period of three years. Competing directly with the Jio phone, under Jio's "India ka smartphone" campaign, Airtel's partnership is part of 'Mera Pehla Smartphone' initiative where Airtel plans to collaborate with device manufacturers to bring smartphones at the price of a feature phone. Airtel had earlier introduced an Android smartphone (Karbonn A40) in association with Karbonn. The Android touchscreen smartphone with dual SIM functionality came at an effective price of Rs. 1,399.

However Reliance Jio seems to have hit bit of a roadblock with Jio phone according to a report by Factor Daily. The Report suggests that Reliance Jio has stopped the production of its VoLTE feature phone and is now planning to launch an Android smartphone. The JioPhone runs KaiOS and came packed with all of Jio's own apps including JioChat, JioMusic, JioTV, Jio Cinema and others. The OS does not support many of the widely used apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and others. But this walled garden approach did not really work for Jio as these apps have been extremely popular with the consumers. Airtel on the other hand is clearly specifying that the Airtel smartphones will "offer full access to all apps on Google Play Store, including YouTube, Facebook and WhatsApp", apart from preloaded Airtel apps such as MyAirtel App, Wynk Music and Airtel TV.

While both players are ultimately trying to lap up subscribers on their network through their new feature-ish smatphones, they should know that the smartphone market is changing rapidly in India and the consumers are increasingly going for experience more than affordability.

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