The phone for the next billion

Google and Jio Platforms in India introduced the long-awaited smartphone with some cutting-edge features. All under $100. We are probably looking at the next most popular phone.

👋 Welcome to FWIW by David Tvrdon, your weekly tech, media & audio digest.

In this edition

  • Why JioPhone from Google and Jio Platforms matters

  • Earnings: Apple, Amazon, Facebook

  • Games are coming to your Netflix app, Android only

Why JioPhone from Google matters

If you predicted that a high-end iPhone, Samsung or Pixel phone would be the next big thing, you were wrong.

The next billion people to own smartphones will have devices just like the JioPhone Next that Google and the Indian telecom Jio Platforms announced last week.

Nicely enough built, with decent specs (see below), a very good camera and the latest AI features like read-aloud and language translation for on-screen text and embedded voice-first features that support 10 different languages spoken in India.

All that for just $87.

To understand what is happening in India and why Jio Platforms is pursuing such a thing as a very cheap but powerful smartphone I recommend this last year’s piece from Ben Thompson:

Jio was a bet on zero marginal costs — or, at a minimum, drastically lower marginal costs than its competitors. This meant that the optimal strategy was — you know what is coming! — to spend a massive amount of money up front and then seek to serve the greatest number of consumers in order to get maximum leverage on that up-front investment.

That is exactly what Jio did: it spent that $32bn building a network that covered all of India, launched with an offer for three months of free data and free voice, and once that was up, kept the free voice offering permanently while charging only a couple of bucks for data by the gigabyte. It was the classic Silicon Valley bet: spend money up front, then make it up on volume because of a superior cost structure enabled by the zero-marginal nature of technology.

Here are the specs for the JioPhone Next:

The smartphone features a 5.45-inch HD+ display with Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection. It is powered by Qualcomm’s quad-core QM-215 chipset that clocks up to 1.3GHz, coupled with 2GB of RAM and 32GB internal storage, which is expandable. The dual-SIM capable JioPhone Next, which houses a 3,500 mAh battery, features a 13-megapixel rear camera with support for HDR and an 8-megapixel selfie sensor.

The JioPhone Next will be probably still expensive for customers in India. Still, once Google has a proof of concept, there is Africa at which Jio is already looking.

According to Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries, which operates Jio Platforms, the JioPhone Next is aimed at the roughly 300 million users in India who are still on a 2G network upgrade their gadget to access faster networks.

India passed the US as the world’s second-largest smartphone market in 2020, with more than 400 million smartphone users in a country of 1.3 billion.

The smartphone penetration in the largest market (China) is 63.8%, in the third (US) 81.6%. So, if you do the math, you are looking at another 400 million Indians getting a smartphone in the coming years with a 65% penetration or even another 600 million if you calculate at 80% penetration.

[ There was a lot of Facebook / Meta news. As many of you expressed you want less of that I put it all in this post for anyone interested. ]

📊 Quarterly earnings from last week

  • Both Apple and Amazon had bad quarters due to chip shortages and supply-chain issues. [WSJ]

  • Meanwhile, Spotify did well, it had seen good growth in podcast advertising, has now 172 million paid subscribers and announced it will reach 400 million users by the end of the year. [The Verge]

  • Alphabet (Google) reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue, YouTube ads rose to $7.21bn, up from $5.04bn a year ago. [CNBC]

  • Facebook (now Meta) had a good quarter, apparently, investors don’t care for the scandals and the company keeps outperforming estimates. [CNBC]

  • Microsoft has seen strong revenue performance in its cloud, server, and Office businesses this quarter. [The Verge]

📉 Snap, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube lost $10bn from iPhone privacy changes. It is disturbing that a business decision by one company can crush the revenues of so many others, states a column in Financial Times. [FT]

⌚️ Leaked photo shows Meta’s planned competitor to Apple Watch and it has a camera. [Bloomberg]

👀 The Apple MacBook Pro 14- and 16-inch reviews are in. The results: incredible performance with very long battery life and beautiful displays but expensive with absurd RAM pricing. The Verge gave them 9.5 out of 10. [The Verge]

😯 The Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W is powerful for a computer the size of a matchbox. Surprising power at very little cost; ideal for emulation and automation projects; it’s less than $15. [Wired]

⚠️ This is why you do not upgrade your with a newly released macOS: Some Mac owners report that upgrading to macOS Monterey bricked their computer. [MacRumors]

🇨🇳 Epic Games announced that it is shuttering Fortnite in China. What's behind the great China tech exit? Protocol explains: Transnational technology companies or businesses similar to LinkedIn and Yahoo face strict regulations under Chinese law while PIPL adds an additional layer of complexity to data protection. [Protocol]

😵‍💫 Kill me now: Microsoft is launching its own version of the metaverse on Teams. And of course, there is PowerPoint and avatars don’t have legs? [TNW]

  •  Smart take: The metaverse will mostly be for work.

  • I have been long convinced that VR will be the future of work and AR is going to be an everyday experience as it aims to augment our everyday lives.

📺 Wired put together a list of ‘9 Free Streaming Services to Save You From Subscription Hell’. [Wired]

🤓 Tech news site The Verge celebrated 10 years, here is a good interview with its editor-in-chief Nilay Patel. [Vanity Fair]

🔚 Why do people cancel their news subscriptions? No.1 reason is money, then ideology/politics and the feeling that the content is not good enough. [NiemanLab]

📮 The Atlantic is starting to build up its newsletter platform. It added 9 freelance authors. [Axios]

🗞 NY Times news

1️⃣ Covering climate change: Four tips for newsrooms.

2️⃣ Top European publishers on TikTok: Daily Mail takes the lead.

3️⃣ Does your news outlet need an app?

4️⃣ Fact-checkers compete in a crowded market.

[ 📬 Get The Fix newsletter delivered to your inbox every week with the latest insights, news, and analysis about the European media market. Sign up here > ]

A good analysis (scroll towards the end) of the Spotify earnings. [Podnews]

🎧 Backstage by Headliner is now able to record both individual Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse rooms. Backstage makes it easy to record, transcribe, and share your recordings. [Headliner Blog]

🕹 Netflix added games across all of its markets, but only on its Android app, thanks Apple. [Protocol]

🥶 Nintendo to make 20% fewer Switch consoles due to chip crunch. Production revised down to 24 million units (below its original plan of 30M) for fiscal 2021 despite high demand. [Nikkei Asia]

🤯 Gaming platform Roblox had a three-day (!!!) outage. [CNBC]

  • OF NOTE: NY Times described what was happening in many homes where the Roblox outage first caused panic and then children left their computers for a few days.

🤔 Longread of the week: Brain implants could be the next computer mouse. [MIT Tech Review]

Poll: What are you more excited about?

  1. Virtual reality (metaverse, etc).

  2. Augmented reality (AR glasses, lenses, etc).

  3. I don't care, it's just too far away.

🙌 Thanks. I used HandyPolls to create this poll (instructions).

Last poll results: Are you tired of reading about the Facebook scandals? 45% Yes. 38% answered: Not tired. Keep it coming 😈

🙏 And big thanks to Celine Bijleveld who helped me edit this newsletter. You can follow her on Substack here.

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