So most of y’all know, Jio released the Jiophone last year (2017) in October, and it’s been the talk of the country since then. We’ve had cheap smartphones, but there’s something – something – that you miss out by not having a company of established reputability backing your device. Be it software support (delayed custom ROM’s and kernels because the device info/kernel isn’t easily available), the aukaat factor that comes with or the the peace of mind that your phone’s not gonna plunge into the abyss of dark(screen)ness with no real customer care to take care of it for you.
Reputed brand? Check.
For an initial down-payment of Rs 1500 and a monthly subscription of Rs 49, does it just work? Mostly.
I’m not the typical Jiophone target customer. I’ve owned and self-administered several computers in the past, and about as many mobile devices. So why did I go for the Jiophone? Long story short, the most I use my phone for is browsing, calling and WhatsApp. My old devices have those grounds covered smoothly, so I needed a new 4G device to avail Jio’s inexpensive unlimited-calling offers. The Jiophone seemed like the most logical choice.
EDIT: Scroll down for important caveats e.g. YOU HAVE NO LEGAL RIGHT OVER YOUR PURCHASE.
I’ve been using the phone for about a month now, and I’m very pleased with it. I’ve been a huge fan of non-touchscreen phones for their simplicity and durability – why the f**k cope with the bloated complexity of modern mobile OS’s when I just want to call and text – and can’t help wonder why such a project wasn’t undertaken before. For the refundable price and affordable subscription, it’ll bring the thirsty Indian light-years closer to the ocean of the Internet.
However, being a tech-savvy user, I did notice several shortcomings with the device. Not all of them – indeed, perhaps none- are deal breakers for the segment of the population the Jiophone is targeted at, but some of the issues are glaringly easy to fix, and it makes no sense how a dedicated software development team could have overlooked them.
I decided to make a log of the problems I noticed. The order is not according to importance, but rather the sequence in which I observed the problems. I have bolded some issues demanding immediate attention. Consider them well before making your choice. 1)
No dollar input; no support for many other international characters.
How I found out: One of my passwords had a dollar symbol, and there was no way I could input the dollar symbol. I had to go to the trouble of changing the password before I could log into the account on my Jiophone. EDIT: The symbols are there
. you press * to open the popup to insert symbols, press the upper-right key - the one used to decline a call - and it'll take you to the next screen of symbols.
2) No text copy paste.
Meant that there was no workaround for the password problem mentioned above e.g. by copy-pasting the password from a .txt file. 3) No WhatsApp. WhatsApp web doesn’t work either. (however there are some methods being shared online e.g. on YouTube. I haven’t tried any of them.)
4) No OTG.
5) Can’t uninstall pre-installed apps e.g. some Jio apps, Facebook.
This makes sense, however, because the makers could be making some money off of device sales from the developers. 6) No minimization.
My thoughts are that if true minimization hogs up too much RAM to be feasible on the low-power device, introduce a Save State & Suspend function to mimic minimizing. Especially when browsing, if you need to move past a couple of webpages and clicks to reach the content you want, you’ll need to do that EVERY TIME YOU OPEN THE BROWSER.
Moreover, to close the browser, there’s no “Back” or “End” button that’ll close the foreground app immediately. The back button will take you to the previous page, and you’ll have to click the back button as many times as the number of steps forward you initially took to reach a certain webpage.
As for the Browser, you can press the Upper-Right button and hit "Quit" to terminate the Browser instantly.
7) Video playback: Can’t skip right to the beginning or end of a video e.g. by long-pressing Forward or Backward button.
This came up when some movies on JioCinema (e.g. Te3n) kept starting at 1:30:00 instead of the beginning.
Possible solution: Introduce long-press Forward (and Backward) to increase skip rate e.g. 2x to 8x. Also hotkeys (e.g 2 and 9) to skip to beginning and end.
8) No true Google integration:
You can import contacts from Google, but you can’t keep your account synchronized i.e. edits and new contacts wont be synced up.
Possible solution: Google app which, when launched, scans and syncs accordingly.
The alternative to using Google for syncing is using JioCloud. See point 9 below.
9) Some Jio apps suck.
In particular, JioCloud and the JioVideoCall apps. JioCloud is horribly unreliable – the app on my Android smartphone refuses to detect edits to the primary phone number under an existing contact, and so I have to re-edit the contact on my JioPhone. But if it were just that, that would’ve been okay – sometimes the app refuses to start. 10) Can’t lock screen when not on homescreen.
Related to point 6. A lot of the essential functions – turning on/off WiFi, Cellular Data, Flash, Volume – can’t be availed without pressing Back multiple times all the way to the homescreen. 11)
GeoLocation automatically turns on when I take a call.
This is SHADY AF. I’ve tried turning off GeoLocation multiple times, but I see it’s on after I take a call. [EDIT]:
May have found a solution for this. Go to Settings > Device Information > Legal Information > LYF Privacy. Turn off Share Device Usage.
I think this worked because I don't see the Location turning on so often anymore.
12) No auto-lock after time period T.
This is a common function on ALL smartphones and the most basic feature phones alike. Can’t imagine how something as trivial as this was overlooked for the “India ka smartphone”. 13)
Display does not turn off during calls
This means, in conjunction with point 12, the neither will the keypad lock after a certain time nor will the display switch off. Moreover there’s no way to initiate these functions manually either.
This means that during long calls, the bright display is unnecessarily on throughout the call, severely affecting the battery life. EDIT
: I've been paying extra close attention, and it seems this is just inconsistent. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. 14) Doesn’t have hotspot or tethering functionality yet.
But why? The hardware’s already on board. Seems like this is one tacky move to force people to hold a separate connection for Internet access on other mobile devices or a PC.
15) Can't keep phone in bag - keeps waking up and overheats
When I place the phone in a pocket with other contents, the keypad keeps getting activated, waking up the device. This happens again and again, for hours at a time if I don't notice. As a result, the battery is exhausted and phone really heated up. 16) Can't read PDF/ ePub / MOBI.
Can't read PDF's yet, and you need a "serious" smartphone around for that. I hope this is rectified soon - students/self-learners in India have to rely a lot on PDFs (eBooks in general) because often the foreign publications really aren't affordable.
17) Can't activate Torch on lockscreen.
Not as serious as some of the other drawbacks, but worth notice nevertheless. During times of emergency, we may need the ability to quickly turn on the Flashlight - indeed, there may be times when our life depends on it.
Right now, you can access the Camera from the lock screen by hitting the Upper-Right key. At least include the option to manually assign a function (e.g. Flash, but the possibility for something else too like JioTV or JioChat) to said button. 18) No option to hide sensitive content from alerts on Lock Screen.
This is especially applicable for the Messages app. Some of the SMS will pop up on the Lock Screen when it arrives, albeit for a couple of seconds. This can be a serious liability if your JioPhone number is set up to receive OTP's e.g. with your Aadhaar or with your Bank account; when the text arrives the OTP is visible on the Lock Screen without unlocking.
The only ways you can sort of gaurd yourself against this are a) If you disable ALL Lock Screen alerts b) If you disable Lock Screen alerts for the Messages app. The drawback of both solutions is that you wont be notified at all if you have a new text message, and you could miss out on important updates from friends/family/work that way. I want to be notified that I have a new text, without revealing the contents of the text without unlocking.
Is that too much to ask?
Some additional pointers worth notice. I didn’t know about these after-the-fact i.e. after I’d already bought the device, and I kinda feel screwed over hard. Make your decision wisely, it’s clear that this “effectively free” phone is anything but so. 1) Minimum recharge of Rs 1500/year to be eligible for 100% cashback
Clause 2b states that for continued use of the phone AND to be eligible for the hyped 100% cashback, you need to spend a minimum of Rs 1500 EVERY YEAR. That basically means that if you’re recharging Rs 49 each month – which is precisely what I bought the Jiophone for, to use for calls and texts only – you’ll need to spend an additional amount of money to meet that minimum every year. 2) You have NO LEGAL RIGHT OVER YOUR PHONE
A clause in the ToC: The Recipient has no right to sell, lease, assign, and transfer or otherwise dispose-of the JioPhone in any manner whatsoever.
Another clause: "(a) The Company has the right to repossess the JioPhone if the Recipient fails to purchase recharge vouchers as per Clause 2(b) above.
Meaning that, should you fail to recharge a minimum of Rs 1500/mo Jio is authorized to ask you to return your phone. Moreover, in such an event not only will you not get a refund but you may have to pay additional GST charges.
But regardless of whether or not you’re spending Rs 1500 on Jio every month, you are bound by contract to return your phone within 39 months from when the phone was issued.
Basically, it’s possible that Location Services turn on against my will for good reason – Jio joining the big-tech race to mine user data.
I’ll keep this thread updated with further observations and developments. Thank you for reading.