Developer community

KaiOS phones to be used for learning during and after the pandemic

Around 20,000 low-income students in Lagos, Nigeria, are continuing to learn in spite of schools being closed. They are learning through Roducate, a mobile learning app, which they are accessing on KaiOS phones.

The pupils received the smart feature phones over a week ago, courtesy of the First Bank of Nigeria. The KaiOS devices came with Roducate and a few other useful apps, and an activated MTN SIM card. They are blocked for non-educational uses.

Since then, the teenagers have been going through audio and video lessons, completing assignments, and taking mock exams, all under their teachers’ supervision and without leaving home.

One of the beneficiaries, 15-year-old Sharifa Umar, said in an interview with The Guardian: “I still miss school and being in the class but it [the phone] makes a major difference – it is effective and gives me stability.”

For students like her, who don’t have access to computers or the internet, watching live online classes isn’t possible. Neither is relying on the educational programs being broadcast on national television, since the power supply in remote areas is erratic.

Screenshot of Roducate

With Roducate-equipped KaiOS phones, Sharifa and other teenagers living in remote locations can learn in their own time and without incurring expenses. Roducate was designed to consume little data and can be used offline. KaiOS devices are known for their long-lasting battery life, and communal solar panels are being installed in the villages they live in to provide additional stability.

So far, the KaiOS-Roducate combo has received positive feedback from teachers and students. Joseph Odusanya, a chemistry school teacher, told The Guardian: “It doesn’t replace the school but it’s a major help.”

The positive reactions have shown the potential for Roducate to continue to be used as a learning tool even after the pandemic. The app was originally designed to enhance in-classroom learning.

A KaiOS-enabled device was showcased at the launch ceremony

Government representatives have asked that private companies donate to the project so that it can benefit more students. The goal is to equip a total of 300,000 pupils with KaiOS phones for learning during and after the pandemic.

The project is led by Robert and John, the research and development company that created Roducate, with support from the Lagos state government and KaiOS.

For more details

Read this Guardian article for the full story
Check out the press release with the Lagos State Government and Robert and John

Company updates

What we’re doing to help KaiOS users cope with the pandemic

Updated on Jun 30: You’ll find a list of projects we’re involved in below. We’ll keep updating this list as new initiatives are launched.

Low-income individuals are more susceptible to contracting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. They’re also the most impacted by lockdowns.

That’s why, together with our partners, we are championing initiatives that help KaiOS users, most of who are low-income and live in developing countries, cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

We’re supporting our developers in creating solutions and working with carriers to promote them to the largest number of users.


COVID-19 Awareness and Prevention

Through the apps below, KaiOS users have access to reliable and practical info about the coronavirus disease and prevention measures.

Be Safe

Be Safe provides users with essential information about the coronavirus disease and how to stay safe. All the content comes from the World Health Organization (WHO) website and is available in English, French, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Urdu, Arabic, Swahili, and Russian.

We’re working hard to get this life-saving information in front of as many people as possible through push notifications and texts (sent by carriers) promoting the Be Safe app. Since its release on KaiStore on March 23, Be Safe has become the second most downloaded app of the month.

COVID-19 Stats


COVID-19 Stats tracks the number of reported cases, deaths, and active cases around the world and per country. It also features a “top 20” list of countries and their confirmed cases, deaths, and recovered cases. It’s available in English and in French.

Life


The app that equips first-time internet users with tools and resources in digital skills, health, education, and other essential topics now includes coronavirus-related info from UNICEF and the WHO. It also gives users access to the WHO’s WhatsApp chatbot, which answers questions in real-time.

To ensure this essential information reaches the largest number of KaiOS users, we’re running ad campaigns for Life in other KaiOS apps, including games.

The world’s first 4G phone with a thermometer

In response to COVID-19 and the global demand for on-the-go temperature monitoring, hardware manufacturer FISE created a smart feature phone with a built-in infrared thermometer. Checking someone’s temperature using the device is simple: all it takes is holding it near the person’s forehead. The new phone, which runs on KaiOS, is now available to carriers and OEM partners for order and release to global markets.

COVID-19 Coping

With 1.5 billion kids out of school and unemployment rates high, resources for online learning are more important than ever. We’ve partnered with several organizations to provide both children and adults free access to educational content via smart feature phones.

Roducate

Virtual learning is becoming increasingly important in most developed countries – not just as a result of the lockdown, but also because it can supplement traditional classes. Now, children in Nigeria can also take advantage of online education thanks to a project that distributes a total of 300,000 free KaiOS devices, equipped with learning app Roducate and an activated MTN data SIM card, around the country.

Through Roducate, students can take classes, complete assignments, and prepare for national exams offline on their KaiOS-enabled devices.

The project is a result of a partnership between KaiOS; Nigerian research & development company Robert and John Ltd; the Lagos State Government; and the First Bank of Nigeria. The latter sponsored the first batch of 20,000 KaiOS-enabled devices.

Robert and John is currently seeking funding from state governments and private institutions to make Roducate available for more schoolchildren in Africa.

Worldreader

Thanks to Worldreader, kids and adults everywhere can access a digital library of high-quality, culturally relevant books, including titles across different languages.

Users can access the library from any KaiOS-enabled phone, choose from over 10,000 titles, and save them for offline reading.

In light of the current crisis, Worldreader has made a number of resources available to parents, caregivers, and teachers, including a collection of stories curated for children from birth through primary grades. 

Worldreader is just one of the reading apps for KaiOS – to explore all of them, visit the KaiStore and choose the Book/Reference category.

Cell-Ed’s 1 Million Learner Challenge

In partnership with KaiOS, mobile-first learning company Cell-Ed has launched the 1 Million Learner Challenge, which aims to reach, teach, and support one million adult learners.

Through Cell-Ed, low-income adults will gain free access to the platform’s skill-building programs, including reading, math, and work readiness courses, which they can take on their smart feature phones. 


In times of crisis, it’s even more important that everyone gets connected. For more information, read the articles “Covid-19 shows why internet access is a basic right. We must get everyone connected” and “Meaningful Connectivity – Unlocking the Full Power of Internet Access” from our partner A4AI.

Thanks for reading. We hope you’re staying safe.

Company updates

KaiOS 2019 year in review

In 2017, we began with two smart feature phones and a mission to close the digital divide. By 2018, we had introduced several more phones, opened an app store, and gained key partnerships with Google, Facebook, and many mobile carriers in Europe and Africa.

In 2019, we shifted our focus to building the KaiOS ecosystem with important additions like WhatsApp, localized apps and content, and further expansion into Africa, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

Here are the highlights from the past year:

KaiOS awards and achievements

We are honored and humbled by the recognition we received in 2019

TIME’s 100 Best inventions 2019

Each year, TIME releases a list of the 100 Best Inventions that highlights noteworthy inventions that make the world “better, smarter and even a little more fun.”

KaiOS was recognized in the Social Good category for making mobile internet more affordable and accessible to people around the world.

TIME stated: “About half the people in the world don’t have access to the Internet, which puts them at a disadvantage in business, education and other areas. KaiOS is working to bridge the digital divide with a lightweight mobile operating system that brings wi-fi, GPS, apps and other advanced features to affordable, nontouch phones.”

AfricaCom Changing Lives Award

We were thrilled that AfricaCom 2019 presented us with the Changing Lives Award. It is a great honor to receive an award designed to celebrate a product, initiative, or social enterprise that has demonstrated life-changing effects for individuals and/or communities within Africa.

Our work creating partnerships with mobile carriers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and developers led to affordable mobile devices and internet for millions in underserved areas throughout Africa.

Our mission has always been to improve the lives of people in emerging markets by bridging the digital divide, so we are especially proud of being recognized for our efforts.

“Hello from Tanzania! Brought over here from Vodacom’s Smart Kitochi launch so interested in the OS because it fills the niche I need. A smart feature rich phone is what is missing here in Tanzania! Nice touch on getting Xender + Google Maps, very popular here in Tanzania at the moment. I predict it will do very well here so keep up the good work!” – A Smart Kitochi user from Tanzania

GSMA 100

The GSMA 100 is “a global innovation discovery initiative designed to identify the world’s most promising growth-stage companies and advance the next generation of connectivity and digital services.” To be included alongside other organizations that are working towards global connectivity is an exciting honor.

China Mobile Innovation Competition: Best Terminal Solutions of the Year

In November 2019, KaiOS joined leaders in IT and mobile design during China Mobile Innovation Week. The event highlighted innovative work in mobile design from noteworthy companies in China and around the world.

During the mobile design content award ceremony, KaiOS was presented with a Swan Award, which is a prestigious award in China for mobile phones/solutions design. We were recognized in the Best Terminal Solutions of the Year category for our leadership in mobile solutions within our niche market.

United Nations presentation

We aim to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goals by collaborating with government organizations and NGOs to make mobile devices and internet affordable and accessible to everyone.

This year, we’re invited to host a session at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) where our CEO, Sebastien Codeville highlighted the benefits of mobile connectivity along with how the lack of internet puts many people in emerging areas at a significant disadvantage in many aspects of life in his presentation.

New KaiOS-powered devices

In 2017, we launched two KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones. By the end of 2019, we will have a total of 25 phones available around the world.

You can read the full list of KaiOS-enabled devices and the companies that manufacture them here. Below is an overview of the devices announced so far.

Over 100 million devices worldwide are now running KaiOS, and we continue to expand into new regions. Each device has its own noteworthy features for different markets, but they all come have mobile connectivity, WiFi, and access to key apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of apps in the KaiStore. While many KaiOS-powered devices are designed to provide an affordable way to get connected for the first time, others serve as a low-tech alternative for users who want a digital detox. The simple UI and hardware of KaiOS devices appeal to elderly users and the durable exterior of certain KaiOS phones make them ideal for rugged working conditions or outdoor sports. There is a KaiOS device for everyone.

Even tech-enthusiasts that normally use smartphones are impressed by the Go Flip 3. ZDnet writer, Matthew Miller noted that the Go Flip 3 “takes the experience to the next level thanks to the power of KaiOS providing Google Assistant, Google Maps, and an app store for basic applications.”

One KaiOS user said, “I’m in love with this OS. It’s perfect for someone who is addicted to smartphones, and wants to do something about it but can’t seem to be able to. With KaiOS, you basically still have a smartphone, but it eliminates the addiction problem of regular smartphones.”

“Congratulations for the great work, this is one of the best phones I’ve ever used.” – A Positivo P70S user from Brazil

Of course, these are just a few of the amazing devices running KaiOS. With 25 devices on the market, our smart feature phones continue to improve and reach new areas. Many OEMs and carriers have been so pleased with the market response that they have manufactured additional KaiOS-powered models. In 2019, we also saw promising expansion across the African continent as well as in key areas of Brazil, Pakistan, and Indonesia.

Exciting apps in the KaiStore

We have grown from 0 apps in 2017 to over 300 in 2019. While 2018 was focused on key partnerships that brought KaiOS users popular apps — such as Google Assistant, Facebook, and YouTube — 2019 brought a variety of new apps to the KaiStore. We’re especially proud of our work to expand the content ecosystem and bring more localized content to developing communities.

Life Initiative

Our educational app, Life, includes curated content in six categories: Digital Skills, Education, Health, Gender Equality, Agriculture, and Financial Education. These free resources are designed to give new users a jumpstart into the digital world and all it has to offer. It is officially launched now in several African countries, with more coming soon.

We developed the Digital Skills section based on GSMA’s Mobile Internet Skills Training Toolkit (MISTT) for our users who’re new to digital resources. The materials are designed to show the benefits of internet access, help the newly connected learn how to navigate the internet, understand data privacy, use social media, etc.

There is also a KaiOS-focused module that helps train frontline retail staff on key features of the operating system so that the staff can clearly explain the functionalities to end users.

There are additional content that help users do everything from improving their reading skills to finding new career opportunities. Our partnerships with Care, Cell-Ed, Esoko, Funzi, Girl Effect, iCow, Ubongo, Tambero, WeFarm, Worldreader, and many others have made this initiative a success. We look forward to adding more free resources in the future.

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is the most preferred messenger app in the world, with over 1.6 billion users globally as of 2019. Making this popular communications app available to our users marked a meaningful milestone for the KaiOS platform.

As of Q3 2019, WhatsApp was pre-installed on most KaiOS phones, but WhatsApp can now be downloaded or updated on any KaiOS-powered device from the KaiStore. Currently, WhatsApp is the most frequently downloaded and updated app on KaiOS devices.

UC Browser

UC Browser became the first third-party mobile browser available in the KaiStore which was developed by Alibaba’s UCWeb.

Bringing the most popular browser from Southeast Asia and India to the KaiOS platform was a big accomplishment. We were confident that many of our users would be happy to see UC Browser in the KaiStore. The browser is optimized particularly for KaiOS devices with a content platform that includes trending GIFs, articles, and videos from around the world.

Disney Content

This year, beloved Disney characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars came to the KaiStore. Users in Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and India will soon be able to download Disney wallpapers, e-books, and games on their devices, which are all optimized for the KaiOS platform. Once launched, users will be able to purchase Disney content using our in-house mobile payment solution, KaiPay.

Notable developer contributions

We strive to make developing for KaiOS accessible to both beginner and experienced developers around the world. With the help of free developer resources, including the KaiOS Developer Portal, creators have designed apps for the KaiStore with emerging markets in mind.

Christian Waadt supports financial inclusion with his app, K-Loan. The utilities app is an amortization calculator that can be used to track loans.

Valeriy Skachko helps women manage their personal health with his app, Period Tracker. The health app allows women to track their menstrual cycles.  Skachko now has an incredible 22 apps live in the KaiStore. Stay tuned for a blog post featuring this dedicated developer!

Developer resources and events

The official launch of the developer portal in 2019 made developing impactful content for KaiOS users accessible to developers from a variety of locations and at different experience levels.It is completely free to use. We do not charge fees for account registration, access to QA tools, or app storage because we wanted to create a low barrier for entry into our developer ecosystem.

This year, we took part in several events that centered around developers as well. We met with developers across Africa and spent time with aspiring developers to show them how they could leverage the KaiOS platform to monetize their skills.



KaiOS grew in so many ways this year. In addition to all of the above accomplishments and additions to our platform, our company and partnerships saw significant growth as well.

Growing team

Since 2018, we have doubled our staff from 150 team members up to 300 employees worldwide. We now have offices in Hong Kong, Xi’An, Shanghai, and Taipei, San Diego, Paris, and Bangalore.

We’re still recruiting for multiple positions around the globe. be sure to take a look at the career opportunities we have available.

Series B funding

In 2019, we secured $50 million in a Series B funding round led by  Cathay Innovation, a global venture capital fund that partners with companies that aim to drive change through technology. Orange participated in the funding round as well, further strengthening our partnership and mission to expand mobile connectivity in Africa.

Support from Cathay Innovation, along with existing shareholders TCL Holdings and Google, primes KaiOS for rapid growth in the coming year. This funding will facilitate our expansion into additional markets, fund further research, and allow us to provide more resources for the developer community.

Keep an eye on KaiOS in 2020

We are already gearing up for some exciting endeavors in 2020. Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on all of our projects!

Press releases

Orange and KaiOS Technologies reinforce their partnership to close Africa’s digital divide through Series B funding

Paris, <21 June 2019> – Today, KaiOS Technologies, maker of KaiOS, the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones, confirmed Orange’s participation in a recent Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation. This participation is a testament to both companies’ dedication to providing internet access and digital services to people across Africa.

The added participation of Orange in the Series B investment strengthens Kai’s leadership in the rapidly growing smart feature phone segment, in a market where 827 million people in Africa still have no access to the internet.

This joint vision isn’t a new development. At Mobile World Congress in February 2019, Kai and Orange announced Sanza – a smart feature phone integrating voice-recognition, long battery life and popular apps and sold for just $20 USD. The device is now available in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Mali, and will be rolled-out in other countries across Orange’s footprint in the coming months.

Based on Kai’s collaboration with key telecoms operators such as Orange, KaiOS-powered devices are available in 22 countries across Africa. These devices not only provide traditional mobile phone services, but also access to apps such as Google Assistant, Facebook and WhatsApp that help connect people and their communities.

“It’s partnerships such as this one with Orange that has made KaiOS the third leading mobile operating system with devices in more than 100 countries; further propelling us towards our goal of connecting the next billion users,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.  “In 2019 and beyond, we look forward to developing even more innovative, localized solutions that bridge the digital divide in Africa and more.”

Commenting on this partnership, Alioune Ndiaye, CEO Orange Middle East & Africa, said: “today the two main barriers to internet access are the lack of infrastructure, for which Orange is investing one billion euros per year, and the cost of the device. As part of our effort to overcome this second barrier, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to develop our partnership with Kai through a direct investment. Providing our customers with access to affordable devices is a crucial step in our ambition to democratise access to the Internet in Africa.”

Kai is dedicated to working with independent app developers to offer localised content that meets the unique needs of the African region. Through the KaiOS Developer Portal, app developers can create their own content for KaiOS and have it published in the KaiStore. Using KaiAds, content owners can monetise their apps and services on KaiOS, while brands have the opportunity to reach an entirely new segment of users with their ads. The developer portal includes information, developer tools and best practices, to make the development process as easy as possible. The company also partners with local coding schools to provide workshops and training focused on local app development for KaiOS.

About KaiOS Technologies

KaiOS Technologies powers an ecosystem of affordable digital products and services, and exists to empower people around the world through technology. Its flagship product, KaiOS, is the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones with more than 100 million devices shipped in over 100 countries. Kai’s mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and societies by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones. KaiOS is based on HTML5 and other open web technologies. Devices running on the platform require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through access to apps like Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps, and Twitter.

About Orange

Orange is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 41 billion euros in 2018 and 149,000 employees worldwide at 31 March 2019, including 90,000 employees in France. The Group has a total customer base of 264 million customers worldwide at 31 March 2018, including 204 million mobile customers and 20 million fixed broadband customers. The Group is present in 27 countries. Orange is also a leading provider of global IT and telecommunication services to multinational companies, under the brand Orange Business Services. In March 2015, the Group presented its new strategic plan “Essentials2020” which places customer experience at the heart of its strategy with the aim of allowing them to benefit fully from the digital universe and the power of its new generation networks.

Orange is listed on Euronext Paris (symbol ORA) and on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol ORAN).

For more information on the internet and on your mobile: www.orange.com,www.orange-business.com or to follow us on Twitter: @orangegrouppr.
Orange and any other Orange product or service names included in this material are trademarks of Orange or Orange Brand Services Limited.

KaiOS media contact:

Eletta Leung, eletta.leung@kaiostech.com, +852 9139-3746
Sarah Collins, scollins@hoffman.com,+1 (206) 423-6081

Orange media contact:

Nicole Clarke, firstname.name@orange.com, +44 7811 1284 57
Tom Wright, tom.wright@orange.com, +33 1 44 44 93 93

Press releases

KaiOS Technologies secures $50 million of Series B funding to connect the next billion people

Hong Kong, <22 May 2019> – KaiOS Technologies, maker of KaiOS, the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones, announced today $50 million in a Series B funding round led by Cathay Innovation, with continued participation from Kai’s existing shareholders Google and TCL Holdings. To date, more than 100 million devices running on KaiOS have been shipped, enabling digital transformation in over 100 countries. This investment from Cathay Innovation and other industry leaders will further strengthen Kai’s leadership position in the rapidly growing smart feature phone segment.

With this Series B, Kai plans to expand into new markets, and to invest in product portfolio research and development. It will also enable Kai to mature its ecosystem by accelerating the growth of the KaiOS developer community.

“Our mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and society by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We achieve this by collaborating closely with our business partners, enabling them to transform their business models with exciting new products and offerings, especially for first-time internet users. This Series B round allows us to accelerate these efforts and increase the impact we can make in societies around the world, one phone at a time.”

Kai experienced strong growth in 2018 as it built a presence in new markets such as India and Africa through critical partnerships with companies including Reliance Jio, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Orange, MTN, Qualcomm, and others. According to a recent Counterpoint study, the smart feature phone segment accounted for nearly one-quarter of all handset shipments by Q3 of last year and presents a $28 billion dollar market opportunity in the coming three years, indicating that the global demand for a sophisticated yet cost-effective smartphone alternative is on the rise.Kai aims to transition a substantial portion of the more than 1.5 billion feature phone users to smart feature phones, enabling carriers, manufacturers, developers, and advertisers to create innovative, new business models.

“KaiOS is already the third mobile OS globally and one of the most impactful tech startups in the world. It has the potential to transform the lives of billions of people by giving them access to the internet for the first time. We are proud to join KaiOS’ fantastic investor base and to lead this round to support the company’s next phase of rapid expansion. We look forward to leveraging our global platform and ecosystem to help accelerate KaiOS’ growth in new markets,” said Denis Barrier, Co-Founder and CEO of Cathay Innovation.

The team behind KaiOS currently counts more than 260 people and continues to grow rapidly. The company has won several awards, including the Best Mobile Technology Breakthrough at MWC Asia 2018, and was named Best Emerging Tech by Digital Trends at MWC Barcelona 2018. Kai has also received indirect recognition through its integration with the JioPhone, which won Fortune’s Company Changing the World award and Nikkei’s product excellence award.


KaiOS has an optimized user interface for non-touch phones. The platform supports 3G and 4G/LTE, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. It works with chipsets from all major manufacturers including Qualcomm, UNISOC, and MediaTek. KaiOS offers a smooth user experience on devices with as low as 256MB of RAM. Through the KaiOS Developer Portal, app developers can create their own content for KaiOS and have it published in the KaiStore. Using KaiAds, content owners can monetize their apps and services on KaiOS, while brands have the opportunity to reach an entirely new segment of users with their ads.

About KaiOS Technologies

KaiOS Technologies powers an ecosystem of affordable digital products and services, and exists to empower people around the world through technology. Its flagship product, KaiOS, is the leading mobile operating system with more than 100 million devices shipped in over 100 countries. Kai’s mission is to open up new possibilities for individuals, organizations, and society by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones. KaiOS is based on HTML5 and other open web technologies. Devices running on the platform require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through access to apps like Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps, and Twitter.

About Cathay Innovation

Cathay Innovation is a global venture capital fund, created in affiliation with Cathay Capital Private Equity. It was founded around the shared conviction that supporting digital entrepreneurs by providing them with a platform bridging 3 continents – North America, Europe and China – constitutes a particularly powerful value-creation strategy. As a multi-stage fund, Cathay Innovation partners with visionary entrepreneurs, committed to driving change through technology. Such transformation is accelerated by leveraging Cathay Capital Private Equity’s extensive network with corporates and solid experience in operational excellence. Cathay Innovation has offices in San Francisco, Paris, Beijing and Shanghai. To learn more, please visit www.cathayinnovation.com or follow us on Twitter @Cathayinnov.


KaiOS Media Contact

Eletta Leung / Sarah Collins
eletta.leung@kaiostech.com / scollins@hoffman.com
+852 9177-8135 / + 1 (206) 423-6081

Cathay Innovation Media Contact

Yoann Besse Yoann.Besse@citigatedewerogerson.com
+33 (0)1 53 32 78 89 / +33 (0)6 63 03 84 91
Legal note: Google, Google Maps, YouTube, and other related marks and logos are trademarks of Google LLC.


 

Press releases

KaiOS Technologies named to the GSMA 100

Mobile Operators from around the world selected
Kai as a growth leader in Consumer Services

Hong Kong, 4 February 2019 –The GSMA has named KaiOS Technologies to the ‘GSMA 100’, a global innovation discovery initiative designed to identify the world’s most promising growth-stage companies and advance the next generation of connectivity and digital services.

Kai is the maker of KaiOS, the leading mobile operating system for smart feature phones. Together with carriers and device makers from around the world, they’re bringing affordable feature phones to emerging markets to help bridge the digital divide.

“We are thrilled to be included in the ‘GSMA 100’ with other organizations who are working tirelessly towards global connectivity,” said Sebastien Codeville, Chief Executive Officer, KaiOS Technologies. “It’s our hope that we’ll achieve a more inclusive mobile ecosystem and that together we can close the digital divide in both emerging as well as established markets.”

“We welcome KaiOS Technologies to the GSMA 100. The GSMA 100 companies are leaders in categories that are poised to drive digital transformation and industry growth,” said Laxmi Akkaraju, Chief Strategy Officer, GSMA. “We look forward to working with Kai to unlock business development and investment opportunities and champion innovation in our industry.”

Kai joins the second cohort of the GSMA 100. This includes: AppOnBoardCinarraCloudifyCUJOAI, DefinedCrowd, Genus AI, Invisible Systems, IoTium, Jiminy, Limitless, Litmus AutomationLumina Networks, MessageniusSecureHome, UserTribeVilynx, and Zeotap.

KaiOS is based on HTML5 and other open web technologies. The mobile operating system supports 4G/LTE, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. The platform enables a new category of affordable smart feature phones that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through services like Google Assistant, Facebook, Google Maps, YouTube, and Twitter.

The GSMA 100 represents the innovation priorities of mobile operators around the world. Companies are referred into the programme through investment and key partners. Contributors to the GSMA 100 to date include: include América Móvil, Blumberg Capital, British Telecom, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, EIT Digital, Etisalat, Telecom Italia, HV Holtzbrinck Ventures, KPN Ventures, MegaFon, MTN Group, Orange, Rogers Communications, Sony Innovation Fund, Telefónica, Telenor Group, Telstra Ventures, US Cellular and Vodafone, among others.

Follow the #GSMA100 hashtag on Twitter or visit: www.gsma100.com


About KaiOS Technologies

KaiOS Technologies powers an ecosystem of affordable digital products and services. Its flagship product, KaiOS, is the emerging mobile operating system for smart feature phones with more than 50 million active users in over 20 countries. Kai’s mission is to help close the digital divide by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets, as well as providing those in established markets with an alternative to smartphones. KaiOS is based on HTML5 and other open web technologies. Devices running on the platform require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience through access to apps like Google Assistant,  YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps, and Twitter.

About the GSMA

The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting more than 750 operators with over 350 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces the industry-leading MWC events held annually in Barcelona, Los Angeles and Shanghai, as well as the Mobile 360 Series of regional conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at www.gsma.com. Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

Company updates

How a KaiOS-powered device is made

In this blog post, we’ll shine a spotlight on the collaboration that takes place between manufacturers, carriers, content developers, and the team here at KaiOS Technologies, to bring our affordable, smart feature phones to market.
 
Unfortunately, you can’t take a “dumb” phone from 10 years ago and make it smart by installing KaiOS. The devices that run our operating system are designed from the ground up to be experience-rich feature phones, and Kai’s developers work closely with our partners to ensure the integration is seamless. Our partners include: 

  • Chipset makers, like Qualcomm and Unisoc 
  • Manufacturers, like HMD and TCL, many of whom are located in Shenzhen (China) 
  • The partners of our manufacturers, who provide them with all the components, such as the screen, keypad, and memory 
  • Carriers, like Reliance Jio, Orange, and MTN, who place the orders with the manufacturers and often have particular requirements for the specifications of the device 

Teams at all of these different companies need to work together in order to bring a new device to market. Usually this process takes about six months, but we’ve done it in as short as three months. Ultimately, the development time depends on the unique requirements the customer has for a device, as well as on the manufacturing volume.   

 

An essential element in this process is standard support for KaiOS within the chipsets. Chipsets are the engine of any computer, including modern mobile phones. By having standard support for KaiOS in certain chipsets, it is easier for our partners to design and develop their device.  
 
KaiOS is currently supported by default on the following chipsets: 

  • Qualcomm 205 (MSM8905) 
  • Qualcomm 210 (MSM8909) 
  • Unisoc SC9820A 
  • Unisoc SC9820E 
  • Unisoc SC7731EF 

Hardware customization/phone specs

Once the chipset has been decided on, our partners can customize their device. There’s an extensive “menu” of options our partners can choose from. Some examples include: 

  • 3G or 4G/LTE 
  • 256M/512M RAM/ROM, or 512M/4G RAM/ROM 
  • Wi-Fi  
  • GPS 
  • Single or dual SIM 
  • NFC support for mobile payments 
  • Single camera (on the back), or dual camera (both front and back) 

All these choices affect the production price of a KaiOS-powered device, and so it’s usually a trade-off between functionality and affordability.
 


Software customization

With the hardware specifications finalized, it’s time to look at the OS itself. We don’t white-label KaiOS, so several elements are mandatory for all our partners: 

  • A “Powered by KaiOS” screen on launching the phone 
  • The KaiStore must be pre-loaded on the right top corner of the first screen 
  • Several utility apps (e.g., calculator) need to be pre-loaded on the phone 

In addition to our R&D team in Taipei, the Sales Operation team in Shanghai plays a key role. Here, engineers are dedicated to working closely with manufacturers and carriers to tweak the OS to their needs and bring it to market. The UX team also ensures that the OS works with the partner’s brand while still maintaining essential KaiOS elements, and the Marketing team supports in the preparation of going to market. It’s truly a company-wide effort.

Besides these requirements, we work with our partners to tailor the software to their needs. For example, we can pre-install their apps, adjust colors and styling, or enable certain features in the software (e.g., hotspot). 

 
Go to market

The above process of hardware design and software adjustments takes anywhere between three and nine months, depending on the exact requirements from our partners. Toward the end of this trajectory, we start supporting our partners in their go-to-market strategy. This involves working on packaging design, preparing materials for retail stores, and supporting any advertising they might want to do, either online or offline.

Besides ensuring all brands are represented together in the right way, and adhering to everyone’s visual and style guidelines as best as possible, this also involves getting approvals on logo and trademark usage from other third parties that are involved, such as Facebook or Google. We help our partners with this process by acting as the main interface between content partners and the carriers and/or manufacturers.
 

To sum up

Launching a new device is never a simple feat, especially since it involves collaborating with so many different parties. Nevertheless, we’ve already brought over 50 million KaiOS-powered devices to market together with our partners, in just a bit over one year! 

If you’re interested in launching a KaiOS-powered device, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us on Twitter or by email on partnerships@kaiostech.com. We’d be happy to answer your questions and explore how we can work together. 

Company updates

AfricaCom 2018: Africa joins the digital revolution with first-ever smart feature phones

AfricaCom 2018 may be over, but the excitement and innovation from the show continue to energize those who attended, including the KaiOS Technologies team. It was a groundbreaking event, not just for us and our partners, but for all the leaders that brought new ideas to the table, and for the African continent which has so much potential for growth.

Read on for the highlights of my experience at the show, including news from the Kai team and what makes me optimistic about Africa’s future.

Kai announced two partnerships to bring smart feature phones to Africa for the first time

There couldn’t have been a better setting to announce two exciting new partnerships that will introduce the first 3G and 4G smart feature phones to Africa: One with MTN, China Mobile, and Unisoc, and the other with Orange.

Both collaborations will bring a new wave of affordable mobile devices to users in the region, all of which will boast the rich functionality that KaiOS is known for. This includes services like Google Assistant, Facebook, and Google Maps, as well as functionalities such as the KaiStore, Bluetooth, and GPS. Users will have access to these and other advanced digital services starting from Q1 2019 onwards.

(From right) MTN CEO Rob Shuter, China Mobile Executive Vice President Li Huidi, Unisoc CEO Adam Zeng and KaiOS Technologies CEO Sebastien Codeville display the new KaiOS-powered MTN device coming to South Africa and Nigeria in Q1 2019.

These partnerships are meaningful as we look ahead to 2019 and beyond. After the success of the JioPhone in India, we believe Africa is the next frontier for a smart feature phone revolution. Though there are certainly obstacles to overcome, the potential to connect the more than 800 million African people who still lack basic internet access today is highly motivating. Through collaborations with partners—carriers, device manufacturers, chipset makers, content creators—we feel confident we can bring valuable and relevant digital services to communities across the continent.

We met outstanding local app developers at the AppsAfrica Innovation Awards

Kai was among the prestigious sponsors of the AppsAfrica Innovation Awards, a gathering of the best and brightest app developers Africa has to offer.

KaiOS Technologies CEO Sebastien Codeville presents award to stand-in for Best African App winner, SafeBoda, at the AppsAfrica Innovation Awards

I was honored to present the Best African App to SafeBoda, a Uganda-based app whose goal is to modernize and overhaul informal transportation in African countries to be more safe and reliable. The variety of solutions on display was impressive, as was the thoughtful approach developers took to solving real-world problems for local communities.

Kai’s participation in the AppsAfrica awards was of particular importance because the success of smart feature phones relies on the ability to provide apps and digital services that users actually want and need. To do this, we must not only offer the latest international apps to African consumers, but also provide an attractive, simple platform that draws in local developers with fresh and locally relevent ideas.

We achieve this goal with the KaiStore, the first app store for smart feature phones, and our top priority is building a local community of developers. I can certainly say that the AppsAfrica gathering was a great showcase of the best apps Africa has to offer. After attending the event and meeting many of the participants, I’m convinced there is enough amazing talent on the continent to fill the KaiStore with relevant, locally produced content.

The suite of KaiOS-powered devices was on full display

On top of announcing new partnerships and engaging with the next wave of app developers, we were thrilled to welcome attendees of the show to the KaiOS Technologies booth. The space featured a lineup of each and every KaiOS-powered device available to users today.

It was great to see the instant “click” people here had with the smart feature phone concept. Whereas show attendees on other continents sometimes need some additional explanation and convincing to understand why KaiOS still makes sense in a world of smartphones, this is not the case in Africa.

At out booth we met a diverse crowd, including local carriers, universities, distributors, government officials, and consumers. Most of them instantly got the relevance and transformational power of creating a next generation of feature phones. Nothing gets more more excited and energized than talking to people directly and hearing their thoughts on how closing the digital divide can help them, their communities, or their customers.

And a few parting thoughts on what lies ahead …

In the midst of discussions around cutting-edge technology and pushing the bounds of mobile internet, we must remember that many emerging markets—especially in Africa—don’t have the network infrastructure to support those advancements. While other regions soon start deployment of 5G networks, many countries in Africa still don’t have 4G or even 3G coverage.

While we can play a meaningful part in solving the challenges of device affordability and reducing data costs, KaiOS can’t solve the network infrastructure issue. For this reason it was great to see many other parties working on that piece of the puzzle, and it was a big motivation to see “connecting the unconnected” and “closing the digital divide” as a recurring theme across the show.

Innovation cannot have an impact if it is developed without the target audience in mind, and we at Kai recognize that affordability, functionality, and existing infrastructure are critical to designing realistic solutions. This was one of several tenants I discussed in my keynote speech, which I delivered near the conclusion of the show. A successful digital revolution in Africa will be a multi-tiered effort beyond just developing and offering affordable devices. We must also work to lower data costs, expand and overhaul infrastructure, and enhance our localized content offerings.

The next step for Kai and all the companies that attended AfricaCom 2018 is to put our ideas and innovation to work. I believe we must focus on driving digitalization of public services offered by the government and social organizations, and educating the public on the importance of using online services — these are two critical components of bridging the digital divide in Africa. We at Kai, alongside our valued partners, are excited to play a part in building a mobile internet ecosystem that will help make this happen.

Want to reach KaiOS customer support? Have a partnership idea? Would like to work for KaiOS? Click here to fill out the form, our support agents will be in touch shortly.

Industry insights

Driving innovation for public and social services through the mobile Internet

If you’ve been following our blog and social media over the past few months, you know our mission is to close the digital divide. We want everyone to have access to digital services and eliminate the division of the digital haves and have-nots.

In pursuit of this goal, we need to achieve three objectives:

  1. Continue driving innovation in mobile tech products with a specific focus on emerging markets.
  2. Help carriers evolve their business models.
  3. Spark transformation in public services and government regulation.

I’ve written before about the first two. Today I want to share my thoughts on the latter.

When it comes to the (mobile) digital revolution, national governments play an essential role. They provide access to network spectrum, regulate and support the industry, and can accelerate innovation. The latter takes two forms: encouraging innovation through subsidies and special government programs, and modernizing public services. Together with our partners, we are committed to helping transform public services.

Governments are often involved in critical services that have far-reaching effects when something goes wrong: healthcare, public safety, national security, infrastructure, and so on. With these kinds of activities, stability and security are more important than “go fast and break things”—the mantra of many startups in Silicon Valley. Nevertheless, there are technological innovations that have matured and that can be leveraged by governments around the world to improve their public services. Mobile internet is one of them.

Why is mobile connectivity such a massive opportunity?

  1. You can reach everyone, everywhere. Mobile networks are often the only way for people in rural areas to reach the internet. Previously they had to travel to an internet café; today, having a mobile phone with internet access in your pocket removes this barrier and gives people access to critical information like weather, market prices, and so on.
  2. It facilitates faster and more convenient two-way interactions between government and citizens.  Anything from health programs to disaster prevention and relief can be done faster, cheaper, and more efficiently through the mobile internet.
  3. Deployment and maintenance of apps is relatively straightforward, meaning digital public services can easily be maintained and upgraded over time.  For example, in many countries, access to financial services is sparse outside of urban areas. Digital banking solves this issue and gives users possibilities for savings and access to loans, regardless of their location.
  4. Mobile devices have evolved from communication devices to in-pocket computers(e.g., GPS, biometrics, Wi-Fi, NFC payments).  These improvements expand the scope and quality of available services. For example, in India, the JioPhone is not just a tool for communication, access to content, and entertainment; its NFC capabilities help small businesses to leverage it as a Point of Sale device to conduct payments with customers.

While many public services in matured markets have gone digital, riding the gigantic wave of smartphone popularity, many developing markets still lag behind in this area because of the limited penetration of smart devices. Many people still own basic voice phones with few features, or no phone at all. This low penetration of connected devices limits the potential and  accelerates the need for effective mobile services.

Changing this is what we at KaiOS are striving for, alongside our partners. Our operating system powers devices nearly as affordable as basic feature phones, yet loaded with all the essential capabilities one can expect from a smartphone.

This shift is essential; research from the GSMA and the UN in 2017 still predicts it will take until 2040 to get everyone connected. This prediction was based on the fact that until the middle of last year people had just two choices: basic voice feature phones or expensive smartphones. Now there is a third option: affordable smart feature phones.

While it’s too early to make exact predictions, the adoption rate of smart feature phones in countries like India is astonishing – lead by the KaiOS-powered JioPhone – and forecasts from markets in other Asian countries and Africa look promising.

If the pace of this roll-out continues as expected, the digital landscape in emerging markets will completely change in a matter of a few years, not decades. Instead of having to wait until 2040 to connect the last billion people, soon everyone will be connected at an affordable rate and with an advanced digital device.

This change opens up opportunities for governments and other social organizations to bring many public services online, as they will now be able to reach all the people, instead of just a select few.
In the next installment of this article series, we will look at specific examples of what such a digitalization of government and other social services might look like. We’ll do this by looking at examples of what’s happening in India because of the success of the JioPhone, the e-government setup in Estonia, and how Twitter has transformed a town in Spain.

Come meet the KaiOS team at AfricaCom, Cape Town, South Africa during Nov 13 – 15 and join our keynote session to discuss more of our vision and how we can support initiatives that will drive innovation in Africa.

Industry insights

Africa, the next big feature phone opportunity?

With more than 300 million“dumb” phones in use and 834 million people still unconnected to the internet, Africa is the next frontier for smart feature phones. But even with this vast opportunity, challenges still loom large on this magnificent continent.

Many people believe that Africa is poor. With an average income of $6.6 per day and 36% of the population living in extreme poverty (on less than $1 per day), there is some truth to that. At the same time, many countries on the continent are showing signs of growth. According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa economies are expected to grow at 3.1% this year, accelerating to 3.7% by 2020.

Zooming in closer—beyond just these macro-level numbers—signs of this progress appear all across the continent. Governments see the importance of technology and are driving policy and capital towards modernizing infrastructure. As a result, homegrown technological innovation is happening and startup hubs are springing up everywhere.

Powered by connectivity

One of the remaining hurdles to fuel this growth is affordable connectivity. As mentioned in the introduction, 834 million people in Africa are still unconnected today. Despite the progress in many areas, several barriers stand in the way of widespread internet access:

  1. Poor network infrastructure.
  2. Device affordability.
  3. Costs of data.
  4. Lack of localized content.
  5. Financial inclusion.

Let’s look at these issues in detail.

Poor network infrastructure

Network infrastructure in Africa is of notoriously lousy quality. For example, Nigeria’s average mobile download speeds clock in at just 9.87 Mbps, far below those in developed markets —
between 30 to 40 Mbps. While urban areas are starting to see early adopters in 3G and 4G coverage, smaller towns and the rural countryside rely on 2G connectivity. This detail is important because the story of Africa is still a rural story, with 62% of the population living in the countryside.

Luckily this situation is changing. The business case for improving mobile connectivity in rural areas is becoming more evident to carriers, especially since the success of the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India. As such, network operators are starting to upgrade their infrastructure to 4G/LTE, even outside of the big cities.

Device affordability

In Africa more than anywhere else, device affordability is a crucial barrier to moving people from 2G voice and text-capable phones to 3G/4G devices that can access the internet. According to research from GSMA, the threshold lies at $34. Below that point, even those in the lowest income groups are capable of upgrading to a data-enabled phone.

Until recently this forced people to choose between a feature phone without internet access, or a budget smartphone with limited user experience. Now, with KaiOS-powered smart feature phones coming to market, there is an attractive alternative: a device that is affordable, yet provides a smooth user experience and all the essential capabilities of a smartphone.

Costs of data

Once a user has purchased a phone, there’s still the “cost of ownership” in the form of a monthly data plan that has to be factored in. Most smartphones come with a data plan of at least $10 per month. For someone who can’t afford a $35 phone, such monthly costs are unacceptable.

To reduce the costs of data, KaiOS Technologies works closely with network operators to design new data plans priced between a 2G(voice and text)plan and a full-blown smartphone data plan.

There are many ways in which we achieve reduction of data costs together with carriers and content providers:

  • KaiOS minimizes data requirements on both the OS and content (apps) side.
  • We work closely with partners to provide specific content and features that don’t require additional charges.
  • We’re implementing advertising solutions that give users free data in exchange for engaging with ads.

Lack of localized content

Africa is not Silicon Valley. This observation seems obvious, but it doesn’t get enough thought when you consider how our modern tech productsare developed. While innovation is on the rise in emerging markets, products coming out of Silicon Valley—and to a lesser extent other parts of the USA—still form a disproportionate amount of our tech “intake.”

There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Many of the innovations from this infamous region in California are truly phenomenal and satisfy universal needs. Yet some problems can only be identified and addressed by a local, someone who’s familiar with the culture and lifestyle in a specific region.

There are already great examples of this, like Anitrack(which allows farmers to track their livestock), Asoriba(a church management application for worshippers and religious leaders), and LetiArts(and African gaming studio). But on this p, there is still a gap in Africa, or at least an opportunity to bring the local content that’s already available to a much wider audience. Growing the number of connected users, while simultaneouslysupporting local developers, is what’s needed to bring the digital revolution to everyonein Africa.

Financial inclusion

In places like Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, less than half of the adult population have a bank account, nor have they ever conducted a digital payment. Also, less than 10 percent of the adult population receive income (e.g., wages, social security) via a bank account. A lack of trust and access to financial servicescause these issues.

Financial inclusion needs to improve dramatically to drive the digital revolution in Africa. Without the means to easily make and receive payments, innovation is slowed or even blocked altogether. It also makes the job of poverty reduction difficult as people can’t plan their financial futures and are unable to do the most important thing that leads to prosperity: saving.

Research finds a strong correlation between mobile internet connectivity and financial inclusion—the adoption, usage, and sustainability of financial services. The rise of mobile moneyon smart feature phones can play a central role in extending thereach of formal financial services in Africa, as demonstrated by the success of mobile money services in countries like Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa.

The emerging ecosystem

When all the above pieces come together, the smart feature phone becomes a compelling proposition to change the digital landscape in Africa.

The device and monthly data plan are affordable even for those in the lowest income groups. With support for local developers and content—in addition to the global apps that are already available on KaiOS —people will be able to enjoy the fruits of the digital revolution in areas like education, entertainment, business, health, and finance.This means real progress towards closing the digital divide and will impact the lives of millions of people in Africa for the better in the years ahead.

KaiOS is committed to help grow the African smart feature phone ecosystem together with all local stakeholders (carriers, phone distributors, and app developers). Come meet the KaiOS team at NigeriaCom (Lagos, September 19th and 20th) and AfricaCom (Cape Town, November 13th– 15th).

If you have additional questions, don’t forget to check out our Help Center!