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
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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!