Press releases

Google leads series a investment round in KaiOS to connect next billion users

Hong Kong, June 28, 2018 – KaiOS Technologies Inc., developer of the emerging operating system for smart feature phones, KaiOS, today announced a $22M Series A investment from Google to help bring the internet to the next generation of users.

“This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies.

KaiOS works closely with manufacturers like TCL, HMD Global, and Micromax and has partnerships with carriers such as Reliance Jio, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile. These partners produce affordable devices that include essential functionalities like apps, GPS, 4G/LTE, and Wi-Fi. The Kai team operates out of offices around the world, including San Diego, Hong Kong, Taipei, Shanghai, Paris, and Bangalore.

In addition to the investment, Google and KaiOS have also agreed to work together to make Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search available to KaiOS users. These apps have been developed specifically for the KaiOS platform, which is entirely web-based, using open standards such as HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS.

“We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone, whether they are using desktops, smartphones, or feature phones.” said Anjali Joshi, Vice-President, Product Management, Next Billion Users. “Following the success of the JioPhones, we are excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world.”

“ We’re excited to work with Google to deliver its services on more mobile devices,” continued Sebastien Codeville. “Having an intelligent voice assistant on an affordable mobile phone is truly revolutionary as it helps overcome some of the limitations a keypad brings.”

About KaiOS Technologies

KaiOS Technologies powers an emerging ecosystem of affordable digital products and services. Our flagship product, KaiOS, is a web-based operating system that enables a new category of smart feature phones and other IoT devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience. Our mission is to help bridge the digital divide — connecting the billions of people in emerging markets who still don’t have internet access, as well as those in established markets who are looking for easy-to-use phones with advanced functionality.

Looking for help with your KaiOS phone? Visit our Help Center. Have a partnership idea? Click here to fill out the form. Our sales will get in touch with you shortly.

Industry insights

The mobile Internet gap for rural America

It’s hard to imagine areas of our world where constant mobile communication isn’t the norm — but even in the U.S., there are places where mobile internet access is not as all-encompassing. Despite our culture’s near-obsession with smartphones, a glance at Pew Research statistics shows the mobile revolution is still impacting urban and suburban areas more than rural areas.

While the number of mobile devices in rural-American areas has sharply increased, adults in these areas are still 10 to 12 percent less likely to have a smartphone than in urban or suburban areas. Only 58 percent of rural survey respondents told Pew Research that they go online on a daily basis, while one in five said they never go online.

Mobile-only still not an option

This discrepancy is largely due to a lack of infrastructure to provide speedy internet access — broadband or mobile — consistently across rural areas. Part of the struggle is a lack of choice: a 2015 White House study found that three out of four Americans have access to only one high-speed internet service provider. While the freedom to access networks on the go may seem like a logical fix, limited selection means it simply isn’t feasible at this point in time.

The FCC recently reported that “mobile services are not full substitutes for fixed services — there are salient differences between the two technologies.” This conclusion was made even as the FCC was evaluating standards that would consider mobile internet a sufficient replacement for home internet. For many rural residents, this gap between mobile and fixed services often means no internet use at all — 39 percent of rural Americans, or 23 million people, still lack access to high-speed Internet, compared to just 4 percent of urban Americans.

Gaps in mobile coverage

While it’s currently not a full replacement for strong fixed internet, mobile-only internet is on the rise. For example, Pew Research found one in 10 Americans now rely on smartphones for internet access, with increasing reliance coming from non-white, low-income, and younger Americans.

Recent analysis by University of Texas communication professor Sharon Strover examined mobile internet as one of the options to fix rural America’s internet gap. Conducting the research in Maine, her team found a case involving four people on four different carriers lacking any consistent service in an area, and another where good signals could only be found in specific spots in a town — often in inconvenient places like the middle of streets.

The U.S. is not a world leader in availability of the most current mobile internet standards like 4G LTE. According to openSignal, that honor goes to South Korea, followed by Japan, Lithuania, Hong Kong, and the Netherlands. The U.S. edges out Qatar for the No. 10 spot, but is considered a drag on the global average LTE speed. In addition to this, densely populated urban areas are the first to get mobile internet improvements like the incoming 5G, which won’t even see broad deployment until next year.

How do we close the gap?

There are multiple solutions that have emerged to start closing the rural internet gap, with many of these ideas coming from people in the rural areas themselves. For example, a company in Georgia called Paladin Wireless leases space on existing structures in cities to install wireless internet transmitters in a manner similar to cellphone service. There’s also a strong push to treat high-speed internet access as a public utility. In a Pew Research poll, 70 percent of respondents said local governments should be allowed to construct their own broadband services, with Chattanooga, Tenn., being one of the most widely reported success stories.

Ultimately, as Professor Strover points out, closing rural America’s mobile internet gap — and its overall internet gap — will come down to a fundamental question of values: that is, whether or not government and private companies are willing to invest in providing internet service to both rural and urban areas of America, and commit to ensuring that it is affordable.

Industry insights

Four trends in mobile that will continue to bloom in 2018

2017 marked a year of innovations for the mobile industry, especially in emerging markets. New regulations were passed to ensure protection against the digital divide in some countries, including developed nations.

But this is only the beginning. We predict that 2018 will see continued innovation, and consumers will be the lucky winners.

The mobile industry, like many others, is dictated by consumer behavior, so updates and changes should be based on a thorough understanding of how consumers are currently engaging with their mobile activities. To that end, we’ve gathered consumer statistics from notable reports to envision four different ways that mobile phones will change in 2018.

Artificial Intelligence Mobile Integration

AI is already a hot topic — its endless possibilities open doors for new innovations across many industries, from healthcare to transportation. This year, AI is expected to revolutionize the mobile industry. According to the 2017 Global Mobile Consumer Survey from Deloitte, 68 percent of consumers currently use some AI/Machine Learning features, including predictive text and voice assistants on their phones. The rise of mobile shopping also triggers such behavior. 62 percent of mobile users use their device to make a purchase online, and more than 40 percent of adults search using voice technology.

Given the advancement in AI, it’s no surprise to see more AI-powered smartphones being introduced. For example, Apple’s iPhone X is integrated with AI features that focus on imaging and animation. Samsung also enters the game by introducing Bixby, an assistant software on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 smartphones. But, this isn’t just happening on smartphones. In December 2017, Google Voice Assistant for feature phones was announced, and the first one to market will be the JioPhone (powered by KaiOS). With this new technology, Jio phone users can speak with a Google Assistant in Hindi. Looking forward to 2018, we anticipate more AI technology integrating into mobile phones. Given the upward trend in AI mobile integration, we anticipate more visibility of AI technology in mobile phones in 2018

Online streaming via mobile devices

2018 will be the year of mobile streaming, as more consumers are using their mobile devices to watch TV or movies. A study in 2016 found that nearly a quarter of U.S. phone users viewed TV shows/movies on their devices daily. Another report found that the percentage of consumers who stream movies on mobile devices is 9 percent higher than 2016, and the number is expected to be even higher in 2018.

Using these insights, telecom companies are leveraging their mobile user market. Verizon has announced a partnership with A+E Networks, allowing its customers to watch fresh mobile and digital content. This is great news to Verizon mobile users as they can access premium content any time on mobile devices. Other big mobile operators, such as Reliance Jio, are also making moves to attract movie fans. The company offers TV apps for the JioPhone, allowing users to watch live TV shows on feature phones. They also include a special connector with the device, which lets users display video from their JioPhone on a larger display.

IoT-friendly mobile apps

Like AI, Internet of Things (IoT) is another hot area for mobile users to watch in 2018. The previously mentioned Deloitte survey reported more mobile users are showing interest in connected cars and entertainment. This means consumers expect their phones will connect with other smart devices.They can then do things like remotely turning off their air conditioning at home, or using a camera app to protect their homes from burglars.

Mobile commerce

Mobile commerce is on the rise, bringing new opportunities to both vendors and consumers. An Assocham-Deloitte study showed that more people have been submitting their shopping queries through mobile devices. The percentage has risen from 76 percent in 2016 to 82 percent in 2017, implying an increase in mobile transactions.

Mobile payments are becoming more popular too as 29 percent of U.S. consumers reported to make purchases via mobile devices last year. Many merchants across the United States are adopting mobile payments, allowing customers to pay via mobile apps. Even outside of the U.S., developing countries, including India, are also taking advantage of mobile commerce.

As many people are relying on mobile phones to make purchases, as well as payments, we expect to see more mobile apps that support the mobile e-commerce journey on the market in 2018.
2018 is going to be a great year for the mobile industry, and we’re so excited to be a part of the effort.

Looking for help with your KaiOS phone? Visit our Help Center. Have a partnership idea? Click here to fill out the form. Our sales will get in touch with you shortly.

Industry insights

From digital divide to digital opportunity

What if everyone — regardless of location, socioeconomic status, or age — had an internet-enabled mobile phone? Right now, it’s estimated that only 30 percent of the world has a smartphone, which means the other 70 percent either doesn’t want one, can’t afford one, or is looking for an alternative.

In fact, the high cost of smartphones in relation to income levels continues to constrain universal access, especially in emerging markets. For those living on below $2 per day, a $100 mobile phone accounts for 14 percent or more of their annual income, according to GSMA.

To put that into perspective, based on the average annual income of $45,000 in the U.S., Americans would be spending $6,300 on a smartphone. To make matters worse, unlike developed markets, there are few financing options for buying mobile phones in emerging markets. So instead of a $100 or more device, a phone in the range of $15–35 would be closer to the affordability threshold for this group. However, smartphone costs are not expected to drop enough to make a significant difference to low-income groups in the near future.

Internet access at everyone’s fingertips

According to the International Telecommunications Union’s ICT “Facts and Figures for 2017”, only 15 percent of households in the developing world have internet access at home. In these countries, many internet users only have access from work, schools, and universities or other shared public connections outside the home.

Fortunately, the challenges of broadband restrictions and internet use through a personal computer can be overcome. People are more likely to turn on their mobile device to access the internet than their desktop computer, resulting in a higher adoption rate and use of mobile phones.

At Kai, we’re powering an emerging global ecosystem of affordable digital products and services that help overcome these connectivity issues. Specifically, our mobile operating system KaiOS enables a new category of lite phones that require limited memory, offering smartphone-like functionality at a fraction of the cost.

The KaiOS mission is to close the digital divide and make everyone part of the digital revolution.

These affordable, internet-enabled mobile phones have the greatest potential for delivering unprecedented opportunities in education, communication, entertainment, and business to both established and less developed markets. This includes giving many users first-time access to the internet.

Connecting the unconnected

Looking at emerging markets as a whole, there has been a dramatic transformation in connectivity. According to the ICT Facts and Figures 2017, mobile broadband subscriptions have grown more than 20 percent annually in the last five years and are expected to reach 4.3 billion globally by end 2017.

Image by International Telecommunications Union’s “Facts and Figures for 2017”

With internet-enabled mobile phones, users will be able to connect with each other like never before. UNCTAD’s World Investment Report found that access to the internet directly correlates to productivity gains in sectors like education, healthcare, financial services, agriculture, retail, and government, among others.

In Indonesia, for example, mobile banking became a catalyst for the peer-to-peer lending firm Amartha, when the company moved into fintech. While three quarters of the country’s population does not have a bank account, the addition of mobile technology to Amartha’s services allowed for 30,000 microentrepreneurs to receive $5.1 million in loans – providing new opportunities and revenues for their families. Amartha was also able to disburse nearly 600 percent more loans and raise the maximum loan value from $225 to $750 to provide additional funds to its customers.

The last piece of the digital divide puzzle: apps

While making devices affordable is an important step in bridging the digital divide, it’s not enough by itself. The other crucial piece is content. Without the same world-class apps smartphone owners enjoy, as well as apps tailored at these new user groups, the digital divide remains in place

Together with our partners we’re also solving this remaining piece of the puzzle. KaiOS is one of only three global operating systems capable of supporting the most popular third-party apps, offering consumers an alternative to smartphones. Soon, you’ll be able to download mobile apps, such as social media, instant messaging, games, video calls, and even intelligent voice assistants, without the expensive price tag that comes with owning a smartphone.

Alongside our partners, we want to go from digital divide to digital opportunity for all members of society. With the affordability lowering and the number of apps on KaiOS increasing every month, we get a step closer to fulfilling this mission every day.

Looking for help with your KaiOS phone? Visit our Help Center. Have a partnership idea? Click here to fill out the form. Our sales will get in touch with you shortly.

Company updates

Meet KaiOS Technologies: The force behind 30 million phones and counting

KaiOS Technologies was founded in 2016, but since we’re just launching our blog, I want to take this opportunity to welcome you to the Kai community. Below I’ll provide some background about our company and mission.

We all know what smartphones are, and although it seems like they’ve taken over the mobile phone market, it’s estimated only 30 percent of the world’s population owns one. That means 70 percent either doesn’t want one, can’t afford one, or is looking for an alternative.

At Kai, our goal is to bridge the divide between the billions of people in emerging markets who still don’t have basic internet access, as well as those in more established markets that do. As a result, we will make internet access available to all, regardless of whether people are uncomfortable with advanced technology, don’t own a smartphone, or can’t afford one.

That’s why in 2016 we began developing KaiOS, a mobile operating system based on HTML5. The goal? To support a new category of lite phones and other IoT devices that require limited memory, so they can come at an affordable price, while still offering users the best features possible.

JioPhone by Reliance Industries
KaiOS brings the functionality of a smartphone to feature phones, such as the U.S. Alcatel GO FLIP™ Phone or India’s Reliance JioPhone (pictured above).

Phones running on KaiOS have an easy-to-use interface for non-touch devices and support 4G/LTE, as well as Wi-Fi, GPS, and NFC. KaiOS is one of only three global mobile operating systems capable of supporting most popular third-party apps, and we’re launching our Store for apps in the near future.

KaiOS now runs on 30 million phones in the U.S., Canada, and India. We have partnerships with 20 carriers including AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Reliance Jio — and this is just the beginning.

World map with Kai office locations
Kai’s global team comes for a variety of different backgrounds and fields, offering users a new solution that is revolutionizing the affordable phone market.

We started with 30 team members in 2016. Now we’re close to 200 people with rich backgrounds in mobile technology, software development, and the telecoms industry. Our diverse team is spread across offices in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.

As we look to the future, we’re working to gain new partnerships and enhance our technology so we can offer our services in more than 100 countries by the end of 2018.

Sebastien Codeville, CEO Kai Technologies
Kai looks to bridge the digital gap and bring the internet to people across the globe.

We’re at the forefront of a digital revolution that is opening up new opportunities for individuals, their families, and communities. With our technology and the help of our partners, we believe that one day everyone will have access to advanced digital services.

Looking for help with your KaiOS phone? Visit our Help Center. Have a partnership idea? Click here to fill out the form. Our sales will get in touch with you shortly.