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
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d be happy to answer your questions and explore how we can work together.