Reliance Jio will launch its LYF-branded phones by the first week of February in at least 13 cities and these handsets will come with the company’s own fully-functional SIM cards and 50 GB of free 4G data, according to retailing sources.
According to these sources, the thirteen cities include the five metros — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore, plus Baroda, Kochi, Hyderabad, Pune, Jaipur, Chandigarh, Indore and Patna.
UPDATE: Reliance Digital — the retail arm of Reliance group — has listed some of the phones on its website for sale and inquiries.
UPDATE 2: Phone sales have started, but Reliance Digital is saying no SIM cards have come yet. Reports from the ground indicate that SIM cards will be available only by end of the month or early next, and the freebies will be offered only after that.
Tens of thousands of LYF phones have reached godowns in each of these cities and the company has already built up a stockpile of millions of LYF phones, indicating that it expects the sale to be a big success. Typically, companies like Lenovo and Xiaomi hold sales with only 40,000-50,000 handsets.
Reliance Jio’s 4G launch must be the topic that has been written about the most number of times, including a recent report about how the players was going to launch in 500 cities on Jan 14. For example, this report from Financial Express in May 2013 says Jio would start services “by the end of the current fiscal (March 2014) in three cities.” Ever since, there have been similar reports every three months, but nearly three years on, the services are yet to start on a commercial basis.
Our own stance has been that full commercial services will start some time in late February, or more likely, early in March. However, we have also pointed to the possibility of an invite-based introduction starting as early as this month, and it looks like selling LYF branded 4G phones may be the best way of achieving an orderly roll-out and preventing total chaos.
As of now, only four LYF models have been unveiled, and all of them are based on the Snapdragonn 615 chipset. As a result, they have to be priced in the Rs 10,000 range and all the way up to around Rs 22,000 for the most expensive (Earth 1.) The cheaper ones among them, Earth 1, 2 and 3, will be priced in the Rs 9,999-18,000 mark.
However, such models will not give Jio the competitive edge that it needs, and this is where a new set of phones — based on the cheaper Snapdragon 410 chipset — come into play.
These 5-inch devices will be priced as low as Rs 5,000, and will come with 720p display, making them very competitive in India’s smartphone market. The cheapest VoLTE-enabled phone in India currently costs Rs 6,999 (Lenovo A6000).
What is more, these phones are likely to carry 50 GB of free 4G data, 5,000 minutes of free talk time on Reliance Jio 4G network and 5,000 free SMS. At Rs 100 per GB and Rs 0.50 per minute and SMS, these freebies are worth Rs 10,000 (Rs 5000+2,500+2,500).
What we don’t know is the validity of these offersAccording to our sources, the validity of the free data will be for 3 months, and the quantum of free data differs from 50 GB to 75 GB, depending on whether you are buying the Snapdragon 615 model or 415 model.