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Google Just Spent Millions To Get Its Products To Work On Dumb Phones

Google wants people to use Google products even when they're not using Android, because of course it does.

Posted on June 28, 2018, at 4:13 a.m. ET

Google just invested $22 million in a feature phone operating system called KaiOS.

KaiOS

I'm confused. Do you mean...iOS?

Sony Pictures Television

No, KaiOS. It's an operating system that powers feature phones — cheap, basic devices that are like the phones you used to use before Apple popularized the modern smartphone — that are still used by a LOT of people in developing countries such as India. According to estimates, way more people in India use KaiOS than Apple's iOS.

In fact, according to TechCrunch, feature phone sales are growing faster than smartphone sales right now.

So what happens now?

KaiOS will now work on integrating Google services like search, maps, YouTube, and Google's voice assistant directly into about 40 million feature phones made by companies like Nokia, Micromax, and Alcatel.

“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 KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville in a statement.

I thought Google just wanted everyone to use Android?

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In an ideal world, sure. But the grim reality is that most people in emerging markets STILL can't afford even basic Android phones, which means they're locked out of Google services like YouTube and Maps and search that the rest of us take for granted.

That's obviously not what Google wants. Which is why making sure its stuff works on whatever people in these countries are using right now makes a ton of sense. Eventually, they'll upgrade to Android — but this deal ensures they'll be hooked on Google's products even if they don't.

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