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When it comes to mobile communications, the media usually only talks about smartphone operating systems like Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, and more recently, Huawei’s own HongMeng/ARK OS. But smartphones only cover around half of the approximately 5.1 billion mobile subscriptions in the world. There are still billions of people out there using feature phones – “dumb” phones, as some like to call them, with small screens, no touch capabilities, and far more limited hardware configurations than even the cheapest entry-level smartphone. These phones usually come with limited capabilities and without a more serious operating system. This is what KaiOS wants to change – the third most popular mobile operating system that you probably haven’t heard about.
What is KaiOS
In short, KaiOS is a smart operating system built with feature phones in mind.
It is capable of running on phones with at least 256MB of RAM (yet it needs 512MB for more advanced functions), offering users 4G and WiFi connectivity, Bluetooth, GPS, and HTML5. It has its own app marketplace – KaiStore – that allows users to download HTML5-based applications, and it offers over-the-air updates, much like Android and iOS. Globally, KaiOS runs on an estimated number of 100 million feature phones, offering not only a means of connecting to the internet, choosing the best mobile pokie and HTML5 games but also to connect to popular services like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and many others.
KaiOS may not be very widespread yet – the OS was first released in 2017 – but it is already becoming very popular in many areas, especially in India, where it has a market share exceeding that of iOS.
Plans for the future
KaiOS is already powering a few major phone models – Nokia’s 8110 4G runs a modified version of the operating system and other models like Alcatel’s OneTouch Go Flip, Reliance Jio’s Jio Phone models, Caterpillar’s CAT B35, and several other models are using it. It is already pretty widely used in several African countries, Indonesia and India, Brazil, Mexico, and some phone models available in the United States and Canada. And its development is far from being done.
This summer, KaiOS secured a funding round from companies like Google, TCL (the company behind Alcatel), and it was already in a partnership with Facebook and Qualcomm. It plans to use its funds to develop the operating system further. Its plans for the future include the expansion to more different form factors, the optimization of the operating system to work better on lower-end devices, and the addition of new features for an overall more smartphone-like experience. Among others, the developers plan to add tabbed browsing, multitasking, and copy-paste functionality as well as improve its performance, security, and photography. Also, the developer plans to release KaiOS in more African, Middle Eastern, and Latin American countries, and certain markets in Asia as well.