Four perspectives: Will Apple trim App Store fees?

The fact that Apple takes a 30% cut of subscriptions purchased via the App Store isn’t news. But since the company threatened to boot email app Hey from the platform last week unless its developers paid the customary tribute, the tech world and lawmakers are giving Apple’s revenue share a harder look.

Although Apple’s Senior Vice President of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller denied the company was making any changes, a new policy will let developers challenge the very rules by which they were rejected from the platform, which suggests that change is in the air.

According to its own numbers, the App Store facilitated more than $500 billion in e-commerce transactions in 2019. For reference, the federal government has given out about $529 billion in loans to U.S. businesses as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Given its massive reach, is it time for Apple to change its terms? Will it allow its revenue share to go gently into that good night, or does it have enough resources to keep new legislation at bay and mollify an increasingly vocal community of software developers? To examine these questions, four TechCrunch staffers weighed in:

Devin Coldewey: The App Store fee structure “seems positively extortionate”

Apple is starting to see that its simplistic and paternalistic approach to cultivating the app economy may be doing more harm than good. That wasn’t always the case: In earlier days it was worth paying Apple simply for the privilege of taking part in its fast-expanding marketplace.

But the digital economy has moved on from the conditions that drove growth before: Novelty at first, then a burgeoning ad market supercharged by social media. The pendulum is swinging back to more traditional modes of payment: one-time and subscription payments for no-nonsense services. Imagine that!

Combined with the emergence of mobile platforms not just as tools for simple consumption and communication but for serious work and productivity, the stakes have risen. People have started asking, what value is Apple really providing in return for the rent it seeks from anyone who wants to use its platform?

Surely Apple is due something for its troubles, but just over a quarter of a company’s revenue? What seemed merely excessive for a 99-cent app that a pair of developers were just happy to sell a few thousand copies of now seems positively extortionate.

Apple is in a position of strength and could continue shaking down the industry, but it is wary of losing partners in the effort to make its platform truly conducive to productivity. The market is larger and more complicated, with cross-platform and cross-device complications of which the App Store and iOS may only be a small part — but demanding an incredibly outsized share.

It will loosen the grip, but there’s no hurry. It would be a costly indignity to be too permissive and have its new rules be gamed and hastily revised. Allowing developers to push back on rules they don’t like gives Apple a lot to work with but no commitment. Big players will get a big voice, no doubt, and the new normal for the App Store will reflect a detente between moneyed interests, not a generous change of heart by Apple.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Four perspectives: Will Apple trim App Store fees?

YouTube’s latest experiment is a TikTok rival focused on 15-second videos

YouTube is taking direct aim at TikTok. The company announced on Wednesday it’s beginning to test a new feature on mobile that will allow users to record 15-second long multi-segment videos. That’s the same length as the default on TikTok as well as Instagram’s new TikTok clone, Reels.

Users in the new YouTube experiment will see an option to “create a video” in the mobile upload flow, the company says.

Similar to TikTok, the user can then tap and hold the record button to record their clip. They can then tap again or release the button to stop recording. This process is repeated until they’ve created 15 seconds worth of video footage. YouTube will combine the clips and upload it as one single video when the recording completes. In other words, just like TikTok.

The feature’s introduction also means users who want to record mobile video content longer than 15 seconds will no longer be able to do so within the YouTube app itself. Instead, they’ll have to record the longer video on their phone then upload it from their phone’s gallery in order to post it to YouTube.

YouTube didn’t provide other details on the test — like if it would later include more controls and features related to the short-form workflow, such as filters, effects, music, AR, or buttons to change the video speed, for example. These are the tools that make a TikTok video what it is today — not just the video’s length or its multi-segment recording style.

Still it’s worth noting that YouTube has in its sights the short-form video format popularized by TikTok.

This would not be the first time YouTube countered a rival by mimicking their feature set with one of its own.

The company in 2017 launched an alternative to Instagram Stories, designed for the creation and sharing of more casual videos. But YouTube Stories wouldn’t serve the TikTok audience, as TikTok isn’t as much about personal vlogs as it is about choreographed and rehearsed content. That demands a different workflow and toolset.

YouTube confirmed the videos in this experiment are not being uploaded as Stories, but didn’t offer details on how the 15-second videos would be discoverable on the YouTube app.

The news of YouTube’s latest experiment arrived just ahead of TikTok’s big pitch to advertisers at this week’s IAB NewFronts. TikTok today launched TikTok For Business, its new platform aimed at brands and marketers looking to do business on TikTok’s app. From the new site, advertisers can learn about TikTok’s ad offerings, create and track campaigns, and engage in e-learning.

YouTube says its new video test is running with a small group of creators across both iOS and Android. A company spokesperson noted it was one of several tests the company had in the works around short-form video.

“We’re always experimenting with ways to help people more easily find, watch, share and interact with the videos that matter most to them. We are testing a few different tools for users to discover and create short videos,” a YouTube spokesperson said. “This is one of many experiments we run all the time on YouTube, and we’ll consider rolling features out more broadly based on feedback on these experiments,” they added.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | YouTube’s latest experiment is a TikTok rival focused on 15-second videos

Apple Maps to tell you to refine location by scanning the skyline

With iOS 14, Apple is going to update Apple Maps with some important new features, such as cycling directions, electric vehicle routing and curated guides. But the app is also going to learn one neat trick.

In dense areas where you can’t get a precise location, Apple Maps will prompt you to raise your phone and scan buildings across the street to refine your location.

As you may have guessed, this feature is based on Look Around, a Google Street View-inspired feature that lets you … look around as if you were walking down the street. It’s a bit more refined than Street View as everything is in 3D so you can notice the foreground and the background.

Look Around is only available in a handful of U.S. cities for now, such as San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Las Vegas. But the company is still expanding it with Seattle coming on Monday and major Japanese cities this fall. Some areas that are only accessible on foot will also be available in the future.

When you scan the skyline to refine your location, Apple doesn’t send any data to its servers. Matching is done on your device.

When it comes to guides, Apple has partnered with AllTrails, Lonely Planet, The Infatuation, Washington Post, Louis Vuitton and others to add curated lists of places to Apple Maps. When you tap on the search bar and scroll down on the search card, you can see guides of nearby places.

When you open a guide, you can see all the places on the map or you can browse the guide itself to see those places in a list view. You can share places and save them in a user-made guide — Apple calls it a collection in the current version of Apple Maps.

You can also save a curated guide altogether if you want to check it out regularly. Places get automatically updated.

Image Credits: Apple

As for EV routing, Apple Maps will let add your car, name it and choose a charger type — Apple has partnered with BMW and Ford for now. When you’re planning a route, you can now select the car you’re going to be using. If you select your electric car, Apple Maps will add charging spots on the way. You can tap on spots to see if they are free or paid and the connector type.

Waze users will also be happy to learn that Apple Maps will be able to warn you if you’re exceeding the speed limit. You can also view speed and red light cameras on the map.

In some cities with congestion zones and license plate access, you’ll be able to add your license plate. The information is kept on the device. It’ll refine directions for those cities.

Image Credits: Apple

Finally, my favorite new feature is cycling directions. It’s only going to be available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing at first. Apple ticks all the right boxes, such as taking into consideration cycling paths and elevation. Turn-by-turn directions look slightly different from driving directions with a different framing and a more vertical view.

Google Maps also features cycling directions, but they suck. I can’t wait to try it out to see whether cycling directions actually make sense in Apple Maps. The new version of Apple Maps will ship with iOS 14 this fall.

Image Credits: Apple

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Apple Maps to tell you to refine location by scanning the skyline

China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

For decades, the United States has had a monopoly on positioning, navigation and timing technology with its Global Positioning System (GPS), a constellation of satellites operated by the military that today provides the backbone for location on billions of devices worldwide.

As those technologies have become not just key to military maneuvers but the very foundation of modern economies, more and more governments around the world have sought ways to decouple from usage of the U.S.-centric system. Russia, Japan, India, the United Kingdom and the European Union have all made forays to build out alternatives to GPS, or at least, to augment the system with additional satellites for better coverage.

Few countries, though, have made the investment that China has made into its Beidou (北斗) GPS alternative. Over 20 years, the country has spent billions of dollars and launched nearly three dozen satellites to create a completely separate system for positioning. According to Chinese state media, nearly 70% of all Chinese handsets are capable of processing signals from Beidou satellites.

Now, the final puzzle piece is in place, as the last satellite in the Beidou constellation was launched Tuesday morning into orbit, according to the People’s Daily.

It’s just another note in the continuing decoupling of the United States and China, where relations have deteriorated over differences of market access and human rights. Trade talks between the two countries have reached a standstill, with one senior Trump administration advisor calling them off entirely. The announcement of a pause in new issuances of H-1B visas is also telling, as China is the source of the second largest number of petitions, according to USCIS, the country’s immigration agency.

While the completion of the current plan for Beidou offers Beijing new flexibility and resiliency for this critical technology, ultimately, positioning technologies are mostly not adversarial — additional satellites can offer more redundancy to all users, and many of these technologies have the potential to coordinate with each other, offering more flexibility to handset manufacturers.

Nonetheless, GPS spoofing and general hacking of positioning technologies remains a serious threat. Earlier this year, the Trump administration published a new executive order that would force government agencies to develop more robust tools to ensure that GPS signals are protected from hacking.

Given how much of global logistics and our daily lives are controlled by these technologies, further international cooperation around protecting these vital assets seems necessary. Now that China has its own fully working system, they have an incentive to protect their own infrastructure as much as the United States does to continue to provide GPS and positioning more broadly to the highest standards of reliability.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | China’s GPS competitor is now fully launched

Privacy assistant Jumbo raises $8 million and releases major update

A year after its initial release, Jumbo has two important pieces of news to announce. First, the company has released a major update of its app that protects your privacy on online services. Second, the company has raised an $8 million Series A funding round.

If you’re not familiar with Jumbo, the app wants to fix what’s broken with online privacy today. Complicated terms of services combined with customer-hostile default settings have made it really hard to understand what personal information is out there. Due to recent regulatory changes, it’s now possible to change privacy settings on many services.

While it is possible, it doesn’t mean it is easy. If you’ve tried to adjust your privacy settings on Facebook or LinkedIn, you know that it’s a convoluted process with a lot of sub-menus and non-descriptive text.

Similarly, social networks have been around for more than a decade. While you were comfortable sharing photos and public messages with a small group of friends 10 years ago, you don’t necessarily want to leave this content accessible to hundreds or even thousands of “friends” today.

The result is an iPhone and Android app that puts you in charge of your privacy. It’s essentially a dashboard that lets you control your privacy on the web. You first connect the app to various online services and you can then control those services from Jumbo. Jumbo doesn’t limit itself to what you can do with APIs, as it can mimic JavaScript calls on web pages that are unaccessible to the APIs.

For instance, if you connect your Facebook account, you can remove your profile from advertising lists, delete past searches, change the visibility of posts you’re tagged in and more. On Google, you can delete your history across multiple services — web searches, Chrome history, YouTube searches, Google Map activities, location history, etc.

More fundamentally, Jumbo challenges the fact that everything should remain online forever. Conversations you had six months ago might not be relevant today, so why can’t you delete those conversations?

Jumbo lets you delete and archive old tweets, Messenger conversations and old Facebook posts. The app can regularly scan your accounts and delete everything that is older than a certain threshold — it can be a month, a year or whatever you want.

While your friends will no longer be able to see that content, Jumbo archives everything in a tab called Vault.

With today’s update, everything has been refined. The main tab has been redesigned to inform you of what Jumbo has been doing over the past week. The company now uses background notifications to perform some tasks even if you’re not launching the app every day.

The data-breach monitoring has been improved. Jumbo now uses SpyCloud to tell you exactly what has been leaked in a data breach — your phone number, your email address, your password, your address, etc.

It’s also much easier to understand the settings you can change for each service thanks to simple toggles and recommendations that you can accept or ignore.

Image Credits: Jumbo

A clear business model

Jumbo’s basic features are free, but you’ll need to buy a subscription to access the most advanced features. Jumbo Plus lets you scan and archive your Instagram account, delete your Alexa voice recordings, manage your Reddit and Dropbox accounts and track more than one email address for data breaches.

Jumbo Pro lets you manage your LinkedIn account (and you know that LinkedIn’s privacy settings are a mess). You can also track more information as part of the data breach feature — your ID, your credit card number and your Social Security number. It also lets you activate a tracker blocker.

This new feature in the second version of Jumbo replaces default DNS settings on your phone. All DNS requests are routed through a Jumbo-managed networking profile on your phone. If you’re trying to access a tracker, the request is blocked; if you’re trying to access some legit content, the request goes through. It works in the browser and in native apps.

You can pay what you want for Jumbo Plus, from $3 per month to $8 per month. Similarly, you can pick what you want to pay for Jumbo Pro, between $9 per month and $15 per month.

You might think that you’re giving a ton of personal information to a small startup. Jumbo is well aware of that and tries to reassure its user base with radical design choices, transparency and a clear business model.

Jumbo doesn’t want to mine your data. Your archived data isn’t stored on Jumbo’s servers. It remains on your phone and optionally on your iCloud or Dropbox account as a backup.

Jumbo doesn’t even have user accounts. When you first open the app, the app assigns you a unique ID in order to send you push notifications, but that’s about it. The company has also hired companies for security audits.

“We don’t store email addresses so we don’t know why people subscribe,” Jumbo CEO Pierre Valade told me.

Profitable by 2022

Jumbo has raised an $8 million funding round. It had previously raised a $3.5 million seed round. This time, Balderton Capital is leading the round. The firm had already invested in Valade’s previous startup, Sunrise.

A lot of business angels participated in the round as well, and Jumbo is listing them all on its website. This is all about being transparent again.

Interestingly, Jumbo isn’t betting on explosive growth and eyeballs. The company says it has enough funding until February 2022. By then, the startup hopes it can attract 100,000 subscribers to reach profitability.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Privacy assistant Jumbo raises million and releases major update

Apple’s new Translate app works offline with 11 languages

Translation is an everyday smartphone task for millions of people, but outside a few minor features, Apple has generally ceded the capability to its rivals. That changes today with a new first-party iOS app called, naturally, Translate, which works with 11 languages, no internet connection required.

The app is intended for use with speech or short written sentences, not to translate whole web pages or documents. The interface is simple, with a language selector, text field and record button as well as a few extra widgets like favorites and a dictionary.

At launch Translate will support English, Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Portuguese and Russian, with others to come. You simply select a pair of languages and paste or record a snippet of text or audio. The translation should show up immediately.

There’s also a landscape mode that further simplifies the interface:

Image Credits: Apple

The best part is that unlike many translation apps out there, Apple’s is entirely offline, meaning you can use it whether you have a good or bad signal, if you’re out in the middle of nowhere in a country where you don’t get service or if you’re just trying to save data.

There were no specific release details, so the app will probably appear when you upgrade to iOS 14.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Apple’s new Translate app works offline with 11 languages

Apple unveils iOS 14 with home screen widgets

During the virtual keynote of WWDC, Apple shared the first details about iOS 14, the next major version of iOS that is going to be released later this year. The most visual change is that the home screen is getting widgets.

“This year, we spent time rethinking the iconic experience of the iPhone,” SVP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said. “We’ve rethought some of the core elements of iOS.”

As you know, iOS already comes with widgets in the Today view — swipe left on the home screen to access widgets. Widgets have been completely redesigned. Some of them take the full width of the device, others can be limited to a small square. You can now have two columns of widgets.

But widgets are no longer limited to the Today view. You can drag them out of the Today view and drop them on your home screen. There’s also a new widget gallery that lets you add widgets when you’re moving icons around on the home screen.

Image Credits: Apple

As for home screen organization, Apple knows that a lot of people have an endless list of icons, making the home screen harder to use. Apple is adding some smart organization features.

“Today’s home screen is great but as we get more apps we end up with this — lots and lots of pages,” Federighi said.

At the end of the home screen pages, there’s a new page called the App Library. All the apps that aren’t on your home screen are sorted in automatic categories, such as Apple Arcade.

The other feature that is going to have an impact on multitasking and the home screen is that you can use picture in picture on the iPhone just like on the iPad. You can keep a video in a corner of the screen and do something else on your phone.

Image Credits: Apple

Better group conversations in Messages

Messages is getting a much-needed update to compete with WhatsApp, Telegram and other popular messaging apps. You can now pin conversations at the top to access them more easily.

Conversations themselves are getting an upgrade as you can reply to individual messages. You can then tap on the reply to see the conversation as a separate thread. People can mention you and you can filter your notifications to mentions only.

Each conversation is now more customizable. You can set a photo or an emoji for a conversation. Apple also shows the icons of your contacts in a specific conversation. The most active people get a bigger icon.

Memoji is getting some new options, such as new hair options, new age options and face covers. There are new Memoji stickers as well, such as a hug sticker, a fist bump sticker and a blushing sticker.

Other apps

Apple is also adding new features to Maps. While the U.S. has received updated data, Apple is going to roll out better maps in other countries, based on its own data set. Up next, the U.K., Ireland and Canada will get much more detailed maps. And this is just the first step as the new data set opens up more possibilities.

“In iOS 14, the Maps team will be working with some of the most trusted brands to bring you guides,” Meg Frost, director Product Design of Apple Maps, said. You’ll soon be able to browse information from AllTrails, Zagat and more sources.

In some cities, Apple is going to roll out cycling as a transportation mode. It’ll take into consideration elevation. Cycling will be available in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Shanghai and Beijing at first. For walking directions, you can now say to avoid steps and steep hills.

For drivers, there will be more features as well, such as EV routing and more information about restricted city centers. And if your car supports CarPlay, there will be more types of apps in the future, such as parking apps, EV charging apps and food-ordering apps.

Car manufacturers will also be able to let you use your iPhone as a car key. It leverages the U1 chip on the most recent iPhone models. Interestingly, you’ll be able to share your key with a friend by sending it over iMessage.

Image Credits: Apple

Redesigned Siri and new Translate app

While Siri can be hit or miss, Apple is still iterating on the voice assistant. Siri will no longer take over the entire screen when you trigger it. It’ll be a small bubble at the bottom of the screen, which doesn’t obstruct the rest of the screen. Results appear at the top of the screen and appear like a notification.

You can now ask Siri to send audio messages using iMessage. And if you hate audio messages like me, keyboard dictation has been improved. Your voice is now processed on device, which should help when it comes to speed.

Siri lets you translate words already, but Apple is going one step further by releasing a Translate app. Like Google Translate, you can have a conversation in two different languages. You can translate from voice-to-text-to-voice. If you rotate your iPhone in landscape mode, each person has one side of the screen.

App fatigue

You know that feeling. When your friends ask you to download another app, you don’t want to open the App Store. That’s why Apple is launching App Clips. They are sort of mini apps that you can launch without installing an app. It’s a small part of an app that you can easily share.

There are many ways to share App Clips. You can launch those apps from the web, from Messages, from Maps, from NFC tags or from QR codes. Get ready to see stickers at cafés, on scooters or in museums. Scan a code or tap your phone on it and you get an app-like experience. If you want to dive deeper, you can download the full app from the App Library.

More focus on privacy

Apple is adding a slew of new privacy-centric features. For instance, there’ll be a new dot in the top-right corner to indicate that an app is using or has recently used your microphone or camera. There will be new privacy cards in the App Store description pages to tell you how your data is used before you download an app. Apps will also have to ask before they track you across other apps and websites.

As always, iOS 14 will be tested over the summer and should be available to everyone in September.

Image Credits: Apple

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Apple unveils iOS 14 with home screen widgets

Spotify tests in-app offers, an interactive ad format for podcasts

Spotify is testing a new, more interactive ad format designed for podcasts: the in-app offer. Instead of prompting listeners to remember a coupon code or visit a specific website address, the in-app offer allows users to redeem an offer at a time that’s convenient for them. This is done by way of a visual reminder within the Spotify app, which displays the sponsors on the podcast episode’s page.

Below the podcast and description, a new section titled “Episode Sponsors” will appear, allowing listeners to then click through on the offer to redeem the coupon or other special deal. This will open the user’s browser to the advertiser’s landing page for immediate redemption, says Spotify.

“The average podcast listener has heard a countless number of ads ending with promo codes or show-specific websites, carefully repeated three times so as not to forget it. In-App Offers makes it vastly simpler for listeners to redeem deals whenever they come back to the app, and we can all benefit from one fewer ‘w-w-w-dot’ spelling lesson from our favorite podcast creators,” says Joel Withrow, senior product manager of Podcast Monetization at Spotify, in a statement.

The product is designed to better fit with the way users actually listen to podcasts — usually, while they’re doing something else, like cooking, cleaning, working out or driving for example. That means they often have to make a mental note of the offers they hear and want to research later. But this can be challenging.

The new product is in early alpha testing in the U.S. with Harry’s in Last Podcast on the Left and in Germany with HelloFresh in Herrengedeck. There isn’t yet a way to sign up to participate.

Image Credits: Spotify

The new feature builds on Spotify’s existing Streaming Ad Insertion (SAI) technology, introduced at the beginning of 2020 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. SAI technology makes key data — like ad impressions, frequency, reach, plus anonymized age, gender and device type — available to podcasters and advertisers on Spotify for the first time. This sort of data was more difficult if not impossible, to collect via podcasts that were served only as downloads from RSS feeds.

The company explained at the time of launch the problem it aimed to solve was on the advertiser’s side — they didn’t know whether or not the ad they purchase is being consumed by the user.

SAI will be widely available to advertisers in the U.S. starting this summer, and is now available to select advertisers in Germany.

The addition of in-app offers to Spotify’s suite comes following a continued heavy investment in podcasts, podcast tools and podcasting ad technology on the company’s part. The company recently announced an exclusive audio partnership with DC & Warner Bros. and the launch of podcast playlists, for example. Spotify also just landed a podcast deal with Kim Kardashian West, focused on criminal justice, and brought top podcast The Joe Rogan Experience to its platform exclusively.

Meanwhile, Spotify says it’s seeing triple-digit growth in podcast consumption, year-over-year, on its platform, while podcasts, more broadly, are reaching 1 in 3 or 100 million Americans every month.

Spotify didn’t say when the new in-app offers ad experience would be publicly available.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Spotify tests in-app offers, an interactive ad format for podcasts

Watch Apple’s WWDC keynote live right here

Apple is holding a keynote today on the first day of its developer conference, and the company is expected to talk about a ton of software updates. WWDC is a virtual event this year, but you can expect the same amount of news, in a different format. At 10 AM PT (1 PM in New York, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris), you’ll be able to watch the event as the company is streaming it live.

Rumor has it that the company plans to unveil new versions of its operating systems. Get ready for iOS 14 and its sibling iPadOS 14, a new version of macOS, some updates for watchOS and tvOS as well.

But the most interesting rumor of the year is that Apple could announce a major change for the Mac. The company could start using its own in-house ARM systems on a chip instead of Intel’s processors. It would have a ton of consequences for third-party apps running on your Mac as well as Mac hardware in general. Imagine a MacBook with a battery that lasts as long as what you get from an iPad. There could be some more hardware news, such as a new design for the iMac or some Tile-style hardware trackers.

You can watch the live stream directly on this page as Apple is streaming its conference on YouTube.

If you have an Apple TV, you can download the Apple Events app in the App Store. It lets you stream today’s event and rewatch old ones. The app icon was updated a few days ago for the event.

And if you don’t have an Apple TV and don’t want to use YouTube, the company also lets you live-stream the event from the Apple Events section on its website. This video feed now works in all major browsers — Safari, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.

Of course, you also can read TechCrunch’s live blog if you don’t want to stop everything and watch a video.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | Watch Apple’s WWDC keynote live right here

How Reliance Jio Platforms became India’s biggest telecom network

It’s raised $5.7 billion from Facebook. It’s taken $1.5 billion from KKR, another $1.5 billion from Vista Equity Partners, $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund$1.35 billion from Silver Lake, $1.2 billion from Mubadala, $870 million from General Atlantic, $750 million from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, $600 million from TPG, and $250 million from L Catterton.

And it’s done all that in just nine weeks.

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms is the world’s most ambitious tech company. Founder Mukesh Ambani has made it his dream to provide every Indian with access to affordable and comprehensive telecommunications services, and Jio has so far proven successful, attracting nearly 400 million subscribers in just a few years.

The unparalleled growth of Reliance Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of India’s most-valued firm (Reliance Industries), has shocked rivals and spooked foreign tech companies such as Google and Amazon, both of which are now reportedly eyeing a slice of one of the world’s largest telecom markets.

What can we learn from Reliance Jio Platforms’s growth? What does the future hold for Jio and for India’s tech startup ecosystem in general?

Through a series of reports, Extra Crunch is going to investigate those questions. We previously profiled Mukesh Ambani himself, and in today’s installment, we are going to look at how Reliance Jio went from a telco upstart to the dominant tech company in four years.

The birth of a new empire

Months after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, launched his telecom network Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal of Airtel — his chief rival — was struggling in public to contain his frustration.

That Ambani would try to win over subscribers by offering them free voice calling wasn’t a surprise, Mittal said at the World Economic Forum in January 2017. But making voice calls and the bulk of 4G mobile data completely free for seven months clearly “meant that they have not gotten the attention they wanted,” he said, hopeful the local regulator would soon intervene.

This wasn’t the first time Ambani and Mittal were competing directly against each other: in 2002, Ambani had launched a telecommunications company and sought to win the market by distributing free handsets.

In India, carrier lock-in is not popular as people prefer pay-as-you-go voice and data plans. But luckily for Mittal in their first go around, Ambani’s journey was cut short due to a family feud with his brother — read more about that here.

Source: Tech Crunch Mobiles | How Reliance Jio Platforms became India’s biggest telecom network