KaiOS is the most popular mobile phone operating system you almost never hear about in the media. The OS that powers some quite popular feature phones, like Nokia’s 8810 4G or Orange’s $20 Sanza, runs on an estimated number of 100 million feature phones around the world. Most of these phones are incredibly affordable and have a nice feature set plus a long battery life, making them practical in many areas. This year, the company behind this emerging operating system is planning to introduce new features and expand its reach to new territories.
What is KaiOS
After the Mozilla Foundation discontinued the development of its own smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, its source code was made public as B2G (Boot to Gecko), an open-source, community-driven product. KaiOS was forked from this project by KaiOS Technologies, a company based in San Diego, California (USA). The first version of KaiOS was released in 2017, adding many smart features to “dumb” phones (feature phones) with the goal “to help close the digital divide by bringing mobile connectivity to the billions of people without internet in emerging markets”. And it was surprisingly successful, attracting several major funding rounds and investments from tech giants like Google and telecom companies like India’s Reliance Jio, for example.
For a “dumb” phone, the feature set offered by KaiOS is surprisingly smart. For one, it supports 4G LTE, WiFi, and GPS, so it can navigate the web, stream videos from YouTube, and run the games at Betway casino without any problems. Plus, it is optimized to run on devices with less RAM (from 256MB) and it is also very power-efficient. Among others, KaiOS comes with over-the-air updates and its own app marketplace called KaiStore where its users can download HTML5 apps, and it has partnered with many major brands – from Facebook to Twitter – to bring their services to its users.
New features, markets, and form factors
One of the new features KaiOS Technologies plans to roll out in the coming months is tabbed browsing on the OS’s built-in web browser. Unfortunately, this will only work on devices with at least 512MB of RAM. At the same time, the developers are tweaking the phone’s web browser to make it faster, improving the typing function that was a bit laggy on the previous versions and adding new services to the platform in the second part of the year – KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville didn’t reveal any other information about these.
Codeville revealed that KaiOS plans to expand to further markets in Africa and the Middle East, as well as break into the South American market. To this end, the company plans to launch in Brazil and Mexico in the summer, then expand to other LatAm markets in the coming months.