4G feature phone
This page is intended to provide readers a brief overview of 4G feature phones, so that you can learn about the market before venturing into it.
Because of various different types of demand, dozens of feature phone that are capable of supporting 4G network have been released in various markets, including China, Japan, South Korea, India, the United States, Canada, Taiwan, and so on.
There are drastic different in regard of what type of capabilities could these 4G feature phone provide, from the bottommost end where only phone call are supported, to the top end where it is basically a smartphone being packed in a feature phone form factor. However, because most feature phone users does not demand smart capability offered by smartphones, it is important to remember that more does not always mean better, including too much capability could increase price of these devices and reduce the device responsibility as well as battery life. Device makers should clearly evaluate what sort of functionality is needed when they are making their 4G feature phones, some device makers have also choose to actively block out some functionalities like installation of applications in order to prevent third party applications from slowing down the phone and consume extra battery.
Despite unlabelled, many of these phones actually run on Android system, or derivative that are developed from Android. Some, but not all of these phone, might allow installation of a limited set of Android applications, or preloaded with some of these application, in order to provide better connectivity to user of these device in the modern era.
Another operating system being developed for this market is the KaiOS. Based on Firefox OS, a few carriers have already launched devices based on the platform, and it have also gained some visibility across media report.
Finally, there are also some proprietary systems being developed for these 4G feature phones by makers like ZTE but they are still minority out on the market.
There are some special features regarding the feature phone market in Japan. First of all, it is relatively feature rich compared to feature phone in other couhntries, including functionalities like TV tuner, mobile wallet, infrared, waterproof and such. Seconndly, because of these unique features, components used in these phones are relatively unique in the market. Because of the shift to smartphone among majority of population, many of these unique components have terminated productions and thus production of traditional Japanese feature phone have ceased, however there's still a sizable market that does not want to use smartphone and choose to continue using feature phone.
Carriers and mobile phone companies have previously made some attempts to attract these customers. circa 2011 a few smartphone with feature phone form factor (flip, slide, etc.) have been released into the market, however the reception was not good because of the lack of optimization for the market. However, as traditional feature phone supply starts to dry up, and carriers are also moving toward 4G technology, they rethink about the production and launched what they describe as galaho. Compared to earlier attempts, the product is far more feature phone liked, especially in the sense that it does not carry a touch screen and have no google service integration. Users can still browse the internet and use social media app on the phone which is also a selling point to encourage users upgrading to feature phones. Many of these phones also carry a touch panel overlayed on top of the keypad that can allow users navigate the screen via mouse, partially replacing the functionality of touch screen in some apps and web browsing, similar to behaviour of feature phone. Alternatively it can also function like certain Kyocera phone that use 5-way navigation key to act as a pointing device in the phone.
Other than those galaho released via carriers, some smaller manufacturers and MVNOs also released 4G feature phone. The smartness of these phones vary, but most of them like Freetel Musashi also carry a touch screen which goes back to the question on earlier generation of carrier devices, which is the control does not really expect users to use the device via keypad instead of touch screen. Generally speaking, the response are not really favorable.
So far basically all the 4G feature phone released in the market are powered by Android and use ability to comaptible with some android based chat app as a selling point, although there are also some 4G smartwatches for kids that are not android based.
As a global manufacturing hub, there are many 4G network compatible feature phone that are made and sold in China. For those that are android-based, QQ and wechat compatible would be an important selling point, otherwise it does not seems like many of them have been specifically marketed other than for the fact that they support 4G network. Most of them does not even label they are android and many of them enforce rules and settings to various degree to prevent installation of third party software. This is probably extra important in China due to the unregulated app development scene that have no core distributer and rule setter which make apps easy to go all the way out to achieve what they wanted to do and thus consume extra computational resources which would be further demanding in the feature phone landscape.
There are also some non-Android manufactuer developed feature phone platform that support 4G.
CDMA retirement is probably the main factor behind the reason why manufacturers are releasing 4G feature phone here, which is why it does not seems like other additional capability have been brought up nor included in these devices.
Also, manufacturers like Kyocera also release android-based phone into the market probably due to change toward acquiring more common components wouold alsso be another driving force behind the release of 4G compatible feature phone.
In the market, the popular telecommunication carrier Reliance Jio only support 4G network, therefore a 4G feature phone (Jiophone) have been released by the carrier to capture 4G phone users which also come with app support. Competing companies also released 4G featuer phone to compete.
With the retirement of 2G network on most carriers, users seeks to update their dumb phone to one that would compatible with newer network technology. While some sort of products do get released onto the market for this purpose, most of them do not seem like satisfactory.