Reliance Jio has stirred up a lot of hype in the Indian telecom sector. Despite numerous rumors claiming a launch during December 2015, the company only did what they termed as a “soft-launch” with SIM cards given to RIL employees.
Reliance Jio has its network set up all over India but in order to optimize its network, the operator wants to allow just a few people to use it initially before a broader commercial launch for the public. To that extent, the operator has started allowing RIL employees to start sharing 10 LYF invites. If you managed to receive one of these LYF invites, you can buy any LYF smartphone and get unlimited calling, data and text for three months. Keep in mind that the SIM is locked to the LYF handset and cannot be used on another phone. Also the invites are non-transferable and can be used only by the original recipient.
We managed to get a Reliance Jio SIM card a couple of weeks back. After few days of testing, we feel that Jio has managed to create a robust 4G network all over Chennai (where we have been testing), but we won’t be divulging into network performance in this article as Jio’s network is currently empty and network performances keep varying from area to area. Rather we’re going to talk about various Jio apps that come bundled as part of the ecosystem.
Reliance Jio has always kept saying that it’s trying to create a “digital ecosystem” and for that, the telecom operator has a lot of apps. We’ll be reviewing those apps in this article. Before we start, it’s important to note two things.
- These apps are still in beta and will be updated a lot of times before the commercial launch and also after the commercial launch.
- Most of the Jio apps require you to enter your Jio ID along with a password to be able to make use of the app.
1. My Jio
This app is very similar to My Airtel or My Vodafone app. The basic purpose is for the user to be able to keep a track of their various balances, check their data consumption and recharge.
When you first install the My Jio app, it would provide you with an option to download all other Jio apps available on Play Store or App Store. Please note that not all apps are available on Play Store or App Store, for a list of full apps refer this link. It’s upon the end user to decide whether to install all the Jio apps or not.
When entering the My Jio app, the app would ask you to log in or sign up. In order to log in, users need a Jio ID and in order to create a Jio ID, users must sign up. While signing up, the app would ask you to enter your Jio number and then send a OTP to your registered mobile number. Once you enter the OTP, the signup form appears which asks you for your email address and asks you to set a password and confirm it. After finishing the signup process, you can now log into all Jio apps including My Jio app.
On the inside, the My Jio app is minimalistic. It has three buttons at the bottom which are Recharge, Usage and Add number. At the top you are shown your main account balance, below which are a series of balances for your data, SMS and calls. There is a hamburger menu on top left hand side that shows all the options of the My Jio app.
Clicking at Recharge allows you to have a look at various plans the company has to offer. As of now, there are three different Jio plans namely Combo plans, Voice and SMS, Data recharges. Combo plans are further divided into data combo plans and voice combo plans. Data combo and voice combo plans are the same except that the former doesn’t bundle in voice minutes where as voice combo plan does. The bundle includes LTE Data, Wifi Data, Night LTE Data, Voice minutes and SMSes. If we were to take a guess, we’re assuming Night LTE data might be something that’s counted between 12am to 6am, and Wifi Data is the data consumed over Jio hotspots. As a general rule, Wifi Data and Night LTE data are generally double of your normal data allotment.
The second type of plans are Voice and SMS which are nothing but various types of rate cutters Jio has in place. The last type of recharge is Data recharge which helps you recharge just the data you want. In case of data recharge, there’s no night or wifi distinction, it’s just plain data.
The Usage section helps you to know how much data you have consumed, minutes of calls placed or the number of messages sent. The consumption is neatly represented in the form a chart which can be viewed on a scale of daily or weekly basis. Please note that consumption is not reflected in real time and as of now it takes at least 24 hours for proper data to be available.
The last tab is ‘Add number’ which is self explanatory. It helps you add another Jio number. The hamburger menu at top right left hand side consists of some options like Recharge History, Store Locator, Hotspot Locator, My Plans, Statement and Support. As far as Support goes, Reliance Jio has all kinds of support mechanisms in place. You can drop off an email, call someone, ask someone to call you or chat with someone, all right within the app.
The UI of the app is mediocre at best and there are a lot of unnecessary repetitions that Reliance Jio can get rid off to make the app look more simple. For example the My Plans section comes while clicking at Recharge.
2. Jio Join
You can make calls from your native dialer to any number as long as your device supports VoLTE. Also VoLTE capable devices can receive calls on the native dialer. However the vast majority of smartphones in India don’t support it and these smartphones cannot make or receive calls on 4G.
To work around this, Jio has the Jio Join app. While setting up, the app would first check if the device has a Jio SIM. After that, it’d ask a plethora of permissions in case you’re running Marshmallow and more importantly the app would ask you to allow it to draw over other apps.
The basic purpose of the Jio Join app is to facilitate voice calls on smartphones that don’t support VoLTE. However, that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of your native dialer. You can still dial numbers from that, but when you do, the Jio Join app would appear as it has permission to draw over other apps and it’s the Jio Join app the would connect your call but the call log would still be stored by your native dialer. Similarly, when you receive a call, it’s the Jio Join app that receives the call, but the native dialer would log the call nonetheless.
So basically Jio Join app acts as a background app that helps you connect your calls while you make and receive calls on your native dialer. However in order to be able to send SMSes on Jio 4G ,it’s necessary to set Join Jio as the default SMS app.
The Jio join app has its fair share of bugs. As of now, the Jio Join app doesn’t work when we connect to our Wifi network, it works only on LTE and even on LTE, it sometimes stops working while we’re downloading a heavy file. The UI of Jio Join is once again mediocre at best. There’s a persistent Notification on the notification panel to indicate whether Jio Join is working or not, that Notification can be turned off from settings however.
3. Jio Security
Jio Security is a Norton powered app. This app allows a host of features that a security app would allow, but how effective they are remains unknown, for example, we ran a check on our Android device and this was the result.
As you can see above, the app listed Inbox by Google as a high risk app. We find that a little tough to believe because of all developers on Play Store, Google is least likely to produce an app that isn’t secure. How exactly does the Jio Join app classify apps as High risk or low risk remains unknown. Apart from scanning the apps installed on your phone, the Jio Security app can also monitor your browsing and show a warning dialog in case it feels the site you’re loading is malicious.
The app also has an anti-theft service built in that can help you wipe, locate and make your phone scream in case it gets lost. Apart from that, the anti-theft feature also has a protection in place to check if the SIM card has been changed and if so requires the person to enter a pin code before he or she can access the phone again. The Jio Security app can also help you block numbers as well as mark the safety of apps on Play Store while you’re browsing for apps.
4. Jio Beats
This is the music streaming player Jio has to offer. While setting up, it allows you to select the languages you want. Even before its official launch, Jio has managed to license a lot of music for Jio Beats. We can’t comment on other languages, but as far as Bollywood Songs go, the content arsenal is pretty comprehensive. We were able to search for some really old Hindi songs on Jio Beats and managed to find them. Apart from old songs, a lot of newly launched movies are available as well.
The app’s UI is pretty decent, but bugs do exist. For example, we were not able to launch the Jio Beats app when we were in some other application and try to select it from the notification panel. Similarly, the app does not yet have a feature to start a radio station based upon the song that’s currently playing, a feature that’s pretty common in almost all music streaming apps these days. Just like most streaming apps, Jio Beats also has its Weekly Top 20 list, playlists dedicated to certain artists as well as playlists based upon moods.
Jio Beats also has a recommendation section, but I personally didn’t find it very useful, your mileage may vary. The settings of Jio Beats are very basic, they let you choose the quality at which your song streams and downloads as well whether you would like a dark or light theme for the music player. Before finishing, we would again like to stress that Reliance really has managed to license a comprehensive set of Hindi Songs for Jio Beats.
5. Jio On Demand
Jio On Demand is Reliance Jio’s version of Netflix. It has around 600-800 movies available on demand. Apart from movies, almost all popular TV shows are available on demand. We were able to find a lot episodes of several popular shows such as Comedy Nights with Kapil or CID. Music videos in all launguages are also available and considering how a vast majority of people use Youtube for just music videos, this can be a real traffic driver for Jio On Demand.
Even when it comes to its on demand service, Jio has once again managed to have a very expansive content arsenal, definitely enough to challenge the likes of HotStar. However, Reliance hasn’t managed to cover all bases. For example, as far as movies are concerned, Jio has only managed to license North Indian and English movies for its on-demand service. No South Indian movies have been licensed from what we could see. Also when it comes to on-demand TV shows, there are no English TV shows available.
The one thing that Reliance has really managed to nail down with Jio On Demand is that its collection of Hindi movies is the most comprehensive we have seen on any on demand video service. If you’re a Bollywood movie buff, Jio On Demand is what you would want. Of course, it doesn’t have every Bollywood movie, but it’s definitely more than any other on demand streaming service in India.
The UI is once again pretty decent and we haven’t noticed any issues with the app. As of now, it looks bug free to us. There’s no option to control the resolution of the video nor is there any option to download videos. The app has heavily borrowed its UI from Netflix. Just like Netflix, there’s an option to resume movies or TV shows just where you left it. Also there’s a trending on Jio row which also seems to be inspired from Netflix’s “Trending on Netflix”.
6. Jio Play
If you want us to put it in one line, Jio Play is basically your entire DTH connection in one app. Almost all the channels that you’re likely to see on Tata Sky or Dish TV are on Jio Play. There are of course some channels which haven’t been added yet. For example there’s no Sony Six HD or Sony ESPN HD in sports which means no IPL. Similarly, there’s no Star World HD which means no Game of Thrones. These are important channels which Reliance hasn’t managed to license but in general Reliance has got several other prominent channels such as Sony HD, Star Plus HD, Colors HD, Max HD, CNBC, ABP News, NDTV etc.
All in all, there are about 300 channels available on Jio Play, by comparison, Tata Sky has around 400 channels available excluding Actve services, Showcase, similar HD and SD channels etc. Jio Play definitely hasn’t managed to have all channels, but 300 isn’t bad either. Jio Play has all channels recorded for a period of 7 days which means you can easily catch up on any missed episodes of your favorite sitcom. You have the option to download any future shows that you might want to watch for the next 7 days. Remember, Jio Play doesn’t let you download older shows, only future shows can be downloaded. Also only 7 day old shows can be streamed and only shows upcoming for the next 7 days can be downloaded.
There is one funny thing that we came across while using Jio Play, HotStar is actually a channel within Jio Play, clicking on HotStar just lead us to the HotStar app. We believe there is some kind of cooperation between Jio Play and HotStar, and this understanding is the reason why Star World HD or Sony SIX HD channels aren’t a part of Jio Play since content like IPL and Game of Thrones are HotStar exclusive. What remains to be seen is whether a subscription to Jio Play has HotStar covered or HotStar would require a separate subscription. At any rate if you include the content of HotStar, then Jio Play is definitely the most comprehensive live streaming app out there.
The UI of this app is bad. All the channels and their respective shows are listed in a spreadsheet like table, scrolling which has been a nightmare. Once you select an app, the streaming quality is adjustable and you can select between low medium and high. The settings are once again pretty minimalistic allowing you to “Upgrade” and select whether you want the app to be in English or Hindi. There’s the option to set certain channels as favorite.
7. Jio Express News and Jio Mags
As the name suggests, this is Jio’s news app. While setting up, it asks you what languages you would like to receive your news in as well as the topics that interest you. We chose Hindi and English as our languages and science & technology as our preferred topic.
The UI of the app is pretty great, in fact the best UI amongst all Reliance Jio apps. There are two forms of reading the article. You could either load the article in the built in browser or there’s something called the Express Format that quickly loads the articles, think of the Express Format as Google’s AMP or Facebook’s Instant Articles.
You could select which sources you receive your from news from and there are more than a hundred news sources to choose from. You can favorite certain articles as well change the languages and topics of your interest. This has been the most well designed Jio app. It’s minimalistic, but at the same time, provides all the necessary controls and the Express Format is the real diamond. The Express Format isn’t as stripped down as Twitter’s Quick read mode while at the same time it loads pretty damn fast.
Jio Mags is a separate application. It’s basically an app that consists of several popular magazines. There are various sections to choose from such as travel, tech, fashion politics etc. Selecting a particular section brings up the relevant magazines. Selecting a magazine displays you various editions of the magazine available.
The process of selecting a magazine on the Jio Mags app is pretty slick, however, the process of reading it up is the complete opposite. There are no animations to make the end user feel as though he’s flipping through a magazine, rather it’s like you have loaded up a magazine PDF on your smartphone and just scrolling through the various pages. What’s worse is that the text of the pages are also not made to fit the screen size, we had to literally zoom in and scroll left and right to be able to read.
Jio definitely has to put in a lot of work if it wants its Mags app to be even remotely readable. As of now the magazines are like PDF documents and PDFs aren’t fun to read on Android smartphones. You have the option to see how much data the magazines are occupying on your smartphones and the languages you want to read them in.
8. Jio Money
As the name suggests, this is Jio’s wallet app. The UI isn’t exactly horrible but it’s definitely something that looks like it was made on a computer running Windows 95.
There is nothing special that makes Jio Money stand out in the crowd from say PayTM and Freecharge. Jio Money does require you to enter your mPIN every time you open the app. There’s the general utility payment option. You could recharge your phone, DTH, pay for your landline, electricity bills etc. There’s an option to pay the merchant using either the merchant’s name or by generating an OTP that can be entered at the merchant’s PoS equipment. There’s the option to send and receive payments from others using Jio wallet. There are the usual set of coupons that give you discounts.
We found very little reason for someone to leave PayTM or Freecharge and use Jio Money especially when the app isn’t even having a slick interface. The only thing that can set the app apart is the number of offline merchants it’s able to partner up with. One interesting tid bit we found is that there appears to be something like a physical Jio card that can be used to make payments as well. Also considering that Jio now has a payments bank license, you do have the option to transfer money to banks as well.
9. Jio Chat
Jio Chat has been the only application that’s been available to the general public for a long time now. The app surely has seen a lot of updates and in its current state is like a mashup of WeChat, Hike and Snapchat.
The app allows you to place a call or a video call to anyone who’s also using the Jio chat app. With Whatsapp rumored to soon add the video capability, this isn’t anything unique anymore and the video sharing capability isn’t unlimited either. The app does have some other tricks though.
You can send 100 SMS every month to any contact in India. There’s a channels section in the app which features channels like Lighting Deals, Grofers, Byju’s etc. Basically it is Jio chat copying WeChat’s official accounts. Once you add a particular channel, you’ll receive messages from the channel to keep you updated about its activities and the discounts and promotions in place. You can select whether you can to be notified about messages from a channel or not. Clicking at the bottom buttons of a channel opens content in a built in browser that allows you to interact with various services or products that the Channel has to offer.
Just like Snapchat discover, there’s something called Explore in Jio Chat that features short video clips from IPL, Filmfare etc. There’s the usual sticker store and the ability to add people by scanning their QR codes. Jio Chat definitely has a lot of tricks up its sleeves but its not the first to try and most currently dominating chat apps have network effects at Play breaking which is almost impossible.
10. Jio Drive
This is Jio’s cloud storage service, however its UI is simply nowhere near that of Dropbox or Google Drive. It provides you with similar functionality such as the ability to create folder and upload file or the ability to upload photos and videos, however there is a special emphasis on it being a multi-device app or in other words it wants to make collaboration as easy as possible. But with Dropbox taking various steps such as integrations with Adobe and Microsoft, it’s difficult to see how Jio Drive would stand out in the crowd. One interesting feature of Jio Drive that we found interesting was device restore which allows you to copy the content of one device onto another with just a click.
11. Other miscellaneous apps
There are a few other miscellaneous apps Jio has to offer that require you to become a tester on Play Store and aren’t a part of the My Jio app. These are Net Velocity, Jio Now, Jio Broadcast, Jio Switch, Jio Speed and Jionet. Net Velocity is basically Jio’s version of the popular Speedtest.net app, but it tests its speed with just Jio servers while on the other hand Speedtest.net selects from a wide variety of servers available and chooses which one suits the best. The Net Velocity app does provide more detail than the Speedtest.net app though. For example it ranks your speed in the form of stars with 1 being lowest and 5 being highest. It shows Jitter as packet loss along with Signal Strength and Signal quality.
The Jio Broadcast app wasn’t able to load on our smartphone as it needed some additional app from Play Store. However, the screenshots had IPL shows. Also in the description, it was written that the app would soon be available for compatible handsets, if we’re to take a guess here, this is nothing else but LTE broadcast. LTE broadcast is a form of technology that lets mobile operators to stream the same content such as an IPL match to all smartphones, it hasn’t seen mass adoption in any country yet. Verizon did try to trial LTE Broadcast in America but hasn’t had solid results. However, it’s important to note that LTE Broadcast is a bandwidth efficient to deliver content when multiple people are watching the same thing and sport events clearly fit the bill, especially IPL. It’s important to note here that LTE Broadcast requires support on both the chipset as well as software level and till date, very few smartphones have come with the required SoC and software support for LTE broadcast.
Jio Switch is basically Jio’s version of ShareIT, it allows you to transfer data by making on device a Wifi hotspot and connecting the other device to it, this is the least impressive Jio app I have used and couldn’t really understand why Jio felt the need to make it in the very first place considering how popular ShareIT already is in India.
Jionet is the app that lets you find Jio Hotspots, the UI is pretty neat and it just shows you where the hotspots are located near you. In our testing, we weren’t able to find any hotspot near me and very few have rolled out across in India. There’s not much in settings except to manage notifications that let you know when a Wifi hotspot is near you.
The Jio Now app doesn’t let me log in and thereby I have no clue what that’s about. The Jio speed app isn’t a speed test app rather it’s what I would term as a quality control app. When you load up the app, you’re given two options namely Speed Test and Full Test which take around 1 minute and 5 minutes respectively. The Speed Test section allows you to see at what speed a HTTP page that’s being loaded, the full test section however is much more comprehensive. It lets you see at what speed is a HTTP page being loaded, conducts throughput tests, loads up a couple of websites such as apple.com, espy.com etc. It plays a Youtube video and also conducts a signal strength. After performing all the tests, it rate you a score from 0 to 100 and asks you how likely you are to recommend Jio on a scale of 0 to 10.
It’s is indeed difficult to see how some apps like Jio Chat and Jio Drive will ever gain popularity considering that their competitors such as Whatsapp and Dropbox are much more popular and much better built. However there is a real draw in Jio’s media offerings such as Jio Music, Jio On Demand and Jio Play especially if you’re a sucker for Bollywood/Hindi content. There are also some neat apps like Jio Speed and Jio Broadcast which are totally different considering that they’re something only ISPs can offer and something that only Jio has to offer. Jio certainly does have a plethora of apps to prove its “Digital ecosystem” narrative but some of them are definitely more lucrative than others. What also matters over here is if all this media content would come free for any Jio customer and if they can be exempted from counting against data caps as all of them are rumored to be hosted on intranets which are excluded from TRAI’s Net Neutrality clause.
Do let us know your favorite Jio apps and your experience dealing with them if you have managed to get your hands on it.