The revenue opportunity from increased sales of smart feature phones is expected to be about $28 billion over the next three years, according to a new report from Counterpoint Research.
"This will be enabled by a potential of more than 300 million smart feature phone users globally by the end of 2021. Software and services alone will contribute to 71 per cent of this near- to mid-term revenue opportunity, or around $20 billion," Neil Shah, Research Director at Counterpoint Research, said in a statement on Monday.
India made the biggest contribution to the demand for smart feature phones in 2018.
A smart feature phone is a device with a traditional feature phone form-factor and design but with a chipset and an operating system which can support sophisticated smartphone-like features such as high-speed Internet access along with an application and services ecosystem.
"The global smart feature phone demand grew 252 per cent year-on-year in 2018 - albeit from a low base, contributing roughly 16 per cent of the total feature phone volumes," said Tarun Pathak, Associate Director at Counterpoint Research.
"While India is the biggest contributor to this demand, major markets that have driven smart feature phone sales include the US, UK, South East Asia and Africa. We estimate that smart feature phones will cross more than half of global feature phone volumes by 2021," Pathak added.
One of the key companies that has been driving this growth of smart feature phones is KaiOS. KaiOS is a software platform powering this new segment of phones and helping the digital inclusion of feature phone users with native support for 3G/4G networks as well as a curated app and services ecosystem.
Reliance Jio has been fastest to see the opportunity and adopt the platform to acquire tens of millions of 2G feature phone users to its 4G network with its KaiOS-powered 4G smart feature phone.
The company's Jio Phone is the world's leading VoLTE-supported KaiOS-based smart feature phone, the research showed.
Disclosure: RIL, the promoter of Reliance Jio, also controls Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com.