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Report claims new device to launch later this year, will feature tight integration with operator’s apps.

Reliance Jio Infocomm and Google are developing an affordable 4G smartphone exclusively for the Indian operator’s customers.

According to sources cited by the Hindu Business Line on Monday, the handset is expected to go on sale later this year. The companies are said to be particularly focused on tightly integrating Jio’s apps into the Android operating system in a bid to improve performance and reliability.

Jio offers a whole host of various apps, ranging from voice and messaging, to various forms of content including music, magazines and video. It also offers a cloud storage app and mobile security.

The smartphone that Jio and Google are working on "will help RJio increase data adoption – helping it render movies and music better over its network. It will also improve the overall quality of service delivered on the Jio network," said one of the sources in Monday’s Hindu report.

As for Google, working with India’s disruptive newcomer could help it to counter the mounting threat from fierce rival Apple, which recently struck a deal to begin producing iPhones in the country with a view to growing its share of India’s smartphone market.

Google will hope that its reported partnership with Jio is more productive than its last attempt to develop low-cost smartphones for India – the Android One programme.

Under Android One, Google supplied hardware reference designs to several Indian OEMs, including Micromax, Karbonn, Spice, as well as chip maker MediaTek.

The first phones went on sale in September 2014, and promptly bombed.

"Android One had too many OEM partners, with each phone from every brand looking exactly the same, leaving no distinction for the vendor," said Jayanth Kolla, founder and partner at Indian consultancy Convergence Catalyst, in the Hindu report.

At the same time, Chinese players like Xiaomi brought phones to market that offered a greater number of features at similar prices, he explained.

While the Android One programme is reportedly still active in India, Google may find it more productive to work more closely with a single partner than to try and please several at once.

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