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While few details are known about the new phone, the deal suggests that Google and Jio could shake up a market where Chinese brands accounted for more than 75% of total sales in the quarter ended in June, according to research firm Canalys. South Korea’s Samsung was the No. 3 seller with just under 17%.

“Depending on the product proposition that comes from this Jio-Google partnership, it could potentially pose a challenge,” she added.

A Jio-branded smartphone could also benefit from rising anti-China sentiment in India. The Indian government recently banned TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps following deadly border clashes between Chinese and Indian troops, and many Indians have called for boycotts of Chinese products.

An untapped market

Much has been made of India’s growing mobile internet market. Roughly 450 million Indians already have smartphones, according to Counterpoint Research. They rely on them to stream content, shop, hail rides and order food. But about 500 million people don’t yet own such devices — and Google and Jio want to give them a cheap way in.

“They should not be deprived of the benefits of the digital and data revolution,” said Mukesh Ambani, the CEO of Jio parent company Reliance Industries and the richest man in Asia, during a company event last week. He said that the goal of the partnership with Google is to design smartphones for a “fraction” of what they currently cost.

“Jio is a company that’s very focused on the rural side, because that’s the real India,” said Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research. “You have a big funnel [of] users who are yet to come on board and experience and taste this internet for the first time.”

Most of those people are using feature phones — old-school mobile devices with numeric key pads and basic screens — on India’s 2G network. Getting them on 4G or 5G smartphones would be a “win-win” for both companies, Pathak said, because Jio can provide new users with data plans, while Google serves them YouTube, search, maps and other apps.

Jio already sells cheap 4G feature phones with basic data plans that can access the internet and run stripped down versions of a few apps. But fewer than 20% of India’s feature phone users are on Jio devices, according to Pathak.

To reach India’s huge low-tier market, Counterpoint Research and IDC analysts say the two companies would have to develop a smartphone with an Android-based operating system for less than $50.

How Asia's richest man is trying to build the next global tech giant

That could be difficult to achieve.

The budget smartphone market in India right now is full of phones that typically sell for $70 to $100. Xiaomi leads that category with 40% of the market, according to IDC, followed by Samsung (SSNLF) with 17% and realme with 11%.

Kaur noted that costly parts such as memory, chips and display panels typically inflate the price, pushing smartphones above the $50 range. And even a $50 price point is more than most rural Indians can afford, she added.

But if Jio and Google can pull it off — and get those users to stick with them for upgrades — that could be a big loss for Chinese smartphone makers. Indian foreign policy think tank Gateway House expects the country’s smartphone users to double to 900 million by 2025, as income levels rise and smartphones get cheaper.

The upside for Google and Jio

Selling ultra cheap smartphones likely won’t make Jio a lot of money. The company will be making razor thin margins on the hardware, or more likely will have to subsidize the cost of the devices by bundling them with other phone and data services. But a successful breakthrough would get millions more Indians onto ecosystems owned and controlled by Jio and Google.

Jio already offers a family of apps to watch movies, stream music and shop online. And for Google, “it’s less about money, it’s more about profiling users,” said Pathak.

Google will invest $10 billion in India over the next few years
The more users the Silicon Valley firm can add to its Android system, the “more they can sell ads to these users, which is the end goal of the company,” he said. Advertising makes up the vast majority of Google parent company Alphabet’s revenues, accounting for more than 80% of last year’s $162 billion haul.

India is also “a dream for any tech company given the diversity,” said Blaise Fernandes, director at Gateway House.

The potentially huge, diverse datasets Google could harvest from new and existing Indian smartphone users would help it “get better reach, and in return better ad sales and subscription revenues” in India, and “better app efficiencies in other markets,” he said.

Android already has a lock on the Indian market, accounting for 91% of the mobile operating systems in use there in 2019, according to Statista.

But co-designing a smartphone and selling it with a custom-built operating system would give Google the added benefit of more control over the Android experience in India. Xiaomi, Samsung and other smartphone companies usually launch phones with their own user interfaces, building “a local flavor on top” of Android’s operating system, Pathak said. (Apple (AAPL) doesn’t have this kind of fragmented experience, because iOS is a closed system.)

Winning ‘brownie points’ with India

Market opportunities aside, Jio has also emerged as a homegrown tech champion at an opportune time: Nationalist sentiment in India is on the rise.

Canalys reported last week that smartphone sales in India plummeted 50% last quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier. While that drop was largely driven by store shutdowns and the economic battering caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the market research firm pointed out that Chinese smartphone makers have been dealing with more than just fallout from Covid-19.

“There has been public anger directed towards China,” Canalys research analyst Adwait Mardikar wrote in a note. “The combinations of this and the […] self-sufficient initiatives by the government have pushed Chinese smartphone vendors into the eye of the public storm.”

Even before the country’s recent dispute with China, Prime Minister Modi and his ruling political party “have been pushing ‘India first’ ideas around tech for several years,” said Abishur Prakash, a geopolitical futurist and co-founder of Center for Innovating the Future, a consulting firm that works on technology and geopolitics.

“Companies like Jio, who are championing homegrown alternatives, are accelerating India’s nationalistic moves,” he added.

In four short months, Jio has secured more than $20 billion in funding from Facebook (FB), Google (GOOGL), Saudia Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and other top tier investors. Jio wants to use some of that money to drive India’s digital transformation, especially in agriculture, health care and education. Ambani also hopes that the smartphone project with Google will help “accelerate the national mission of putting a smart device in the hands of every Indian.”

Such moves earn Jio “brownie points from the government,” according to Pathak, of Counterpoint Research, who added that a good chunk of Google’s investment in Jio will likely be used to buy stakes in a lot of Indian startups.

That could potentially push out Chinese investors, who have backed half of India’s 30 unicorns and poured some $4 billion into tech startups in the country since 2015, according to Gateway House. Alibaba (BABA), for example, has invested in Indian e-commerce company Snapdeal, digital wallet Paytm and food delivery platform Zomato. Tencent (TCEHY), meanwhile, has backed Indian messaging company Hike and ride hailing app Ola.

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Thailand protests: Protesters declare ‘victory’ in Bangkok rallies calling for monarchy reform

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Thousands gathered in the nation’s capital for this weekend’s rallies, which began on Saturday and were part of a protest movement that has been gaining momentum since July.

Student leader and activist Panasaya “Rung” Sitthijirawattanakul, 21, took to a public stage late Saturday to directly address Thailand’s King Vajiralongkorn — an act that, under strict national laws, could be punishable by 15 years in jail if her comments are considered defamatory to the monarchy.

Panasaya listed to the crowd the ten demands of the United Front of Thammasat and Demonstration, a student union group of which she is the spokesperson. They include revoking laws against defaming the monarchy, a new constitution, abolishing royal offices, ousting the military junta and disbanding the king’s royal guards.

In an interview with CNN, Panasaya said: “I mean no harm to the monarchy.” But she also shared a message to the king: “You should reform it so that the monarchy can continue to exist in Thailand … If you pay attention to what I am saying, I’d like you to consider our demands.”

On Sunday, with thousands still out, a group from the rally announced it intended to deliver the ten demands to the Privy Council, the king’s advisers.

However, Panasaya and other marchers were stopped by police as they attempted to approach the council. In an exchange broadcast live on television, Panasaya instead agreed to hand the demands to police, and declared a victory for protesters.

Speaking to the crowds before they dispersed, protest leader Parit “Penguin” Chiwarak said: “Our victory is that we handed our letter directly to the king, so we can show that everyone is equal. Everyone has the same blood color — it’s red. Thank you everyone for celebrating our victory. We told people to raise their hand.”

Parit said the movement would continue to pursue its goals peacefully.

“We achieved all of this by non-violent methods and we will uphold the principle of non-violence in our movement,” Parit said Sunday.

On Sunday protesters also installed a “people’s plaque” near the Thai Royal Palace, commemorating their movement as the “vanguard of democracy.”

“Here, the people declare that this place belongs to the people, not the King,” the plaque reads. Protest leaders said it was a replacement for another plaque that had marked the end of monarchic rule in 1932, but went missing in 2017.

Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-O-Cha on Sunday “expressed his gratitude to officers and all the people who have jointly cooperated to end the situation peacefully,” according to a statement from his official spokesman Anucha Burapachaisri.

“Both the protesters and officers have avoided confrontation and instigation which could lead to an unnecessarily tense situation,” the statement read.

“The government has the intention to allow people to lawfully express their rights under the constitution.”

Asked about the submission of a reform letter to the king, Burapachaisri said: “I am aware of their demands about monarchy reform from listening to their speeches on the stage but I don’t have them in detail yet. I would need time to gather info before we have further comments on this.”

Weekend protests escalate

Ahead of this weekend, official figures had tried to dissuade protesters from turning out — and dispel fears that the rallies could turn violent.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister warned protesters they could cause economic destruction if coronavirus spreads at gatherings, though he didn’t name protest groups individually or specifically address the planned weekend rallies.

And in a briefing on Saturday morning, the commander of the Thai Royal Police told people not to believe what he called rumors that police will “suppress the mobs,” and urged officers not to react if “provoked.”

Thailand's monarchy was long considered God-like. But protesters say it's time for change

Later that afternoon, protest leaders pushed open the gates of Thammasat University, a heart of student activism in Thailand. They gathered on the campus and at Sanam Luang, a public square near the king’s official residence at the Grand Palace.

This comes after two months of almost daily demonstrations, including one in Bangkok with an estimated 10,000 people on August 16. The movement began with students in towns across the country — but has since attracted a large cross-section of society.

Protesters and their supporters are calling for a range of institutional changes; for instance, Pita Limjaroenrat of the opposition Move Forward Party said his group will propose a council meeting to “re-write the constitution peacefully.”

Anti-government protesters break through a gate at Thammasat University as they arrive for a pro-democracy rally in Bangkok on September 19.

The best solution, Limjaroenrat says, is to elect a “group of persons” to re-write it. He told the media that if change does not occur in the country “the people will keep coming out on the street.”

But among these grievances, reforming the monarchy is becoming the central demand. At a previous protest on August 10, Panusaya read out a series of demands for palace reform, that include ensuring a genuine constitutional monarchy that places the monarch under the constitution.

That is a radical idea in Thailand, where the powerful royal institution is regarded by many with deity-like reverence — but dissatisfaction, especially among Thai youth, has been simmering for years.

Years of growing resistance

Thailand has endured years of political upheaval. A military coup in 2014 was followed by failed promises to restore democracy, and what activists say is a repression of civil rights and freedoms.

Activists say they are fed up with injustices such as the military’s continued hold on power through the constitution, the prolonged coronavirus state of emergency — which they say is being used to stifle political opposition and free speech — and a flailing economy that offers them little job prospects, as well as the disappearance of democracy activists living in exile.

It’s within this atmosphere that their ire is now being directed toward King Maha Vajiralongkorn, who assumed the throne in 2016 and was crowned in May 2019.

Security forces stand guard as anti-government protesters take part in a rally in Bangkok on September 19.

Vajiralongkorn is believed to spend much of his time overseas and has been largely absent from public life in Thailand as the country grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.

Since becoming King, billions of dollars worth of assets held by the Thai Crown have been transferred to Vajiralongkorn, asserting his control of royal finances and vastly increasing his personal wealth.

The Crown Property Act, passed in 1936, reorganized the Thai royal family’s assets into separate categorizes for royal assets. The repeal of the act meant that the Crown’s and the King’s personal holdings were placed into a single category to be administered by King Vajiralongkorn.

Although the absolute monarchy was abolished in Thailand in 1932, the monarch still wields significant political influence. Thais are still expected to follow a long tradition of worshiping the royal institution.

Anti-government protesters in Bangkok on September 19.

Change appears to taking root, however.

At schools in Bangkok and southern Thailand last month video posted to social media showed students singing the national anthem while wearing white ribbons and making the three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” movie franchise, which has become a symbol of defiance against the Thai government since the military coup.

CNN cannot independently verify the videos.

Traditionally, Thai citizens are supposed to stand still to pay respects to the anthem — played twice daily in public spaces — and the rule is even stricter in schools.

“The protests in Thailand are historic because this is the first time in Thailand’s history that urban demonstrators have demanded such reforms,” Paul Chambers, a lecturer and special adviser at Naresuan University’s Center of ASEAN Community Studies, told CNN last month.

CNN’s Jaide Garcia and Emma Reynolds contributed to this report.

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McConnell locks down key Republican votes for Supreme Court fight

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Marc Short, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, said on Sunday that Trump had already narrowed his list and was “prepared to make a nomination very soon.” Trump is expected to announce a nominee later this week, and has said he will choose a woman.

“It’s certainly possible” a nominee could be confirmed before Election Day, Short told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “But I think that the president’s obligation is to make the nomination. We’ll leave the timetable to Leader McConnell.”

Democrats have mounted an intense pressure campaign amid McConnell’s stated intention to fill the vacancy immediately, noting that Senate Republicans blocked Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia in 2016, Merrick Garland, from being considered. At the time, Republicans said it was too close to an election for a Senate and White House controlled by different parties to process a Supreme Court nomination.

At a press conference, Schumer reiterated that if the Republicans fill the seat and Democrats take back the majority in November “everything is on the table.” The New York Democrat also described the potential selection of Amy Coney Barrett, a frontrunner for the vacancy, as someone who “stands for all the things Ruth Bader Ginsburg was against,” adding “someone of that philosophy does not belong on the court.”

On Sunday afternoon, Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, appealed to the handful of Republican senators who control the fate of the next nomination.

“Please follow your conscience,” Biden said in a speech in Philadelphia. “Don’t vote to confirm anyone nominated under the circumstances President Trump and Senator McConnell have created. Don’t go there. Uphold your constitutional duty, your conscience, let the people speak. Cool the flames that have been engulfing our country. We can‘t ignore the cherished system of checks and balances.”

Democratic lawmakers earlier in the day noted that Election Day is only six weeks away and early voting has already begun in several states. Ginsburg’s absence leaves the court with a 5-3 split in favor of conservatives, and the high court is set to take up a case that could determine the fate of Obamacare just one week after the election.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told POLITICO that Republicans essentially created a new rule in 2016 that the Senate should wait to advance a Supreme Court nominee in the final year of a presidential term, and that Democrats are united in holding them to that.

“It doesn’t really matter who it is,” he said of the future nominee. “We are unified in the proposition that we want to hold the Republicans to their word, and we will not entertain a nominee until after Inauguration Day.”

Senate Democrats have limited tools at their disposal as the minority party. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, chairman of the Senate GOP conference, was adamant that the process would move forward this year.

“The president is going to make a nomination,” he told NBC’s Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press.” “We will hold hearings, and there will be a vote on the floor of the United States Senate this year.”

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas went even further, insisting that confirming a nominee before the Nov. 3 election was “the right thing to do.” Cruz cited in 2016 “a long tradition” of not considering Supreme Court nominees in an election year.

At least three Republicans recalled on the Sunday shows that there have been 29 vacancies in a presidential election year, and that presidents named a nominee all 29 times. The big difference, Cruz told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” is that the Senate traditionally confirms that nominee when the Senate majority and president are members of the same party.

“It’s not just simply your party, my party,” he said. “The reason is, it’s a question of checks and balances. In order for a Supreme Court nomination to go forward, you have to have the president and the Senate.”

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas said it’s “too soon to say right now” whether Republicans would confirm a nominee before the election, but he insisted the Senate would move forward “without delay,” echoing the president’s language.

“In 2014, the American people elected a Republican majority to the Senate to put the brakes on President Obama’s judicial nominations. In 2018, we had a referendum on this question,” Cotton told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” citing the contentious confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

“There could not have been a clearer mandate, because the American people didn’t just reelect Republicans. They expanded our majority,” Cotton said. “They defeated four Democratic senators who voted against Justice Kavanaugh. They reelected the one Democratic senator who did vote for Justice Kavanaugh.”

Democrats who appeared on the Sunday shows were uniformly opposed to the Senate’s advancing Trump’s future nominee, especially given that polling shows Biden currently favored to win the election and Democrats could regain control of the Senate.

But the party appeared to try several different tacks rather than one unified strategy. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware said he would personally appeal to his Republican colleagues, who he suggested should respect the 2016 precedent they set. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former President Bill Clinton both recalled that President Abraham Lincoln allowed the election to occur before making a Supreme Court nomination when a vacancy opened this close to Election Day.

And Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said the president’s rush to nominate a replacement was evidence that he is more focused on crushing the Affordable Care Act than the coronavirus, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

Pelosi shut down the possibility of Democrats leveraging government funding to slow down the Senate’s confirmation process but did maintain that Democrats have “arrows in our quiver” to stop the Senate from advancing a nominee. She declined, however, to discuss their options.

“People have something at stake in this decision and how quickly the president wants to go,” Pelosi said on “This Week.” “I don’t think they care about who said what when and all the rest of that, but they do care about their own health and well-being and the financial health and well-being of their families.”

NPR reported on Friday that Ginsburg had dictated to her granddaughter, “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.” Republicans have largely dismissed that desire.

“She’s certainly a giant upon whose shoulders many will stand, and she blazed a trail for many women in the legal profession,” said Short, the vice president‘s chief of staff. “But the decision to nominate does not lie with her.”

Clinton, who nominated Ginsburg to the high court and appeared on three programs Sunday, said it would be worth waiting to see whether people care that several senators, including some up for reelection this fall, are going to go against their positions from 2016.

“It would be very interesting to see whether their position could only be justified as: ‘If my party can do it, now I’m for it. If their party can do it, then I’m against it,” Clinton said on “This Week.” “And if that’s the rule of life in America, then who knows what the consequences will be.”

Marianne LeVine and Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

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Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance Will Address The Nation As It Reaches a “Critical Point” In the Pandemic

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Prof Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance (Credit: PA)


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The UK’s coronavirus numbers are “heading in the wrong direction”, the government’s most senior advisers have warned ahead of a live briefing on what could happen next.

Ahead of a planned televised apperance on Monday, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the country faces a “critical point” in the pandemic, amid spiralling case numbers and failings in the testing system. 

The pair will address the nation at 11am, during which they will “explain how the virus is spreading and the potential scenarios”.

Charts and graphs will be deployed to set out the latest data on cases in the UK, as well as other countries experiencing a second wave of the virus.

It comes after health secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out a second national lockdown on Sunday, warning the country faces a “tipping point”, the results of which depend on “each and every one of us” following new stricer rules.

Professor Whitty is expected to say: “The trend in UK is heading in the wrong direction and we are at a critical point in the pandemic.

“We are looking at the data to see how to manage the spread of the virus ahead of a very challenging winter period.”

Figures suggest Covid-19 cases are doubling every seven to eight days, with a further 4,422 confirmed UK cases on Saturday, and 27 deaths. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned tighter restrictions, similar to those imposed in the north east of England earlier this week, could come into play in the capital as soon as Monday.

A City Hall spokesperson said: “The situation is clearly worsening. Sadiq will meet council leaders tomorrow and any London-specific measures will be recommended to ministers following that.

“The mayor wants fast action as we cannot risk a delay, as happened in March. It is better for both health and business to move too early than too late.”

Mr Hancock said on Sunday that he “would not rule out” Londoners being asked to work from home. 

Boris Johnson, meanwhile, is reportedly considering a tightening of measures across the whole of England, including a ban on households mixing and reduced opening hours for pubs.

“I don’t want to see more measures but unfortunately if people don’t follow the rules that’s how the virus spreads,” Mr Hancock told Sky News on Sunday.

“Everyone faces a choice and it comes down to individual moments – should I go to that party where there might not be social distancing? 

“The answer is no, you should not.”

Asked what he expected the death rate could be if people failed to follow the rules, the health secretary said: “It’s unknowable, because it depends on the behaviour of every single person in this country.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer pledged to back ministers in implementing a second national lockdown, should scientific advice support the measures.

“In the end this is not about party politics. This is about getting the nation through this virus, so if the government takes action I will support that, we will support it and I will support their message,” he said.

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