[App Fridays] Reliance’s JioBrowser is emerging as a leading ‘Made in India’ mobile browser
Browsers are often a user’s first gateway to the internet — a world of information, knowledge, entertainment, and wonder.
Over the years, browsers have journeyed from being straightjacketed offerings to sharply focused products, with at least one distinctive feature to grab eyeballs.
Photo: YS Design
Some highlight pro-privacy surfing, some aid first-time users browse through visuals, some reimagine the browsing experience with nifty features like one-handed browsing, Tinder-like swipeable searches, crypto blockers, and so on.
For homegrown JioBrowser, the focus lies on India, its user demographic, the need to browse in local languages, consumer interests and browsing patterns, and data and device requirements.
Part of Reliance-owned Jio Platforms’ diversified suite, the Android-only app hit Google Play Store in December 2018, and has crossed 10 million downloads. JioBrowser is compatible with devices running Android 5.0 or above.
Following the government’s ban on Chinese apps, JioBrowser has emerged as a compelling alternative to UC Browser (owned by the Alibaba Group), which was the most popular mobile browser in India, ahead of even Google Chrome and Mozilla.
Key features of the app
JioBrowser can be broken down into five key features.
Regional language support: JioBrowser enables browsing in eight Indian languages — Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam — along with English.
Users can choose their preferred language on the app’s landing page. Both the UI and the content are tailored according to their selection.
Given India has more rural internet users than urban ones and that most of the population access the web through smartphones, this is a winning feature.
Data-light browser: JioBrowser is a lightweight app (less than 5MB), and also promises data-friendly browsing.
This means that users on low-end smartphones can enjoy a smooth browsing experience through the app. They can quick load pages, save them for offline consumption, and even schedule downloads. JioBrowser also comes with a built-in memory and battery saver.
Private browsing mode: With cybersecurity becoming a critical issue for tech companies globally, JioBrowser lets users browse privately in incognito mode.
There is an added layer of security in which the app asks for PIN or fingerprint verification before turning on the private browsing mode. JioBrowser also comes with an adblock feature ensuring an unobtrusive browsing experience for users.
Quick access sites: Based on the Indian consumer’s browsing patterns, the app offers quick access to an array of popular websites. Users can simply click the logo of the website on the JioBrowser home screen to start surfing.
Rich Content: The quick access sites offer a ‘rich content’ experience. This feature is a definite throwback to the now-banned UC Browser.
The content covers cricket (Cricbuzz), jobs (Naukri), news (NDTV, India Today, JioNews), entertainment (, JioCinema, JioSaavn), ecommerce (Amazon, JioMart, AJIO, ), travel ( , Trivago), social media (Facebook, Instagram), etc.
Other features: The app also offers a bunch of incremental features like dark mode, quick sharing (on social media), personalised content feed (where users can choose their topics of interest) voice search (powered by Google), QR code scanner (useful for mobile payments), multiple tabs (up to 25), and hide toolbar (for full-screen browsing).
Why JioBrowser can be a winner
JioBrowser ticks most boxes — Made in India, Aatmanirbhar Bharat, and Vocal for Local — that are increasingly gaining in prominence due to the government of India’s push.
Besides, the app is multilingual, feature-rich, data-light, and free — elements that typically go into creating a successful mobile product in India. The UI is minimal and tailored for first-time internet users.
Most importantly, JioBrowser provides Reliance an additional platform to distribute and promote Jio’s own suite of apps from ecommerce to entertainment.
Also, with Google and Jio jointly developing a low-cost smartphone for India, one could expect JioBrowser to be the default pre-installed browser in it. This is in addition to JioBrowser being the default web browser on 100+ million JioPhones.
However, the app could do with some additions like more languages, wider content access, image browsing, and support for shopping and payment transactions.
Given India’s mobile internet traffic outnumbers desktop traffic in a 4:1 ratio (Statista report), Jio may already have a winner on its hand.