WhatsApp rival Hike launches ‘Total’, a light-weight Android fork designed to work without data
To beat WhatsApp in India, Hike has just launched an operating system that runs Internet services without using Internet data.
Indian instant messaging platform Hike messenger on Wednesday introduced a fork of Android operating system that allows users to exchange messages and make payments without using Internet data, as the Tencent and SoftBank-backed WhatsApp rival bets on people without Internet access to boost its user base.
The Android fork, called Total, offers a range of services including the ability to text messages using Hike Messenger and follow cricket match updates, Kavin Mittal, the founder and CEO of the company said at a press event in New Delhi. "If you look at the Indian market, only about 200 million people of 400 million smartphone users in India come online each day," he said at the event. "I think we have figured out a way to tackle this challenge," he said.
Mittal, who demonstrated various features of Total operating system, says Total uses Universal Transfer Protocol, a "supercharged" version of text-based USSD protocol to facilitate various of its features. Mittal said Hike owns patent on universal transfer protocol.
The company has partnered with Intex and Karbonn to launch Total OS-powered smartphones in India. The phones, Kavin said, would be priced under ₹2,000, and will hit the stores in March.
A user of Total device could also check railway ticket updates and send money to friends. The "micro apps" weigh under 1MB on the device, Mittal said. They can sign into various services in a single go using their mobile phone number, he added.
Hike says users can also send pictures to their friends. This option, however, prompts them to purchase data from carriers. Hike says it has partnered with various operators and is offering data for as low as Re 1.
Hike's foray into Android fork space comes less than six months after the company acquired Creo, a Bengaluru-based startup which previously worked on operating system, smartphones, and streaming devices. Hike has been looking at expanding its portfolio for sometime.
The company has explored content space, adding video games to the service. Last year, it also added support for payment using UPI project.
In 2015, Hike bought Wi-Fi calling startup Zip Phone and a live-streaming company called Pulse. In 2016, Hike became a unicorn after raising $175 million from Tencent at a valuation of $1.4 billion.