It appears Google has a big plan to penetrate the feature phone market despite already dominating the smartphone market with its Android operating system. The search engine giant recently invested $22 million in KaiOS, the web-based mobile operating system platform of many feature phones.

Last Thursday, KaiOS Technologies Inc., the developer behind the operating system powering more than 40 million feature phones worldwide, revealed that Google has made a big investment in its product as part of a Series A investment.

In a blog post, KaiOS stated that Google made the investment to ensure that new feature phones will have access to the internet, especially those sold in emerging markets. “This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets,” KaIOS CEO Sebastian Codeville said.

KaiOS is currently powering the feature phones manufactured by TCL, HMD Global and Micromax. Google has already developed apps for KaiOS, so this new investment is seen as the tech giant’s way of ensuring its presence in the feature phone market without really developing and releasing hardware. Google is instead bringing its famous Android apps to KaiOS, including Google Maps, YouTube, Google Search and even its smart assistant, Google Assistant.

“We’re excited to work with Google to deliver its services on more mobile devices. Having an intelligent voice assistant on an affordable mobile phone is truly revolutionary as it helps overcome some of the limitations a keypad brings,” Codeville said.

Despite not saying anything on what really drove Google to make a big investment in KaiOS, it’s easy to see that the Mountain View, California-based firm is ensuring its financial growth amid a difficult time for the smartphone industry. According to Quartz, fewer people are buying smartphones at present, while the market for cheaper feature phones is significantly growing.

“We want to ensure that Google apps and services are available to everyone, whether they are using desktops, smartphones, or feature phones. Following the success of the JioPhones, we are excited to work with KaiOS to further improve access to information for feature phone users around the world,” Google’s Anjali Joshi said.

The inclusion of the smart voice assistant and other Google apps in feature phones will surely have a huge impact on the feature phone market. At present, KaiOS phones are already more popular than iPhones in India, which is a big consumer market given the country‘s population. The introduction of staple Google apps in KaiOS could soon make feature phones ubiquitous in other markets as well.

Google Google has invested $22 million in KaiOS. Photo: Reuters/Dado Ruvic