There was a time when Google planned on putting Android on feature phones, sometimes called dumb phones to contrast with the more predominant smartphone breed. Lacking touch screens, Android would have needed to be driven using physical D-Pads and buttons as well as using voice commands. Google eventually settled for integrating Google Assistant into another operating system designed specifically for those very low-end phones. That arrangement seemed to have worked well for quite a number of those phones, including Nokia-branded ones, but Google Assistant is reportedly missing a few features now without any explanation or warning.
KaiOS is pretty much the present-day descendant of the Symbian and S60 platforms of old, powering today’s generation of mobile phones. The operating system brings a few modern conveniences to these phones that make them feel just a bit smarter. For some that are able to connect to 4G networks, it even offers apps for YouTube, Google Maps, and WhatsApp.
Access to Google Assistant is one of the highlights of KaiOS, enabling users to quickly launch apps or toggle features on or off with just their voice. It doesn’t have all the functionality that Google Assistant offers on smartphones, of course, but the basics are there, at least until recently. Although KaiOS’ documentation still lists them, Google Assistant on that OS has apparently lost two of its top features.
Since April, owners of KaiOS feature phones have been complaining about the inability to make calls or send messages. While the developers of the OS have mostly been silent, a representative from HMD Global may have confirmed users’ worst fears. Calling and SMS functionalities are indeed no longer supported, at least on the Nokia 2720 V Flip.
It’s both puzzling and disappointing that such features would suddenly disappear, especially since those are the ones that save the most keypresses on such a device. There is no official explanation either from Google or KaiOS yet, however, and hopefully, there is a very significant reason for removing two of Google Assistant’s most useful functions on the already underpowered phones.