Welcome back to our weekly news roundup. This was a week of news about deals, as both Flipkart and Amazon are running sales. It's lining up to be a good time for deal-hunters, with deals on gadgets like smartphones and laptops. The Flipkart Republic Day Sale started on Sunday, and ends on January 23, and aside from smartphones and laptops, there will also be deals on TVs and other electronics. One of the big deals in this sale will be the Pixel 2 XL at Rs. 48,999 (inclusive of Rs. 10,000 off on HDFC Bank credit card transactions), and you'll also be able to pick up an Xbox One S at Rs. 24,990, a discount of Rs. 2,000.
Aside from this, you'll be able to get the Samsung Galaxy S7 for Rs. 26,990, and discounts on the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, Oppo F3, Oppo F3 Plus, Honor 9i, Infinix Zero5, Vivo V7, and Vivo V5s. There are plenty more offers too - for one thing, Citibank card holds will get 10 percent cashback on the sale. Even entry-level phones are available on discount, and you'll be able to get the Panasonic P99 at Rs. 5,499 (MRP Rs. 8,990), Xolo Era 1X at Rs. 3,999 (MRP Rs. 5,149), and Micromax Spark 4G at Rs. 3,699 (MRP Rs. 4,499).
Amazon's first Great Indian Sale of 2018 also started today, January 21, and is on till January 24. The offers were first announced a week ago, when Amazon revealed that it's hiring 6,500 temporary workers to manage the logistics of the sale. There will be cashbacks for credit and debit card transactions, and Amazon Pay users will receive 10 percent balance back (up to Rs. 200) on each new purchase above Rs. 250. Apart from the usual discounts on phones, TVs, and other electronics, you'll also get discounts of up to Rs. 2,500 if you're buying a Kindle or Amazon Fire TV Stick. Also, in case you order cash on delivery and the delivery executive doesn't have change, they can add it to your Amazon Pay Balance, complete with a cashback.
Buyers will get up to Rs. 17,000 off on Honor smartphones, and up to Rs. 7,200 off on Samsung handsets. The OnePlus 5T Lava Red, LG V30+ Blue variant, Samsung Galaxy A8+ and Galaxy On7 Prime go on sale for the first time in this sale. Among the big deals on TVs in the sale are the Rs. 50,000 discount on the 65-inch TCL Android TV, and the 30 percent discount on the Micromax Bingebox smart TV range. The Amazon sale is also offering up to 50 percent off on JBL speakers and Sennheiser headphones.
Another interesting piece of news was the WhatsApp Business app launch. The app is only available on Android for now, with an iPhone version is expected to be in the works. It is only available on Google Play in some regions - Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the UK, and the US - but will be rolled out around the world in the coming weeks. It was first officially announced back in September last year and tested with businesses like BookMyShow and MakeMyTrip in India. WhatsApp Business is a free app, and is aimed at making it easier for small companies to connect with their customers, and for WhatsApp users to chat with businesses.
It will also provide tools such as quick replies and greeting messages, to make it easier for businesses to easily reply to a large number of users. Interestingly, WhatsApp's statement mentioned that over 80 percent of small businesses in India and Brazil are using the messaging app to connect with their customers already, citing a Morning Consult study. This is probably why it is starting from other regions, to be able to test it in a more controlled fashion before a large scale roll-out.
WhatsApp is also looking to help prevent spam forwards, with a feature that's reportedly being tested on both Android and iOS. With this feature, WhatsApp will notify users if a message has been forwarded before - the idea is that this will help cut down on unwanted advertising, and also fake news. Meanwhile, WhatsApp for iPhone has not gotten YouTube integration, with PiP. With this, iPhone users can view shared YouTube videos right inside the chat window in the app.
Also, if you're using a Xiaomi phone, you may have seen a version 'obsolete ' error when trying to run WhatsApp. Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has admitted it had mistakenly pushed a beta version of WhatsApp from its app store, which some users downloaded. The company has also asked users to update the app in order to resolve the issue.
Some worrying news if you're a OnePlus user - the company confirmed that up to 40,000 users were affected in a credit card breach that was reported earlier this week. OnePlus says that malicious code was injected into its website, and users who entered their credit card details were potentially affected by this.
"One of our systems was attacked, and a malicious script was injected into the payment page code to sniff out credit card info while it was being entered," a OnePlus staff member wrote on the company’s online forums on Friday. "The malicious script operated intermittently, capturing and sending data directly from the user's browser. It has since been eliminated."
In telecom, Reliance Jio is continuing its Jio Cashback offer even after it was slated to end. In this second edition of the Surprise Cashback Offer, all Jio Prime users will get up to Rs. 700 total benefits on purchasing recharges of Rs. 398 or more between January 16 and January 31. The telco also upgraded its marquee prepaid tariff pack for the Jio Phone. The Rs. 153 prepaid pack will now offer 1GB 4G high speed data per day, unlimited voice calls (local, STD, and roaming), 100 SMSes per day, and free subscription to all Jio apps.
Idea is also taking the cashback route, and has rolled out its Magic Cashback offer on recharges of Rs. 398 and above. It's promising cashbacks of up to Rs. 3,300 on recharges, which will be provided through discount vouchers that can be used for future recharges, for up to one year. Customers get eight vouchers of Rs. 50 each, which can be redeemed on recharges of Rs. 300 and above. Apart from that, Idea is offering shopping coupons worth Rs. 2,700.
Meanwhile, with MWC 2018 drawing close - it's official start date is February 26, though manufacturers announcements usually kick off a little sooner - there's plenty of rumours that came in about what to expect from the big brands. For one thing, the Moto X5 is rumoured to have an iPhone X like notch - could this become a trend in 2018? The phone is likely to be unveiled at MWC 2018, and leaks also gave us a look at the upcoming Moto G6 family. Leaked specifications suggest that the phone will have a 5.9-inch full HD+ display, and an 18:9 aspect ratio.
The Sony Xperia XZ Pro with a full-screen 18:9 display, dual-rear camera setup (a first for Sony), and Snapdragon 845 SoC, is also expected at MWC 2018. According to reports, Sony will be be launching more smartphones with dual-camera setups and full-screen displays this year. Xiaomi will also be present at MWC 2018 after skipping in 2017, and the launch of the Mi 7 as its next flagship is expected, though details are sparse at this point.
HMD Global is also rumoured to be launching its next Nokia smartphone on February 25, just ahead of MWC 2018. It had unveiled its global lineup of handsets at MWC 2017 last year, including the rebooted Nokia 3310 feature phone. This year, it's expected to launch the the Nokia 9 flagship as well as the Android Oreo (Go edition) based Nokia 1 smartphone. The Nokia 6 (2018), and Nokia 3310 4G, and the China-exclusive Nokia 7 may also be unveiled for a global audience.
We also got an early look at the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+, as it was spotted on the US FCC website. No hardware specifications have been revealed however, only the outline of the phone, and the placement of the FCC label on the rear. Older leaks point to specifications such as a 5.6-inch QHD + sAMOLED display, a Dual Pixel 12-megapixel rear sensor with OIS, an 8-megapixel selfie camera, 4GB RAM and P68 water and dust resistant rating. A recent report also says that the two phones will feature dedicated AI chips. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is also supposed to come with a dedicated AI chip. Rivals Apple and Huawei already have their own artificial intelligence chips, with the A11 Bionic for the iPhone X, and the HiSilicon Kirin 970 for the Mate 10 Pro respectively. And speaking of AI, another leak suggests that the LG V30 will get an AI focused variant at MWC 2018. There aren't too many details about this phone yet though.
There were also a bunch of phone launches this week in India and abroad. In India, we saw the Karbonn Titanium Frames S7 get launched at Rs. 6,999 - and Airtel subscribers will receive a cashback of Rs. 2,000. The phone has a 5.5-inch HD display, a 1.45GHz quad-core processor, and 3GB RAM. There's 13-megapixel cameras on the front and back. Aside from this, we also had the launch of the Honor 9 Lite, which has dual cameras on the front and back - four in all. Starting at just Rs. 10,999, the phone sports a 5.65-inch full-HD+ 18:9 display. That's the 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage variant - there's also a 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant priced at Rs. 14,999.
The Honor phone will compete with the Samsung Galaxy On7 Prime, also launched this week. The new Galaxy On7 Prime is available at starting price of Rs. 12,990, and features Samsung Mall, a feature that lets users take a photo of a product in real life, or something from their gallery, and then utilise visual search to identify the product and find it across multiple online shopping sites. The smartphone's key features include a 5.5-inch full-HD display, 13-megapixel cameras on the front and back, microSD support up to 256GB, and 3300mAh battery. It comes in two variants, one with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage and another with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage.
There was also the launch of the Oppo A83, a mid-range smartphone priced at Rs. 13,990. It will be sold through both Amazon and Flipkart, along with offline retailers. The variant launched in India comes with 3GB RAM, and features Face Unlock technology. The smartphone was launched in China late last month, where it comes with 4GB RAM. Finally we had the launch of the Tecno Camon i, priced at Rs. 8,999, which comes with a 5.65-inch HD+ 18:9 display, a 1.3GHz quad-core SoC, and 3GB RAM. It has a 3050mAh battery, and 13-megapixel front and rear cameras.
Globally, the Alcatel 3C, which has a 6-inch HD+ 18:9 display was also launched this week in Italy at EUR 129.99 (roughly Rs. 10,100). The phone offers entry-level specifications, with a 6-inch HD+ 18:9 display, a quad-core MediaTek SoC, 16GB storage, 1GB RAM, along with an 8-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel front camera, and a 3000mAh battery. There was also the Meizu M6s which was launched in China with two variants. Its price starts at CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 9,900 ) for the 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage model and goes up to CNY 1,199 (roughly Rs. 11,900) for the 3GB RAM/ 64GB storage model. The phone has a 5.7-inch HD+ display, a hexa-core Samsung Exynos SoC, and a 3000mAh battery.
In payments, BSES has decided to try something new to get people to pay their bills on time. The electricity board on Thursday announced a cashback scheme for timely bill payment in partnership with MobiKwik. Customers will get a flat cashback of Rs. 300 for paying their bill on time for the next three months. Paytm launched Paytm Cash, which is the name under which it will recognise cashbacks going forward. This money can only be spent on the Paytm platform - to pay your bills, buy things on its store, and so on. Users will no longer be able to transfer money from cashbacks to others, or to their bank accounts. The company also announced the iOS launch of BHIM UPI, a few months after launching it on Android. It also announced the availability of physical debit cards for Paytm Payments Bank customers.
There was also some interesting news for Nintendo fans this week. The company unveiled the Nintendo Labo for the Switch - a new playing experience using DIY cardboard kits that can be used to create innovative new controls and modes of play. The company showcased two "Toy Con" kits, and it's very feasible that other developers could follow suit and come up with new kinds of games altogether, paired with simple, affordable kits. That wasn't the only thing though - made-in-India video games could be coming to the Nintendo Switch. The company has been visiting Indian developers, and evaluating their games, even though the Switch is still not officially available here.