Apple was the biggest newsmaker in the world this week as the company launched its new iPhone models. In line with the rumours, three models were launched at the event — a 5.8-inch OLED iPhone XS, 6.1-inch LCD iPhone XR, and 6.5-inch OLED iPhone XS Max. All three feature the design introduced with iPhone X last year, complete with a display notch in the front and glass back panel. However, the two OLED models are more premium than the iPhone XR, which loses out on the dual camera sensors on the back and the surgical-grade stainless steel body that the two XS models sport, among other features. However, it has the most crucial feature of the two flagships, the 7nm A12 Bionic SoC. This means it will be just as adept at handling all the apps and games and AR functions as its more expensive counterparts. Key features of the iPhone XR include the dual-SIM support, Face ID, Haptic Touch in the display, wireless charging, IP67 rating for water- and dust-resistance. It has a 12-megapixel rear camera and 7-megapixel front camera, and the battery is said to last 90 minutes more than the iPhone 8 Plus’.
As for the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, the two are essentially the same phone with the screen size being the primary difference. Both have IP68 certification for water-resistance up to 2 metres, surgical-grade stainless steel body, wireless charging, dual-SIM function, and improved Face ID. The camera system on the back of the two phones consists of 12-megapixel wide-angle sensor + 12-megapixel telephoto sensor, while the front camera has a 7-megapixel sensor. As for the battery performance, the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max respectively deliver 30 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes more battery life compared to the iPhone X.
Coming to the prices, the iPhone XR prices in India are Rs. 76,900, Rs. 81,900, and Rs. 91,900 for the 64GB, 128GB, and 256GB variants, respectively. Similarly, the iPhone XS costs Rs. 99,900 for the 64GB model, Rs. 1,14,900 for the 256GB variant, and Rs. 1,34,900 for the 512GB option. Lastly, the iPhone XS Max prices in India have been set as Rs. 1,09,900, Rs. 1,24,900, and Rs. 1,44,900 for the 64GB, 256GB, and 512GB, respectively.
The two iPhone XS models will become available for purchase in India on September 28, though the first wave of rollout will be on September 21 in the US and other markets. They will be available in Gold, Space Gray, and Silver colours. As for iPhone XR, it will go on pre-orders on October 19 and hit the shelves on October 26, including in India. Colour options include Black, Blue, Coral, White, Yellow, and PRODUCT (RED). The delay in the model’s rollout is reportedly due to software issues and the display notch on the LCD screen.
The three new iPhones will be available for pre-order in India via the Airtel Online Store starting September 21, while the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and Apple Watch are already on pre-order in the US and other markets getting the handsets in the first wave. Also, with the new iPhone launches, the older models have received price cuts while some have been phased out. In India, the official website has de-listed the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone SE, while iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s, Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X have received price cuts. The range now officially starts at the Rs. 29,900 for the 32GB iPhone 6s and goes up to Rs. 1,06,900 for the 256GB iPhone X. Interestingly, in the US, the iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone X too have been phased out.
Apart from the two phones, Apple launched the Apple Watch Series 4 models with more than 30 percent bigger displays and an integrated ECG sensor to conduct electrocardiograms; the smartwatch will start at Rs. 40,900 in India. It was also announced at the event that the iOS 12 rollout will begin on September 17, while macOS Mojave will become available to download on September 24.
Xiaomi was quick to take shots at the high prices of the new iPhones with product bundles with a notebook, smartphone, fitness band, and audio product — all at the price of an iPhone. The Chinese brand’s new XR bundle is priced at CNY 6,499 (about Rs. 68,200), the same as the base iPhone XR in the country. It consists of the Mi 8 SE smartphone, 12.5-inch Mi Notebook Air, the Mi Band 3, the Mi Bluetooth Mini Headset. Similarly, the iPhone XS 64GB costs CNY 8,699 (about Rs. 91,300) in the market, and Xiaomi is giving at the same price the XS bundle that consists of Mi MIX 2S smartphone, the 13.3-inch Mi Notebook Air, the Mi Band 3, and Mi Bluetooth Mini Headset. Lastly, priced the same as iPhone XS Max 64GB at CNY 9,599 (about Rs. 1,00,700) is the XS Max bundle that provides users Mi 8 smartphone, the Mi Notebook Pro laptop, the Mi Band 3, and Mi Bluetooth neckband.
In other Xiaomi news, Redmi 6 and Redmi 6 Pro went on sale in India for the first time this week. The Mi A2 and Poco F1 smartphones that were launched in the country recently went on open sale too this week. However, not all Poco F1 variants will be available in the open sale as only the 6GB RAM and 128GB internal storage option will be up for grabs at all times via Flipkart and Mi.com.
Redmi Note 5 Pro started receiving the MIUI 10 global stable ROM this week, according to some users’ forum posts. The update, which also includes the September 2018 Android security patch, is 580MB in size and should be pushed over the air. Changelog screenshots for the update show it brings full-screen gestures, natural sounds, and ambient sounds etc. And while we talk about the Redmi Note 5 Pro, its successor may not be too far away either. The LCD digitiser of the Redmi Note 6 Pro was spotted earlier this week, featuring 6.18-inch display panel, 1080x2246-pixel resolution, 18.7:9 aspect ratio, and a display notch. There is, however, no word yet on when the smartphone will make its way to the market.
Last week, the Mi 8 Youth with the Snapdragon 710 SoC was leaked, and this week saw a flurry of reports about the smartphone. Xiaomi officially released the teaser for September 19 China launch of the smartphone, and has announced reservations for the handset are now open, even before it has been unveiled. One teaser shows a gradient mirror finish design for the back panel, which the company is calling Twilight Gold. Another teaser shows the dual rear camera setup and fingerprint sensor on the back. Apart from this, the Mi 8 Explorer Edition may make its way to the global markets as it was spotted on a Singaporean certification website with the moniker Mi 8 Pro, though the listing was later taken down. The Mi 8 Explorer Edition is the same as the regular Mi 8 on most part, but has exclusive features such as 3D face recognition, an in-display fingerprint sensor, and a transparent back.
WhatsApp finally arrived on the Jio Phone this week, ending the wait of nearly a month for buyers of the 4G feature phone. The popular app is now available to download via the Jio Store now in India, though you will have to update the system software too after downloading the app for it to work. The WhatsApp for Jio Phone rollout is slated to complete on September 20, so in case you have still not received it, then wait a few more days. As for the functionality, the app on Jio Phone lets users send text as well as voice messages, and share photos received in a message or shot on the phone. However, video sharing is limited to forwards. It also does not let users make voice and video calls. All the messages sent on the app are end-to-end encrypted.
Separately, WhatsApp for Android beta will reportedly let users reply to individual messages by swiping to the right. This Swipe to Reply functionality has been around on the iPhone app for a long time now. The current WhatsApp Android beta version (2.18.282) does not let users access the function just yet due to “development reasons,” but it should be opened up soon. Apart from this, the app is reportedly getting a Dark Mode on not just Android but iPhone too, though there is no timeline for that yet.
A new report this week claims to have uncovered a software patch that lets anyone generate new Aadhaar numbers by disabling the biometric security features. The patch is for the enrolment software that authorised agencies employ to register users on the UIDAI platform. The report claims this patch is available for as low as Rs. 2,500 and is already being used by many enrolment agencies. Not only does the software patch disable the biometric authentication for the enrolment agencies but also bypasses the GPS requirement — without which anyone anywhere in the world can create new Aadhaar numbers, without any traceability. The patch reportedly came into circulation in 2017 and can be installed on any computer. UIDAI has dismissed the report, claiming he enrolment software cannot be hacked and that vested interests are behind the report.
Jio has launched a new cashback offer that effectively brings down the cost of recharges above Rs. 300 by Rs. 100. The new offer requires buyers to make the payment via PhonePe to avail the Rs. 50 cashback in the form of a PhonePe voucher. This coupled with the Rs. 50 voucher that all Jio users already have gives total savings of Rs. 50 on the purchase of recharges of Rs. 349 and above. Also, Jio has maintained its lead in the telecom industry in terms of download speeds with average speed of 22.3Mbps, followed by Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea at 10Mbps, 6.7Mbps, and 6.2Mbps, respectively.
Never behind its rival Jio, Airtel launched the Rs. 97 and Rs. 419 recharge packs this week. The new Rs. 97 Airtel recharge offers 1.5GB data, 350 minutes of local and STD calls, free national roaming, and 200 SMS messages for 28 days. Likewise, the Rs. 419 Airtel recharge gives users 1.4GB of 4G data for 75 days, along with bundled calls (300 minutes a day, 1,000 minutes a week), free national roaming, and 100 text messages a day. It also introduced the Rs. 289 recharge that provides bundled calls (250 minutes a day, 1,000 minutes a week), 1GB data, and 100 SMS per day for 48 days.
BSNL, which is slated to receive 4G spectrum next month, also announced the Bumper Offer that gives its prepaid subscribers 2.2GB of additional data per day for the festive period on recharge packs priced at Rs. 186, Rs. 429, Rs. 485, Rs. 666, and Rs. 999. There was also the Rs. 155 BSNL recharge that became available to all users this week as a regular pack instead of as a promotional recharge. It gives users 2GB data per day for 17 days.
Among the smartphone launches in India this week, the most prominent was the Moto G6 Plus release. The most premium of the G6 series models, the new smartphone arrived in the Indian market with 6GB RAM instead of the 4GB RAM that the international variant has. The Moto G6 Plus price in India has been set as Rs. 22,499, and it is up for sale via both online and offline channels. Key features of the smartphone include a 5.93-inch full-HD display with 18:9 aspect ratio, 2.2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 630 SoC, 12-megapixel + 5-megapixel rear cameras, 16-megapixel selfie shooter with flash, 3,200mAh battery, and 64GB internal storage with 128GB microSD card.
Oppo A7x launch in China this week saw yet another affordable smartphone hit the shelves. The new smartphone, priced at CNY 1,9e99 (about Rs. 20,000), features a 6.3-inch display with waterdrop notch and 19.5:9 aspect ratio, Android 8.1 Oreo-based Color OS 5.2 skin, 2GHz MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, 4GB RAM, and 128GB inbuilt storage. As for the optics, you get a 16-megapixel + 2-megapixel setup on the back, and an 8-megapixel sensor in front with the Oppo A7x. Back home in India, the Oppo F9 went on sale for the first time, with a price tag of Rs. 19,990. Its key features are the 6.3-inch full-HD+ display, Android 8.1-based Colour OS 5.2 custom UI, MediaTek Helio P60 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, 3,500mAh battery, 16-megapixel + 2-megapixel rear cameras, and 16-megapixel selfie camera.
Huawei Maimang 7 also launched this week, featuring dual rear and front cameras as well as Google ARCore support. The new Maimang 7 smartphone has a 6.3-inch full-HD+ display, Android 8.1 Oreo-EMUI 8.2 OS, Kirin 710 octa-core processor, and 6GB of RAM. It has 20-megapixel + 2-megapixel rear cameras, and 24-megapixel + 2-megapixel front camera unit. The new handset comes with 64GB internal storage, 256GB microSD card support, and 3,750mAh battery with fast-charging. It is priced at CNY 2,399 (about Rs. 25,000).
OnePlus 6 received the OxygenOS Open Beta 2 update based on Android 9.0 Pie this week. The update brings OnePlus customisations as well as system optimisations such as improved Wi-Fi stability, better background power control, reduced accidental touches, new multi-tasking UI, and enhanced image quality from the front camera. The ROM upgrade installer needs to be installed manually to get the update, which is 1.49GB in size.
Also this week, OnePlus announced that its next big smartphone, the OnePlus 6T, will sport an in-display fingerprint sensor. The company calling this feature Screen Unlock, but there’s not much else revealed officially so far. In other OnePlus news, the company launched its OnePlus Bullets earphones with USB Type-C connector in India, instead of the 3.5mm jack. These new earphones are priced at Rs. 1,499, a rise of Rs. 300 over the previous model.
Nokia 9 made several appearance in the rumour mill this week too, including the official Samsung website. The alleged HMD Global flagship will reportedly have as many as five rear cameras and a 4,150mAh battery. It is said the delay in Nokia 9 launch is due to production issues. Another leak showed the Nokia 9 as well as Nokia X7 will not have a notch. Lastly, the Samsung Latvia website showed the Nokia 9 name in the buyback option. The page claims the Nokia-branded phone will come in 64GB and 128GB internal storage options and single- and dual-SIM configurations. Nokia 7 Plus got the Android Pie-based Developer Preview Beta 4.1, though the changelog does not show any improvements of the Developer Preview released last month. The changelog just shows features that were already available for the handset, such as a new system navigation, settings menu, and notifications as well as Google's Adaptive Battery power prioritisation. It, however, does bring with it the September 2018 Android security patch.
Asus and Flipkart hosted a 3-day sale that provided buyers with discounts on the ZenFone Max Pro M1 and ZenFone 5Z smartphones. The Asus Days sale on Flipkart gave a Rs. 500 discount on the 3GB RAM, 4GB RAM, and 6GB RAM variants of the ZenFone Max Pro M1 smartphone, bringing the respective prices down to Rs. 10,499, Rs. 12,499, and Rs. 14,499. On the other hand, buyers interested in the ZenFone 5Z will be eligible for an extra Rs. 3,000 discount on exchanging their old smartphones.
Will Apple ever launch reasonably priced iPhones in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.