Welcome back to our weekly roundup of all the news that you can use from the world of tech. First up, the long-awaited Jio feature phone was finally revealed on Friday by Reliance Jio. Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani introduced it as "India ka smartphone", but the phone's being sold under the name Jio Phone. Announced at the Reliance annual general meeting on Friday, the phone will only go on sale in September. Speaking at the AGM, Ambani said that the three tenets of affordable data, wider connectivity, and affordable devices will help bridge the digital divide in India, and described the Jio Phone as made in, by, and for Indians.
Although Ambani described the Jio Phone as "effectively" free, there's an upfront cost of Rs. 1,500 involved. This is however fully refundable, but only after three years, and only if you return the handset. Alongside the phone, Ambani also announced a special plan for Jio Phone users, who can get "unlimited" calls and data at Rs 153 a month. There is a daily data cap of 500MB per day, after which you won't get high-speed Internet.
Jio Phone users can also pay Rs. 309 for the Dhan Dhana Dhan offer, under which they get access to 1GB per day, for 56 days. That's four times as much data for roughly twice the price, which is much better value. For users who don't want to pay for a full month, there are also two short-term recharges available. You can pay Rs. 24 for unlimited access for a day, or Rs. 54 for a week. The FUP data limit on these connections hasn't been stated. Customers who opt for the Rs. 309 plan will also be able to enjoy Reliance Jio's apps on the big screen, via an accessory called the Jio Phone TV Cable. With this, you'll be able to connect your phone to any TV, even old CRTs, Ambani promised.
The Jio Phone itself looks like a standard feature phone, with the "candybar" design, a numeric keypad, and a 2.4-inch display. The phone will come with certain apps loaded, including PM Modi's Mann Ki Baat. During the presentation, Jio apps such as Jio Music, Jio Cinema, and Jio TV were also mentioned. On stage, we also noticed the Facebook icon on the phone; WhatsApp is not supported, at least for now. Also demonstrated on stage - the Jio Phone supports 22 Indian languages and can be controlled by voice. The phone also has an SOS button, which sends an SMS to predefined contacts, and Reliance Jio will be adding police and emergency services in an update. Ambani also said that the phone will support digital payments via an update - it already has the hardware for this, and you'll be able to link your bank account, debit or credit cards, or UPI, to make payments.
As we mentioned above, the Jio Phone will only go on sale in September. First, though, Reliance will be doing a beta test, which will start from August 15. After that, pre-bookings begin from August 24, both via the MyJio app, and at Reliance's retail locations. In September, people who pre-booked the phone already will be able to start buying the phone. Pre-booking doesn't guarantee you a phone though - the phones will be sold on a first come first serve basis to everyone who pre-booked, Ambani said. The company aims to make 5 million units of the Jio Phone available.
Meanwhile, Reliance Jio and the incumbent telecom players are locked in a battle of words in front of TRAI. At the regulator's open house on interconnection charges, operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone said that a minimum floor price should be imposed to protect consumers from predatory pricing. When Reliance Jio responded by saying that it will provide coverage to 99 percent of India even if the interconnect charges are dropped, Airtel responded with a more direct response.
Saying that it is bleeding Rs. 550 crore per quarter because of Reliance Jio, Airtel alleged that Jio's plans were predatory and would lead to a monopoly situation. It also responded to Jio's allegation that Airtel collected excess revenue from incoming calls, saying that was "not only false but laughable". However, Jio had the last laugh, at least for now, as TRAI said on Friday that there is no need for a floor price on telecom services, as of now. If a minimum floor price had been set, it could have meant an end to freebies in the market.
The Jio Phone wasn't the only new feature phone to make the news this week though. HMD Global also launched two new Nokia feature phones, following the reboot of the Nokia 3310. Nokia's new feature phone range now includes the Nokia 105 (2017), and the Nokia 130 (2017). The two phones were launched at the start of the week, and share some of the aesthetics of the refreshed Nokia 3310 (2017). The Nokia 105 (2017) is priced at Rs. 999 for the single-SIM variant and Rs.1,149 for the dual-SIM variant. No price and launch date of the revamped Nokia 130 yet.
With these three phones, there's a sudden resurgence of interest in the feature phone market, which had largely been marked by small changes to models with the features and performance being pretty much static. With a fresh round of feature phones in the market, would we see more developers, for example, creating content that's tailored for these entry level devices? Perhaps, or perhaps the interest in feature phones will fizzle out, as entry level smartphone devices become steadily more accessible.
Another piece of news you should know about was the launch of the mAadhaar app. The app was launched by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), which described the app as a way to let you carry your Aadhaar card with you. There are a couple of caveats - for one thing, the mAadhaar app has only been released on Android. For another, only users who have linked their mobile number to the Aadhaar can actually use the app, as it relies on SMS OTP for verification.
We tried out the mAadhaar app and found that it is very much a work in progress. Issues with SMS OTP make it hard to log-in to the app in the first place, and the app itself also crashed a few times. Beyond the issues in the implementation, the bigger problem right now is that there aren't too many scenarios where you would need to use the app at all. If you're interested in carrying you Aadhaar with you, it's easier to just take a picture and save that to the gallery. Features such as time-based OTP as a replacement for SMS OTP are interesting, but as long as you don't need to use the Aadhaar routinely, the mAadhaar app is not a necessity at this stage.
Another launch of note last week was the Xiaomi Mi Max 2, which was unveiled on Tuesday at a price of Rs. 16,999. Xiaomi's super-sized phablet was first launched in China priced at CNY 1,699, or roughly Rs. 16,000, so the India pricing looks pretty good. As we noted in our Xiaomi Mi Max 2 review, the 6.44-inch "phone" still manages to look great and has excellent build quality. That size also allows for a much bigger battery, and even with heavy usage, we got two days of use out of the phone.
In our standard battery test, the Mi Max 2 lasted for 23 hours and 30 minutes of continuous video playback, and it supports Qualcomm's Quick Charge 3.0 and parallel charging, which brought it from 0 to 100 percent battery in just over an hour and a half. Aside from that, the large display is also great for watching your favourite shows. The one major letdown though was the camera on the phone.
The LG Q8 has been launched as a smaller LG V20 variant, with a QHD display, Snapdragon 820 SoC, 4GB RAM, and 32GB storage. The phone was launched in Italy, with no word on when it will go on sale, or at what price. The Zopo Speed X with the Niki.ai chatbot, which can be used to pay bills, book cabs, or movie tickets, was released this week. The phone, which has a 5-inch full-HD display, comes with 3GB RAM, and 32GB of storage. It has a dual-rear camera setup, with a 13-megapixel camera and a 2-megapixel depth-sensor, along with a 13-megapixel camera on the front. The phone is priced at Rs. 9,499. In India, the Kodak Ektra photography focused phone was also launched in India, priced at Rs. 19,990. The phone packs a 21-megapixel fast focus camera, with a DSLR-like scene selection dial, to make adjustments in real time. It comes with 3GB RAM and 32GB of storage, and a 5-inch display.
There was also the launch of the Intex Aqua Lions 3, with 4G VoLTE support, 8-megapixel cameras on the front and back, 2GB of RAM, and 16 GB of storage, all for a price of Rs. 6,499. We also got two new phones from Indian brand iVoomi. The two models, the iVoomi Me4 and iVoomi Me5, are priced at Rs. 3,499 and Rs. 4,499 respectively, and come with expectedly entry-level specifications as well. The Xolo Era 1X Pro with 4G VoLTE support and a front flash was launched in India at Rs. 5,888, and the Micromax Canvas 1 with 4G VoLTE support was also launched, priced at Rs. 6,999.
Earlier in the week, Samsung's President of Mobile Communications reportedly confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will release in late August. This was later officially confirmed by the company; the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 will launch at Samsung's August 23 Unpacked event. It has used the tagline "Do bigger things" to indicate a larger display and more features over current flagships. Meanwhile, leaked renders of the Galaxy Note 8 show what the handset will look like from all sides.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp for iPhone got a new update adding in-app playback for YouTube videos. This was followed by an update that brought pinned chats, and sharing of all file types. Meanwhile, WhatsApp picture-in-picture mode for video calling has been spotted in app version 2.17.265 running on the Android O Developer Preview. This would allow you to keep chatting even while a video call is underway. What's less clear is whether you'll be able to move the video window around while chatting or if it will stay in a fixed position. Also, it's not sure if the chat will persist in PIP mode if users switch to another app.
On its Android app, Uber has added support for UPI as a payment option. That makes it the first global company to support UPI - Truecaller also supports UPI, but there it's more of a peer to peer (P2P) payments option. With the Uber integration, you're paying the merchant instead. Facebook's WhatsApp is working on adding UPI payments support as well. It will be interesting how this changes things for Paytm, which saw Uber as one of its major backers back in the day.
Meanwhile, LinkedIn launched its app for Windows 10, and also announced the LinkedIn Lite Android app which is now available in India and will be rolling out in over 60 more markets. LinkedIn Lite is aimed at entry level smartphone users and takes up only 1MB on your phone. What's more, its data usage is also 80 percent lower than the regular LinkedIn app. It does this without losing any of the key features of the app, supporting the news feed, jobs, profile, network, messaging, notifications, and search.
There were also a number of leaks through the week. A new Moto G5S Plus leak showed the silver variant from all sides and tipped a dual camera setup. The phone is expected to launch on July 25, and will most likely come with two 12.9-megapixel rear-cameras, and on the front, LED flash. The phone is expected to launch at between Rs. 18,999 and Rs. 19,999. The Moto Z2 was also leaked and is expected to be thinner than the previous version.
The Xioami Mi 5X is launching on July 26 and will come with dual rear cameras, and a dual LED flash module. It's expected to be priced at CNY 1,999 (approximately Rs. 19,000). Ahead of the launch, the phone's specifications were spotted on the FCC certification website. The phone is tipped to bear a 3000mAh battery and will come with a USB Type-C charging cable. The phone will have a 5.5-inch full-HD display, a Snapdragon 625 SoC, and 4GB RAM.
There were also some Nokia leaks about the upcoming Nokia 8. The phone is expected to launch with a 4GB RAM and 64GB storage variant to start with, and a leak says it will be priced at EUR 589 (roughly Rs. 43,400). Variants with 6GB RAM and 8GB RAM are also tipped to come a little later. Also leaked was the Nokia 2 budget Android smartphone, which could well become the company's cheapest Android phone.