Welcome back to our weekly roundup of all the news that you can use from the world of tech. Among the major events that took place this week was the start of Jio Phone bookings - bookings that are already closed, in very short order. On the Reliance Jio website, a message now reads that millions have pre-booked Jio Phone, and pre-booking will resume at a later point. When the bookings initially opened, Reliance Jio servers struggled to cope with the load, but we - and apparently 'millions' of other people - were able to book their phone after some time.
Reliance Jio also released the full specifications of Jio Phone on its website just before the pre-bookings went live. The Jio Phone has a 2.4-inch QWVGA display and is powered by the 1.2GHz Spreadtrum SPRD 9820A/QC8905 dual-core processor, alongside 512MB of RAM. It offers 4GB of storage. It has a 2-megapixel camera and a VGA front camera, and it packs a 2000mAh battery that's supposed to deliver 12 hours of talk time. Obviously, the Jio Phone supports 4G VoLTE, so that it can be used on the Reliance Jio 4G-only network.
Aside from that, the phone supports 22 Indian languages, for voice commands, allowing you to control functions without having to type. Using the voice commands, you can place calls, send text messages, or use the browser or camera. The Jio Phone also comes with Jio's suite of apps, such as JioTV, JioCinema, JioMusic, and so on. With these, the simple feature phone can be used to power entertainment from the Internet.
There are two plans for Jio Phone users - priced at Rs. 153 and Rs. 309. The first provides 500MB of 4G data daily, which is good enough to get people started on the Internet. The Rs. 309 plan, on the other hand, offers 1GB data per day, and also enables the usage of Reliance's Jio Phone-TV Cable, called the JioMediaCable, which will allow you to display content from these streaming services on to a television. Aside from these two packs, Reliance Jio is also offering JioPhone users two sachet packs, for Rs. 24 and Rs. 54 respectively, with the former having a two-day validity, and the latter being valid for seven days.
Another big story this week was the launch in China of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A, the successor to the Note 4 series from Xiaomi. The Chinese manufacturer has launched the phone in two models, with three RAM and memory variants in all, and the base model, which has 2GB RAM and 16GB storage, is priced at CNY 699, or approximately Rs. 6,700. The next two models of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A add in the fingerprint scanner and come in either 3GB RAM + 32GB storage or 4GB RAM + 64GB storage variants priced at CNY 899 and CNY 1,199, roughly Rs. 8,600 and Rs. 11,500 respectively.
All three models have a 5.5-inch HD display and a 3080mAh battery. The 2GB version of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 does not have a fingerprint sensor. Both the 2GB and 3GB variants have a 13-megapixel rear camera and 5-megapixel front camera, but the 4GB variant gets a 16-megapixel front camera, which supports features like real-time beauty filters during video calls. Also, while the 2GB and 3GB variants are running on a Snapdragon 425 SoC, the 4GB variant of the Redmi Note 5A is using the Snapdragon 435 processor.
That wasn't the only thing of "note" this week either - Samsung has released the successor to the disastrous Galaxy Note 7, with the official launch in New York of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The Galaxy Note 8 has a 6.3-inch QuadHD+ AMOLED Infinity Display and has the same design elements as the smaller Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. The phone will be shipping in select markets from September 15 onwards, and in the US, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 base variant is priced between $930 (roughly Rs. 59,500) on AT&T and $960 on (roughly Rs. 61,500) on Verizon.
The Galaxy Note 8 is packed to the gills, and at 6.3-inches, it's bigger than ever. It's powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, and as usual, some markets will get Samsung's Exynos instead. The Note 8 has 64GB storage, 6GB of RAM, and dual-rear cameras, featuring two 12-megapixel sensors. There's an 8-megapixel camera on the front and a 3300mAh battery.
Aside from the dual-camera setup, one more thing that separates the Galaxy Note 8 from the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ is the S-Pen accessory, which has always been a key feature of the line. Users will be able to share handwritten messages through animated GIFs, the ability to make notes directly from the lock screen, and a live translate feature that translates any text on the screen to your default language by hovering the S-Pen over it.
Meanwhile, the Nokia 6 went on sale via Amazon India for the first time - registrations closed on Monday, and the company received over 1 million by Monday. The phone went on sale on Wednesday, and sold out in seconds, though Nokia did not say how many units were actually sold. The Nokia 6, priced at Rs. 14,999, will go on sale again on August 30, for which registrations are currently open.
The Nokia 6 is a good looking midrange phone, which fared reasonably in our review, although the camera was a little bit of a let-down. Running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, the phone has a 5.5-inch full-HD display, and it's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC, with 3GB of RAM. There's a 16-megapixel rear camera, and an 8-megapixel front camera, along with 32GB of internal storage. This is coupled with a 3000mAh battery. Nokia 6's dual speakers that performed well in our review.
WhatsApp launched a new feature that is still rolling out - some users can now post colourful text status updates, and the feature is coming to users on both Android and iOS. The feature was being tested in beta for a while but now it's started rolling out to all users. It was originally launched on Facebook, and now WhatsApp users have also started to get the feature. The way it works is simple - in the new status bar, you can click on the Pen icon to type a status, and you can choose your font, emojis, and background to customise the status message.
And, at the start of the week, Google revealed Android 8.0, now officially named Android Oreo. The new operating system is currently available for the Google Pixel, Pixel XL, the Nexus 5X, and the Nexus 6P. It will be rolled out to more phones soon, although given that only about 13.5 percent of all Android phones are on Nougat, the previous major version of Android, it's likely going to take some time before it shows up on your phone.
Android O brings a number of new features, including perhaps most importantly, a vastly quicker boot, redesigned settings and notifications, and features such as picture in picture, smart text selection, and smart autofill. Android O also shows much more detailed battery consumption data than before, and battery life has been given particular emphasis by Google.
The YotaPhone 3, with dual displays and a Snapdragon 625 SoC was launched this week. The phone runs on YotaOS 3.0, which is based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat. The smartphone has 4GB of RAM and comes in two storage variants, of 64GB and 128GB. The phone has a 5.5-inch full-HD display on the front and a 5.2-inch E-Ink display on the back. There's a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 12-megapixel front camera. The phone has a 3300mAh battery. It has been priced starting at CNY 2,398, or approximately Rs. 23,050.
In India, Swipe Technologies on Wednesday launched a new 4G VoLTE smartphone, priced at just Rs. 2,999. The dual-SIM Swipe Neo Power runs on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, with a 2.4-inch display running at 480x854 pixels. The phone has a 1.3GHz processor, and 512MB of RAM, along with 4GB storage. The phone includes a 5-megapixel rear camera and a 2-megapixel front camera.
Meizu launched the Meizu M6 Note in China, with a 5.5-inch display. The phone comes in three variants - 3GB RAM/ 16GB storage, 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage, and 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage. The prices go from CNY 1,099 (around Rs. 10,600), to CNY 1,299 (around Rs. 12,500), to CNY 1,699 (around Rs. 16,350). The phone has a dual rear camera, with a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor, while the front has a 16-megapixel camera. The phone's display runs at full-HD resolution and it packs a 4000mAh battery, powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 625 SoC.
Nuu entered India with four new 4G VoLTE smartphones, the Q500, Q626, M3, and X5. The Q500 is the cheapest, starting at Rs. 9,999, then the Q626, at Rs. 12,499. The M3 will set you back by Rs. 12,999, while the X5 is the most expensive, at Rs. 15,999. The cheaper phones have 5-inch displays while the two higher priced devices are 5.5-inches. The three cheaper phones have 2GB of RAM, HD-ready displays, and 8-megapixel cameras on the rear, and a 5-megapixel front camera, while the X5 has 3GB RAM, a full-HD display, and a 13-megapixel camera on the rear, along with a 5-megapixel front camera.
We also got the launch of the LG K8 (2017), with 4G VoLTE support. The phone is priced at Rs. 11,000 on the online store and is tipped to retail at Rs. 9,999. The phone has a fingerprint scanner, and also has a better camera than last year's model. The phone has a 5-inch HD-ready display, 2GB Ram, and a 1.25GHz quad-core processor.
Earlier this week, Uber announced support for UPI payments, making it one of the first international companies to add this feature. The UPI has been growing steadily over the last few months, kickstarted by the demonetisation initiative last year. Now, Gadgets 360 has learned from its sources that another international company is looking to enable the feature - Netflix plans to add UPI support. Netflix was earlier in talks with Paytm for adding payments support but it seems UPI has won over another partner.
Meanwhile, Hotstar has introduced a new, cheaper annual plan, but only for users who choose to pay via debit cards. Until now, the cheapest way to subscribe to Hotstar was to use iTunes billing at Rs. 190 per month, but if you choose to pay via Hotstar.com, you can get a year's subscription for Rs. 1,200, or just Rs. 100 a month, almost half the regular price.
There were a number of leaks about the iPhone 8, and there's now an expected release date for the phone. According to reports, the iPhone 8 launches on September 12 - and is tipped to be available with 3GB RAM, and a 512GB storage variant this time around. Another report tips that the phone will support a gesture interface on iOS 11. The iPhone 8 is almost certain to have a large, bezel-less display, and no Touch ID. The phone is expected to start at $999, or approximately Rs. 64,100. That's a pretty high price, and some analysts say this will help Samsung capture the premium market.
Google's new Pixel phones are believed to launch in October, just a month later. According to reports, the two phones, tentatively called Pixel 2 and Pixel XL 2, will be unveiled on October 5. Google is expected to unveil more products as well, and earlier this week, it was reported that Google may be working on a new Chromebook Pixel and a mini Google Home speaker.