Last week, Reliance Jio announced the Jio Phone, it's 4G-VoLTE capable feature phone that will be 'free', but with a Rs. 1,500 refundable payment. This week, we learned that the Jio Phone is a single-SIM handset - and as expected, the phone will only route calls via VoLTE, which means that non-Jio SIM cards will not work on the phone.
The other telcos have since been scrambling to respond to the Jio Phone. In an investor call, Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal talked about the company's plans to work with phone makers and offer data plans along with 4G phones, even as the company works to roll out its own 4G VoLTE services, as a way to counter the Jio juggernaut. A bundled offer with partner vendor will give Airtel the same kind of exclusivity, and the option to preload its apps on the handset. Vodafone meanwhile announced a new data plan, offering 70GB 4G data for Rs. 244, along with unlimited calls.
Meanwhile, Idea Cellular has flagged net neutrality concerns about Jio Phone, saying it will only allow the apps of the operator's choice. "One of the concerns is about net neutrality. [Jio Phone] will not allow most of the apps which a customer prefers and the choice of apps may not work because it is forcing consumers to use an individual operator's apps," Himanshu Kapania, the managing director of Idea Cellular Limited said in an analyst call.
He added that Idea working with handset makers to launch a phone that will be slightly more expensive than the Jio Phone but offer customers the freedom of choice. This new handset will give all the choices to a customer, including to choose the operator of his/ her choice, popular applications like Google, Facebook, or WhatsApp, Kapania stressed.
Meanwhile, in China, Xiaomi launched the Xiaomi Mi 5X, a mid-range phone with 4GB RAM, an octa-core Snapdragon 625 SoC, and a dual-rear camera setup. The phone is priced at CNY 1,499, or roughly Rs. 14,200. At launch, there is only a single RAM/ storage variant - alongside the 4GB RAM mentioned above, the device will come with 64GB of storage. The Xiaomi Mi 5X will have a metal unibody design, a 5.5-inch full-HD display, a dual-rear camera with a 12-megapixel front camera, similar to the Xiaomi Mi 6. There is no news about when (or at what price) the phone will launch in India, but it will go on sale in China on August 1. Interested customers can already start registering for the Xiaomi Mi 5X.
Alongside the phone, the company also announced and launched MIUI 9, its custom Android skin. According to Xiaomi, MIUI 9 will perform faster and comes with new features. The first beta of MIUI 9 will be made available from August 11. The new MIUI 9 smart features include a smart assistant and a smart app launcher.
Nokia 8, the rumoured Nokia Android flagship, looks set to become a reality soon as HMD Global has started sending out invites for a launch event scheduled for August 16. The Nokia 8 launch event will put to rest all the speculation around the phone, which has been going around for several weeks. Previous reports have claimed the Nokia 8 will have a dual camera setup, which has also been seen in recently leaked live images of the handset. With Zeiss and HMD Global recently signing an agreement, it may just feature Carl Zeiss branding as well.
We also witnessed an unexpected spat between two of the biggest names in the world of tech earlier this week. Tesla founder and Mars-nuking advocate Elon Musk has long been speaking about the dangers of artificial intelligence. Facebook founder and future presidential candidate Mark Zuckerberg doesn't agree, and described Musk's prediction as "irresponsible".
Well, that's not something that Musk was going to ignore, and he responded by saying, Zuckerberg's understanding of the subject is limited. Earlier, Musk had also said, "I keep sounding the alarm bell, but until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react, because it seems so ethereal." Zuckerberg, however, responded saying he's optimistic about AI because of its potential to make the world better.
The Meizu Pro 7 and Meizu Pro 7 Plus were both launched this week in China. The two new phones are priced starting at CNY 2,880 (roughly Rs. 27,400) and CNY 3,580 (roughly Rs. 34,100) respectively. Both phones include a smaller AMOLED display on the back, to show the time, notifications, weather, and also to serve as a display, letting you take selfies using the rear camera. The Meizu Pro 7 has a 5.2-inch full-HD display, while the Meizu Pro 7 Plus has a 5.7-inch quad-HD display. Both phones have a deca-core processor, and the Pro 7 has 4GB RAM, while the Plus has 6GB.
Lenovo's Moto has launched its newest flagship smartphone, the Moto Z2 Force. The phone comes with a ShatterShield display, and it will available in 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage, and 6GB RAM/ 128GB storage variants. The Moto Z2 Force, which starts at $799 (roughly Rs. 51,500), is compatible with the Moto Mods modular accessory system, and alongside the phone, the company launched the Moto 360 camera mod as well, priced at $299 (approximately Rs. 19,300).
In India, Samsung launched the Samsung Galaxy J7 Nxt, priced at Rs. 11,490. The phone has a 5.5-inch HD Super-AMOLED display and packs a 1.6GHz octa-core processor alongside 2GB of RAM. The phone comes with 16GB storage.
Other launches this week included the selfie-centric, Gionee A1 Plus, which also packs a large 4550mAh battery, priced at Rs. 26,999. We got the Yu Yunique 2, which is priced at just Rs. 5,999, and comes with Truecaller integration. It's on sale exclusively via Flipkart. There's also the Intex Aqua Power IV, which is priced at just Rs. 5,499, and carries a 4000mAh battery, along with 4G VoLTE support. There was also the Lyf C459 from Reliance Retail, which is priced at Rs. 4,699, and powered by a Snapdragon 210 SoC.
Meanwhile, Samsung Pay might be getting bigger soon. The payments system offers a compelling experience, but it's been limited to just a handful of Samsung phones. Now though, sources tell Gadgets 360 that Samsung could be bringing Samsung Pay to other companies smartphones as well. This will involve getting other OEMs to add a specialised chip to enable MST technology, but according to sources, talks are underway.
We also learned that Amazon India is exploring offline sales of smartphones. The company is in talks with partners to enable an offline presence, along with brand-building activity according to people familiar with the matter. Smartphones will be the first stage but other kinds of products could follow suit, our sources added.
One of the interesting developments this week was that Uber is going to take a leaf out of Ola's playbook and come out with its own in-car entertainment service, which will be similar to Ola Play. According to Gadgets 360's sources, the cars will have Android tablets, loaded with a range of entertainment services, and they will launch in the Uber X fleet first.
So far, GST has been a confusing mess for most people, and it's led to the first instance of the smartphone market in India contracting, according to research firm Canalys. The top vendors, Samsung, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, and Lenovo, all registered growth, but the overall market fell, leading to a 4 percent year on year contraction.
One piece of news that will make Apple users happy - you can now use Touch ID for card payments on the Apple Store. This means that the next time you want to buy Apple hardware via the app (available in select countries only), your fingerprint will get the job done.
WhatsApp got another new feature this week - the latest Android beta now features launcher app shortcuts. These let you just to a new chat, or the camera, for example, though in practice, we found the implementation a little lacking at this stage.
The iPod nano and shuffle were discontinued this week as Apple simplified its lineup, announcing an iPod Touch with greater storage. These were the two cheapest iPod models. It's been a long time coming as the iPod nano wasn't updated since 2012, and the iPod shuffle since 2010, aside from getting new colours in 2015.
The Micromax Selfie 2 - which as the name suggests is a phone that's focused on the selfie camera - hasn't gotten an official launch, but it was spotted on the company's website. The phone has a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB RAM, and 32GB storage, a 3000mAh battery, and a 13-megapixel rear sensor. On the front, there's an 8-megapixel sensor, with LED flash. Its price was not listed at the time.
The Moto X4 price has been leaked, ahead of the official launch of the phone. According to the tip, the Moto X4 will launch for EUR 350, or approximately Rs. 26,500. Back in 2015, the Moto X Style was launched at $399 (approximately Rs. 27,000). The Moto X4 is expected to be announced soon.
A leak of Google Pixel 2 and Google Pixel XL 2 renders meanwhile showed no 3.5mm jack - does this mean that Google will follow Apple and do away with the audio port as well? The phones also sport thinner bezels, and the fingerprint scanner is said to be on the back.