Welcome to another weekly roundup of all the important tech news from across the globe. The Nokia X5 launched in China this week, making it the second phone with notch display by HMD Global. Nokia X5 is a mid-range phone with 5.86-inch display with 19:9 aspect ratio, stock Android 8.1 Oreo, and MediaTek Helio 60 octa-core SoC. Buyers can choose between two variants - 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, or 4GB RAM and 64GB storage; both support microSD cards of up to 256GB capacity.
On the back are vertically aligned dual rear camera, featuring a 13-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. The selfie camera has 8-megapixel resolution and f/2.2 aperture. A 3060mAh battery powers the phone, and a fingerprint sensor is placed on the back. Nokia X5 price is CNY 999 (about Rs. 9,999) and CNY 1,399 (roughly Rs. 13,999) for the 3GB RAM and 4GB RAM variants, respectively.
The first HMD Global phone with a notch, the Nokia X6, also went global this week, with the moniker Nokia 6.1 Plus. Launched in Hong Kong, the new Nokia 6.1 Plus is part of the Android One programme and offers the stock Android experience. The specifications remain the same — a 5.8-inch full-HD+ display octa-core Snapdragon 636 SoC, and 4GB + 64GB storage.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus sports a dual rear camera setup, with a 16-megapixel sensor and a 5-megapixel monochrome sensor. On the front, it offers a 16-megapixel camera. The phone comes with the Bothie feature and Face Unlock, and also supports microSD card expansion up to 400GB. Battery capacity of the handset is 3060mAh, with Quick Charge 3.0 support (50 percent charge in 30 minutes). The Nokia 6.1 Plus price is HKD 2,288 (approximately Rs. 20,100) and sales start July 24.
Closer home, Nokia 3.1 was launched for the Indian market by HMD Global. The new Nokia 3.1 priced in India at Rs. 10,499, has a 5.2-inch 18:9 display with HD+ resolution, and runs the Android 8.0 Oreo software out of the box. Powering the smartphone is the 1.5GHz MediaTek MT6750N, backed by 2GB RAM.
Storage capacity on the handset is 16GB, and users can slip in a microSD card (of up to 128GB capacity) to expand storage. For selfies, you get a 8-megapixel camera in front, while a 13-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture is on the back. As for Nokia 3.1 battery, there’s a 2990mAh battery.
Xiaomi launched the Mi Max 3 phablet in China this week, adding another affordable large-screen handset to its portfolio. The device’s highlights are its 6.9-inch full-HD+ display, 5500mAh battery, and dual 4G VoLTE capabilities. The Mi Max 3 phablet has the 1.8GHz Snapdragon 636 processor and MIUI custom software. It comes in two variants - 4GB RAM + 64GB storage and 6GB RAM + 128GB storage, priced at CNY 1,699 (about Rs. 17,300) and CNY 1,999 (approximately Rs. 20,400), respectively. Both the variants support microSD cards of up to 256GB capacity.
For the photography enthusiasts, there’s a vertically stacked dual rear camera setup with 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel sensors, both with f/1.9 aperture. In the front, you will find an 8-megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and soft selfie light. The handset also supports face recognition. The handset’s 5500mAh battery comes with Quick Charge 3.0-based fast-charging.
Xiaomi’s upcoming Mi A2 and Mi A2 Lite were also in the news this week. After posting several teasers, Xiaomi confirmed this week that it will be launching the two smartphones at its July 24 event in Spain.
The Mi A2 Lite was revealed online in its entirety this week, thanks to an AliExpress listing. It shows the Lite model will have a 5.84-inch full-HD+ screen, Snapdragon 625 SoC and Android 8.1 Oreo. The upcoming Android One phone is listed in two variants, one with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage and priced at $189.99 (roughly Rs. 13,000), and another with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage and costing $209.99 (about Rs. 14,400). Vertical dual camera setup with 12-megapixel and 5-megapixel sensors is on the back, while a 5-megapixel camera is on the front. The Mi A2 Lite is listed with a 4000mAh battery and fingerprint sensor.
Later in the week, both the Mi A2 and its Lite variant were listed in Romania, which also revealed their price and specifications. The Mi A2 Lite specifications remain identical to the AliExpress listing, and prices are RON 1,000 (around Rs. 17,200) for the 3GB RAM variant, and RON 1,200 (about Rs. 20,700) for the 4GB RAM option.
As for the Mi A2, the Romanian listings show the exact same specifications as the Mi 6X, such as the 5.99-inch display, Android 8.1 Oreo, 12-megapixel + 20-megapixel dual rear cameras on the back, and 3010mAh battery. Talking about the prices, the listings suggest buyers will have to shell out RON 1,400 (about Rs. 24,200) for the 4GB RAM + 32GB storage variant and RON 1,600 (roughly Rs. 27,600) for the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage option.
The Huawei Nova 3i was launched in China earlier this week, with key features like Kirin 710 SoC, 3340mAh battery, and 6.3-inch full-HD+ display with 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The dual-SIM smartphone runs EMUI 8.2 based on Android 8.1 Oreo and comes in 4GB RAM + 64GB storage variant and 6GB RAM + 128GB inbuilt storage options. The Huawei Nova 3i price for the two variants are CNY 1,999 (about Rs. 20,400) and CNY 2,199 (roughly Rs. 22,50), respectively. Buyers can use microSD cards up to 256GB with the handset.
As for the optics, the smartphone features a vertically aligned dual rear camera setup with a 16-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor. The selfie camera setup consists of dual cameras too, with a 24-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary unit.
The launch event also saw the Huawei Nova 3 price being revealed. This handset comes in only 6GB RAM + 128GB storage configuration, priced at CNY 2,999 (roughly Rs. 30,600). For those unaware, the Nova 3 and Nova 3i are widely expected to launch in India on July 26.
Huawei-owned brand Honor also teased the launch of the Honor 9N smartphone in India this week. The handset, unveiling on July 24, is expected to be a rebranded Honor 9i (2018) for the Indian market. It will be a Flipkart exclusive model and will feature a ‘Notch FullView’ display and a back panel with mirror-like effect. The Honor 9i (2018) specifications include a 5.84-inch full-HD display, octa-core Kirin 659 SoC, 4GB RAM, dual rear cameras, 16-megapixel front camera, and 3000mAh battery. It is an affordable handset, with price starting at CNY 1,399 (roughly Rs. 14,400).
This week also saw the Vivo Nex smartphone launch in India, bring the phone with a pop-up selfie camera to the country. The top-end phone’s pop-up selfie camera is part of Vivo’s efforts to eliminate the bezels, though the chin at the bottom doesn’t let the company succeed at that. Other unique features in the Nex include the on-screen fingerprint sensor, and a new cool system that prevents the handset from heating up even in long gaming sessions.
As for the specifications, Vivo Nex sports a 6.59-inch full-HD+ Super AMOLED display with 19.3:9 aspect ratio, 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845 processor, and 8GB RAM. The smartphone runs Android 8.1 Oreo-based FunTouch OS 4.0 skin. It has a 12-megapixel + 5-megapixel dual rear camera setup, and an 8-megapixel selfie camera, both featuring AR stickers.
The new Vivo smartphone has 128GB inbuilt storage, with no provision for storage expansion. It has a 4000mAh battery with proprietary fast-charging, dedicated hardware button to wake up Google Assistant, and high-fidelity sound.
The Jio Phone exchange offer, which provides the 4G handset at Rs. 501 upon exchanging an old feature phone, went live this week. The Jio Phone exchange offer can be availed at any Jio authorised retail outlet, and requires the customer to pay a sum of Rs. 501, which can be refunded after 3 years. The handset being exchanged must be purchased after January 1, 2015 and come with the compatible charger.
In a move that surprised many a buyer, Jio has made it compulsory for customers availing the exchanging offer to also purchase recharges worth Rs. 594 in order to get the 4G phone. This brings up the actual acquisition cost of the handset from Rs. 501 to Rs. 1,095. The Rs. 594 recharge is a deposit for six recharges worth Rs. 99 for Jio Phone users. Along with this, customers will get 6GB of additional data for the first 6 month of use.
The Rs. 99 Jio recharge, in fact, has been launched as part of the new exchange offer. It provides subscribers with 500MB data per day, unlimited calls and 300 SMS for 28 days. Jio says the recharge will reduce subscribers’ monthly spends by nearly 50 percent. In separate news this week, TRAI data showed that Jio 4G download speeds have increased for the second consecutive month and lead the market with 22.3Mbps speed.
In other telecom news, Vodafone revised two of its recharges to offer double the data at the same prices. This extra data is, however, being provided only to select customers at the moment. With the revisions, subscribers purchasing the Rs. 199 recharge will get 2.8GB data per day for 28 days, up from 1.4GB per day. Similarly, the Rs. 458 recharge will give 2.8GB data per day for 84 days, up from 1.4GB per day. The former comes with no SMS benefits, while the latter provides 100 free text messages per day. Both Vodafone recharges come with bundled calls.
The Rs. 19 BSNL recharge has been launched to give customers voice calls at lowered tariffs. The pack has validity of 54 days and is available on promotional basis. It reduces the on-net calling tariff to 15 paisa per minute and off-net calls to 35 paisa per minute. BSNL has also revamped its FTTH broadband plans in Chennai circle to give subscribers 1.5TB data per month with the Rs. 4,999 plan at 100Mbps, up from 1TB.
Other BSNL FTTH offerings refreshed under this revamp include the Rs. 999 plan (250GB at 60Mbps), Rs. 1,299 (400GB at 80Mbps), and Rs. 1,699 (550GB at 80Mbps). The Rs. 1,999 plan has also been revised to offer 800GB data at 80Mbps, and so has the Rs. 2,999 plan (900GB at 80Mbps). All the revised plans offer post-FUP speed of 2Mbps. Customers will also get free calls and one email ID, with the storage space varying with the plan value.
The Amazon Prime Day sale was held earlier this week, with offers across a number of categories, including electronics. Predictably, Amazon products such as the Echo and Echo Dot, Kindle, and Fire TV Stick were available at discounts. Samsung Galaxy Note 8 was available at Rs. 55,900, a discount of Rs. 12,000. OnePlus 6 Red Limited Edition model also became available for purchase as part of the sale. Apart from mobile phones, there were also offers on smart TVs, laptops, and accessories. Part of the global Prime Day sale, this Amazon event saw the net worth of CEO and founder Jeff Bezos top $150 billion (about Rs. 10.2 lakh crores), making him the richest man in modern history.
Flipkart started its Big Shopping Days Sale a few hours later after the Amazon sale, with competing offers on mobile phones and other electronics. It also offered the popular Redmi Note 5 Pro on open sale in both 4GB and 6GB RAM variants. Among the top smartphones on offer in the two sales included iPhone 6, Moto G5s Plus, Google Pixel 2, and Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.
WhatsApp also announced a major shocker — it is limiting the number of forwarded chats to just 5 users as part of a test to curb the spread of fake news. This means you will be able to forward a message to just 5 people at a time. Moreover, the quick share button for media messages is also being removed. For the global version of the app, message forwarding will be restricted to a maximum of 20 groups.
It has also been reported that the public rollout of WhatsApp Payments is being delayed as the government has sought confirmation from banks and NPCI that the payments service is fully compliant to the existing norms. The WhatsApp Payments service competes with Paytm, Google Tez, and UPI-based apps in this segment.
WhatsApp Android beta app saw a couple of new features this week. First is the option to mute message notifications from contacts spamming your inbox without opening the app. This feature allow users to mute message alerts right from the notifications panel from contacts who have sent you 51 messages or more.
Apart from this, the company has rolled out the Suspicious Link Detector, a feature that assesses links you receive in WhatsApp messages for unusual characters in a bid to fight spam, spoofing and phishing, to all Android beta users. Messages with such links will have the label of ‘Suspicious Link’ to warn users, and clicking the link will issue another warning. In the FAQ section on its app, the company says the messages are evaluated locally and the data does not reach its own servers due to end-to-end encryption.
Apple’s tussle with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has reached new heights. TRAI says it wants to put a stop to spam calls and messages by tracking users’ calls and SMS with an app. While such an app by the regulator is available on the Android app store, it is not available for iPhones as Apple does not give apps access to users’ call logs and text messages. The company, however, is set to bring the option to report pesky calls and messages. However, TRAI still does not seem satisfied with this and wants its own app on the Apple App Store. The new TRAI regulation makes it mandatory for telecom operators to block services on all phones that do not allow users to install the app. Apple has six months to comply with the order, or face being ‘derecognised’ by telcos in India.
Another tech giant facing a bad time is Google, which was slapped with the biggest ever antitrust fine this week. The EU fined Google with an EUR 4.34 billion (roughly Rs. 34,300 crores) fine for its strategy of preloading its services and apps on Android devices, which keeps users in its ecosystem and stifles competition. Google said it will appeal the fine.
Apple rival Samsung is gearing up to launch the Galaxy Note 9 flagship phablet next month, and the leaks are pouring aplenty. This week saw several leaked live images and renders that show the design of the upcoming handset. The Geekbench scores of the Galaxy Note 9 were also leaked, showing impressive single-core and multi-core scores for the Exynos 9810 SoC.
Samsung is also reportedly planning to merge the Galaxy Note line with the Galaxy S Plus series. This is because there are not many distinguishing features anymore between the two except the S Pen considering both the Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9+ had pretty similar screen sizes. Also, the long-rumoured Samsung foldable smartphone is said to be finally going on sale next year with a price tag of over $1,500 (about Rs. 1,03,200).
Intex has launched the Indie 5 smartphone with a large 4000mAh battery in India. Priced at Rs. 4,999, the Intex Indie 5 supports 4G VoLTE and has a 5-inch HD display. Other key features of the handset include the quad-core MediaTek MT6737 SoC, 2GB RAM, 16GB inbuilt storage, microSD card support up to 128GB, 8-megapixel rear camera, LED flash, and 8-megapixel selfie camera with selfie flash.
The OnePlus 6 was available with a Rs. 2,000 discount in the Amazon sale, but if you missed out on the offer, there’s some consolation. The Chinese company is running a Back to School offer for OnePlus 6 under which it is giving students a Rs. 1,500 discount on payments made using HDFC credit or debit cards. This offers runs from July 23 to July 30.