Pixel 2 and its bigger sibling Pixel 2 XL were unveiled at an event in San Francisco this week, with the two new Google phones set to compete against the likes of iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8. The new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL run the Android 8.0.0 Oreo software and sport IP67-ceritifed water- and dust-resistant bodies, but do not feature the 3.5mm jack. While the former has a 5-inch AMOLED screen with full-HD resolution (1080x1920px) and 2700mAh battery, the latter sports a larger 6-inch P-OLED display with QHD+ resolution (2880x1440px) with 18:9 aspect ratio, and comes with a 3520mAh battery.
The rest of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL specs are the same, such as the octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 12.2-megapixel camera with PDAF, laser autofocus, OIS, and dual-LED flash on the back, and a 9-megapixel camera in front. There’s a USB Type-C connector at the bottom for both charging and music, and the fingerprint sensor on the back does duty for biometrics. You also get stereo speakers with the phone and a squeezable frame (à la HTC U11) that calls up Google Assistant.
Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have a lot of software focus. Google Assistant integration was a given before the launch too, but there’s also Lens – the company’s AI-based visual search tool. Using Lens on Google Pixel 2 phones, the phone will be able to make sense of useful information mentioned in posters, books, etc. The feature will be exclusive to Pixel phones for now and will be rolled out later this year. The company also unveiled the Pixel Buds earphones that can perform real-time multi-lingual translation; this will be Pixel-exclusive too.
The India prices of Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have been announced too, with pre-orders set for October 26. The Pixel 2 price in India will be Rs. 61,000 and Rs. 70,000 for the 64GB and 128GB variants, respectively. Pixel 2 XL costs Rs. 73,000 and Rs. 82,000 for the 64GB and 128GB storage options. The smaller model will go on sale on November 1, while the large-screen variant will become available on November 15. The company will be focusing on offline channels in India for the Pixel 2 release, and online sales will be exclusive to Flipkart.
Coming to the rivals of Pixel phones, iPhone 8 Plus is not having a good start. Cases of iPhone 8 Plus units popping open on the sides due to swollen batteries came to light this week, something that Apple is reportedly investigating. It's not certain what caused the problem, and it's being thought to be a battery failure, which causes it to swell up. Samsung is facing similar troubles, with one of the company’s phones allegedly catching fire in a user’s pocket. Samsung told CNET that the device in question had a third-party component as the battery on the used device was not manufactured by Samsung or a company authorised by the company, it said.
Moving to the domestic telecom sector - where something happens every other day - the week started with the revelation that Jio's unlimited free calls are not actually completely unlimited. It turns out Jio limits the maximum duration of a single call to 5 hours, to both Jio and non-Jio users; Airtel and Vodafone also have similar restrictions. This limit helps the company ensure its network is not misused - if a call exceeds the 5-hour limit, outgoing calls will be discontinued for the day, and the user will have to top up the account with Rs. 149 recharge to resume service. The restriction affects only a small number of customers, according to a customer care executive.
Jio also silently updated its Rs. 149 plan to offer unlimited Internet access this week. Consumers will get the same 2GB high-speed data for 28 days as before, but now their Internet access won't be cut off after the speed is cut off. Instead, they will be able to browse at the lowered speed of 64kbps. Airtel has launched a new plan at Rs. 799, offering 3GB of data per day and unlimited STD and local calls at Rs. 799, giving a total of 84GB data to consumers.
The Jio vs Airtel saga continues, with UK-based OpenSignal releasing a new report claiming that the former has the biggest network in the country but the latter offers the best speed. The report says that Jio has the average download speed in India at 5.81Mbps, but its peak speed is still behind Airtel (9.15Mbps), Vodafone (7.45Mbps), and Idea (7.4Mbps). While the Jio overall speed rose in the June-August period, Airtel and the other incumbents saw their speeds decline, the report adds. Also this week, Reliance Communications and Aircel called off their merger owing to regulatory hurdles.
Amazon and Flipkart also held sales this week, though the discounts were smaller this time around. But that doesn't mean there were not enough good deals, especially on smartphones. iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus discounts were the headliners of the two sales, which is kind of a big deal considering the phones were launched in India just last week. iPhone 7 32GB at Rs. 39,999 (Amazon, Flipkart), OnePlus 3T 64GB at Rs. 25,999, Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 64GB at Rs. 10,999, Lenovo K8 Plus at Rs. 9,499, Google Pixel 128GB at Rs. 41,000, and Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017) at Rs. 20,990 were among the other big deals on mobile phones in the two sales. There were also discounts on tablets, laptops, and other electronics. Both the platforms offered exchange discounts, cashbacks, no cost EMIs, and buyback guarantees on select devices to make the deals sweeter.
If you use Amazon but do not have the Prime membership yet, it is best to buy the subscription soon. The company told Gadgets 360 that its introductory pricing of Rs. 499 for Prime membership will end soon, and the users will then have to pay Rs. 999 a year to become a member. There is no date yet for the new pricing to take effect though; the subscription provides exclusive access to certain deals during sales, free one- or two-day deliveries, and access to Prime Video streaming service.
Amazon also launched its Alexa-powered smart speakers in India this week, with the Echo Dot, Echo, and Echo Plus priced at Rs. 4,499, Rs. 9,999, and Rs. 14,999, respectively. The speakers' highlight is Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant that has been optimised to understand the Indian accents and has integration with services such as NDTV, Ola, Saavn, ESPNCricinfo, Zomato, Freshmenu etc. It can also control connected devices around the house. Users will able be ask their Echo speakers to set alarms, check the weather, sports scores, play music etc. Echo speakers will be available on an invite-only basis for now, and as part of the introductory offer, Amazon India is providing 30 percent flat discount to buyers, along with one year of Prime subscription. The company will also give an exclusive preview of its upcoming Prime Music service to the invite-only Echo buyers in the country.
Since we are talking about streaming services, Hotstar slashed the prices of its annual Premium subscription. The company is providing the 12-month subscription to Hotstar Premium for Rs. 696, a discount of 70 percent off the regular price of the annual plan. This offer is available only with payments made via debit and credit cards and provides the services at an average of Rs. 58 per month. Netflix raised the prices of two of its plans in the US this week, though the prices remain the same as before in India.
In the world of smartphones, Honor 9i was the big launch of the week. The new Honor 9i, priced at Rs. 17,999, sports a 5.9-inch FullView bezel-less display with 18:9 aspect ratio and FHD+ resolution (1080x2160px), and four cameras (dual cameras on both the front and the back). The smartphone is powered by the octa-core 2.36GHz Kirin HiSilicon 659 chipset with 4GB of RAM, 64GB storage, and Android Nougat-based EMUI 5.1 software. As for the rear camera setup, the Honor 9i gets a 16-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor for depth-of-field effect. Similarly, the front camera has a 13-megapixel RGB sensor and a 2-megapixel secondary sensor for bokeh shots.
Asus India gave a price cut to its ZenFone Max (ZC550KL), bringing down the price to Rs. 7,999. The smartphone has a 5000mAh battery, 5.5-inch HD (720x1280px) screen, Android Marshmallow OS, quad-core Snapdragon 410 processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB storage. Xiaomi also revealed that it has sold over 25 million smartphones in India since launching operations three years ago. More importantly, the company says it sold 10 million units just in the month of September across the markets in which it operates.
In other Xiaomi news, the company announced that the Mi MIX 2 bezel-less smartphone will be launched in India on October 10. The smartphone has a 5.99-inch full-HD display with 18:9 aspect ratio, Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB RAM, 12-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel rear camera, facial recognition technology, and 3400mAh battery. Mi MIX 2 India launch will be held in New Delhi, though it is not yet known whether the special edition variant with 8GB of RAM will be launched in the country or not. The company's Redmi Note 5A Prime was also spotted on the FCC website this week, sparking rumours of the company entering the US smartphone market.
Despite being arch rivals in the mobile space, Apple is dependent on Samsung for several components for its smartphones. Now it turns out that the South Korean titan may make $110 (about Rs. 7,200) from each iPhone X unit sold. According to a report, Samsung will make more money from the sale of iPhone X components than it will from the parts made for the Galaxy S8 over a period of 20 months (from the date of sale of the Apple phone).
HMD Global announced that not only will its Nokia 3, Nokia 5, Nokia 6 and Nokia 8 get Android Oreo updates, they will also be upgraded to Android P when the build becomes available. This is rather great software support for the Nokia phones, which run stock Android.