Redmi Note 7S was launched in India this week, and it was certainly the highlight of the week, offering a 48-megapixel camera smartphone at a lower price point in the Indian market. Xiaomi with the move replaced the Redmi Note 7 in the country, bringing Indian users the phone's China variant instead. Other major pieces of news this week included the announcement of the Redmi K20 launch date, the unveiling of the Redmi 7A, the launch of the new Honor 20 series of smartphones, as well as the India launch of the Nokia 3.2. Major repercussions of the Huawei US blacklisting also became known, such as the withdrawal of support from Android maker Google as well as major chipset players like ARM, Intel, and Qualcomm. Airtel and Tata Sky had some significant DTH-related announcements to make this week as well. WhatsApp added a few new features, while also revealing it would launch ads in 2020. Read on for all the top news of the week past.
Xiaomi on Monday launched the Redmi Note 7S in India. The Redmi Note 7S is essentially the original China variant of the Redmi Note 7, featuring a 48-megapixel primary camera + 5-megapixel depth sensor in its dual rear camera setup. To recall, the Redmi Note 7 India variant had a dual rear camera setup consisting of a 12-megapixel primary camera + 2-megapixel depth sensor. As we mentioned, Xiaomi has also alongside announced the Redmi Note 7 will be replaced in its product lineup up by the new model. It also happens to charge Rs. 1,000 more for the new Redmi Note 7S variant, giving the Redmi Y3 a chance to thrive now that the same-priced Redmi Note 7 is gone.
The Redmi Note 7S price in India starts at Rs. 10,999 for its base 3GB/ 32GB model, while its top-end 4GB/ 64GB model is priced at Rs. 12,999. To recall, the Redmi Note 7 India variant had been priced at Rs. 9,999 and Rs. 11,999 for the same configurations. The Redmi Note 7S went on sale for the first time on Thursday, May 23 via Flipkart, Mi.com, and Mi Home stores, and then became available via Mi Studio and Xiaomi partner retailers from Friday. It is available in three colour variants - Onyx Black, Ruby Red, and Sapphire Blue. It will next go on sale on May 29.
The much-awaited Redmi flagship, confirmed to run a Snapdragon 855 SoC, will be a part of the new Redmi K20 series - something we knew from last week. This week however, Xiaomi announced the launch date of the Redmi K20 - it will be Tuesday, May 28. Readers should note that leaks have indicated the Chinese company will launch two variants - the Redmi K20 Pro and the Redmi K20. The former is of course expected to be the top-of-the-line model, running Qualcomm's flagship mobile processor, with the latter recently tipped to run the Snapdragon 730 SoC - one of the California-based company's recently introduced Snapdragon 700-series models.
Alongside the launch date, Xiaomi has been dropping teasers of much leaked Redmi K20 all week long. We know that the top model will run Snapdragon 855 SoC, that it will sport a 7th generation in-display fingerprint sensor, triple rear cameras including a 48-megapixel Sony IMX586 primary sensor, a 4,000mAh battery, the Game Turbo 2.0 and DC Dimming software features, a gradient colour finish, a 3.5mm headphone jack, Hi-Res Audio, and an 'ultra-linear' loudspeaker that's touted to be especially good for gaming.
Pre-bookings for the Redmi K20 have begun, with interested buyers able to book it with a CNY 100 (roughly Rs. 1,000) fee. The most recent leaks have also tipped pricing of the top-end Redmi K20 Pro flagship. Its 6GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant is said to be priced at CNY 2,599 (roughly Rs. 26,100), while its 6GB RAM/ 128GB storage variant priced at CNY 2,799 (roughly Rs. 28,100), and its top-end 8GB/ 128GB variant is said to be available for CNY 2,999 (roughly Rs. 30,200). The smartphone has been confirmed to be coming to India as well, and its pricing in the country can be expected to be similar. Of course, we will know more on Tuesday. Stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for detailed updates from the launch event.
Xiaomi this week announced the Redmi 7A - its latest entry-level smartphone that succeeds the Redmi 6A. However, pricing and availability details will be announced at the Redmi K20's launch on Tuesday. Its RAM and storage configurations are under wraps for now as well. The Redmi 7A runs MIUI 10 based on Android 9 Pie, and the company has announced a special mode for senior citizens and a Family Guardian function. Other specifications include a 5.45-inch HD+ display, an octa-core Snapdragon 439 processor, and a dedicated microSD card slot with support for cards up to 256GB in capacity.
The Redmi 7A features a single rear camera, with 13-megapixel sensor coupled with PDAF, while on the front it sports a 5-megapixel sensor. It is powered by a 4,000mAh battery. Connectivity options are confirmed to include a 3.5mm audio jack and a Micro-USB port, while more standard options like 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.2, and GPS can be expected to make their way to the handset.
OnePlus had a busy week, featuring in headlines several times. The first saw the company announce upcoming India-specific features for OxygenOS that will first roll out in an Open Beta build at the end of June. The new features will arrive first for the OnePlus 6T and OnePlus 6 smartphones, and are namely Work-life Balance, a Smart SMS app, Caller Identification, OnePlus Roaming, and Cricket Scores. The names may change by the time of the actual rollout, the company notes.
Next up, the company addressed camera complaints from early adopters of the OnePlus 7 Pro, saying that a significant bug-fixing update should soon be available to users when they first unbox their smartphone. The company also announced another update that will start to roll out in a week or so and feature improvements to HDR and Nightscape 2.0 mode. Another area of complaints arose from some users whose OnePlus 7 Pro units were affected by a 'Phantom Touch' or ghost input issue on the display. A fix was promised by the company.
OnePlus also made headlines when it was reported the company had not been very up-front about the 3x optical zoom claim it had made for the OnePlus 7 Pro at launch. As had been seen in the case of the OnePlus 5, the company had claimed an optical zoom figure at launch, and it was later learnt that the smartphone at full resolution offers a lower figure. In the case of the OnePlus 7 Pro, at full resolution, the telephoto lens of the camera is only capable of 2.2x optical zoom at the 13-megapixel Portrait mode, but the company uses a cropping method to achieve a 3x zoom output at an 8-megapixel resolution.
Finally, OnePlus was in the news for updates. The company delivered the Android Q Beta 3 builds for the OnePlus 7 Pro and the OnePlus 7 smartphones. The company is part of the Android Beta Program, and had already delivered Android Q Beta 3 builds for the OnePlus 6T and OnePlus 6. Amazon India also revealed that the OnePlus 7 Pro, which first went on sale on May 16 for Prime customers before becoming available for regular members the next day, was its fastest selling ultra-premium smartphone (priced above Rs. 45,000) in the first seven days of availability - though the e-commerce giant did not reveal the number of units sold.
This week, OnePlus at long last delivered the much-delayed Android 9.0 Pie update for the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 3 smartphones, and this is expected to be the last Android version update the duo will receive from the company.
Finally, OnePlus promised the OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5 would indeed receive their Android Q updates, though it warned users shouldn't hold their breath as it wasn't announcing a release schedule. The updates would match the company's promise of 2 years of Android version updates and 3 years of security updates.
Tata Sky has revised prices of HD and SD set-top boxes in India, offering a Rs. 400 price cut when purchased from local dealers and retail stores in the country. Users will be able to purchase the SD set-top box at Rs. 1,600, while the HD set-top box will be available at Rs. 1,800. Notably, on the site, the company is offering an even lower price, at Rs. 1,499 and Rs. 1,699 respectively.
Separately, the DTH operator also introduced four new broadcaster packs, starting at Rs. 49. The new packs are directed at Bengali speaking consumers. These are, namely: Star Bengali Value A pack, Star Bengali Value B pack, Star Bengali Premium A pack, and Star Bengali Premium B pack. What should be noted is that the new packs are not part of DPO packs, but belong to a set of broadcaster packs from Star.
DTH operator Airtel Digital TV has reportedly started offering long-term packs for its SD and HD subscribers. The packs are said to be available via the company site, its app, or via customer care. Six new packs were introduced, with 195-day and 360-day validity options. These are Hindi Value Pack SD, Ultimate Dhamaka Pack (UDP) SD, Gujarat Value Sports Pack SD, Gujarat Value Sports Pack HD, Gujarat Mega SD, and Gujarat Mega HD.
As we mentioned, two different validities are offered on the new Airtel Digital TV long-term packs - the 6-month plan is giving 15 days of additional validity, translating to 195 days, while the 12-month plan is in fact 11 months with 1 month of additional validity. The UDP pack however doesn't get an additional validity on 6-month and 12-month durations.
Airtel's revised prepaid plans, BSNL's new STV recommendation service, and other telecom news this week
Airtel has revised three of its prepaid plans - Rs. 399, Rs. 448, and Rs. 499 - offering an additional 400MB of daily data to subscribers of these packs. After the revision, the three packs correspondingly offer 1.4GB, 1.9GB, and 2.4GB data per day. These three packs also offer benefits like Airtel TV Premium subscription, Norton Mobile Security subscription for one year, a Rs. 2,000 new 4G device cashback benefit, a free Wynk subscription, unlimited calling without any FUP, 100 SMS messages per day, and an 82-day validity.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) this week launched a new service - BSNL My Offers - which would help recommend the best special tariff vouchers (STVs), or prepaid recharges to customers and retailers both. Users will need to dial *121# to receive a recommendation of the best STV for the subscriber based on their usage patterns. If users dial *121*1#, they will also get to see all available STVs in their telecom circle. Retailers can also help customers get a recommendation or see all packs using the same service. BSNL also announced a special Ramzan offer for its Andhra Pradesh and Telangana circles, with the Rs. 899 recharge discounted to Rs. 786 until June 5.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) this week released its March telecom subscription report, noting that while Airtel and Vodafone Idea together lost around 30 million subscribers in the period, Reliance Jio added 9.4 million. Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel lost 14.5 million and 15.1 million subscribers respectively, to reach 394.8 million and 325.1 million total user base by the end of the month, while Reliance Jio was at 306.7 million.
Huawei US ban fallout
Huawei has had a terrible month - and that's an understatement. The Chinese telecommunications giant was last week placed under a US blacklist by the Trump administration. The company's alleged ties to the China government are considered a national security risk by the US government, and the move can also be considered as part of the ongoing US-China trade war.
While last week the true implications of the US ban on Huawei were a little murky, by this week, multiple crippling blows were fired at the company. First, Google confirmed that it would be suspending some business ties with the company as a result of the broad blacklisting, and that the world's second largest smartphone maker would not be able to offer a Google-licensed version of Android complete with Google apps (like Gmail, Google Maps, and YouTube) and services like the Play Store in future devices. It would also not be a preferred partner with early access to Android updates.
At the same time, major US chipmakers like Broadcom, Intel, Qualcomm, and Xilinx all stopped supplying software and components to the Chinese company. UK-based telcos EE and Vodafone both announced that they would no longer be stocking the Huawei Mate 20 X (5G) for pre-orders ahead of their 5G network launches.
The news also gave rise to reports of Huawei's foresight to just such a situation with worsening US-China ties, in building its own Google Play replacement - though just how just well a third-party store would compete with established first-party offerings like Apple's App Store and the Google Play Store would of course remain a big question. Huawei also confirmed its own smartphone and laptop operating system would be ready for China by the autumn, while it would be available for global markets by as early as the first quarter of 2020.
Current smartphones will not be badly affected, Google reassured owners, and Huawei vowed to deliver security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor customers. Microsoft has remained mum on its stance to the US blacklisting with respect to its own Windows operating system, a stance that should have been similar to Google's suspension of business, but its actions have spoken volumes. The company has removed the MateBook X Pro laptop from its own store.
Later in the week, the US government announced a slight easing on the restrictions placed over Huawei to help keep networks and smartphones operating - for a period of 90 days. The company remained banned from buying US-made parts and components. The US Commerce Department clarified that it would evaluate whether the ease in restrictions would be extended beyond the 90-day period.
This wasn't enough to stop numerous other blows over the course of this week, with California-based Face ID firm Lumentum announcing a similar suspension of business with Huawei, and UK-based chip-designing giant ARM Holdings also delivering devastating news with its own withdrawal. The situation as it currently stands is certainly very bleak for Huawei, however, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel, with US President Donald Trump saying the entire dispute could be resolved in a US-China trade deal. European chipmakers and Panasonic also showed solidarity with the Chinese company.
Honor 20 Pro, Honor 20 launched in London
Honor, the sub-brand of the embattled Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, this week announced its flagship series for 2019 - the Honor 20 series - at an event in London. Three smartphones were unveiled, the top-of-the-line Honor 20 Pro, the mid-range Honor 20, and the most affordable Honor 20 Lite. To be fair though, the Honor 20 Lite was in fact first unveiled earlier in the month in two regions - Malaysia and the United Kingdom. The Honor 20 series India launch has already been scheduled for June 11, and the company is not expected to bring all three models to the country at the event.
The highlight of the flagship Honor 20 Pro is its quad rear camera setup with a 48-megapixel primary sensor, a 6.26-inch display with a hole-punch for the front 32-megapixel camera, the 7nm process-based HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC, 8GB of RAM, 256GB storage, and a large 4,000mAh battery. The company priced the Honor 20 Pro at EUR 599 (roughly Rs. 46,500), and it will be made available in Phantom Black and Phantom Blue colour options. The smartphone has also received an overall score of 111 from DxOMark, placing it right amongst the leaders.
The Honor 20 features the same hole-punch display design to house the same 32-megapixel front camera, but sports a less powerful quad rear camera setup in comparison to its Pro variant. It also only comes with up to 6GB of RAM and 128GB of inbuilt storage. The Honor 20 price is set at EUR 499 (roughly Rs. 38,800), and it will be available in Icelandic White, Midnight Black, and Sapphire Blue colour options. Finally, the Honor 20 Lite, which we've already seen before, has received an EUR 299 (roughly Rs. 23,200) price tag for Europe - it was launched at GBP 249 (roughly Rs. 22,000) in the UK and MYR 949 (roughly Rs. 15,800) in Malaysia earlier this month.
Nokia 3.2, Infinix S4, and other smartphone launches in India
Apart from the already discussed Redmi Note 7S, there were three other significant smartphone launches in India this week. The Nokia 3.2, first unveiled at MWC 2019, was launched in the country at Rs. 8,990 for its 2GB/ 16GB variant and Rs. 10,790 for its 3GB/ 32GB variant. The budget smartphone by Nokia Mobile licensee HMD Global went on sale in India from Thursday, May 23.
Next up, Transsion Holdings brand Infinix this week launched the Infinix S4 smartphone in the country. Its highlights include a triple rear camera setup, a 32-megapixel selfie camera in the waterdrop-style display notch, a fingerprint sensor, and a 4,000mAh battery, all at an eyebrow-raising price of Rs. 8,999. It will go on sale from Tuesday, May 28 via Flipkart, and will be available at Nebula Blue, Space Grey, and Twilight Purple colour options. The company launched the X Band 3 fitness tracker alongside, priced at Rs. 1,599 and available from June 4, once again via Flipkart.
Finally, Vivo this week also launched a new smartphone, albeit, just a new RAM variant for its previously launched Y91 smartphone. The Vivo Y91 3GB RAM variant is priced at Rs. 9,990, and will be available via major online and offline stores in the country. The 2GB RAM variant of the smartphone, which was launched in January, is priced at Rs. 8,990 after a couple of price cuts. Apart from the amount of RAM, all other specifications of the two variants are identical.
Oppo K3 and Vivo Z5x launched in China
Chinese smartphone manufacturers, Oppo and Vivo, also made headlines this week the launches of two handsets in China. The Oppo K3 was launched on Thursday, and features a pop-up selfie camera at an affordable price as its primary USP. It is priced starting at CNY 1,599 (roughly Rs. 16,100) for its base 6GB/ 64GB variant, going up to CNY 2,299 (roughly Rs. 23,200) for its top-of-the-line 8GB RAM + 256GB. It will go on sale starting June 1, and is already up for pre-orders in China.
The Vivo Z5x was launched in China on Friday, and is a mid-range smartphone that is also the company's first handset with a hole-punch display. Other highlights include its 5,000mAh battery, Snapdragon 710 SoC, and triple rear camera setup. Its price starts at CNY 1,398 (roughly Rs. 14,400) for the 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant, topping out at CNY 1,998 (roughly Rs. 20,500) for the 8GB RAM/ 128GB storage variant. Sales will begin on June 1, just like the Oppo K3.
Oppo A7, Vivo Y17, and other smartphone price cuts in India this week
The same two Chinese manufacturers also made headlines this week with significant price cuts to four smartphones in India. Oppo this week slashed 4G RAM variant and the Oppo R17 Pro. While the Oppo A7 4GB RAM model price in India was cut by Rs. 1,000, down to Rs. 13,999, the Oppo R17 Pro received a massive price cut of Rs. 10,000, and it is now retailing at Rs. 29,990. To put things in context, the Oppo A7 variant was launched in India in November at Rs. 16,990, while the Oppo R17 Pro was launched in December at Rs. 45,990.
On the other hand, Vivo this week revised prices of the Vivo V15 and the rather recently launched Vivo Y17. The Vivo V15 price in India now stands at Rs. 19,990, down from its Rs. 23,990 launch price from March. The Vivo Y17 price has been cut to Rs. 15,990, down from its Rs. 17,990 launch price from less than a month ago.
Google Pixel 3a, Pixel 3a XL issues
The OnePlus 7 Pro wasn't the only smartphone to make headlines this week for issues faced by customers. The Google Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL - launched earlier this month at I/O 2019 - were hit by two issues this week, at least for some users. The first issue saw users facing random shutdowns while idling, with different users reporting different frequencies of occurrences. At the time of writing, Google is yet to respond to our queries for clarity on the issue and the rollout of a fix.
Both the new Pixel 3a smartphones were also reported to have case alignment issues this week, with some users reporting that the cut-outs for the USB Type-C port and speaker grille on their smartphones were not aligned properly with the underlying hardware.
WhatsApp's new features, Facebook's cryptocurrency, and more
WhatsApp was in the news this week for several new features being brought to beta apps, new features in development being spotted, as well as announcements related to the long-promised ad-based monetisation. First up, its Android beta v2.19.139 update this week brought 155 redesigned emojis to the app, while WhatsApp beta watcher WABetaInfo also noted that code indicated the long-awaited Dark Mode would in fact be named Night Mode.
Later in the week, Facebook-owned WhatsApp released Android beta v2.19.151 that was spotted with code for two features in development - the option to post Status updates to Facebook as Stories, and the ability to generate a QR code to share contact info. Both features are disabled by default, and cannot yet be seen by users. At the Facebook Marketing Summit held in Rotterdam this week, WhatsApp revealed that it would launch ads in its Status section by next year. It also announced that businesses would soon get richer messaging formats for better engagement with its consumers.
Parent company Facebook this week announced the release of high-resolution population density maps that will help fight disease outbreak. In its transparency report, the social networking giant also revealed that the Indian government ranked second globally in the second half of 2018 in terms of the number requests for user data. A fresh report on the company's long-rumoured cryptocurrency efforts claimed the offering would be called GlobalCoin and launched in 2020 - with testing due to begin this year itself.
Finally, Facebook-owned Instagram also had its own announcements to make. The company this week announced a redesign of its IGTV video hub and app, bringing it closer to rivals Snapchat and TikTok. The video app now offers a single feed, instead of splitting content across tabs, just like TikTok. The vertical scroll of the feed also resembles Snapchat's Discover feed. Later in the week, the company rescinded its vertical-only video upload rules.
Which is the best phone under Rs. 8,000 in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.