It was another busy week in the world of telecom. Reliance Jio announced its Republic Day 2018 Offer, under which data limits have been increased. The 1GB per day Jio plans now offer 1.5GB, while the limit on older 1.5GB plans have been raised to 2GB per day. This means Jio users will get 1.5GB daily data allocation with Rs. 149, Rs. 349, Rs. 399, and Rs. 449 recharge packs for 28, 70, 84, 91 days respectively; similarly, the Rs. 198, Rs. 398, Rs. 448, and Rs. 498 plans will now provide 2GB data per day.
The Rs. 98 Jio plan has changed the most. Its validity has doubled, from 14 days to 28 days, but the data usage on the other hand, has gone from 150MB per day (or a total 2GB for 14 days), to a total of 2GB for 28 days with no daily caps. Aside from this, the company also announced a new plan for the Jio Phone - which a recent study said is the best selling feature phone in the last quarter of 2017 - offering nearly a month of unlimited calls at Rs. 49.
Under the new plan, Jio Phone users will get unlimited voice calls for 28 days at Rs. 49. Apart from this, they will also get 1GB of 4G data, with no daily usage cap. Reliance Jio also announced data add-on packs for the Jio Phone, starting from Rs. 11. The feature phone was launched back in last July with free access to services such as JioMusic, JioTV, and JioCinema.
Meanwhile, Airtel updated its Rs. 149 prepaid pack to now offer 1GB data per day. This brought it in line with Reliance Jio's Rs. 149 pack, before the Republic Day 2018 Offer was announced and changed it all. Apart from this, the Rs. 149 pack was also updated with unlimited calling on roaming. Unlimited calling applies on local, STD, and roaming calls. Airtel has also revised its Rs. 199, Rs. 448, and Rs. 509 plans, which are now offering 1.4GB data per day, with validity of 28, 82, and 90 days respectively, which again falls just short of Reliance Jio's updated plans. Airtel also announced an updated Rs. 399 pack, which offers 1GB of data per day for 84 days.
Meanwhile, in other important news, WhatsApp Business is now officially available in India. The app, which launched last week in select regions, allows businesses to manage customers more easily via WhatsApp. It allows customers to see useful information such as a business description, hours, addresses, and so on, and also includes smart messaging tools to provide quick answers to frequency asked questions, greeting messages, and so on.
WhatsApp for Business is only available on Android for now - an iOS version is in the works, though a release date has not been announced. And since the app supports WhatsApp Web, that means a business could log into the messaging service on their desktop, for maximum efficiency. WhatsApp Business is presently free, but it will be monetised in the future.
Meanwhile, Xiaomi has apparently surpassed Samsung to become India's top smartphone brand. Two reports, by Counterpoint and Canalys, both state that the Chinese firm has finally overtaken the Korean brand. According to Counterpoint's research, Xiaomi now has 25 percent of the shipments, while Samsung is down to 23 percent. That's a far cry from the same time just last year, when Samsung held 24 percent of all shipments, and Xiaomi accounted for merely 9 percent. However, while Xiaomi is in the lead in the quarter, Samsung still remains number one for the year. According to Counterpoint, Samsung accounted for 24 percent of all shipments in 2017, again, just below 2016's 25 percent. Xiaomi has seen its share for the year rise from 6 percent for 2016, to 19 percent in 2017. Counterpoint also said that the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 has become the top selling smartphone of 2017.
Aside from this, Canalys said Xiaomi shipped 8.2 million smartphones in the fourth quarter of 2017, while Samsung shipped 7.3 million. Canalys estimates that Xiaoi has 27 percent of the market, while Samsung has 25 percent. Samsung however, disagrees, and cites data from research firm GfK: "Samsung is India's number 1 smartphone company by a distance. As per GfK, which tracks sales to end consumers, in the last (November) quarter Samsung had a 45 percent value market share and 40 percent volume market share. Samsung is a full range player and leads the smartphone business across every segment of the India market in 2017. More importantly, Samsung is India's 'Most Trusted' brand. We owe our undisputed leadership to the love and trust of millions of our consumers in India."
Xiaomi meanwhile says that product innovation and new operating models helped it to grow in India. "We are pleased that we have been able to retain our position as the No 1 smartphone brand in the Indian market (including both online and offline) according to reports from Canalys and Counterpoint," Manu Jain, Managing Director Xiaomi India said. "India is a key market for us and we will continue to launch new products and categories for Indian Mi fans."
At the same time, Xiaomi announced a Rs. 1,000 price cut on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 64GB variant, bringing its price down to Rs. 10,999. This is the second such price cut on the phone, in three months. The new price is only applicable online. You might have missed out on Xiaomi's Republic Day Sale, where the Redmi 5A was available for Rs. 4,999, but there's still a chance to get it an effective price of Rs. 4,000, with Big Bazaar's sale. The sale is on until Sunday, January 28, at offline locations only. The phone is priced at Rs. 5,499, but there's a Rs. 1,000 cashback to the Future Pay wallet, and additionally, if you're purchasing the phone using an Axis credit or debit card, you get a further discount of Rs. 500.
If you're looking for something new, there was a new Xiaomi Mi 7 leak showing the design of the phone, along with the Mi 6X, and their specs. It looks like both phones will have an 18:9 aspect ratio and dual camera setups, which is in line with another image leak of the Xiaomi Mi 6X that showed the dual cameras in a vertical orientation. We should know for sure soon, at MWC 2018. Apart from that, we also got to hear that the Redmi Note 5 has passed certification in China, and is expected to launch late next month. The Xiaomi Surge S2 was also leaked ahead of MWC; this is the new SoC from the company which it is expected will first be seen in the Mi 6X.
There weren't too many major phone launches this week, aside fro the Vivo X20 Plus UD - this is notable for being the first phone with an under-display fingerprint sensor. The smartphone features an AMOLED panel that hides the Synaptics-made under-display fingerprint sensor, called Clear ID 9500. It will go on sale in the Chinese market starting February 1 with a price tag of CNY 3,598 (approximately Rs. 36,100). Aside from the under-display fingerprint scanner, it's packing a 6.43-inch full-HD+ 18:9 display, with a 1.8GHz octa-core processor, 4GB of RAM, 128GB storage, and a 3905mAh battery.
Meanwhile, in Taiwan there was the launch of the InFocus M7s, which is priced at TWD 4,290, or approximately Rs. 9,300. The smartphone features a 5.7-inch HD+ 18:9 display, a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, 3GB RAM, 32GB storage, and a 4000mAh battery. Finally, Avenir Telecom, a licensee of the Energizer brand launched the Energizer Hardcase H240S feature phone with 4G VoLTE support. The phone comes with Android, but does not have access to Google Play. It's also packing a 2.4-inch display running at 240x320 pixels, and has only 8GB storage, a 1.1GHz quad-core processor, and 1GB of RAM. There's a 5-megapixel rear camera, and no front camera, along with a 2000mAh battery. The phone is shockproof and capable of immersion in up to 1.2 meters (4 feet) for up to 30 minutes.
The Lenovo Yoga 920 Limited Edition Vibes 2-in-1 was launched in India last week, with a price starting at Rs. 1,27,150. The 2-in-1 glass convertible runs Windows 10, with a 4K UHD IPS touchscreen display, JBL speakers, and Dolby Atmos Technology, powered by 8th-Gen Intel Quad Core U-series processors.
Gamers also had the Xbox One X India launch, bringing Microsoft's high-end gaming console to the country, at a price of Rs. 44,990, both online and offline.
There were also a number of leaks and other bits of information about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. For one thing, Samsung itself has announced the dates for the launch, sending out an invite for February 25. The invite talks about upgraded camera technology, as a tease for what to expect.
According to leaks, the two phones might have a camera with the largest aperture lens seen on a smartphone. Leaks also suggest a new flexible OLED display technology for the Samsung flagships. Apart from that, the Galaxy S9 Plus is expected to sport a dual camera setup on the back, with wide-angle, and zoom lens capabilities. The front camera on the Galaxy S9 will reportedly have an iris scanner integrated into the sensor, while the Galaxy S9+ will have a separate camera sensor and an iris scanner.
The two phones were also listed on China's 3C certification site, and this leak shows 15W fast charging support. Recent reports had also suggested that the upcoming Galaxy S9 duo will sport the same battery capacities as the Galaxy S8 series. The Galaxy S8 has a capacity of 3000mAh, while the Galaxy S8+ is backed by a 3500mAh battery under the hood. Finally, the camera design was revealed by leaked design schematics. From these, we can see that the Galaxy S9 has a smaller camera setup while the Galaxy S9+ is bigger, with space for a dual-camera module; in both cases, the fingerprint sensor is placed below the camera modules.
Finally, Xiaomi and Samsung weren't the only two companies claiming to be number one in India. We also had big sales from Amazon and Flipkart last week, and so predictably enough, each company is saying it emerged ahead of the other. Amazon says it had twice as many orders as its nearest competitor. However, Flipkart also issued a statement, saying it held a share of 60-65 percent of the e-tail market.
Whichever it is, both companies agreed that smartphones are a huge category and still growing, and appliances is another area that is heating up; and most new customers are coming from smaller towns and cities in India.