Jio launched its most affordable postpaid plan this week, offering more data than incumbents’ plans costing nearly twice as much. Available to subscribers from Tuesday, May 15, the Rs. 199 Jio postpaid plan will come with 25GB of data, free voice calls, unlimited text messages, and pre-activated ISD calls (starting at 50p per minute). The company is also touting one-touch activation for international roaming with the plan. And like with other plans by the operator, this one comes with complimentary access to Jio apps.
This Jio plan directly takes aim at postpaid plans that cost about Rs. 400. Airtel and Vodafone have their Rs. 399 plans, with 20GB of high-speed data, free local and STD calls, as well as no roaming charges. The Airtel plan also comes with 100 free text messages per day and subscription to Wynk Music and Airtel TV apps, while Vodafone offers access to the Vodafone Play app. As for Idea, its plan costs Rs. 389 and comes with 20GB data, free calls and text messages, and access to the operator’s gaming and streaming apps; however, calls made while roaming are chargeable. All three operators offer data rollover facility up to 200GB, something the Jio plan does not.
For international travellers, Jio also announced new roaming packs. The Rs. 575 pack comes with 250MB of high-speed data and validity of one day. Then there’s the Rs. 2,198 Jio international roaming pack with validity of 7 days and 250MB 4G data per day. Lastly, the roaming pack with 30-day validity with come with 5GB of high-speed data. Once the high-speed data is exhausted, the Internet speed will be capped at 64kbps. All these packs come with free calls in the international destination and to India, as well as free text messages.
The other news in the world of telecom was from BSNL, which has reportedly extended its offer of free calls on Sundays for landline, FTTH, broadband, and combo plan subscribers. The offer was scheduled to end on April 30, but has been extended starting May 1. Interestingly, there is no last day on the offer this time around, meaning subscribers can make calls to any network on Sundays without any charges till further notice.
The state-owned telecom operator also launched a Rs. 39 prepaid pack that offers unlimited local and STD calls. It also comes with 100 free text messages, free Personalised Ring-Back Tone (PRBT), but not data. The validity of this BSNL pack is 10 days. Apart from this, BSNL is also said to have upgraded three of its broadband plans. The Rs. 1,045 plan will now offer 100GB FUP and speed of 30Mbps, while the Rs. 1,395 comes with FUP of 150GB at 40Mbps speed. Then there’s the Rs. 1,895 BSNL plan, which will provide 200GB FUP and 50Mbps speed. On all three, once the FUP is exhausted the speed will drop to 2Mbps.
The biggest news of the week came from the e-commerce industry, which saw Walmart acquiring a majority stake in Flipkart. The US company paid $16 billion for a 77 percent stake in the Indian startup, valuing it at over $20 billion. However, Walmart says it is open to other investors joining in its bid, but says it will maintain majority stake in Flipkart. It also said in a regulatory filing that the Flipkart IPO could be within four years of the deal’s completion.
The deal is subject to approval by the Competition Commission of India and other regulatory bodies. As part of the deal, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal will leave the company and has sold his 5.5 percent stake for roughly $1 billion. While the industry is hailing it as a testament of the success of Indian startups, while traders’ associations have denounced the acquisition of India’s biggest e-commerce player by the US retail titan.
Flipkart and Amazon have started their respective e-commerce sales too. Both the sales started at midnight tonight, and will run till May 16. Of course, Amazon is giving Prime members some exclusive deals as well as early access to select offers. Cashbacks, exchange discounts, price guarantees, flash sales, extended warranties, etc are part of the sale. Amazon is giving up to 10 percent cashback (minimum transaction value Rs. 3,000, maximum cashback Rs. 1,500) to ICICI Bank credit and debit card users, while Flipkart is offering HDFC Bank debit and credit card customers 10 percent instant discount as part of its sale.
As for the deals, shoppers on Amazon will get the iPhone X at Rs. 79,999, iPhone SE 32GB at Rs. 17,999, Amazon Echo at Rs. 7,999, Echo Dot at Rs. 2,999. Similarly, the 40-inch Sony full-HD LED smart TV is up for grabs at Rs. 43,990, while the 43-inch Sanyo full-HD LED smart TV is available at Rs. 27,990. Bose QC 25 headphones can be purchased at Rs. 15,120 in the Amazon sale.
As for the Flipkart Big Shopping Days sale, deal include the Pixel 2 at effective price of Rs. 34,999, Samsung Galaxy S8 at Rs. 37,990, and Honor 9 Lite at Rs. 9,999. The 9.7-inch iPad 32GB (2017 model) is selling at Rs. 21,990 on Flipkart, while Google Home and Home Mini are at Rs. 7,999 and Rs. 3,499, respectively. The 49-inch Samsung curved LED smart TV can be purchased for Rs. 54,999, while the 49-inch VU full-HD LED smart TV is going for Rs. 28,999.
Xiaomi launched the Redmi S2 affordable smartphone for selfie fans. The Redmi S2 price is CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 10,600) for the variant with 3GB RAM and 32GB storage, while the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage option costs CNY 1,299 (about Rs. 13,700). It will go on sale in China on May 17 via Suning.com and come in Champagne Gold, Platinum Silver, and Rose Gold colours.
The dual-SIM (Nano) Redmi S2 runs MIUI 9 and sports a 5.99-inch HD+ (720x1440 pixels) display. It is powered by the Snapdragon 625 SoC SoC, comes with the Xiao Ai voice assistant, and the storage can be expanded up to 256GB via microSD cards. The smartphone packs a 3080mAh battery, measures 160.73x77.26x8.1mm, and weighs 170 grams
It bears a dual rear camera setup, with the primary camera sporting a 12-megapixel sensor and the secondary camera sporting a 5-megapixel camera. Xiaomi is touting an f/2.2 aperture, PDAF autofocus, and LED, apart from an AI Portrait Mode, HDR, and facial recognition. The front camera of the Redmi S2 bears a 16-megapixel sensor with 2-microns pixels, combining four pixels into one single, oversized pixel. The front camera offers AI Portrait Mode, AI Smart Beauty, Front HDR, and Face Unlock (with face recognition).
Android P and AI were the stars of Google I/O 2018 developer conference, which was held this week. The biggest revelation at the conference was Google Assistant’s ability to perform tasks such as booking appointments and reserving tables at restaurants via calls with human-like behaviour thanks to the Google Duplex initiative. However, this raised ethical issues, and Google later said the calls made by Assistant will come with a disclosure.
Now coming to Android P Beta, it is now available for public beta for select smartphones. Among the top features of the Android P Beta are adaptive battery and adaptive brightness, new gestures-based navigation, refreshed UI, a Dashboard that shows the smartphone’s usage, and better control over audio. AI-based app actions and Slices (in the browser only for now were also announced at I/O 2018 for Android P Beta.
At the conference, Google also announced a Digital Wellbeing initiative to help users logout and wind down with the help of AI to understand users’ habits. Users will be able to learn more about the time they spend in apps with Dashboard in Android P, get notifications to stop watching videos on YouTube, an enhanced Do Not Disturb mode that does not light up the screen even when a notification pops up, among others. Features aimed at the digital wellbeing of users will not be limited to Android and YouTube, but also be released for products such as Google Photos and Gmail.
Google Lens has been integrated into the Google Camera app now and has received smart text selection and style match features, among others. The company’s augmented reality project, ARCore, has been upgraded to version 1.2 has an enhanced battery saver mode with Developer Preview 2; it also now has Actions by Google, which allows the wearable device to work with third-party smart objects.
Google News is getting AI integration, customised news feed, full coverage, and newscasts. Similarly, Google Maps is getting new AR Mode and a new Explore tab, among other new features. Gboard keyboard app is getting Morse code support, and a bunch of new features were announced for Google Photos that uses AI and machine learning to offer phrase and word suggestions.
OnePlus 6 remained in the news this week too. The smartphone was accidentally revealed in two colour options — Black and White — by Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan in a tweet that was later deleted. The tickets for the India launch event went on sale on Tuesday; the tickets were priced at Rs. 999 and come with a OnePlus voucher of the same value as well as a bunch of goodies.
The Chinese company also announced its Fast AF (And First) sale, which runs between May 13 and May 16. Under this sale, buyers need to purchase a Rs. 1,000 Amazon.in Gift Card, which can be redeemed while buying OnePlus 6 on May 21-22. Eligible buyers will also get complimentary Amazon Pay cashback worth Rs. 1,000. In addition to these, buyers will get extended warranty of 3 months on the handset, above the standard 1 year warranty.
OnePlus 6 will get Android P Beta build on the day of the launch, the company has announced. To drum up hype around the device, OnePlus posted on Twitter four photos and asked users to match them to the following phones — OnePlus 6, iPhone X, Samsung Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2. This is an attempt to show buyers the camera of its upcoming flagship is meant for the big leagues. The brand has also revamped its trade-in programme ahead of the launch, and is now offering up to EUR 280 (roughly Rs. 22,400) for old OnePlus handsets.
WhatsApp had a pretty busy week too. The app got an update (v2.18.51) for iPhone early this week, whose changeling says users will now be able to play Instagram and Facebook videos within the app, in PiP (picture in picture) mode. While the feature is disabled at the moment, this obviously means it will be rolled out soon; it should work similar to how YouTube videos play in the app now.
The same update also brought the Dismiss as Admin feature, and the option for group admins to decide who can edit group description etc. In fact, the WhatsApp Android app also received the feature that allows admins to control who can change the group info; the feature was earlier in beta, and is now available for the public.
While these were the official updates, there were several rumoured WhatsApp features too this week. First up, the app is reportedly getting an Announcement feature that allows group admins to stop other members from posting in the group; it’s like an in-group broadcast that others can’t reply to. Broadcast messages seem to be getting a boost too, and users will reportedly be able to send broadcast messages to people who are not in their contacts too.
The Delete for Everyone feature is said to have gotten a small update as well — revoked messages can be deleted from the recipients’ phones for up to 1 day 68 minutes and 16 seconds, up from 1 day previously. WhatsApp for Business iOS app is also said to be in development finally, while the Business Android app is said to soon be getting a Chat Filter feature that will let users search for messages by unread chats, group messages, and broadcast messages.
This week also saw a new WhatsApp message bomb that could crash not just the app but also the Android phone it is running on. It’s a message bomb that is said to contain a code which, when tapped, overloads WhatsApp and even the OS, resulting in a crash. It is being forwarded as a prank that asks users to tap on a Black Dot within the message. Another such message bomb is doing the rounds too, but that one doesn’t come with any warning about the app crashing even though it does just that.
Nokia 6.1 4GB RAM variant was finally announced for the Indian market earlier this week, and has become available for purchase today. The handset comes with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage, while the rest of the features are same as that of the original 3GB RAM + 32GB storage variant. These include a 5.5-inch full-HD+ display, Android 8.1 Oreo, Snapdragon 630 SoC, up to 128GB microSD card support, 16-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera, and 3000mAh battery. The Nokia 6.1 price in India is Rs. 18,999 and it is available for purchase via Amazon India.
Oppo also launched the F7 Diamond Black: Cricket Limited Edition smartphone in India this week, priced at Rs. 21,990. The limited edition smartphone has 4GB RAM and 64GB storage, and comes with a fancy case cover. Three of the units will sport the signatures of cricketers Hardik Pandya, R. Ashwin, and Rohit Sharma, the brand ambassadors of Oppo. The Oppo F7 has a 6.23-inch display, Android 8.1 Oreo-based custom UI, oct-core Helio P60 processor, and 3400mAh battery. As for the camera, buyers get a 16-megapixel rear sensor and a 25-megapixel front sensor.
Panasonic P95 was launched this week too, aimed at the budget buyer looking for high-end features. It comes with Face Unlock capabilities and costs Rs. 4,999 - however, during the Flipkart sale, it will be up for grabs at Rs. 3,999. The key Panasonic P95 specifications include a 5-inch HD screen, Android Nougat OS, 1.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 210 SoC, 1GB RAM, 8-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel selfie shooter, and 2300mAh battery.
Karbonn launched the Frames S9 budget smartphone for selfie lovers. Priced at Rs. 6,790, the new Frames S9 has a dual selfie camera setup featuring two 8-megapixel sensors, while an 8-megapixel camera sits on the back. It has a 5.2-inch HD panel, a quad-core 1.25GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, microSD card support up to 64GB, fingerprint sensor, and 2900mAh battery.
In the international market, Huawei Y3 (2018) Android Oreo (Go Edition smartphone) was launched in Ghana. However, its price and release date have not been announced yet. It has a 5-inch FWVGA display, MediaTek MT6737M SoC, 1GB RAM, 8GB internal storage, 8-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front camera, and 2280mAh battery. As we mentioned above, Huawei Y3 (2018) runs the Android Oreo (Go Edition) software optimised for low-end phones.
This week also saw Sony slashing prices of three of its smartphones, starting with the Xperia XZ Premium which got a price cut of Rs. 10,000 and now costs Rs. 49,999 in India. For those unaware, it sports a 5.5-inch 4K display, Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage, 19-megapixel rear sensor, 13-megapixel selfie camera, and 3230mAh battery. The Xperia XA1 Ultra and Xperia XA1 Plus saw their prices drop by Rs. 5,000 each, and will now cost Rs. 22,990 and Rs. 19,990, respectively. The latter has a 23-megapixel rear camera, octa-core MediaTek Helio P20 processor, and 3430mAh battery. As for the former, buyers will get a 23-megapixel sensor on the back, 16-megapixel sensor in front, and a 6-inch display.
There was a lot of news about foldable smartphones this week, with Microsoft and Motorola apparently joining the fray as well. Motorola has been granted a patent for a foldable smartphone by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The patent design shows a wide rectangular display that works as a smartphone when folded and as a tablet when unfolded. It comes with a cover to protect the display, to support it as a stand, and to function as a wireless charger. Microsoft has also published a patent application that shows a tablet-like device that can be folded and has three screens, including one on the hinge.
Another report shed some light on Samsung’s plans for its foldable phone — the company has reportedly started procuring parts for the handset, and will unveil it at MWC 2019. The prototype of the foldable phone has three 3.5-inch displays, two of which join to form a single 7-inch panel; Samsung is said to be looking at a shipment capacity of up to 500,000 units a month. As for the flagship Galaxy S10, the handset may be showcased at CES 2019 and procurement for parts will begin in October this year.
A bunch of smartphone launches were confirmed or teased too this week. These include the BlackBerry KEY2 for June 7 in New York, Lenovo Z5 bezel-less smartphone without the notch for June 14, and Galaxy S8 Lite reportedly for May 21. The Mi 7 and Xiaomi’s 8th anniversary edition smartphones may also be launched in May. Closer home, the Vivo X21 UD smartphone with under-display fingerprint sensor may launch in India on May 29, while the Honor 10 will hit the Indian market on May 15 and become available for purchase via Flipkart at midnight on May 16.
Xiaomi was sued by Coolpad this week for infringing upon its patents — the latter is not only asking for compensation but also wants the production and sales of models such as Mi Mix 2 stopped. Xiaomi, whose smart home products now support Google Assistant, says it has asked the patent authorities to invalidate the patent rights. The brand also released its crowdfunded Mi Bluetooth Audio Receiver (Rs. 999) and Mi Selfie Stick Tripod (Rs. 1,099) in the Indian market. The past week also saw the launch of the Mi VIP Club rewards programme in the country, with benefits such as upgrade rewards, birthday gifts, annual souvenirs, and members-only events.
A Xiaomi smartphone, codenamed Valentino, was spotted on Geekbench this week. The smartphone runs the yet-unannounced Snapdragon 638 SoC (octa-core 1.4GHz), has 6GB of RAM, and runs Android 8.1 Oreo OS. Nokia X was leaked multiple times too this week — an official teaser showed the smartphone’s notch, glass and aluminium body, vertical rear camera setup and fingerprint sensor on the back. Interestingly, the Nokia X6 name was spotted on the Bluetooth certification website this week. A Chinese certification website also revealed the key specs of the handset, which include a 5.8-inch display, Android 8.1 Oreo, 1.8GHz octa-core processor, 3GB/ 4GB/ 6GB RAM options, 32GB and 64GB storage options, up to 128GB microSD card support, and dual 16-megapixel sensors on the back. Its price is said to start at CNY 1,699 (roughly Rs. 17,000). Its high-resolution images were leaked by Suning.com as well.
Apple Watch Series 3 Cellular Edition became available for purchase in India this week via Jio and Airtel. Prices of the watch start at Rs. 39,130 and go up to Rs. 1,22,090. The company is reportedly replacing iPhone X units with Face ID problems. Essentially, Apple has asked personnel to fix the rear camera of the affected units in case of Face ID issues, but if it cannot be fixed, then the handset is to be replaced.
The company is also said to be taking a leaf out of the book of Huawei, and may incorporate a triple rear camera setup on the top-end 2018 iPhone model. Also, the 6.5-inch LCD iPhone model rumoured for this year will be similar in size to the iPhone 8 Plus, but 2.2mm thicker due to the rear camera mounting. iPhone SE 2, rumoured to launch at WWDC next month, was in the news as well. Apparently, the handset will have ultra-thin bezels and the notch, similar to the iPhone X; moreover, even the Home button is said to be absent in the handset.
Samsung had quite a few leaks too. The company is said to be planning to launch two new A-series smartphones — said to be Galaxy A6 and Galaxy A6+, priced between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 25,000. Four Galaxy J series models with Infinity Display design are reportedly on their way to India as well. The Galaxy J4 has surfaced on the Samsung’s official support pages in India, the Philippines, and Saudi Arabia, so it might be one of the models headed our way soon.
The Galaxy A8 Star and Galaxy A8 Lite models have surfaced on Chinese certification agency 3C’s website, revealing both will come with fast charging 9.0V output at 1.67A (15W) and standard charging 5.0V at 2.0A (10W). And the Samsung Galaxy Note 9’s alleged US variant was also spotted on Geekbench, reiterating the handset will have the Snapdragon 845 processor, 6GB RAM, and Android 8.1 Oreo operating system.