The week just past had some big stories, with plenty of action in the world of telecom, as seems to be the case every week. Apart from new plans and offers from telecom operators such as Reliance Jio, Airtel, Vodafone, and BSNL, we also saw an announcement related to in-flight connectivity in India, the launch of the Xiaomi Redmi 6 and Redmi 6A, the start of the MIUI 10 Global Beta ROM rollout, changes in Facebook and Google ad policies, a ban on cryptocurrency mining on Apple’s mobile devices, and the launch of the Uber Lite Android app, among others.
Let’s start with the launch of the Jio Double Dhamaka offer. Jio is offering 1.5GB of additional data per day on prepaid recharges priced between Rs. 149 and Rs. 799. The offer ends on June 30. Notably, the pack validities remain the same, and maintain other features like a post-FUP speed of 64kbps, unlimited calls, free 100 SMS messages per day, and access to Jio apps. Reliance Jio also launched a Rs. 499 recharge with a validity of 91 days and 3.5GB data per day, totalling 318GB for the period. Recharges of Rs. 300 and above will be eligible for Rs. 100 discount if purchased from MyJio app and if the transaction is made using PhonePe. For packs below Rs. 300, users get discounts of up to 20 percent.
Next up, was a report by OpenSignal that claimed the overall download speeds of Jio were declining, in contrast with improvements on the part of Airtel, Idea, and Vodafone. The report looked at overall download speeds between May 2017 to February 2018, and Jio was found that have seen a decline since its peak in August last year, while Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea, saw a rise in mobile data speeds from September till February. Separately, just ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018, both JioTV and Airtel TV platforms announced that matches from the tournament will be live streamed for free, with benefits like live broadcasts in local languages, access to match schedules, behind the scenes match snippets, and more.
Now we come to Airtel’s new offerings in the period. The telco launched a new Rs. 558 prepaid plan with 3GB data per day for 82 days to take on Jio. The plan offers unlimited local and STD voice calls with no FUP limit, apart from 100 SMS messages. Airtel also revised its Rs. 99 pack to offer 2GB data across the entire 28-day validity, up from its 1GB limit. Only valid for select users, the pack includes unlimited local, STD, and roaming voice call benefits as well as 100 SMS messages per day.
Vodafone on the other hand announced its unlimited combo prepaid packs now offer free access to the Vodafone Play live TV service. The free access will be available on Vodafone SuperPlans priced between Rs. 179 and Rs. 799. While Vodafone didn’t have more to announce this week, state-owned telecom operator BSNL had three revelations. The first saw the telco offer 4GB of data per day during the FIFA World Cup 2018, at just Rs. 149. The pack, called the FIFA World Cup Special Data STV 149, has a validity of 28 days but includes no voice calling or SMS benefits.
The next BSNL announcement saw the launch of the Eid Mubarak STV 786 prepaid pack on the occasion of Eid-Ul-Fitr offering 2GB of data per day, unlimited voice calling, and 100 SMS messages per day, all with a validity of 150 days. With the pack, free voice calls are also valid in the Delhi and Mumbai telecom circles. Finally, this week, BSNL also announced its Monsoon Offer that sees its existing ‘unlimited’ prepaid packs and special tariff vouchers (STVs) upgraded to offer 2GB of daily data for a 60 day promotional period. The offer is valid on Rs. 186, Rs. 429, Rs. 485, Rs. 666, and Rs. 999 prepaid packs, as well as the Rs. 187, Rs. 333, Rs. 349, Rs. 444, and Rs. 448 special tariff vouchers. All the BSNL prepaid combo packs include unlimited local, STD, and roaming calls, and 100 SMS messages per day.
Now, moving over to broadband Internet connections, ACT Fibernet has announced a special offer for Mi LED TV owners in India – valid in Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, and Hyderabad, the ISP is offering up to a free three-month trial across plans until August 31. All Xiaomi Mi LED TV users will get a one-month free trial, and special offers on the plans thereafter. If they choose an advanced plan, they will be able to get two more months of free subscription, along with a 1000GB extra data limit valid till December 31.
Finally, the much-awaited in-flight connectivity can now be expected to start within a year, said Communications Minister Manoj Sinha. He revealed that Communications Ministry officials will be meeting their counterparts in the Civil Aviation Ministry along with the telecom service providers in a week to 10 days to discuss this matter. To recall, the Telecom Commission on May 1 had approved in-flight connectivity for both voice calls and mobile data.
We’re done with the major telecom announcements for the week, and now come to the biggest smartphone launch this week – the launch of the Redmi 6 and the Redmi 6A. Both Xiaomi smartphones were announced together in China on Tuesday. Both smartphones offer such features as Face Unlock and an 18:9 aspect ratio, apart from the presence of the Xiao Ai assistant. The Redmi 6 sports a fingerprint sensor on the rear panel, while the Redmi 6A foregoes this feature.
As for pricing – the Redmi 6’s 3GB RAM/ 32GB inbuilt storage variant has been priced at CNY 799 (roughly Rs. 8,400), while its 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage variant is priced at CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 10,500). The Redmi 6A has only a single 2GB RAM/ 16GB inbuilt storage variant, and that has been priced at CNY 599 (roughly Rs. 6,300).
Let’s get to the specifications – the Redmi 6 sports a 5.45-inch HD+ (720×1440 pixels) display with an 18:9 aspect ratio; an octa-core MediaTek Helio P22 SoC; 3GB/ 4GB of RAM; a dual rear camera setup with a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor; a 5-megapixel front camera; 32GB/ 64GB of inbuilt storage that’s expandable via microSD card (up to 256GB), and a 3000mAh battery. On the other hand, while the Redmi 6A sports the same display, it is powered by a quad-core MediaTek Helio A22 SoC with 2GB of RAM. It bears a single rear camera setup with a 13-megapixel sensor – retains the 5-megapixel front camera offering however. It also has a 3000mAh battery.
Xiaomi also announced that Global Beta ROM of MIUI 10 was now rolling out to beta testers with eligible devices. The company also detailed a changelog that the update (v8.6.14) brings, such as an updated Mi Browser with an optimised start page, PWA (Progressive Web App) support, and better search functionality and App Vault with a World Cup card. The update also fixed Greek language localisation.
This week also saw the launch of the Vivo Nex S and Vivo Nex A, two bezel-less display smartphones that are nearly identical apart from the processor, RAM, and the presence of an in-display fingerprint scanner. Their biggest highlight is the pop-up or elevating front camera. The Vivo Nex S sports a Snapdragon 845 SoC, 8GB RAM, up to 256GB inbuilt storage, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. The Nex A sports a Snapdragon 710 SoC, 6GB RAM, 128GB inbuilt storage, and a rear fingerprint sensor. Both phones have a 91.24 percent screen-to-body ratio. The company has done away with the top bezel, and moved the earpiece to the display itself using Screen SoundCasting technology, similar to the first-generation Mi Mix smartphone.
The Vivo Nex A is available in just one variant (6GB RAM/ 128GB inbuilt storage) priced at CNY 3,898 (roughly Rs. 41,000). The Vivo Nex S (8GB RAM/ 128GB inbuilt storage) is priced starting at CNY 4,498 (roughly Rs. 47,400) while its 8GB + 256GB inbuilt storage variant is priced at CNY 4,998 (roughly Rs. 52,600). Both the smartphones bear a 6.59-inch full-HD+ (1080×2316 pixels) Super AMOLED display with a 19.3:9 aspect ratio. Both have a dual rear camera setup, with a 12-megapixel primary and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor, apart from the 8-megapixel camera pop-up front camera.
This week also saw the launch of new budget smartphone from Micromax, sporting an 18:9 display. Called the Micromax Canvas 2 Plus (2018), the smartphone is the successor to the 2013 model by the same name. Priced at Rs. 8,999, the new Canvas 2 Plus features a 5.7-inch HD+ (720×1440 pixels) HD IPS display, a 1.3GHz quad-core SoC, 3GB of RAM, a 13-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera, Face Unlock, 32GB of inbuilt storage, and a 4000mAh battery.
Finally, Asus also unveiled what appears to be a rebranded version of its ZenFone AR smartphone in Taiwan, called ZenFone Ares. The Asus ZenFone Ares sports a 5.7-inch QHD (1440×2560 pixels) Super AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 SoC, 8GB of RAM, a 23-megapixel rear camera, an 8-megapixel front camera, 128GB of inbuilt storage expandable via microSD card, and a 3300mAh battery.
Beyond smartphones, there were plenty of gaming announcements this week at E3, the biggest gaming event of the year. Check out our full coverage of E3 2018 for details.
In other important news this week, Google updated its Ad Settings page to make it easier for users to personalise or turn off ad targeting. Users can now turn off any of the factors used to tailor ads for them. Google also expanded its ‘Why this ad?’ feature to all the Google services as well as partner websites and apps that show Google Ads. In a similar vein, Facebook this week unveiled new controls meant to better inform users about how companies are targeting them with advertising. From next month, Facebook for the first time will require advertisers to tell its users if a so-called data broker supplied information that led to them being served with an ad.
Next up, Gmail unveiled a new smart notifications feature for its iOS app, using machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to identify high priority mails, and alert users only for these. Apple also announced that it had signed a multi-year streaming deal with Oprah Winfrey. Apple said Winfrey will “create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.” For Apple, the announcement is significant for its own reasons, solidifying its status – both with consumers and in the Hollywood agent community – as a destination for original programming.
The Cupertino giant was also in the news this week for hiring a senior self-driving engineer from Alphabet’s Waymo – Jaime Waydo. Before joining Waymo, Waydo was a long time engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. At Waymo, she oversaw systems engineering – the process of ensuring hardware and software work well together – and helped make key decisions about when to remove human safety drivers from the company’s test fleet in Arizona.
OnePlus was in the news for the wrong reasons this week, with a security firm finding a vulnerability with the bootloader on the OnePlus 6 that could allow anyone with physical access to the device to load any modified firmware image they wanted to – bypassing bootloader protections. The company acknowledged the error, and released a fix later in the week with OxygenOS 5.1.7. Unfortunately for users in India, the OxygenOS 5.1.6 update from last week was causing stability issues, and so the company is skipping the OxygenOS 5.1.7 update for India and will release OxygenOS 5.1.8 for the region next week containing both fixes.
The Chinese company was also in the news this week for finally launching its OnePlus Bullets Wireless earphones in India – they go on sale from Tuesday, June 19 in the country. Priced at Rs. 3,999, we found the wireless earphones to be comfortable and lightweight in our review, while offering a detailed mid-range. They charged fast, and offered a good battery life, though on the flip side, the highs sounded a little sharp.
Separately, a Counterpoint Research Market Monitor service report claimed that online platforms like Flipkart had captured 38 percent of the total smartphone market sales in India in Q1 2018. Flipkart led the charge, with a 54 percent share of the online smartphone market, followed by Amazon with a 30 percent share and Mi.com with a 14 percent. In terms of brands, Xiaomi was found to be the leader with a 57 percent share of online smartphone sales in the period, followed by Samsung with a 14 percent share and Huawei (including Honor) with an 8 percent share.
Google this week also released its fifth annual diversity report, and things aren’t looking up for the company. The Mountain View company barely raised the number of women and under-represented minorities among its ranks, while it got less white and more Asian over the past year. Google increased the percentage of its female employees up by a measly tenth of a percentage point to 30.9 percent. White workers remained the majority at 53.1 percent, while Asians grew more than a percentage point to 36.3 percent. Black and Latino workers grew a tenth of a percent to 2.5 and 3.6 percent.
Apple CEO Tim Cook in an interview this week revealed that all employees at Apple Park, the company’s headquarters at Cupertino, California, have standing desks. To recall, back at the launch of the Apple Watch, Cook had said sitting was the new cancer. The Apple Watch itself has a Stand goal that ensures users get up at least 1-minute for every hour in a 12-hour work day. Another piece of Apple news from this week was the move by the company to ban cryptocurrency mining apps on iPhone and iPad. The company also cracked down on apps sharing information on users’ contacts – Sharing and selling a user’s contact list with third parties is now forbidden. An app also can’t pretend to use the contact list for one thing, and then use it for something else unless explicit consent is sought again.
This week, some iPhone users also reported battery issues after installing iOS 11.4. Apple has yet to publicly respond the issue that has been reported by several users on its support forums. This week, Apple also updated Apple Music to add a ‘Coming Soon’ section. Alongside, it upgraded artist profiles with a Featured Release section.
Other happenings this week include the announcement by Huawei that it had managed to sell 6 million units of it P20 series of smartphones, which include the Huawei P20 Pro, P20, and P20 Lite, since their launch in March. Separately, Facebook announced the launch of its Blood Donations hub, after a pilot launch last year. The new hub is available in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, and helps people register and contribute as blood donors in their area.
Twitter also updated its apps to highlight big events such as the FIFA World Cup 2018, earthquakes, and the royal wedding, apart from making it easier to find news stories and interesting tweets. Instagram Stories can now also be used to sell products, the Facebook-owned company announced earlier this week.
Coming back to India, Truecaller announced its acquisition of payments app Chillr in a bid to expand its payment services. With the announcement, the company launched Truecaller Pay 2.0, its UPI-based payments system. Global ride-sharing giant Uber this week also launched the Uber Lite app for Android, and India is the first market to receive it. The lightweight app that works on basic smartphones and on 2G connectivity is currently only available to use in Jaipur, Hyderabad, and Delhi.
Finally, let’s take a look at some major leaks this week. A new Nokia smartphone from licensee HMD Global was reportedly spotted this week – the Nokia 5.1 Plus – said to be a better-endowed version of the Nokia 5.1 aka Nokia 5 (2018). Separately, the Nokia X6, a smartphone that with a display notch that was launched exclusively in China earlier this year, reportedly received certification in Taiwan, tipping its arrival in markets apart from China soon. The Samsung Galaxy Note 9, which is expected to launch in August, was once again in the news with new leaks pointing to a new fingerprint sensor position on the rear panel and the presence of an unknown button – later leaks claim this unknown button may be a physical camera shutter button.