Welcome back to your weekly recap of all the tech news that made headlines in India and across the world, and the biggest news this week undoubtedly involved the UIDAI number. On Friday, people across the country started noticing they had a UIDAI toll-free helpline number saved in their contact list without their consent. It was the old UIDAI helpline number 18003001947, not the current 1947. This contact being added without consent caused outrage among smartphone users concerned about their privacy. Gadgets 360 discovered that even brand new phones out of the box not connected to the Internet during setup had this number saved too, meaning it was not a telco-level addition. UIDAI on its part denied having asked any mobile phone manufacturer to add its old helpline number in phones. It went to blame a third party with “vested interest” that is trying to sow unwarranted confusion in the public.
Google then took the blame for this unsolicited addition in contacts, saying it had “inadvertently coded” the then UIDAI helpline number 18003001947 and the distress helpline number (112) in the Android setup wizard back in 2014. This setup wizard was given to mobile phone makers in India and has remained there since. Google said this issue will be resolved over the coming week with an upcoming update to the setup wizard. And while the issue would affect Android phones only, if your iPhone has the old UIDAI number saved in contacts too, that’s probably because you used Google Contacts to sync your contacts at some point.
Xiaomi Mi A2 India launch is scheduled for the coming week, so the excitement for stock Android phone is palpable. It was revealed earlier this week that the Mi A2 will be exclusive to Amazon India. The e-commerce platform was snagged the Mi A2 from Flipkart, which sold the Mi A1 back when it released last year. The Amazon India listing page for the upcoming Xiaomi model shows a Notify Me button; it is being promoted with the tagline “Picture perfect photos” in the country.
Another major Xiaomi launch that fans are excited about is the flagship-class Mi Mix 3. The third-generation model in its pioneering bezel-less phone range, the Mi Mix 3 will reportedly be launched on September 15, it emerged this week. The leaked teaser image shows the smartphone will have ultra-thin bezels and no chin at the bottom. This came just days after the smartphone’s design was alluded to in images found in the MIUI 10 software package. The image, however, shows a phone with a chin, along with a dedicated AI button. Previous leaks have suggested the Mi Mix 3 will have a pop-up camera, like the one seen in Vivo Nex and Oppo Find X.
Another upcoming Xiaomi smartphone being leaked often is the rumoured Pocophone F1, whose specifications and camera details were revealed in a Bluetooth SIG listing this week. The smartphone will have the Snapdragon 845 SoC and a “liquid system which helps boasts extremely fast processing power at sustain peak performance.” The camera setup is said to include dual rear cameras with 12-megapixel + 5-megapixel sensors with 1.4-micron pixels and dual pixel autofocus on the primary sensor. A 20-megapixel camera with SuperPixel tech and infrared illuminator for AI face unlock in the dark is also said to be on board. Other previously leaked specs and features of the smartphone include Android 8.1 Oreo, 4,000mAh battery, 18:9 LCD panel, NFC, fingerprint sensor, 5.99-inch display, 6GB RAM, and 64GB and 128GB storage options.
But it’s not just leaks that Xiaomi made waves for this week, as the company unveiled two feature phones and Qin 1s are priced at CNY 199 (about Rs. 1,990) on the crowdfunding platform and will start shipping on September 15.
WhatsApp had a pretty busy week too, as the Facebook-owned company rolled out group calling to all its Android and iPhone users across the world. The WhatsApp group video and voice calls support up to four people at a time, and all the calls are end-to-end encrypted. The group calling feature has been optimised to work on slow networks, the company announced.
Separately, the company unveiled its first plan for monetising the platform as it opened up the WhatsApp for Business API to let more companies join the business messaging platform to connect with customers and to integrate the app with different platforms, such as ZenDesk for enterprise social media messaging for customer support. It also revealed business users will have to pay for customised notifications with relevant, non-promotional content such as shipping confirmations, appointment reminders, event tickets, etc. Also, business users will have to pay for messages sent to customers 24 hours after the last response they receive from them.
The company also announced a WhatsApp shortcut for businesses putting up Facebook ads to make it easier for customers to contact them; this feature will not be rolled out in India initially. Moreover, WhatsApp users can expect to see advertisements in Statuses to “help users familiarise with business” starting next year.
A couple of reports also gave us a glimpse at some of the WhatsApp features we can expect in the future. One report says the company is bringing Picture-in-Picture mode for YouTube and Android to its Android app, similar to what iPhone users already have. The feature – which will allow users to see YouTube videos and Instagram posts whose link they receive on WhatsApp without leaving the app – is still in testing and will reportedly be rolled out in the next few updates. However, Instagram Stories will not be available in PiP mode. A WhatsApp Web redesign has been spotted online too, featuring a relocated GIF Search button – it is being moved from the end of emoticon menu and will be placed right next to the emoticon button.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 9 launch is slated for next week, and leaks are flying left, right and centre. The Galaxy Note 9 price was leaked more than once this week, first via a promotional poster in Indonesia, which suggested the handset will cost IDR 13,500,000 (about Rs. 64,400) for the 128GB variant and IDR 17,500,000 (about Rs. 83,500) for the 512GB variant. Similar prices have been reported from South Korea and Malaysia. A promotional video posted by the company mistakenly on its YouTube channel showed the S Pen in yellow colour, and says the smartphone will support up to 1TB storage when the help of microSD cards. The video also emphasises on the smartphone’s “all-day battery life.”
Another promotional poster, this one in South Korea, claims pre-orders for the smartphone will begin on August 10, just one day after its global unveiling. It will be released on August 24, the poster says. The company is already taking reservations for the Galaxy Note 9, while the pre-order page has been set up on its New Zealand site (though you cannot place pre-orders at present). The company has said it will launch the handset at a reasonable price.
Talking about upcoming phones, the 2018 iPhone models are just a month away, and newly leaked dummy models have been leaked online. These dummy models give use a glimpse at the design differences between the three rumoured next-gen Apple smartphones. While there are seemingly no differences between the three models in the front – with thin bezels and notch common to all – the back panel shows the 6.1-inch LCD model will have a single camera, while the 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch OLED variants will sport vertical dual rear cameras. Glass back panels are seen on all three dummy models. Also, it was reported this week that Apple may retail the long-rumoured dual SIM iPhone with 6.1-inch display only in China. Considering the 6.1-inch model is also expected to be the cheapest of the lot, a dual SIM model giving a miss to India would mean a lot of missed opportunity for Apple.
Also this week, Apple became the first US company to breach the $1-trillion mark for market capitalisation, and lost its spot as the second-biggest smartphone vendor to Huawei.
The Moto Z3 smartphone has been unveiled in the US, with support for existing standard such as 4G VoLTE. However, the USP of the phone is support for 5G Moto Mod that will enabled the smartphone to access mobile Internet at 5G speeds – the caveat here is that the mod will support only US telecom operator Verizon’s 5G Internet when it launches next year. The 5G Moto Mod uses Qualcomm’s X50 modem and millimetre wave components to provide access to the next-generation Internet, and will be unveiled in early 2019. Priced at $480 (about Rs. 33,000), the new Moto Z3 has a 6-inch full-HD+ display, Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, 12-megapixel + 12-megapixel cameras on the back, 8-megapixel camera in front, and 3,000mAh battery with fast-charging support.
While it may not be the first smartphone to natively support 5G, Motorola’s parent company Lenovo claims it will launch the world’s first 5G smartphone with Snapdragon 855 SoC. The company’s Vice President Chang Cheng has announced on Chinese social media platform Weibo that it will be the first to unveil a Snapdragon 855-powered smartphone with 5G support. The chip reportedly went in mass production in June, so we can expect to see the device in late 2018 to early 2019.
OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T users had a pleasant surprise this week as the Chinese company announced it will provide the Android P update to the smartphones, two years after they were unveiled. However, OnePlus is skipping the Android 8.1 Oreo update for the two models, and the Android P updates for them is not expected until early 2019 as the company is prioritising the update for OnePlus 6, OnePlus 5T and OnePlus 5.
In other OnePlus news this week, some users of the OnePlus 6 reported experiencing flickering displays since they downloaded the Oxygen OS 5.1.8 software update back in June. The display flickering is noticeable while using the phone in bright sunlight and is more frequent on using apps or web pages with white background. Comments on the official company forum said the automatic brightness feature does not change according to environment. While the Oxygen OS 5.1.9 update was issued in July, the display flickering issue was seemingly not detected by the company and, thus, not fixed.
Netflix, which released the dark comedy Brij Mohan Amar Rahe this week, announced it has commissioned a prequel series for the hit franchise Baahubali. To be called ‘Baahubali: Before the Beginning’, the series will be based on the prequel novel ‘The Rise of Sivagami’. Netflix has ordered two seasons of the show, and the first season will have nine episodes.
Amazon has announced it will be hosting the Freedom Sale from midnight August 9 to 11:59pm on August 12 in India. The company says it will offer over 20,000 deals across categories, including smartphones, as part of the sale. There will be discounts of up to 40 percent on mobile phones and accessories, with more than 50 offers and four exclusive launches during the sale period. Among the smartphones on offer will be OnePlus 6, Realme 1 6GB RAM variant, Moto G6, Honor 7X, Nokia 6.1, and Oppo F7, among others. There will also be discounts on Amazon products such as Echo smart speakers, Fire TV Stick, and Kindle e-readers. Prime members will get exclusive deals in the Amazon sale on August 9 to August 12. Other products on offer include laptops, TVs, cameras, speakers, fitness trackers, smartwatches, printers, and headphones. Vivo is also hosting the Vivo Freedom Carnival sale from August 7 to August 9 where Vivo Nex and Vivo V9 smartphones will be up for grabs at Rs. 1,947 in flash sales. There will also be earphones and USB cables at Rs. 72, among other deals.
BSNL has reportedly launched a new Rs. 995 broadband plan in Ernakulum, Kerala on promotional basis. This BSNL plan, named Fibre BBG ULD 995 – offers 200GB data at 20Mbps, and post-FUP speed is 2Mbps. There are no landline calling benefits with the plan, but subscribers will get a free custom email ID with 1GB storage. Since it is a promotional offer, the plan will not be available 90 days after its introduction. The state-owned operator has also launched a Rs. 27 recharge for prepaid users, with 1GB data, unlimited calls and 300 SMS for the 7-day validity period. It has reportedly started offering 100 free SMS per day with postpaid plans priced above Rs. 399, up from 100 text messages for the entire validity period.
In a welcome news this week, Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 3GB RAM and 4GB RAM variants will finally be available in open sale from now. The smartphone was launched with the promise of open sales but had been available in weekly flash sales since its launch three months ago. This will put an end to the wait for the smartphone – however, the 6GB RAM variant of the smartphone is still in limited stock and will be available in weekly flash sales. Also, the ZenFone 5Z 8GB RAM, 256GB storage variant went on sale in India this week, with prices starting at Rs. 29,999.
Among the other notable launches this week in India is the 2018 version of Samsung Galaxy On8, another affordable offering from the company. Samsung Galaxy On8 (2018) price in India is Rs. 16,990 and it will go on sale in India starting tomorrow, August 6 via Flipkart. Among the key features of the smartphone are the 6-inch HD+ AMOLED Infinity Display, Snapdragon 450 SoC, 4GB RAM, 16-megapixel + 5-megapixel rear camera setup, 16-megapixel selfie camera, and 3,500mAh battery.
BlackBerry launched the Evolve and Evolve X in India this week, priced at Rs. 24,990 and Rs. 34,990, respectively. The BlackBerry Evolve X has Snapdragon 660 SoC, 6GB RAM, 12-megapixel + 13-megapixel dual rear cameras, and wireless charging. The BlackBerry Evolve has the Snapdragon 450 chip and dual 13-megapixel sensors on the back. Common features between the two include the 5.99-inch full-HD+ screen, Android 8.1 Oreo, 64GB internal storage, microSD card support, 16-megapixel selfie cameras, and 4000mAh battery. The latter will be available August-end, while the former will go on sale in the country mid-September.
Another important smartphone launched in India this week was the Oppo A3 3GB RAM variant, aimed squarely at buyers of affordable handsets. The new variant of the Oppo A3s has 3GB RAM and 32GB storage compared to the original’s 2GB RAM and 16GB storage. Though the listing is not yet live on e-commerce sites, Gadgets 360 has learnt the new variant will cost Rs. 13,990. Key features of the handset include a 6.2-inch HD+ panel, dual rear cameras, 4,230mAh battery, Snapdragon 450 SoC, and 8-megapixel selfie camera.
Nokia 6.1 Plus India launch may not be too far away as HMD Global has teased its next launch in the country via a tweet. While no model has not been named, the company has asked fans to share their favourite Nokia smartphone experience with it for a chance to witness its next launch. The Nokia 6.1 Plus is the likeliest contender for the India launch event as the smartphone just went global with its Hong Kong launch. It is the first Nokia-branded model with a notch and has features such as 5.8-inch display, Snapdragon 636 chip, dual rear cameras, and 3,060mAh battery.
Honor Note 10 was launched in China this week, bringing a mid-range smartphone with a huge 6.95-inch display and 5,000mAh battery to the market. The Honor Note 10 price is CNY 2,799 (about Rs. 28,100) for the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage option, CNY 3,199 (about Rs. 32,100) for the 6GB RAM + 128GB storage model, and CNY 3,599 (about Rs. 36,100) for the 8GB RAM + 256GB storage variant. Key features of the smartphone include a full-HD+ AMOLED panel, Kirin 970 SoC with GPU Turbo support, 24-megapixel + 16-megapixel dual rear cameras, 13-megapixel front camera, Face Unlock, and fingerprint sensor.