Welcome back to our weekly roundup of all the news you can use from the world of tech. This week, one of the highlights was the launch of a third variant of the Xiaomi Redmi 5. Packing 4GB of RAM, it’s a step up from the existing 2GB and 3GB options, and its price in China is CNY 1,099 (roughly Rs. 11,000), a premium of CNY 200 (roughly Rs. 2,000). There’s no official news about the Redmi 5 coming to India just yet, though the launch might well be around the corner.
To recall, the Xiaomi Redmi 5, which was launched in December, has a 5.7-inch HD+ 18:9 aspect ratio display, and it’s powered by an octa-core Snapdragon SoC. There are three RAM variants as mentioned above, and while the 2GB variant comes with 16GB of storage, the others have 32GB storage. There’s a 12-megapixel rear-camera and a 5-megapixel front camera, along with a 3300mAh battery. Meanwhile in India, the Xiaomi Redmi 5A also got a new variant, but this just an additional colour — rose gold. The entry level phone is presently available at just Rs. 4,999 for the variant with 2GB RAM/ 16GB storage, and has a 5-inch HD display, along with a 3000mAh battery.
Xiaomi also announced an update the rollout for MIUI 9.2 — the Xiaomi Redmi Note and Redmi Note Prime are both getting the update, as is the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, though that phone will get a version based on Kitkat. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 has also started receiving the MIUI 9 update.
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Meanwhile, HMD Global has launched the 4G variant of the Nokia 3310 (2017). The new Nokia 3310 4G has only been listed in China right now, and price and global availability details of the new Nokia 3310 variant are likely to be announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona, Spain, later this month. The company is no doubt hoping for a repeat of MWC 2017, when it stole the show by revealing the rebooted Nokia 3310.
Apart from that, the company had some more good news for interested buyers in India. The Nokia 8 and Nokia 5 both saw price cuts in India, of Rs. 8,000 and Rs. 1,000 respectively. This brings the Nokia 8 price down to Rs. 28,999 from Rs. 36,999, and the Nokia 5 goes from Rs. 13,499 to Rs. 12,499. This is a pretty good deal, but it comes just weeks before a slew of Nokia phones, including the Nokia 8 (2018) model, are expected to make an appearance at MWC 2018.
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OnePlus kicked off the week by announcing a buyback programme in India — the company is allowing users to exchange an old handset to get a discount on the OnePlus 5T. This exchange is being powered by Cashify, along the same lines as Xiaomi’s smartphone exchange programme, which was announced in November. In both cases, the Cashify team determines the exchange value, but in this case, you can avail the buyback service only after a smartphone order has been placed on the OnePlus website.
However, OnePlus also faced a spyware allegation this week — French security researcher Elliot Alderson alleged on Twitter that the company is identifying and uploading clipboard data such as bank account numbers and emails to a Chinese server. OnePlus has refuted the claim, and stated that the code in question was inactive for its global users. In some good news for its users, the OnePlus 5T also got new features this week, bringing iPhone X-like gestures, and SMS categorisation for Indian users.
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There was one more interesting piece of news out of China — new leaks suggest that the upcoming Vivo Xplay7 will be the first smartphone with 10GB of RAM. The phone is also rumoured to have up to 512GB of internal storage, and there’s allegedly a 4K OLED display, and an under-display fingerprint sensor. The company’s X20 Plus UD recently became the world’s first smartphone to launch with an under-display fingerprint sensor. The leaks also revealed a dual camera setup on the rear, with up to 4X zoom. None of this has been confirmed yet, but if it actually has these specs, this phone is going to be hard to top, at least on paper.
Google announced that it had to remove over 700,000 bad apps, and 100,000 developers from Google Play in 2017. Over 250,000 apps impersonating big titles were removed, and Google also removed apps with inappropriate content. Malware apps were also reduced thanks to Google Play Protect. Those numbers might sound huge, but are really just indicative of the scale of the problem. Even now, if you search on Google Play store, you’ll find far too many clones, and highly inappropriate apps, so Google has plenty left to do on this front.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp also released some numbers, announcing that it has hit 1.5 billion monthly active users, who are sending 60 billion messages every day. A good portion of that are no doubt memes emerging from India. That’s an enormous number putting it just below the total users that Facebook itself has. This was revealed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg while announcing the company’s results for the quarter.
Other major companies also announced their results this week. Apple said that it saw better than expected sales for the flagship iPhone X. According to Apple, the iPhone X was its top selling phone for every week since November. It revealed that overall iPhone sales were about a million units fewer than last year, but overall revenue increased by 13 percent to reach $88.3 billion. Google parent Alphabet reported a $3 billion loss, although revenue in the last quarter of 2017 rose by $32.3 billion. Google remains the key driver for revenue for the company, accounting for $31.9 billion in revenue, and an operating profit of $8.8 billion. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he expects more diversification at the company, which has relied on the Internet search engine and its related advertising revenues.
As for Microsoft, as with the previous quarter, it saw Microsoft Cloud continue to grow, with the Azure cloud computing division making $7.8 billion. The revenue from Azure itself jumped 98 percent, Microsoft said. It also saw strong hardware growth thanks to the November launch of its Xbox One X game console. Microsoft said that gaming revenue was up 8 percent in the gaming industry’s all-important holiday quarter. That still puts it behind Nintendo and Sony, but when asked if Microsoft was falling behind in gaming, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said the company sees games as an opportunity beyond the console — especially with gaming cloud and entertainment services on the PC.
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Beyond the WhatsApp numbers, Facebook also reported earnings that beat expectations. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said changes cut time spent on the site by some 50 million hours per day, but with better quality engagement. «We made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent,» Zuckerberg said. Amazon’s profits also surged, and CEO Jeff Bezos heaped praise on the Alexa digital assistant. Overall revenues for Amazon rose 38 percent from last year to $60.5 billion, and while Amazon offered only limited details, Bezos said a big factor was Alexa.
It was a surprisingly quiet week on the telecom front, with just a couple of announcements. First, Vodafone has revised its Rs. 198 prepaid pack to offer 1.4GB of data daily for 28 days, up from 1GB per day, bringing it in line with Airtel’s Rs. 199 pack, while Reliance Jio is offering 1.5GB data in its Rs. 149 pack. Aside from this, Idea announced offers of up to Rs. 2,000 cashback on Karbonn smartphones and feature phones.
Aside from that, we also had a few interesting smartphone launches this week. The InFocus A2 with 4G VoLTE support was launched in India — the budget-friendly smartphone is priced at Rs. 5,199. The phone is priced to compete with the entry-level Xiaomi Redmi 5A, and it has similar specifications as well. It packs in 2GB of RAM and a 1.3GHz quad-core processor, with 16GB storage. To sweeten the deal, it’s bundled with 30GB data on Reliance Jio, and you can get a Rs. 300 cashback if purchasing it via Mobikwik.
In Pakistan, there was the launch of the Oppo A71 (2018), which as the name suggests, is a successor to the Oppo A71 that launched last September. Another entry level phone, it has 2GB of RAM and 16GB storage, but a 1.8GHz octa-core processor, a 5.2-inch HD display, and a 3000mAh battery. Price and availability has not been announced.
Finally, in Japan, the Sharp S3 — an Android One smartphone — with a Snapdragon 430 SoC was launched this week. The phone is lacking a fingerprint scanner, but features a 5-inch full-HD display, and is packing 3GB RAM and 32GB storage. It has a 2700mAh battery, and is water, dust, and shock resistant.
Aside from that, we got to hear a little more about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9+. New renders have been leaked which are largely in line with what’s been seen so far, and sticks to the traditional Samsung design. Aside from that, a developer spotted «Intelligent Scan» in the settings app, which combines Face Unlock and the iris scanner, to improve device unlocking in bad lighting. The phones’ battery and ports were also revealed — while the Galaxy S9 is expected to have a 3000mAh battery, the bigger Galaxy S9+ will reportedly have a 3500mAh battery, and both will use USB Type-C.
Apart from that, reports also suggest that the Xiaomi Mi 7 is unlikely at MWC 2018. While it was believed that the company would showcase its latest Mi phone, the company is now rumoured to be launching a Mi MIX 2 update, dubbed the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2S. Another report says that the Mi Mix 2S will be the first Snapdragon 845 smartphone. It’s also claimed that the phone will go on sale in China in March, at CNY 4,000, or around Rs. 40,000. The phone will apparently also have a notch on the front, akin to the iPhone X. Snapdragon 845 is already claimed to have an on-device artificial intelligence (AI) functionality that could result in features such as facial recognition on the new Mi MIX model.