Big news this week came in the form of the Redmi 6 Pro launch in China, Xiaomi’s latest budget smartphone. The OnePlus 6 Midnight Black 8GB RAM/ 256GB storage model made its way into India, representing the cheapest price point yet in the country for the top configuration. This week also saw the Lenovo brand Moto tease the arrival of the Moto E5 Plus on Indian shores in the coming month, while Samsung and Flipkart teased the launch of a new budget smartphone with an Infinity Display, thought to be the rumoured Galaxy On6. Of course, Indian telecom operators were not to be left out from headlines, with a bunch of new plans and offers. Popular apps like WhatsApp and Instagram also announced major updates this week.
Let’s start with the launch of the Xiaomi Redmi 6 Pro, which is an upgrade over the Redmi 6, but looks like a Redmi Note 5 Pro. The company’s latest budget smartphone comes with a 5.84-inch 19:9 display sporting a iPhone X-like display notch and dual rear cameras. The Redmi 6 Pro was launched starting CNY 999 for the 3GB RAM/ 32GB storage variant, with the 4GB RAM/ 32GB storage variant priced at CNY 1,199 (roughly Rs. 12,500), and the 4GB/ 64GB variant priced at CNY 1,299 (roughly Rs. 13,600). For now, Xiaomi has not revealed a Redmi 6 Pro price in India or release date.
Other highlight features of the Redmi 6 Pro include its AI features, including face unlock, beautification, portrait, and a voice assistant. Powered by the octa-core Snapdragon 625 SoC, the Redmi 6 Pro sports dual cameras at the rear, with a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. The front camera sports a 5-megapixel sensor, while the smartphone has a fingerprint scanner embedded on the rear panel.
The Redmi 6 Pro comes with a dedicated microSD card slot, supporting up to 256GB cards. The smartphone’s connectivity options include the standard 4G VoLTE, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth v4.2, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. All this is powered by a 4000mAh battery. The smartphone will be available in Black, Blue, Gold, Red, and Rose Gold colour variants.
Alongside the Redmi 6 Pro, Xiaomi launched its Mi Pad 4 tablet, also running Android-based MIUI. It sports an 8-inch full-HD display with a 16:10 aspect ratio, and is powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 660 SoC – Xiaomi is also touting a ‘smart game acceleration’ feature. The company has launched three variants of the Xiaomi Mi Pad 4, with the 3GB RAM/ 32GB inbuilt storage Wi-Fi model priced at CNY 1,099 (roughly Rs. 11.500), the 4GB RAM/ 64GB inbuilt storage Wi-Fi model priced at CNY 1,399 (roughly Rs. 14,600), and the 4GB RAM/ 64GB inbuilt storage Wi-Fi + LTE version priced at CNY 1,499 (roughly Rs. 15,600). The Mi Pad 4 is powered by a 6000mAh battery.
Before we get to the other mobile-related news from this week, let’s take a look the latest announcements from the telcos. Airtel had a couple of changes to make in its offerings. The first saw the Rs. 649 plan upgraded to offer 90GB of 3G/ 4G data in the month-cycle, along with unlimited voice calls on local, STD, and roaming without an FUP limit. The plan is also eligible for the data roll over facility, and 100 SMS messages a day. The Rs. 649 plan had earlier offered 50GB of 3G/ 4G data.
Airtel also downgraded two of its prepaid packs – Rs. 149 and Rs. 399. The telco reduced data benefits for these plans, a month after offering up to 2.4GB of daily data to select customers. Instead, the Rs. 149 pack by Airtel now offers 1GB of data per day for 28 days – as before, while the Rs. 399 pack now offers 1.4GB of data benefits for 84 days – or 70 days in the cases of some users. Previously, these plans offered unlimited voice calls and 100 SMS messages per day, and they continue to do so.
Enter Reliance Jio, which this week unveiled the Jio Oppo Monsoon Offer, offering ‘up to Rs. 4,900’ worth of benefits. The offer is valid for both existing and new Jio subscribers who purchase a new Oppo smartphone. Eligible models include all new 4G Oppo smartphones, except the Realme 1. Subscribers who choose the Rs. 198 and Rs. 299 prepaid packs can avail the offer between June 28 and September 25. Other benefits include 36 instant cashback coupons worth Rs. 50, taking the total cashback amount to Rs. 1,800. The cashback can be redeemed against monthly recharges.
Those who subscribe to the Rs. 299 pack will also get three Jio Money credits worth Rs. 600 each over the course of three years, while Rs. 198 pack subscribers will get Rs. 600 Jio Money credit in total. The Jio Oppo Monsoon Offer also gives Rs. 1,300 worth of discount coupons from MakeMyTrip. On a regular basis, the Rs. 198 Jio pack offers 2GB of 4G data per day, Rs. 299 Jio recharge gives the user 3GB worth of data benefits per day, for a validity of 28 days each.
In the meanwhile, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) revealed the results of its independent drive tests conducted between February 23 and March 16 in the Delhi NCR region, assessing mobile data performance across operators. Notably, Airtel was found to offer the highest 4G download speeds in the region, while Vodafone had the highest 4G upload speeds. Reliance Jio came in second in both these metrics, while BSNL on the other hand offered the highest 3G download speeds. Airtel was also found to offer the lowest webpage load times as well as video streaming delay.
TRAI also published its telecom subscription report for the month of April, finding that Reliance Jio once more added the highest number of subscribers in the month – 9.6 million, though Airtel continued to the lead the market with a 27.44 percent share. Vodafone was second with a 19.74 percent share, Idea third with a 19.27 percent share, while new entrant Jio came in fourth with a 17.44 percent share. Idea was the second biggest recipient of new subscribers, with 5.5 million joining its stable, while Airtel added 4.5 million subscribers in the period. BSNL added over 700,000, while Vodafone lost more than 500,000 subscribers in the month.
In the meanwhile, Vodafone has upgraded its Rs. 299 Red Basic postpaid plan to offer 20GB data, unlimited voice calls (incoming, outgoing, roaming) and 100 SMS messages. The plan is also eligible for a data roll over benefit up to 50GB, while a 12-month free subscription to Vodafone Play is bundled. The company claims the total benefits of the plan are worth Rs. 2,400. Notably, other common Vodafone Red offers like Bill Guarantee for free of cost, Mobile Shield, Red Hot Deals, and Amazon Prime and Netflix subscriptions are not available with the Rs. 299 Red Basic plan.
State-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) this week also unveiled a Rs. 1,999 long-term prepaid pack that provides 2GB of daily data, unlimited calls, and 100 SMS messages a day for 365 days. Users therefore get a total data limit of 730GB, however, there are no value-adds like PRBT (Personalised Ring Back Tone). The plan is available only in the Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles, and is a promotional offering that can only be availed before September 22.
Next, Idea Cellular began offering a Rs. 150 cashback to its postpaid users who subscribe to the Sony Liv app. Specifically, the cashback is available to Nirvana postpaid subscribers with plans starting Rs. 499 and above. It is in effect a 100 percent cashback to the Sony Liv app service. The Rs. 150 cashback will be made available in three equal parts in the next three monthly-cycle bills. With the offer, Idea subscribers will get access to upcoming sports series and other premium content on the Sony Liv app for three months. Valid until July 15, the plan can be availed by opting for ‘Pay by Mobile’ and selecting an Idea postpaid mobile number as the payment mode.
Finally, in the last of the telecom news for the week, Airtel began offering broadband customers the option to avail a 20 percent discount on their bills if they pay for 1-year, and a 15 percent discount if they pay for 6 months. This offer is applicable in all circles, though broadband plan prices vary from circle to circle.
Now let’s get to the other major news of the week. OnePlus India decided to revisit its decision to offer the top model of the OnePlus 6 – 8GB RAM/ 256GB storage – only in the Marvel Avengers Limited Edition. The company this week announced that a regular Midnight Black variant of the top model will be available in India from July 14. It has been priced at Rs. 43,999 – which is Rs. 1,000 less than the price of the Marvel Avengers Limited Edition. Thus, the new Midnight Black variant represents the cheapest price at which buyers in India can purchase the top 8GB/ 256GB model. The company separately announced the OnePlus Software Maintenance Schedule, promising 2 years of software updates and 3 years of security updates for all its smartphones, starting with the OnePlus 3.
Next, Lenovo brand Motorola this week began teasing the launch of the Moto E5 Series in India, and soon clarified that the company will be launching only the Moto E5 Plus in the coming weeks in India. Teasers had hinted at a large battery, and the Moto E5 Plus certainly fits that description, with a 5000mAh battery on board. To recall, Motorola had first unveiled its Moto E5 Series of smartphones back in April this year. Separately, Motorola has scheduled a global launch event on August 2, where it is expected to launch the Moto Z3, apart from the often-leaked Moto One and Moto One Power.
Vivo this week also launched a new variant of its V9 smartphone. To recall, the smartphone was first unveiled in March this year, before making its way to India the same month. The newly unveiled variant sports 6GB of RAM, unlike the 4GB RAM offering on the original. The new variant is also powered by the Snapdragon 660 SoC, a bump up from the Snapdragon 626 processor of the original. It has been priced at IDR 4,299,000 (roughly Rs. 20,600), and will go on sale in Indonesia from July 5. We can expect the new smartphone variant to be launched in India soon as well.
Next up, Samsung India this week began teasing the launch of a new budget Galaxy smartphone exclusively on Flipkart set for Monday, July 2. Recent reports citing industry sources indicate that the company will be launching the Samsung Galaxy On6, and that it would sport an Infinity Display, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a Samsung Exynos SoC. Samsung this week also announced its new ISOCELL Plus sensor technology for improved low-light photography. Samsung separately confirmed the launch date of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 to be August 9. At the same event, the company is expected to launch the Galaxy Tab S4 as well as the Gear S4 smartwatch.
As for other India launches that have been announced by companies, Vivo has sent invites for a launch of its Vivo Nex Series flagships in the country on July 19, namely the Vivo Nex S and Nex A. The highlights of the smartphones, which were first unveiled earlier this month, include a bezel-less display and a pop-up selfie camera. The Vivo Nex S also has an in-display fingerprint sensor, though the cheaper Nex A bears a fingerprint sensor on the rear panel instead. Speaking about Vivo, the company at MWC 2018 Shanghai earlier this week unveiled its new 3D facial scanning tech, meant to take on similar offerings from Apple and Xiaomi. Called Time of Flight (TOF) 3D Sensing Technology, it uses 300,000 structured light sensor points to identify a face, compared to Apple Face ID’s 30,000 sensor points.
Asus this week announced that its flagship smartphone for the year, the ZenFone 5Z, will be launched in India on Wednesday, July 4. To recall, the ZenFone 5Z was first launched back at MWC 2018, and feature such top-end specifications as a Snapdragon 845 SoC, up to 8GB of RAM, and a 19:9 display with an iPhone X-style display notch.
Xiaomi had a bunch of other announcements this week – let’s start with the launch of the Mi 6X Hatsune Miku Limited Edition. The Chinese company on Thursday unveiled a special edition variant of the Mi 6X smartphone that is inspired by the virtual idol Hatsune Miku. It comes in the character’s signature green colour, and is complete with a gift box. The company also unveiled the Flame Red variant of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 in China, available only in a 4GB RAM/ 64GB storage confirmation. This week Xiaomi also started teasing a global launch event for the near future, and at this event the Chinese company is expected to launch the Mi A2 – the Android One version of the Mi 6X. Finally, Xiaomi also announced that sales of the Redmi Note 5 Series (which includes the Redmi Note 5 Pro) in India had exceed the 5-million units mark since their launch back in February. The Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro also finally began receiving its Android Oreo-based update, with MIUI 9.5.14 rolling out to users.
In other mobile-related news this week, LG launched a budget smartphone in South Korea – the X2. Specifications include a 5-inch display, 2GB of RAM, a quad-core Snapdragon processor, Android 7.1 Nougat, and an 8-megapixel camera. The company is also touting an Auto Shot feature that uses facial recognition to identify users, apart from a Quick Share feature. The LG X2 price has been set at KRW 198,000 (roughly Rs. 12,200) in South Korea. There are no details at the moment about whether the smartphone will make its way to other markets, including India.
After being spotted online earlier this month, the Alcatel 1 budget smartphone went official this week. The bare-bones offering is an Android Go smartphone, and features a FullView display with 18:9 aspect ratio, a MediaTek MT6739 SoC, 1GB of RAM, and a 2000mAh battery – it’s been priced at EUR 79 (roughly Rs. 6,200). It will go on sale starting July in select markets, and the company has yet to reveal if it will find its way to India.
Another budget smartphone that was launched this week was the Spice F311, an Android Go offering that comes out of the Transsion Holdings-backed Spice Devices brand. It represents the first Android Go smartphone in the company’s stables, and has been priced at Rs. 5,599. Apart from running Android 8.1 Oreo, the smartphone features an 18:9 display, a quad-core MediaTek SoC, 1GB of RAM, 5-megapixel cameras at both the front and back.
This week, Qualcomm at MWC 2018 Shanghai also unveiled its new mobile processors for mid-range smartphones – the Snapdragon 632, Snapdragon 439, and Snapdragon 429. All three processors will be seen in devices in the second half of 2018, and offer support for dual camera setups, fast LTE speeds, and AI features. Alongside, the company also unveiled its first smartwatch SoC meant for children’s wearables – Snapdragon Wear 2500.
In the meanwhile, HMD Global confirmed that the Nokia 8 Sirocco, Nokia 7 Plus, Nokia 6 (2018), and Nokia 8 will also receive a face unlock feature in an upcoming OTA update. Confirming the news on Twitter in a reply to a user, the feature is expected to make it more convenient to unlock a smartphone. The company’s Nokia X6, currently exclusive to China, is one of its only offerings to currently provide a face unlock feature.
Google this week also rolled out an update to the Google Camera app to Nexus and Pixel devices, finally bringing Google Lens integration into the camera app. The launch is significant because third-party Android manufacturers like Asus, Moto, and even OnePlus managed to build this integration into their camera apps before Google did. The feature was announced back at Google I/O 2018. The week also saw the Honor 7X receive a price cut in the country, alongside new features in a software update.
The week just past had its fair share of leaks as well. The Samsung Galaxy S10+ was rumoured to sport a 6.44-inch display, one of the biggest in the company’s offerings thus far. Alongside, key specifications and features of the Galaxy Note 9 were revealed in a new leak. Samsung’s first Android Go smartphone, which has been rumoured for weeks now, also had its specifications detailed in a new leak.
Popular Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo published a report with his predictions for the 2018 iPhone lineup, including specifications and pricing details. He also tipped that Apple will launch a cheaper MacBook Air, new iPad Pro models, as well as new Apple Watch models this year.
A Chinese website published leaked details about an upcoming Oppo smartphone called the Oppo A5, and it was found to carry forward the styling of the Oppo A3. The report revealed specifications and renders of the expected Oppo A5. Next up, the Nokia A1 Plus was rumoured to be the company’s next flagship smartphone, and is said to include a in-display fingerprint sensor. LG was tipped to launch the V40 smartphone later this year complete with five cameras – a triple camera setup on the back, and a dual camera setup on the front.
Now, let’s get to the other major announcements from this week. WhatsApp officially rolled out a new Group Setting, giving group admins the ability to restrict who can send messages in a group – all participants, or only admins. WhatsApp’s Media Visibility feature was also broadened to give users controls for individual contacts and groups. Separately, Android Messages for Web was rolled out to all users, following its announcement last week. Speaking of WhatsApp, rival Telegram had some major updates this week to its Android and iOS apps, including the Replace Media feature.
Google this week also announced its Indie Games Accelerator programme for developers in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The search giant also revealed its interest in the KaiOS operating system for feature phones, by announcing an investment to the tune of $22 million (roughly Rs. 138 crores) in the company.
Facebook-owned Instagram had several new features to announce this week, including group video chat, AR Camera Effects, topic channels on Explore, as well as soundtracks for Instagram Stories. An Instagram Lite app was also spotted in testing, and confirmed by the company. Facebook itself had some new features, such as a Keyword Snooze option in the News Feed, and testing of a Your Time feature. The company also decided to ease its ban on cryptocurrency ads on its platform.
Back in India, we saw the launch of the Dell Inspiron 22 3000 and Inspiron 23 3000 AIO desktops, priced starting Rs. 29,990. Acer launched its Nitro 5 Gaming laptop in the country, with prices starting from Rs. 65,999. Lenovo this week also had PC launches in India, in the form of the Ideapad 330S and Ideapad 530S laptops, apart from the IdeaCentre AIO 730S. Finally, HP also launched its Pavilion X360 14 range of laptops in the country, priced starting Rs. 50,347.
Apple announced that it was rebuilding its oft-maligned Maps application from the ground up. While it will now be using its own database, it will retain a partnership with mapping solutions provider TomTom. Speaking of Maps, Google Maps got redesigned Explore and For You tabs with an update this week.
Zomato announced it had expanded operations to 25 new cities in India, taking its total to 63 cities in the country. Alongside, the company revealed it was adding Short Bio and Tip features for delivery executives in its app.
The SD Association this week announced its new SD 7.0 specification, which sees the introduction of the SD Express format (providing up to 985MBps transfer speeds) and SDUC cards (with up to 128TB of data). NASA’s launch of its massive James Webb Space Telescope was delayed from this year to 2021 at the earliest, the space agency announced this week.