India

Best Budget Smartphones in India below INR 15,000 (Q1 2019)

The best of 2019 so far

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A couple of years back, excitement was at its epitome for flagship phones from companies like Samsung and LG. Now, things have changed completely and the most exciting segment is the budget range.

Competition has been aggressive in terms of pricing and features, hence every brand wants to distinguish itself. Top-tier offerings are now quickly trickling down to the budget range and the overall costs have drastically reduced.

It becomes a herculean task for a consumer to select a phone when so many options are available, so we’ve compiled a list of the best budget phones you can buy in India right now. We’ve considered various user demands like performance, battery life, cameras, and longevity.

Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro (INR 14,499)

This phone is practically a flagship in the Redmi series and has proven itself to be the perfect all-rounder one needs. Even though the processor remains unchanged from its predecessor, it still gets all tasks done smoothly and receives faster updates. The cameras have been lauded for their output in well-lit and low-light areas. Lastly, the battery is more than sufficient to get you through a full day on exceedingly heavy usage.

Nokia 6.1 Plus (INR 15,499)

Nokia-branded phones have made a reputation for themselves thanks to stock Android and on-time updates. If you’re looking for a phone with butter-smooth performance, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is built for you. The design is compact yet premium thanks to the sandwiched glass and metal body. In addition, the display is sharp and among the best in class, along with a pair of rear cameras that do a good job for a phone in this segment.

ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 (INR 12,999)

The ZenFone Max Pro M2 goes a step further in terms of performance and sports a proven midrange chipset along with pure Android. Its design is radically different and genuinely looks stunning. ASUS has gone all in and added a humongous battery that’ll get you through two days of heavy usage on a single charge. For a power user, there’s no better option than this. Even the cameras have seen considerable improvement and portrait shots are among the best. 

Realme U1 (INR 11,999)

For a brand this young, the Realme U1 has been a surprise for us all. It’s powered by a new processor and can seamlessly finish any task you throw at it. The phone has a plastic design that imitates glass, which makes it exceptionally light in weight. Selfie lovers are also going to be pleased with its front camera performance. It runs on OPPO’s ColorOS for a bunch of nifty tricks like gesture support and face unlock.

Honor 8X (INR 14,999)

If you’re looking for a huge display for media consumption, this phone is built for you. It’s powered by a midrange processor and comes with Honor’s GPU Turbo technology for an enhanced gaming experience. The battery will also get you through a day and a half on heavy usage with support for fast charging. It has an average pair of rear cameras, but the design is acutely premium.

Vivo V9 Pro (INR 15,000)

This phone brings a midrange design and processor to the budget range, making it a near perfect all-rounder. The cameras are above average and the battery is enough to get you through a day’s heavy usage. Performance-wise — and this is great for gaming — the phone has 6GB of RAM, which is among the highest in this segment. 

Motorola One Power (INR 14,999)

The name itself suggests this phone is built for “power” users. The processor is capable enough, but the main selling point is its huge battery. At 5000mAh, the phone will last for days on a single charge and it also supports faster charging. It runs on pure Android and hence we expect updates to roll out quickly, as well. The cherry on top is it’s officially splash resistant.

Gaming

PUBG Mobile is making a comeback as Battlegrounds Mobile India

Will be exclusive to India

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Battlegrounds Mobile

After an excruciating wait, it’s official — PUBG Mobile is coming back to India. But this time, it’ll have a new name: Battlegrounds Mobile India with some added features, and an India-centric focus.

Krafton, the game’s developer, has announced it’ll be launching the Battlegrounds Mobile India soon. The game will bring an AAA-rated multiplayer experience alongside exclusive in-game events, tournaments, and leagues. While a launch date isn’t available, Krafton did confirm that pre-registration will be opened up soon.

The game will be free-to-play and incorporate the same battle royale concept that made it popular. Although, little detail is available about maps, guns, vehicles, and the plot (if there is any) of the game.

Furthermore, the game’s developer said that it would comply with all local laws and compliances. This includes data localization — storage of data within Indian borders. The announcement has cheered millions of players in the country who’ve been waiting for an alternative ever since the primary game was barred.

Why PUBG had to go

In mid-2020, India and China were involved in a fatal border skirmish that left many casualties on both sides. Following the conflict, India took a stringent anti-China stance and banned a host of apps that were developed or backed by Chinese companies. TikTok, owned by ByteDance, was among the first to come under the hammer.

PUBG Mobile was also included in the ban because Chinese giant Tencent was a distribution partner of the game. Following the ban, Krafton quickly removed Tencent from the agreement and announced plans to launch a new game independent of any Chinese influence.

Indian developers rode the hype wave, and many TikTok clones were touted as the next big thing. On the same lines, nCore Studios tried to bridge the gap by launching FAU-G, but it was a colossal failure. In fact, it still doesn’t have a battle royale mode, so it’s safe to assume Call of Duty: Mobile is the only practical alternative left for users right now.

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India

India finally approves 5G trials, sidelines Chinese vendors

Jio will also test its indigenous technology

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The Indian government has allowed India’s top three telecom operators Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea to carry out 5G trials in India for six months. The telcos are barred from utilizing equipment from Chinese vendors.

The Department of Telecommunication (DoT) said that the telcos can rely on technology providers like South Korea’s Samsung, Swedish Ericsson, and Finnish Nokia. It also said that Jio was allowed to use its indigenous technology to carry out the trials. Huawei and ZTE are the two major Chinese companies that are affected by the clause.

For now, the mid-band (3.2Ghz to 3.67Ghz) and millimeter-wave band (24.25Ghz to 28.50Ghz) are available. Additionally, telcos are allowed to use their existing spectrum. The companies have been warned that commercial utilization is prohibited. The tests are divided between urban and rural India, and the security of the network is of utmost importance.

“The objectives of conducting 5G trials include testing 5G spectrum propagation characteristics especially in the Indian context; model tuning and evaluation of chosen equipment and vendors; testing of indigenous technology; testing of applications (such as tele-medicine, tele-education, augmented/ virtual reality, drone-based agricultural monitoring, etc.); and to test 5G phones and devices,” the ministry said.

No to China

The exclusion of Chinese vendors isn’t surprising as the government has maintained an anti-China stance since the mid of 2020. Due to escalating border crisis, more than a hundred Chinese apps including TikTok and PUBG: Mobile were banned. Since then, state-owned telecom operator BSNL is barred from sourcing Chinese equipment in its network. Private operators have followed a similar strategy to avoid heat from the government.

5G roll-out has been delayed in the country due to the ravaging Coronavirus pandemic and lack of demand for a premium market. The average revenue per user in India lowest in the world, making it difficult for companies to sustain amid decade-long tax disputes, discount wars, and expensive spectrum. However, the industry has picked up pace in the last year as the demand for wireless connectivity boomed, providing a much-needed buffer to beleaguered telcos like Vodafone-Idea.

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Health

Google will fund 250,000 vaccine doses via an international alliance

Recipients include the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and more

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Internet giant Google has announced it’ll be funding 250,000 doses of the COVAX vaccine via GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. The funding shall come through Google.org, the company’s humanitarian foundation.

GAVI is a public-private partnership that aims to improve immunization drives in developing countries. It currently consists of developing economies, donor governments, World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and World Bank. Furthermore, private foundations such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also a part of the alliance.

Google will also be leading an employee-giving campaign to secure more vaccine vials with the GAVI Matching Fund and Google.org matching the donation to triple the impact. The Philippines will be a prime beneficiary of the proposal, along with Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, India, and Laos.

The Mountain View-based company will also offer its technology solution to the alliance to accelerate global distribution. The announcement comes at a crucial time because India is experiencing a miserable second wave of Coronavirus. Being a top vaccine maker, the surge in local cases has prompted India to intensify inoculation of its own citizens. Many experts are worried that this could disrupt vaccine supply to other countries, in turn, extending the pandemic and its associated risks.

“Since February, we’ve been providing vaccine-related insights to help GAVI better educate communities about the COVID-19 vaccine. They’ve used that information to create educational content that reaches more than half a million people each day. We’re now committing US$ 15 million in Ad Grants to help Gavi build on these efforts and amplify their fundraising campaign,” Karen DeSalvo, chief health officer at Google Health, in a blog post.

So far, the Philippines has provided more than 1.7 million doses, and 214,000 people are now vaccinated. While masks and social distancing are temporary measures, a vaccine is touted as the safest way to ensure a normal future devoid of lockdowns and stringent border controls.

Read Also: Google will spend $150 million to promote coronavirus vaccine education

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