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Google acquires part of HTC’s smartphone business

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It has finally happened: Google bought a chunk of HTC’s smartphone team to bolster their hardware efforts. 

In a blog entry posted by Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Hardware at Google, the search giant signed an agreement with the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer to acquire “a team of HTC talent.” Osterloh said that these people were already part of the Pixel production.

In addition, Google has also bought a “non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.” If this rings any bells, that’s because Google had a similar game plan when they bought out Motorola for their patents back in 2011.

According to The Verge, this deal is worth US$ 1.1 billion, which is a fraction of what Google spent on the US$ 12.5 billion Motorola acquisition.

Since this isn’t a full takeover, HTC’s core smartphone business and Vive sub-brand will still live on. The question remains how much genuine manpower HTC will lose in this process, and if their future products will be as competitive as they’ve tried to be this year.

As for Google, this should be seen as a smart move, considering how invested they’ve become with their own hardware since last year when the HTC-made (under Google’s direction) Pixel smartphones were launched. By having a familiar team on board, the search and advertising specialist could finally be taken more seriously for their self-branded products.

Interestingly, this is being announced just two weeks before Google’s big event on October 4, where they’re expected to launch the Pixel 2 and possibly more hardware. At the same time, we wonder how Android-reliant brands like Samsung and LG will react, now that the operating system’s owner is a more direct rival to their smartphone divisions.

SEE ALSO: 5 keys to making the Google Pixel 2 a success

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India

ASUS launches two new pocket-friendly phones in India

Carving a new legacy for the ZenFone series

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ASUS completely revamped its product offering this year and launched a midrange phone, the ZenFone Max Pro. To cover up the budget flagship segment, it later launched the ZenFone 5Z. The two have been selling like hot cakes in developing markets thanks to hostile pricing and periodic offers.

Now, the company intends to take on the budget segment by launching the ZenFone Max and ZenFone Lite in India. Just yesterday, Lenovo also launched the K9 and Xiaomi has been ruling the segment with its Redmi 5A and Redmi 6.

ASUS ZenFone Max

The ZenFone Max is priced at INR 8,999 (US$ 122) and will be available for just INR 7,499 (US$ 101) during the festive season. The ZenFone Lite is an even cheaper option coming in at INR 6,999 (US$ 95) and will be available for INR 5,999 (US$ 82) under the same festive season discount. Jio users will be eligible for further INR 2,200 (US$ 30) cashback along with 50GB of free data. The two will be exclusively available via Flipkart.

The ZenFone Max has a 5.4-inch HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18:9. It is powered by a Snapdragon 430 SoC along with 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage. On the back, it has a single 13-megapixel camera while the front sports an 8-megapixel sensor. The cameras support beauty filters, portrait mode, and HDR.

The ZenFone Lite boasts the same display and processor as the Max but has 2GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. The rear has a 13-megapixel camera while the front has a 5-megapixel selfie shooter. The ZenFone Max owns a 4000mAh battery while the Lite sports a smaller 3000mAh battery.

Both the phones come with expandable storage via a microSD card and support authentication via facial recognition. The ZenFone Max also houses a fingerprint scanner on the back. The duo runs on Android Oreo-based ZenUI 5.0 out of the box.

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Google asks smartphone makers to pay for Play Store

In response to EU’s ruling

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Google Play

Months ago, Google landed in a scalding pool of Europe’s hot water. The European Competition Commission accused the company of anti-competition practices. Among other things, Google forced smartphone makers to bundle Chrome and Google Search as a requirement. According to the commission, the stipulation gives the company an unfair advantage over its rivals.

Eventually, the Commission hammered down a guilty verdict. From this, Google paid a record-breaking fine to the European Union. Besides this, the company had to stop the indicted practice.

Now, Google is finally implementing a resolution for the guilty verdict. Starting this month, the company will change its offered bundles for smartphone makers in the EU.

As opposed to enforcing the bundle, Google will offer Android’s apps for a price. Instead of a strong-arm strategy, Google’s new strategy aims for the best of both worlds. Smartphone companies can opt out of the program. Historically, some companies have already opted out of Android’s app ecosystem. For example, Chinese smartphones often implement their own variants because of China’s prohibitions.

Additionally, Google will loosen its regulations against forked versions of its Android operating system. Some smartphone makers alter Android’s inner workings for their own uses. Most notoriously, Xiaomi uses its own MIUI software. Previously, the bundling scheme swayed the deal towards Google’s favor, despite any proprietary changes. With looser regulations, companies can fork all they want.

Now, companies can sell smartphones running forked Androids. That is, if they also sell a separate smartphone with Google’s untouched software.

Amid all these changes, Android remains as free software for smartphones. Android can maintain its status as the world’s most ubiquitous operating system. However, if this issue elicits any questions, it’s this: How will Google’s new schema affect the casual consumer? Right now, we’ll have to wait and see.

SEE ALSO: You might need to pay Google for Android soon

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Nokia X7 goes official in China with PureDisplay and Zeiss cameras

It could be the Nokia 7.1 Plus for the international market

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Image credit: HMD Global

HMD Global has announced a new smartphone for the Chinese market. It’s called the Nokia X7, which sounds similar to the old Symbian-powered Nokia phone from 2011, and has near-flagship specs with competitive pricing.

The phone has a 6.18-inch Full HD+ display with a notch. The face of the phone has a bit of a chin with the Nokia logo, but HMD Global claims the phone has an 85.6 percent screen-to-body ratio.

Image credit: HMD Global

The display is one of the strengths of the Nokia X7. It’s called the PureDisplay, a marketing term of Nokia for their HDR-enabled screens. The panel also has 500 nits of brightness, 1500:1 contrast, 96 percent NTSC coverage, and DCI-P3 support. Basically, it’s a high-end display similar to flagship phones’.

Another main feature of the Nokia X7 is its cameras. It’s got dual rear shooters: a main 12-megapixel Sony IMX363 sensor with f/1.8 aperture plus optical image stabilization and a secondary 13-megapixel sensor for depth sensing. The rear cameras feature AI recognition, Dual Pixel AF, and Zeiss-branded lenses.

For selfies, there’s a 20-megapixel front-facing camera hiding in the notch that can do pixel binning for better low-light selfies.

Image credit: HMD Global

Inside the phone is the new Snapdragon 710 processor that’s paired with up to 6GB of memory and up to 128GB of expandable storage. It runs Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box, but the update to Android Pie is coming soon.

Sealed inside the Series 6000 aluminum and glass body of the phone is a respectable 3500mAh battery. The phone even comes with an 18W USB-C fast charger that’s claimed to fill half of the battery in just 30 minutes.

Other specs of the phone include a 3.5mm audio port, dual-SIM capabilities, microSD card support, and VoLTE.

The Nokia X7 is now available for pre-order in China. It comes in blue, red, silver, and black color options. Starting price is at CNY 1,700 (US$ 245) for the 4GB+64GB model, CNY 2,000 (US$ 290) for the mid-tier 6GB+64GB, while the most expensive version with a 6GB+128GB combo is priced at CNY 2,500 (US$ 360).

The phone is expected to be the upcoming Nokia 7.1 Plus for the international market.

SEE ALSO: Nokia touts an ‘asset-light’ approach to smartphone success

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