India

Google launches Home and Home Mini smart speakers in India

Hindi support will be added to Google Home speakers later this year

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In a press event in New Delhi, Google announced the launch of the Google Home and Google Home Mini smart speakers in India. The niche smart home market in India generated quite an interest last year with the launch of Amazon Echo devices powered by Alexa.

They will be available to buy online in the country exclusively via Flipkart, and will also be made available via offline stores. The speakers will support Google Play Music, YouTube, Netflix, Saavn, and Gaana. Hindi support will be added to Google Home speakers later this year and there are no immediate plans to bring the larger Google Home Max speaker to India at the moment.

Google Home is priced at INR 9,999 (US$ 154) while the Mini retails at INR 4,499 (US$ 70). Customers buying the Google Home or Google Home Mini from Flipkart will get a free JioFi router and when buying a Google Home from a Reliance Digital or MyJio stores, a JioFi router will be included along with 100GB of 4G data worth INR 2,499 (US$ 39). This offer is valid until April 30. Google is also offering six months of free subscription to Google Play Music with both the Google Home and the Home Mini.

Google Home sports a high-excursion speaker with a 2-inch driver and dual 2-inch passive radiators. It will only be available with a White body, but come with different-colored speaker material — the default it ships with is Slate fabric. The speaker also supports Chromecast, letting users stream movies, shows, and music onto their connected TVs or Google Cast speakers.

The Google Home Mini has four lights on top, which show the speaker is working and turn orange when the mic is muted. There is a mic mute switch near the power (micro-USB) port on the back. Its speaker is touted to deliver 360-degree sound and bears a 40mm driver, while its mic supports far-field voice recognition.

While Google has shared that Google Home works with over 1,500 smart home devices from 200-plus brands, only a few like TP-Link, D-Link, and Philips Hue are popular in India — although still expensive with limited mainstream adoption.

Apps

Google removes one of India’s top payments app for violating policy

But there’s nothing to worry about

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Google removed one of India’s top payments app Paytm from the Play Store for allegedly violating guidelines. To be more precise, the app violated the app store’s policy by promoting gambling. The app is still available on Apple’s App Store though.

In response, Google said, “The app was blocked for violation of play policies – a clarification of our policy was released earlier today ahead of the IPL tournament.” It further clarified that users aren’t affected and only the app’s availability from the Play Store has changed.

Google strictly prohibits digital casinos or ungoverned gambling apps on its Play Store in India and Paytm’s app was found in violation of this policy. Recently, it launched a fantasy sports service called Paytm First Games and embedded links to this service within the Paytm app.

The standalone Paytm First Games app has also been removed. However, other apps like Paytm Mall, Paytm Money, and Paytm Business are still available and remain untouched. Google said the developer is always notified and the app shall remain unavailable till it complies with the norms.

Paytm has also assured all users that their accounts, wallets, and bank accounts are safe and there’s nothing to worry about. When the news broke, there was some initial panic because the memories of India’s app ban are still fresh and people are worried about their favorite apps going off the shelf instantaneously.

Fantasy sports games and other gambling apps have radically risen in India. The country loves cricket and the Indian Premier League is scheduled to start from tomorrow. Making the coming weeks a very lucrative period for these apps.

All these apps do not depend on Google’s Play Store for distribution and have to be downloaded externally via the developer’s website.

Paytm is hugely credited for encouraging India’s digital economy and has transformed itself into a super app. Besides bill payments and peer-to-peer fund transfer, the app can also be used for tickets, shopping, and entertainment.

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India

Redmi 9i launches with Helio G25, 5000mAh battery

Designed for everyday tasks

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Xiaomi has consistently launched a new phone in the last few weeks. After the Redmi 9 Prime and Redmi 9, the brand has launched a slightly more affordable option — the Redmi 9i.

The body of the phone looks similar to the Redmi 9 Prime but doesn’t have a textured back. On the front is a 6.5-inch LCD display with HD+ resolution and TÜV Rheinland Low Blue Light certification.

Powering the phone is an octa-core MediaTek Helio G25 chipset along with MG PowerVR GE8320 GPU. It doesn’t have a fingerprint scanner and solely relies on face unlock for faster authentication.

On the rear is a single 13-megapixel camera with AI-powered portrait mode, in-built document scanner, and beauty mode. For selfies, a 5-megapixel camera is located on the front in a water-drop notch. The storage is expandable via a microSD card.

Backing these internals is a 5000mAh battery with a 10W charger. Although, this one skips the usual USB-C port in favor of microUSB. It ships with MIUI 12 out-of-the-box.

The Redmi 9i comes in two variants. The 4GB+64GB option costs INR 8,299 while the 4GB+128GB variant is priced at INR 9,299. Sale starts from September 18 via mi.com, Flipkart, Mi Homes, and Mi Studios.

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India

Alexa will soon get Amitabh Bachchan’s voice

Talk to your favorite actor!

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Photo by Piotr Cichosz on Unsplash

Amazon has added celebrity voices to its digital assistant, Alexa, for a long time now. Samuel Jackson’s voice is already available as a skill and you’ll soon be able to add Amitabh Bachchan as well.

The company has announced a partnership with the 77-year-old Bollywood actor that will bring his voice to Alexa. The voice assistant can offer jokes, advice, weather updates, poetry, and more. The company has announced it’ll be launching it in 2021 as a paid experience.

Amitabh Bachchan is a prolific actor who has starred in movies since the 1970s. His movies have been a massive hit globally and played a critical role in evolving the country’s indigenous cinema. His iconic voice can be instantaneously recognized by the masses.

Having hosted thirteen seasons of the Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, he has also dominated the television industry. Despite his age and medical complications, it’s impossible to find his off-screen. Fun Fact: Bachchan has also made an appearance in The Great Gatsby.

“Technology has always given me an opportunity to adapt to a new form,” Bachchan said in a release. “Be it in movies, TV shows, podcasts, and now, I am excited to create this voice experience in partnership with Amazon and Alexa. With voice technology, we are building something to engage more effectively with my audience and well-wishers.”

Amazon said that the Alexa team will work closely with Bachchan to capture his voice. Alexa comes pre-installed on all Echo devices and you can even install it via an app on Android and iOS.

The e-commerce company has been gained a massive foothold in India’s market. Affordable Echo devices have proven to be a hit and the brand is gradually improving its local experience in the country.

Thanks to direct integration, Amazon is also able to push forward its Prime subscription, ensuring the development of an eco-system that contains hardware, software, as well as content.

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