India

Google may launch a midrange Pixel phone in India

Google Home is scheduled to launch in India on April 10

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It’s no secret that India is one of the prime markets for Google right now, and the company has largely tried to make sure its products make it to the country in their first wave. Even Android Go, Google’s initiative to create a stripped-down version of Android for entry-level smartphones, has been developed with India as one of its key markets.

The Economic Times reports that Google is working on a midrange Pixel smartphone for “price-sensitive” markets, including India, that will be released in July or August, according to industry executives who recently had meetings with Google. Additionally, the tech giant is planning to expand distribution into general trade and increase spending on marketing similar to what Apple and Samsung have been doing in India.

Besides the Pixel phones, Google may also be planning to bring more of its devices to India. The report notes that the company is exploring the launch of the Google Pixelbook, Google Home smart speakers, as well as its IoT products like doorbells, cameras, alarm systems, and smoke detectors that are sold under the Nest Brand. It adds that Google plans to introduce all these products over the next year.

“Google is excited about the expansion of the consumer products business in India with the advent of the cheap 4G internet led by Reliance Jio and other operators which it says will help to realize the maximum potential of these products,” said a leading retailer who had participated in the meet to Economic Times.

Furthermore, Google also plans to amp up its offline presence by expanding brick-and-mortar distribution through hardware distributor Redington as well as “in-store branding and signage in selected stores, and set up exclusive zones with specially designed fixtures like Apple,” an executive said. Stores have accounted for 36 percent of Pixel sales in India while e-commerce sales account for 38 percent.

The main reason behind Mountain View not doing a rapid expansion is the issue of brand recognition — many Indians are still oblivious that the search engine also sells hardware.

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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