Finance

Imported devices could get more expensive thanks to customs duty hike

iPhones to get even costlier!

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The Indian government has decided to hike customs duty on imported mobile phones from 15 to 20 percent in a move designed to protect local manufacturing. The higher tariffs take effect from April 1.

The move, which will make imported devices more expensive, follows less than two months after the country raised the import duty from 10 percent to 15 percent. The new hike comes amid the nations annual Budget Session when the coming year’s finances are declared. This move will affect Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Pixel lineups the most. Luckily, we shouldn’t be seeing any price hike on the iPhone SE because it is assembled in India.

Apple has been trying to assemble its devices in India but has always found itself in some bureaucratic hurdle. Apple has been negotiating with the Indian government for lower tariffs on certain components, but the increased duties are still not in its favor.

The increase on import duties is designed to promote local manufacturing. The moves taken by the government to ensure local sourcing have started paying off though; multiple companies like Samsung, Xiaomi, Vivo, OPPO, and BlackBerry have started making and assembling phones in India to avoid the high import duty and also further gain the benefits the government has to offer under the “Make in India” scheme. The fact that the phones are sourced in India is often a point of emphasis for these companies and another marketing point to the consumer.

A senior industry executive told the Economic Times that smartphone makers may decide to absorb a part of the duty increase because Apple had increased iPhone prices by an average 3.5 percent in December after the government had raised import duties by five percent.

Last year, Apple supplier Wistron started producing iPhone SE models in India.

Around 75 percent of all cellphones sold in India were assembled in the country in 2017, said Tarun Pathak, an analyst at Counterpoint Research to CNN.

Apps

You can now buy and sell bitcoin, ethereum within the Venmo app

You can’t pay with crypto though

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Cryptocurrencies are the most trending topic right now, and everyone wants to be a part of it. Well, PayPal-owned peer-to-peer money transfer app Venmo has rolled out a new platform that’ll let users directly buy or sell the cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin, within the app.

With more than 70 million active users, the app serves as a perfect destination for more users. They can hold a stake in cryptocurrency starting with as little as US$ 1. They can also share their acquisition of digital currency on their feeds.

According to the payments company, more than 30 percent of Venmo customers have already started purchasing cryptocurrency or equities. And 20 percent of those customers started doing so during the pandemic.

The Venmo app is straightforward to use, and everyone is habituated with it. Hence, it is easier for folks to get on board the cryptocurrency train without worrying about complex tools.

The announcement did not say anything about paying for goods or services with cryptocurrency, but that ability could come to Venmo later. Customers will choose between four types of cryptocurrency — Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Bitcoin Cash.

PayPal recently announced it would let users pay for goods at checkout using cryptocurrencies. Meanwhile, Tesla said it would accept Bitcoin as a form of payment. With wider acceptance on mainstream services, cryptocurrencies are become easier to grab for everyone.

Venmo is rolling the new crypto features gradually, starting today. They should be available to all customers “within the next few weeks.”

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Apps

Tonik digital bank launches in the Philippines

Offers up to 6% interest rate per annum

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It’s always been challenging to open a bank account for most Filipinos due to a number of factors. Tonik, an all digital bank, aims to reduce the hurdles in opening an account to encourage people to save more.

Anyone can open a Tonik bank account using only the Tonik App (available on Android and iOS), an ID, and a well-lit selfie. Accepted IDs are: Philippine passport, Philippine Driver’s license, UMID, SSS ID, PRC ID, and Firearms ID.

Don’t have any of these IDs? You’re still eligible to opening an account. The account will be active for 12 months with a maximum balance of PhP 50,000. That should be enough time to secure an ID.

After creating an account, a user can easily put money in through the following: Debit Card, Online via GCash, BPI, Unionbank, and Coins.ph, and over-the-counter partners like 7 Eleven, Cebuana Lhuiller, Mlhuillier, and SM Payment.

Savings, interest rates, stashes

Tonik’s aim, like most digital banks in their early stages, is to get people to save. There are plenty of ways to save to encourage people to do so.

Time Deposit

Earns as much as six (6) percent per annum. Starting amount can be set to as low as PhP 5,000. There are also no early withdrawal fees or penalties.

Savings Account

Every registered account has a one (1) percent base interest rate per annum. Pay out is monthly.

Stashes

This is the fun part. Stashes are essentially digital piggy banks for specific purposes. Say, you’re saving for a smartphone or whatever shiny new piece of tech you have your eye on, you can put money in a specific stash so you can easily monitor how well your savings are coming along.

A Solo Stash lets gets users a four (4) percent per annum interest rate. Meanwhile, a Group Stash lets you team-up with another Tonik user for your savings goals earning you a 4.5 percent interest rate. These can be withdrawn anytime without a lock-in period.

Virtual card

Digital banking is also a welcome development with the Coronavirus pandemic still terrorizing the planet. Plenty of merchants have adopted an all digital solution. Tonik also offers a virtual card that you can use for online purchases.

Is it secure?

Tonik is asking for some personal data and, of course, your hard-earned cash. Naturally, you’d want to know if it’s safe and secure.

First, the money concerns. Tonik is supervised by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and your money is insured by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) up to a maximum of P500,000 per depositor.

For digital protection, the company outlines the following:

  • User account security is protected against fraud by the DAON server-based face check security feature. This ensures that no one can access a customer’s account by feigning his identity in case the account owner’s mobile phone is lost or stolen, even if the face ID is changed.
  • Passwords are safeguarded from the moment of their creation through RCA asymmetric encryption of account holders’ One-Time Pins and passwords. The level of encryption utilized for this feature is the
    same as that used by intelligence agencies
    and the military.
  • Customer data is stored safely in Amazon cloud with Advanced Cloud Security provided by AWSshield that effectively eliminates external threat like cyberattacks and data theft.
  • 256-bit encryption protection puts all transactions through secure channels that cannot be intercepted. Our security operations center monitors all customer-related activities for any possible external threats.

If you’re having any sort of difficulty navigating the app and its features, Tonik has the following customer support channels:

  • In-app chat
  • Tonik Digital Bank Viber chat
  • Customer Service email: [email protected]
  • Customer Service hotline: (02) 5322 2645

Why Tonik?

The name doesn’t immediately make you think of digital banking and the company says it’s intentional. Asked why they chose it during a media briefing, they said it’s easy to remember and doesn’t have any strong association with anything.

The company also has quite a nice and cool vibe to it. You’ll realize this with how things are worded when you interact more with the app.

PESONet transfers

As of April 27, 2021, Tonik users are able to transfer funds from a PESONet participating bank to their accounts. This service is initially available via RCBC, Landbank, PSBank and CIMB, with other PESONet member banks expected to add the service in the coming months.

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Finance

India’s new SMS regulation creates havoc for banks, essential services

SMS deliveries have been down for days

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Indian telecom service providers started implementing the second phase of a new SMS regulation, disrupting essential services like OTP (one-time passwords), bank updates, and e-commerce messages. This is an industry-wide issue affecting everything, including India’s identity verification program called Aadhaar and the Coronavirus vaccination portal called CoWIN.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently issued a guideline that mandated verifying every SMS and its content before delivery. The process is technically called scrubbing and was implemented on March 8, 2021. As a result, unverified and unregistered SMS messages were blocked by telcos.

TRAI says that scrubbing helps reduce spam or misleading messages that pretend to be from a financial institution. The process helps in differentiating between promotional and transactional messages. To control fraud, a blockchain-based solution is used by telcos to check every SMS’ header and content. If the source isn’t registered, the message won’t go through.

Telcos say that they simply followed the upgrade regulations and that telemarketers and companies are yet to join the formal registration process. Unfortunately, neither the telcos nor the banks have issued a statement to address public outrage.

Every transaction done by a credit or debit card is authenticated on the spot via a preset PIN or SMS OTP in India. For online transactions, a vast majority of users rely on OTPs, and these just aren’t getting delivered. Even SMS updates about a transaction aren’t able to go through. Telcos pushed back and pinned the blame on companies and their lax adoption, which have failed to comply with regulatory standards.

According to BloombergQuint, Axis Bank, one of India’s largest private banks, can deliver only 25 to 30 percent of the total messages. In the meantime, users are suggested to rely on alternative authentication services like Verified by Visa.

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