India

India smartphone market shrinks by nearly half due to Coronavirus

The world’s second-largest phone market suffered a huge hit

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Coronavirus

The India smartphone market is the world’s second-largest. It has witnessed consistent growth for the last few years, despite a regional economic slowdown. However, the streak came to an end in the second quarter of 2020 when the country announced a strict lockdown to curb the spread of Coronavirus.

Analysis firm Canalys said the smartphone market plunged by 48 percent in the second quarter. The country entered a full-lockdown from March 22 and it lasted till the end of April.

A few regions that weren’t impacted opened up slowly in May. But e-commerce activity was zero during this period and manufacturing facilities remained shut.

Smartphone makers anticipated the drop since there was no open channel available for selling. All physical stores were shut, e-commerce movement was nil, and trade in the black market was insignificant. Phone makers urged the government to categorize smartphones as an essential commodity amid the lockdown.

Xiaomi continued to be the market leader in India with a 31 percent market share, followed by vivo at 21.3 percent.

Canalys stated that the pandemic has forced phone makers into a “diabolical situation.” They’ve had to deal with low supply in production and demand.

Chinese brands still lead despite negative sentiment

The report also noted that anti-China sentiment was unlikely to affect sales of Chinese phone makers. Alternatives from Apple, Google, and Nokia aren’t priced competitively, leaving users with no option but to go for a Chinese phone maker.

Interestingly, more than 70 percent of the India smartphone market is controlled by Chinese makers like Xiaomi, vivo, OPPO, realme, and OnePlus.

Companies are having a hard time keeping up with the demand despite the lifting of the national lockdown. Positive cases of Coronavirus have been found in OPPO’s factory, prompting a shut-down. Adding to this, logistics are another concern since all processes have inherently slowed down due to insufficient manpower or social distancing norms.

India

Xiaomi Mi 10i Review: Master of the midrange

A near-perfect phone, designed for everyone

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For years Xiaomi has tried to get a foothold in the premium segment, but it just couldn’t hit the right spot. Despite engineering marvels like the Mi MIX series, it didn’t work. The company has also tried releasing a polished midrange phone under the Redmi branding but couldn’t meet inflated market expectations. Will the Mi 10i solidify its push?

The Chinese smartphone giant got its portfolio sorted at the beginning of 2020 by dividing the three brands — Mi for premium, Redmi for budget, and spun-off POCO into a completely independent brand. Now, Xiaomi has set its priorities straight and aims for the lucrative premium segment, one that’s gobbled by players like Samsung, Apple, Huawei, and to a certain degree, OnePlus, OPPO, and vivo.

The Mi 10i is surely a midrange phone, but it has a lot of expectations to meet. And it’s an important product for Xiaomi since it’s again trying to test the INR 20,000+ range. There’s also tough competition from the OnePlus Nord, Galaxy A51, as well as the realme X3. So, how does Xiaomi’s new offering fare? Let’s see!

How’s the design? Is it comfortable to hold for gaming or streaming?

I’ve got the Pacific Sunrise color option, and it looks phenomenal. The phone has a unique color palette and a premium touch that makes it look much more expensive than it really is. The front and back of the device are protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5, but it has a very satisfying opaque finish that gives it a very translucent look. It may be glass, but it’ll never attract fingerprints, and that’s one of my favorite things about the phone.

The back has a gradient of cyan or light blue and a mix of orange and pink. While colors or gradients are usually personal preferences and range from person to person, everyone I showed the phone to loved it.

You’ll find the power and volume buttons on the right, the USB-C port at the bottom, and the IR blaster at the top. Like the Mi 10T series, Xiaomi has added a side-mounted fingerprint sensor that’s baked into the power button, and it’s speedy.

The rear has a circular camera module that may remind you of the OnePlus 7T, but the Mi 10i has a slightly different design which actually looks quite good. Due to the bigger 108 megapixel primary sensor, the camera module bulges a lot. But it isn’t annoying because the phone is pretty stable on a flat surface and doesn’t wobble like the Mi 10T series.

Xiaomi has added an IP53 rating for water resistance, so you don’t have to worry about splashes or even light rain. Lastly, the phone retains my beloved 3.5mm headphone jack. I hope Xiaomi continues to add it in future phones.

Lastly, the phone weighs more than 210gms. The weight is easily noticeable, and it does get annoying after extended usage. I prefer a lighter phone because it helps with ergonomics and can withstand falls slightly better.

Is the LCD panel immersive? Does the high refresh rate drain battery?

Looks so good, yeah looks so sweet

The Mi 10i has a 6.7-inch LCD display with a 120Hz refresh rate and Full HD+ resolution. There’s not much to say about the screen because it’s like you’d expect it to be. Xiaomi has a lot of experience with these panels now, and the color reproduction is accurate and vibrant, blacks are deep enough, and the viewing angle is top-notch. However, I feel that it could’ve been brighter. Under direct sunlight, it sometimes becomes difficult to view texts and emails on the go.

Yes, an AMOLED display will have deeper blacks, and that’s where the OnePlus Nord gets a lead. But considering the price difference between the two, Xiaomi smartly opted for an LCD panel and added 120Hz support. Day-to-day tasks are smoothly done, and the overall experience of having a smooth user experience pays off in the longer run. Although, you can adjust the refresh rate according to your preference.

The screen doesn’t suck too much power because it has an automatic variable refresh rate that adjusts according to your usage. So, if you’re watching a YouTube video, don’t worry. The panel knows the playback is at a lower refresh rate and makes the appropriate changes. In the end, you’re with a dynamic display that uses resources only when required. And, if you’re desperate to save power, there’s an option to downgrade to 30Hz as well!

How hard can you game on the Mi 10i? Is MIUI optimized?

The Mi 10i is one of the first phones to be powered by Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 750G chipset. It is an octa-core processor clocked at 2.2GHz and built on an 8nm fabrication while the graphics are taken care of by the Adreno 619 GPU. This is also a 5G enabled chipset which comes with Qualcomm’s X52 5G modem for 5G connectivity. My unit has 8GB RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

As for the real-life usage and performance, as expected, the device shines at everything you throw at it. Be it a light task or a heavy task; the device is capable of handling it all. Xiaomi has mastered MIUI’s integration with a range of hardware, and the results are visible across all its phones. The Xiaomi Mi 10i runs MIUI 12, which is still Android 10-based (we’d expect Android 11 by now). If you’ve used MIUI before, you know what you’re getting into.

And if you haven’t, don’t worry. The skin is heavily customizable and has a lot of nifty features that are very utilitarian. The RAM management and multitasking was also excellent. Apps stayed longer than I’d expected in the background, and switching between apps did not force reload the content.

All modern games run smoothly on the phone, and there’s barely any lag or stuttering. Though, I did notice some frame drops when playing Call of Duty: Mobile for more than an hour. If you’re expecting any considerable raw performance improvement against the Snapdragon 765G, don’t. The difference is negligible, and you won’t realize it in real-life unless you start mining Bitcoins on your phone.

Most importantly, how’s the 108MP camera? Is it as good as the Mi 10T series?

Just like the Mi 10T Pro series, the Mi 10i gets a 108 megapixel sensor, but it isn’t the same one as the Mi 10T Pro. It comes with a 1/1.52-inch sensor, and Xiaomi claims it’s more compact than the HM1 sensor, which reduces the camera bump. Pictures are usually taken in 12-megapixels via binning technology, retaining details, natural color, and accurate contrast.

One of my favorite things about the sensor is its capability to capture excellent pictures with HDR. The algorithm can cleverly process the image to ensure there’s no excessive noise correction. The sensor can detect colors precisely and adjust exposure even under direct sunlight. The 108-megapixel mode can be accessed in the camera app with more options. The amount of detail captured by the camera in 108MP mode is truly incredible.

Low-light pictures are slightly disappointing because they often over-sharpen details, and the result looks quite artificial. The night mode compensates for this, but it mostly makes the image brighter and doesn’t necessarily optimize it.

Accompanying the primary sensor is an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens that isn’t that wide and struggles to capture detail. The quality degradation is easily visible, and this is definitely a cost-cutting measure for the company. There’s also a 2-megapixel macro and portrait sensor, which are now commonly found on almost all Xiaomi phones. It’s worth noting that the phone doesn’t have optical image stabilization, so if you’re into video, this definitely isn’t for you.

Despite the criticism, I’d say the phone has the best cameras you’d find in this price range. The competition is far away, and the 108 megapixel becomes a deal-breaker for many. Most of the issues I’ve encountered are software-based, and Xiaomi can fix them via OTA updates.

How long can it last? Should I invest in a 5G phone right now?

The Mi 10i 5G has a 4800mAh battery with 33W fast charging, and Xiaomi includes a 33W charging brick in the box. It took me an hour to charge it from 0 to 100, and that’s definitely a good deal. Thanks to Adaptive Sync (variable refresh rate of the screen), the phone can deliver a screen-on-time of more than seven hours in one go. Sometimes, it’ll even go up to eight hours under comfortable situations.

India is yet to roll-out 5G on a commercial scale, and the expected launch timeline from telcos currently stands at 2022. The government is yet to hold a spectrum auction, so there’s a lot of bureaucracy involved before we get to experience it. In my opinion, practical coverage of 5G is still two years away. 5G should be no reason for you to buy this phone.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

If you’re looking for a phone that excels at everything, then this phone is for you. The design honestly feels flagship grade and reeks premium, the processor is brand new and packs a punch, the cameras are above average and can go the extra mile if you’re a photography enthusiast, and lastly, the battery backup is optimum.

Gamers won’t be disappointed because the chipset is capable enough, and the phone barely heats up. This phone is made for everyone and does not stick to any particular niche. Considering the starting price of INR 21,999 (US$ 303), the Mi 10i is an easy recommendation. And even though we can’t enjoy 5G this year, it’s great to see the market get flooded with options. After all, the trickle-down effect will soon give us affordable 5G phones.

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Enterprise

Xiaomi announces three new manufacturing plants in India

Two for smartphones and one for smart TVs

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Xiaomi announced it’ll be opening three new manufacturing facilities in India to boost its local presence and supply chain. Two of them shall be dedicated to smartphones while the third ones for smart TVs.

Xiaomi’s India Head and Global Vice President, Manu Kumar Jain, said that 99 percent of its smartphones sold in India and 100 percent of its televisions will now be manufactured within the country.

In a briefing to GadgetMatch, he said that Xiaomi has been assembling phones and TVs in India for a while now. But many components are still imported, and the company is trying to reduce this as much as possible. Xiaomi has partnered with DBG India, and its plant in Haryana is already functional.

The second facility will be set up in Tamil Nadu by Chinese electronics maker BYD. The two plants are strategically located to ensure the supply chain runs smoothly across the country. For the smart TVs, Xiaomi has tied up with Hyderabad-based television manufacturer Radiant.

The Chinese phone maker has already tied up with Foxconn and Flex for smartphones and Dixon Technologies for televisions. Jain even went on to say that a vast majority of the phone components that include printed circuit board assembly (PCBA) and sub-boards, chargers and battery, back panels are domestically manufactured in the country.

Jain also proudly said in the briefing that Xiaomi now employs 60,000 people in India via its many facilities, retail units, and back-end operations. Xiaomi’s investment in India isn’t surprising because it has been serious about the market for years and has solidified its standing as an indisputable leader.

The Indian government recently kicked-off a billion-dollar scheme to encourage local sourcing. Also dubbed Production Linked Incentive (PLI), the government is ready to offer subsidies and tariff reliefs for companies that are open to localization. The program has worked wonders for companies on the electronics front, and thousands of jobs are being generated.

Despite competition from Samsung, realme, OPPO, and vivo, the company has largely remained unscathed. However, the brand is still in warm waters due to geopolitical instability between India and China. The anti-China sentiment has affected many Chinese players like Huawei, TikTok, Alibaba, and more. But Xiaomi and other mobile phone markers have avoided controversy by amalgamating with the local market and the workforce.

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India

realme narzo 30A now official alongside Buds Air 2 TWS with ANC

The price of Buds Air 2 is unbelievable

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realme held a massive launch today in India and has announced a host of new products. While the narzo 30 Pro 5G is designed to be a premium offering, the brand has also launched an affordable phone called the narzo 30A. realme is also serious about accessories and has unveiled the Buds Air 2.

Starting with the narzo 30A, it has a diagonal stripe pattern design that’s rather unconventional. The phone will be available in Lazer Black and Lazer Blue color options and a physical fingerprint scanner is located on the rear for authentication.

On the front is a 6.5-inch LCD with HD+ support and a waterdrop-style notch. Powering the phone is an octa-core MediaTek Helio G85 processor with up to 4GB RAM. You can add a microSD card for storage expansion.

The rear gets a dual-camera setup consisting of a 13-megapixel primary sensor and a 2-megapixel monochrome portrait sensor. The front has an 8-megapixel camera for selfies. Backing these internals is a massive 6000mAh battery with 18W fast charging.

The realme narzo is priced at INR 8,999 (US$ 125) for the 3GB RAM + 32GB while the 4GB RAM + 64GB option costs INR 9,999 (US$ 140).

realme Buds Air 2

Realme Buds Air 2 features active noise cancellation (ANC), similar to Realme Buds Air Pro. This is a feature that’s missing from the first generation Buds Air. It also comes with an in-canal fit that enables passive noise isolation that is critical for the proper functioning of active noise cancellation.

In addition to ANC support, the Realme Buds Air 2 even has a transparency mode, which allows you to hear background sound while listening to music. On the audio side, it has a 10mm driver, 88ms super-low latency support, and smart touch controls.

The Buds Air 2 is priced at INR 3,299 (US$ 45) and shall be available from March 2 via Flipkart and realme.com.

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