India

Nokia 3.1 Plus is a budget-friendly phone with dual cameras

An Android One offering for every price segment

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This year, every major smartphone maker has been in a race to launch as many phones as possible within a short time frame. In developing regions like India, the budget and midrange segments of the market account for the highest volume of sales, and in such a situation, the price becomes a core factor for differentiation.

In the last month, HMD Global has already launched the Nokia 5.1 Plus and 6.1 Plus in the country; now comes the Nokia 3.1 Plus. It is priced at INR 11,499 (US$ 155) for the 3GB memory variant, while the price of the 2GB version hasn’t been announced yet. It will be up for sale starting October 19 via the Nokia online store and offline partners.

The Nokia 3.1 Plus boasts a 6-inch HD display with an aspect ratio of 18:9. The front has a 2.5D curved glass while the body is made of polycarbonate. A fingerprint scanner lies on the back of the phone for quick authentication.

Powering the phone is a MediaTek Helio P22 SoC along with 16GB of internal storage in the base variant. The storage is expandable via a microSD card and supports a hybrid SIM setup. On the rear, it has a 13- and 5-megapixel dual-camera combo while the front has an 8-megapixel selfie shooter.

Even though this is a lower-midrange phone, HMD Global has managed to squeeze in a huge 3500mAh battery that charges via micro-USB and supports fast charging out of the box. Just like every other Nokia-branded phone, it’s part of Google’s Android One initiative, ensuring faster software updates and a pure Android experience.

The phone will be going up against Xiaomi’s Redmi 6 Pro and the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro in the country.

India

Mi Smart Speaker review: Sounds excellent, speaks smartly

Xiaomi taking on Amazon and Google

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Voice assistants have been around for a long time and we’ve all used them at some point. Every Android phone has Google Assistant and it’s just a tap away. If you’re into the Amazon ecosystem, Alexa is for you. And Apple has Siri.

But when was the last time you actually used these personal assistants actively? Most people always end up asking a generic question about the weather or search for GPS navigation. Even though these assistants barely take up any computing resources, their real-world applications are limited and often found to be a hassle.

In the last few years, all major companies released affordable smart speakers that incorporate these smart assistants. And, it has been a hit. Echo speakers fly off the shelf during the festive season, Nest speakers are consistently improving and bundled along with various offers, and Apple has taken a slightly more premium route, but still has low-cost offerings.

But, is it worth spending US$ 30 to US$ 60 on a tiny palm-sized speaker that’s basically just a hardware package designed to run the assistant? I’ve used the affordable offerings from Google as well as Amazon and my answer would be no.

The volume is too low for my liking, sound quality goes for a toss, and you’re just left with a speaker that runs Google Assistant or Alexa. The initial euphoria around a voice assistant soon fades. And if you’re looking for a decent speaker that can be used primarily for music, the cost escalates to more than US$ 100.

In a developing country like India, the price difference is considerable and you’re entering the premium segment. Xiaomi found this sweet spot and launched the Mi Smart Speaker in the country. It’s priced at INR 5,999 (US$ 81) officially, but available for INR 2,999 (US$ 40) under various discounts and schemes.

A significantly large speaker for the price

The Mi Smart Speaker is huge when compared to Google Nest Mini or the Echo Dot. Just like its price, it looks like a perfect combination of an entry-level speaker and a high-end one. Xiaomi’s complete portfolio is based on offering value-for-money goods and the brand has dominated key segments with its products like the Mi Band, Mi Box, and Mi TWS.

Following the same strategy, the company has entered a space where it has no competition. And, the pricing is very aggressive in nature. The brand tried to make a mark with Bluetooth speakers, but the market is very saturated and price sensitive. The Mi Smart Speaker is its first smart speaker and has a lot of weightlifting to do.

A premium design without the heavy price tag

At first glance, the speaker instantly reminded me of the Sonos One. While Xiaomi’s offering is more oval, it is built of top-notch materials and barely feels cheap or flimsy. A perforated grille runs around the speaker and sits firmly on the table thanks to the tiny rubber legs on the bottom. No matter where you keep it, it’ll look subtle and aesthetic.

There’s just a small Mi logo on the front while the top has four touch buttons for volume, pause/play, and microphone. As a standalone product, it has a distinctive look that doesn’t look like it’s ripped off. The top edge has a small LED ring that’ll turn blueish-white when Google Assistant is summoned. If you turn off the mic, the lighting shall remain orange.

The rear has a barrel connector and the adapter is provided along. But this is the only thing I didn’t like about the speaker. Xiaomi could’ve provided a USB port, just like all its other products. This might become a challenge because the speaker will take up an additional socket in your house, instead of sharing a USB wire out of a multi-port adapter. Obviously, there’s the option of a splitter but it’ll need more space and look much messier.

Sounds excellent and satisfied everyone’s needs

The Mi Smart Speaker has a 2.5-inch driver that’ll push out 12W of audio output. This isn’t a very big driver and smaller speakers like the Amazon Echo have a 3-inch driver. But I’d recommend skipping the technicalities in favor of the listening experience.

The speaker is sufficiently loud and the vocals are very clear. It isn’t enough for a full-fledged party, but more than enough for regular usage in the living room or bedroom. The high frequencies are very well balanced and the bass is decent. I don’t think the speaker needs any more tuning or improvement.

Lastly, you can connect two Mi Smart Speakers together for a stereo experience and indirectly improve the loudness. Interestingly, buying two Mi Smart Speakers will still be cheaper than getting the Nest Audio or borderline with the Amazon Echo.

And the star of the show, Google Assistant!

The Mi Smart Speaker has two microphones and they do an excellent job in detecting voice commands from a distance. The far-field microphones always detected my voice even when music was playing at maximum volume. And if everyone’s asleep, a low murmur is also detected with ease.

The speaker connects to your phone via the Google Home app and brings in all the software firepower straight from Google. Additionally, Google Home is a combined package that can host your smart appliances, bulbs, and more. So, if you want to see the full power of Google Assistant, just connect a smart bulb and you’ll slowly enter the future like a Black Mirror episode.

I have a Mi Smart LED Bulb and connecting the two was a very straightforward task. Google Home supports a plethora of products and you can buy Google Assistant-enabled bulbs from Xiaomi, Syska, Wipro, and more. Even your Android TV is directly available for Cast.

I’ve used the speaker for almost three weeks now and it’s now responsible for controlling multiple bulbs in the house, stream content on the Sony Bravia TV, and keep a watch out via a security camera. All major third-party services like YouTube and Spotify are supported.

It has Bluetooth compatability, but you’ll have to pair it via the Google Home app. And, a fresh pairing isn’t possible if the speaker is offline. This can be a hassle sometimes in case you don’t have a solid WiFi connection.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Yes. The Mi Smart Speaker is an excellent product that brings something new, without costing a bomb. A simple device that is primarily a speaker, but can do a lot more than just play music. If you haven’t experienced the comfort of Google Home, the Mi Smart Speaker is an ideal entry-level device that won’t disappoint. Plug along with a few other devices and you’ve created a small network of your own, controllable via voice commands.

After a long time, I’ve reviewed a tech product that’s perfect. And, it’s unique. Even if you’re just looking for a generic speaker, this should be your choice. And considering the lighter price, it can be a lovely gift for the Diwali season!

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Enterprise

Indian telco Jio and Qualcomm successfully test 5G

Sidelining the Chinese

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In a major breakthrough for the Indian telecom industry, equipment maker Qualcomm and Indian telco Jio have announced a partnership to deploy 5G solution in the country. The two announced their network will be based on indigenous technology, indirectly shunning Chinese contenders like Huawei.

Backed by India’s top conglomerate Reliance, Jio has gained a massive share in one of the world’s most crucail telecom markets. The telco aims to deploy high-speed 5G that can offer speeds up to 1 Gbps.

Jio acquired Radisys in 2018 and the company is expected to play a critical role in developing the company’s 5G solutions. When combined with Qualcomm’s gear, the partnership can scale 5G networks throughout the country without depending on foreign tech stacks. Adding to this, Jio has also said it’s considering options of selling its in-house technology to other carries for a seamless transition.

“This achievement not only supports Jio’s 5G credentials, but also signifies the entry of Jio and India into the Gigabit 5G NR product portfolio,” the two companies said in a statement.

The company is leveraging NR or New Radio technology that is similar to 4G’s LTE. It’s a globally accepted standard and many phone makers have already announced support.

At present, only a few countries are capable of offering 1 Gbps speeds and this includes the US, South Korea, Australia, Germany and Switzerland. 5G is expected to launch in India soon, although these claims are countered by critics for being too optimistic.

India’s mobile telecom industry has only three players left and Jio is considered the mightiest. It raised tens of billions from marquee investors like Facebook, Google, and Qualcomm. However, established players like Vodafone-Idea were on the verge of bankruptcy and Airtel has managed to find solid ground only recently.

Read Also: This Indian telco has raised more than $20 billion during the pandemic

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India

Mi 10T series launches in the Philippines

Xiaomi’s best right now?

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Mi 10T

After launching globally two weeks ago, Xiaomi’s Mi 10T series is now making its way to other markets.

The Mi 10T series has comprises of three phones: Mi 10T Pro, Mi 10T, and Mi 10T Lite. However, availability of the models vary from country to country. Most other countries are only getting, for now at least, the Mi 10T Pro and the Mi 10 T.

Mi 10T Pro

the Mi 10T Pro, it has a 6.7-inch Full HD+ display with a 144Hz refresh rate. Powering the phone is a Snapdragon 865 processor with 5G connectivity and 8GB RAM. The phone is wrapped in Gorilla Glass 5, has splash resistance, and a side-mounted fingerprint scanner.

On the rear is a triple camera setup consisting of a 108-megapixel primary sensor, a 13-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 5-megapixel macro lens. For selfies, a 20-megapixel front camera is located in a punch-hole cut-out. The 108-megapixel sensor is known for long exposure pictures, time burst, as well as dual-mode.

Watch our Unboxing and Review for more. 

Mi 10T

The Mi 10T gets the same display and processor as the Mi 10T Pro. However, it has a 6GB RAM option. On the rear is a triple camera setup that includes a 64-megapixel primary sensor, a 13-megapixel wide-angle lens, and a 5-megapixel macro lens. On the front is the same 20-megapixel selfie camera.

The design is also similar and houses a 5000mAh battery. Clearly, the Mi 10T is an ideal phone according to the specifications and users have the option to go for the Mi 10T Pro if they’re looking for a better and more powerful camera. It’ll be available in Cosmic Black and Lunar Silver color options.

Pricing and availability

Mi 10T — Lunar Silver and Cosmic Black

  • 6GB+128GB — PhP 19,990
  • 8GB + 128GB — PhP 20,990

Mi 10T Pro — Aurora Blue, Lunar Silver, and Cosmic Black

  • 8GB+256GB — PhP 24,990

Pre-order period is from October 16 to 22.

Lazada Flash Sale starting 12MN of Oct 16.

Mi 10T  6GB+128GB — PhP 17,990

Mi 10T Pro 8GB+256GB — PhP 24,990

  • Each buyer will receive a FREE set of Premium Speaker Gift* worth PhP 1,399.
  • Additional vouchers of PP h1,000 in limited quantity will also be given to consumers of Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro.

Offline Platforms promo

Mi 10T Pro at Authorized Mi Stores freebies:

  • Mi Electric Scooter Essential (PhP14,990)
  • OR Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic + Premium Speaker Gift Set (PhP 5,000)

Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro at Authorized Mi Zones freebies:

  • Mi True Wireless Earphones 2 Basic + Premium Speaker Gift Set (PhP 5,000)

Extras

  • 6-month Netflix mobile subscription
  • Premium Services which include a 24-month local warranty plus a single accidental damage coverage on the screen within 6 months of purchase from October 16, 2020 to December 31, 2021. Standard terms and conditions apply.

 

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