Unlike most major smartphone launches, Samsung released its flagships for the year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+, in India just a week after the global launch. The phones will start at a price of INR 57,900 (US$ 890).
To recap, both devices are powered by Samsung’s in-house chipset, the Exynos 9810, along with 4GB of memory for the Galaxy S9 and 6GB of memory for the S9+. The S9 has a 5.8-inch AMOLED screen while the S9+ sports a 6.2-inch display. In terms of looks, both the S9 and S8 series are very similar, except the fingerprint sensor has been moved underneath the camera module as many struggled with the one found on the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.
The highlight of the Galaxy S9 and S9+ is the dual aperture setup on the primary rear camera, which is capable of shooting at f/2.4 when there’s ample light but can switch to f/1.5 when the phone detects low-light conditions. The other headline feature of the main camera is the super slow-mo mode that’s capable of recording 960 frames per second. Samsung is also introducing AR Emoji, its answer to Apple’s Animoji with a few key changes.
The duo also come with dual stereo speakers tuned by AKG. The phones even support Dolby Atmos, which offers 360-degree sound effects. Like last year’s models, the phones have an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance.
This year, Samsung has placed the devices at a higher price. The Galaxy S9 comes with a starting price of INR 57,900 (US$ 890) for 64GB of storage, whereas the 256GB variant costs INR 65,900 (US$ 1,010)
The 64GB storage version of the bigger Galaxy S9+ sports a price tag of INR 64,900 (US$ 995) and the high-end 256GB variant is priced at INR 72,900 (US$ 1,120). Samsung will not be selling the 128GB models in India.
For network carriers, Samsung partnered with Indian telecom operators Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel. Users can get up to 250Mbps of speed on 4G connections — 2.5 times more than any other device in India.
ASUS outs cheaper ZenFone Max M2 with pure Android software
A great contender in the budget segment
Alongside the launch of the ZenFone Max Pro M2, ASUS also introduced a budget-oriented device: the ZenFone Max M2. The non-Pro version of ASUS’ newest line of phones with big batteries cuts down its specs to meet the affordable price point.
Understandably, the ZenFone Max M2 is rocking a slightly less powerful chipset than what the Pro variant has. It’s using the new Snapdragon 632 processor with either 3GB or 4GB of memory and up to 64GB of storage.
Its 6.26-inch display is less sharp because of its HD+ resolution, but it still has a full-screen design and, of course, a notch. ASUS has to cut corners in battery capacity as well by putting a humbler 4000mAh cell. It’s still bigger than most, though.
It also has a rear-mounted fingerprint reader that works hand-in-hand with face unlock using the front camera.
Speaking of camera, the ZenFone Max M2 is equipped with an AI-enabled 13-megapixel main shooter paired with a 2-megapixel depth sensor. For selfies, there’s an 8-megapixel front snapper with its own LED flash.
The phone runs a stock version of Android, which is something that fans asked for according to ASUS. It’s still on Oreo with no timeline for when Pie is coming. Just to be clear, this is not an Android One phone, so don’t expect timely software updates for it.
Pricing starts at INR 9,999 in India for the 3GB+32GB variant and INR 11,999 for the 4GB+64GB model. In Indonesia, Lazada will exclusively offer the ZenFone Max M2 starting at IDR 2,300,000.
Nokia 8.1 is here to reclaim the midrange segment
Nokia and Android One are a killer combination
The Nokia 7 Plus was launched earlier this year and has been among the most acclaimed midrange phones. While other companies have been trying their luck with trendy short-lived features like the notch, increasing megapixels, and AI-backed smart additions, HMD Global focused on making just a perfect smartphone.
Carrying the same legacy forward, the Nokia 8.1 has been announced globally and quickly made its way to India. The Finnish licensee has been making a mark in developing markets steadily and intends to let its products speak for themselves instead of spending millions on marketing.
The Nokia 8.1 has been priced at INR 26,999 and is available in Blue/Silver and Iron/Steel color options. It will go on sale starting December 25 via Amazon, Nokia.com, and offline partner retailers. Pre-booking the phone will entitle you to six-month screen replacement warranty from Servify and 10 percent cash back on HDFC Bank credit and debit card.
The phone has a very premium design and unlike its predecessor, the Nokia 8.1 has an all-glass back. The body is built with 6000-series aluminum that has dual tone color coating.
On the front is a 6.18-inch Full HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18.7:9 aspect ratio. The brand has emphasized its PureDisplay screen technology that offers a higher contrast ratio and sharper output along with HDR10 support.
Powering this device is the recently launched Snapdragon 710 SoC along with 4GB of RAM. The internal storage continues to be 64GB, though it’s expandable via a microSD card.
The back has ZEISS-powered 12- and 13-megapixel dual-cameras while the front has a single 20-megapixel selfie shooter. Backing these internals is a 3500mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. In line with all Nokia-branded phones, the Nokia 8.1 is a part of the Android One program and ships with Android 9 Pie out of the box.
ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M2 is bigger, faster, and still runs pure Android
ZenFone without the ZenUI
Just before the year ends, ASUS introduced an update to its ZenFone Max Pro lineup. Dubbed the M2, the newest ZenFone inherited the same pure Android software of its predecessor while the rest of the phone has been upgraded.
ASUS’ new ZenFone Max Pro M2 is slightly bigger than the M1 with its 6.3-inch display and it has Gorilla Glass 6 protection. It also has a slightly taller aspect ratio at 19:9 and a higher screen-to-body ratio. Although, it now has a notch like its more premium ZenFone cousins.
Surprisingly, the new ZenFone is equipped with a tried and tested Snapdragon 660 processor which puts it in the league of the Nokia 7 Plus and Vivo V11. It even has up to 6GB of memory and 64GB of expandable storage. On paper, the ZenFone Max Pro M2 is more powerful than the ZenFone 5.
Camera-wise, it’s got a main 12-megapixel f/1.8 shooter coupled with a 5-megapixel depth sensor. An upgraded 13-megapixel sensor takes care of the selfies along. The phone features all the beautification effects and AI enhancements.
The huge 5000mAh battery found in its predecessor is present as well. The phone still charges via micro-USB and has no support for fast charging.
Even though this is an ASUS phone, it doesn’t have ZenUI because it runs an unskinned version of Android. It’s bare with no bloatware, but it’s not part of the Android One program. Software updates will come from ASUS, so it may take some time to have the latest version available. It has only Android 8.1 Oreo out of the box.
ASUS launched the ZenFone Max Pro M2 simultaneously in three key Asian markets.
In the Philippines, the 6GB+64GB variant is priced at PhP 14,995, while the 4GB+64GB variant which is exclusively available on Shopee and Lazada goes for PhP 12,995.
India will have the 4GB and 6GB variants for INR 14,999 and INR 16,999, respectively. There’s an even more affordable 3GB+32GB combo for just INR 12,999.
Indonesia also gets all three variants starting at IDR 2,800,000 for the 3GB model, the 4GB model is at IDR 3,200,000, and IDR 3,700,000 for the highest-end variant with 6GB memory.
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