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.
Google wants to assists users without depending on the Internet
And Google Pay just got more exciting!
Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.
At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?
A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.
Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.
Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.
Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.
The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.
New AI Lab
A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.
India is banning the consumption of e-cigarettes
This includes flavored vapes
E-cigarettes or vapes are considered to be a better alternative than actual cigarettes. Many active smokers have shifted to these electric pens and have been successful in overcoming their addiction. Countries around the world recognize the benefits of an e-cigarette, but India has a different opinion.
India has banned e-cigarettes amid growing fears over the health risks posed by vaping. The Union cabinet has made the manufacturing, import, sale, distribution, and advertisements of e-cigarettes a cognizable offense.
Justifying the ban, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, “E-cigarettes were promoted as a way to get people out of their smoking habits but reports have shown that many people are not using it as a weaning mechanism but are rather addicted to it.”
E-cigarettes are the most common form of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS). These are basically devices that do not burn or use tobacco leaves. Instead, they vaporize a solution using a battery. This vapor is then inhaled by the user.
The government said the decision to ban e-cigarettes is aimed at protecting the youth, the section that is most vulnerable to the health hazards of e-cigarettes. Though, India isn’t the only country to have concerns.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported six deaths due to unknown lung disease in the last few weeks. Governments have long considered a plan to regulate or limit the usage.
Justifying the ban, Sitharaman cited a US report that said e-cigarette sales have risen 77 percent because of consumption by students. Storage of e-cigarettes shall now be punishable with imprisonment of up to six months or a fine of up to INR 50,000 or both.
Obviously, following the announcement, tocks of cigarette makers ITC and Godfrey Phillips ended higher by 0.9 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. Conventional tobacco-filled cigarettes are still legal in the country but heavily taxed. The government has repeatedly tried to make them more expensive to discourage consumption, but the plan never worked.
Realme X review: Bang for the buck
Very little compromises
Realme X is the phone that half of India has been talking about. The other half? They’re preoccupied with its competitor, Xiaomi’s Redmi K20, but that’s a topic for another day.
This phone from Realme is a lot of things. It’s the most premium smartphone they’ve made so far. There’s an OLED notchless 6.53” FullHD+ display, with a popup selfie cam tucked into the top frame. There’s also an in-display fingerprint sensor, a 48MP camera on the back, and more premium specs that are usually well out of this price range.
Despite its plastic back and frame, the Realme X is gorgeous. It’s not a small phone but it’s still pretty compact and comfortable enough to hold, though there’s no way you’ll be able to reach all corners of that gorgeous screen one-handed.
It comes also in two colors: Space Blue and Polar White, which is the same color as the limited Spider-Man edition we unboxed.
It’s one of the nicest displays in this price range, both outdoors and indoors. Because it’s an OLED screen, it boasts deep blacks with punchy saturated colors and as you’d expect, you can tweak it to be warmer or colder in the settings menu.
There is a bit of a chin but it’s not something that would bother anyone. It does help with an area to rest your thumb, with a slightly higher point to initiate those navigation gestures. So while it’s not truly bezel-less, it is still pretty darn gorgeous.
The back panel makes an S-shape reflection depending on how light hits it, similar to what we’ve seen on higher-end OPPO phones. This little detail helps it look way more expensive a device than it actually is.
High end features for not much money
The Realme X an under-display optical fingerprint scanner. It works and it’s fast. The scanner is placed a comfortable distance above the bottom of the display, and there’s a “lift to activate” feature that works well enough that the sensor is always ready for you when you pick up the phone. The phone unlocks quick enough, so no complaints here.
It’s worth mentioning that you can also set up face unlock instead of the fingerprint scanning, but I would advise against this. It’s fast but that would mean the pop-up selfie camera will have to keep popping up. The screen lights up to help in dim conditions, and you can set it to require your eyes to be open for the phone to unlock.
The pop-up camera module used to be exclusive to more expensive smartphones so it’s refreshing to see this feature in a phone of this price range. The module pops up whenever you open the camera app or trigger face unlock, and it is promised to be good for at least 200,000 actuation. Realme says the selfie camera is covered with sapphire glass as well for better durability.
The entire module will automatically retract when a fall is detected or if it senses you’re trying to manually push it in.
The Realme X has a much-appreciated headphone jack, next to a USB-C port, a speaker grill for the loudspeaker, and a microphone. The down-firing speaker sounds decent but just as any phone with a similar placement you have to be careful not to block it when holding the phone. Sound output out of the headphone jack is also actually really, really good.
The Realme X is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 710, and comes in either 4GB, 6GB, or 8GB RAM variants, with either 64GB or 128GB of storage. For those who need more than that, there is, unfortunately, no microSD card slot.
The Realme X runs OPPO’s latest ColorOS 6.0 on top of Android 9.0 Pie. There are a few pre-installed apps out of the box, but you can uninstall them all if you don’t need them.
ColorOS 6.0 is similar to a lot of other skins we’ve seen, with an ever-changing magazine-type lock screen, that you can disable to a normal lock screen instead. Unlike previous versions, it also has a much-appreciated app drawer. The split-screen multitasking also gets an update: you can now swipe in from the side, and hold to switch between your two recently opened apps, which is a cool new gesture.
Realme X’s 3765 mAh battery can survive a day’s worth of medium-to-heavy usage. It also supports 20W VOOC 3.0, which charges the phone up to 50 percent in 30 minutes, or full in about an hour and 20.
Pretty good cameras
The main camera of the Realme X gives you a bunch of shooting modes to choose from. There’s an expert mode which consists of manual settings, as well as slo-mo, nightscape for low light shots, timelapse, and pano, for panoramic shots.
Nightscape works pretty well and is a long-exposure handheld mode for night photos, similar to Pixel’s Night Sight.
The phone shoots photos at 12MP by default, but you can switch to 48MP in the settings menu. This will give you finer details, but I’d only advise doing this in good lighting.
There’s also AI scene recognition, which adjusts camera settings depending on what you’re taking a photo of — blue skies get bluer, plants and trees get greener.
Realme also gives you the option to toggle 2x zoom, but this essentially crops your photo since there’s no telephoto lens on the phone.
Another thing to note is the Chroma Boost toggle on one end of the viewfinder, next to flash and HDR settings. It’s an advanced HDR mode that takes a combination of images and offers further improvements in dynamic range and color reproduction.
Daytime photos taken with the Realme X can do no wrong, with a nice wide dynamic range, vivid colors, and high contrasts as well. Images retain a lot of detail, but I mostly left Chroma Boost and HDR modes switched off. The AI mode also does a good job detecting scenes and adjusting settings.
Take a look at these samples:
I wish I could say the same thing when it comes to low light performance. The phone tends to underexpose images every so often, but with nightscape, highlights and shadows become more manageable. This is, of course, understandable for a phone in this price range.
Portrait mode, however, is a different story. Realme X takes excellent portraits. Subject detection is one of the best in the price range, with subjects isolated with great precision, for very pleasing and impressive results overall.
Selfies taken on the Realme X are pretty good, although dimmer lighting results to a drop in sharpness and aggressive noise reduction. Even though the selfie camera has no depth sensor like the rear setup, it still does a good job isolating the subject and blurring the background.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
Its competition includes the Vivo V15 Pro which has an ultrawide angle camera but costs more. And then there’s Xiaomi’s Redmi K20, but that phone has pros and cons of its own and is also priced a little higher than the Realme X. Realme also recently announced the Realme XT, which is equally equipped at the same price.
There are a lot of reasons the Realme X is one of the most talked-about phones this year — a really nice notch-less display, solid battery life, and good cameras. The USB-C and audio ports are definitely a plus, too. With very little compromises starting at INR 16,999, this is simply one of the best value-for-money phones you can buy today.
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