India

Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ launch in India

Starts shipping from 16th of March

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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.

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Apple isn’t even trying to sell the new iPhones in India

The phones cost 50 percent more than the global pricing

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Apple launched the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR this week and we’re definitely excited to get our hands on them. The phones now make the edge-to-edge display and Face ID from last year’s iPhone X a standard feature. Display and battery size are the only differences between the XS and XS Max, while the XR is a slightly cheaper option that cuts corners for the camera and body.

The iPhone XS takes over the reign from iPhone X, and for the first time, Apple has discontinued the previous year’s iPhone. The iPhone XS costs the same as the X, starting at US$ 999 and the XS Max starts at US$ 1,099. The iPhone XR is quite cheaper, starting at US$ 749.

But while the prices listed above make sense for the American market, Apple has completely lost it in India. The iPhone XS starts at INR 99,900 (US$ 1,385) while the XS Max starts at INR 109,900 (US$ 1,525). The 512GB iPhone XS Max goes up all the way up to INR 144,900 (US$ 2,000). Fortunately, the original iPhone X hasn’t been totally discontinued yet; it will continue to sell until stocks last.

Let’s compare the pricing of the new iPhones with competing Android devices; Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is priced at INR 67,900 (US$ 940), the Google Pixel 2 starts at INR 61,000 (US$ 845), the LG G7+ ThinQ costs INR 39,900 (US$ 550), and lastly, the OnePlus 6 starts at INR 34,999 (US$ 485).

The difference is huge, and to establish a smoke screen, Apple has cut down prices of the previous-generation iPhones like the 6S, 7, and 8. Even after the rates are slashed, a four-year-old iPhone 6S starts at INR 29,900 (US$ 415). Why would someone want to buy an iPhone when so many alternatives are available?

Apple has been showing off the dual-SIM feature of the new XS and XS Max, but in reality, this addition is definitely not convenient for the end user. Instead of providing an actual dual-SIM tray, Apple is using an eSIM for the other connection. In India, only two carriers, Airtel and Jio, support eSIM, and the process to acquire one is tedious and exceedingly vague.

For years the Cupertino-based company has been saying it’s serious about the Indian market and wants to play a bigger role. Yes, the market is huge and the demand has been on a steady uphill for years. But, one major thing Apple forgets is the market is developing, meaning a majority of the sales happen in the budget and midrange segments.

Why are the iPhone prices in India almost 50 percent higher than their American counterparts? Firstly because India levies 20 percent import duty on mobile phones. In addition, Apple only makes the iPhone SE and 6 in India; all other models are imported from China. Secondly, the Indian rupee has consistently been falling against the US dollar for the last few months.

But even after adjusting the import duty and a weak currency, the price leaves at least a 20 percent premium margin. Keep in mind that while the US$ 999 price in the US already has a premium margin, Apple wants even more from the Indian market. The most plausible reason being the company isn’t able to scale its operations in India, and hence wants to rely on a lower volume of sales that has a higher profit margin.

I could’ve accepted this strategy from a small or medium scale company that is new to the country, but a trillion-dollar behemoth like Apple should be ready to take a hit on the pocket in the beginning. If companies like Xiaomi and OnePlus can rule the game within a few quarters, it’s no rocket science for Apple.

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Moto G6 Plus has finally made its way to India

Too late to the game

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Motorola unveiled the sixth-generation G-series lineup way back in April. After slogging for months, they finally rolled out the Moto G6 and G6 Play in India. The top-tier Moto G6 Plus was delayed further and has eventually made its way to the country today.

The Moto G6 Plus is priced at INR 22,499 (US$ 310) and shall be available in Deep Indigo and Nimbus exclusively via Amazon.in and Moto Hub Stores.

India is a rapidly changing market; this year has already witnessed multiple smartphone launches on a weekly basis and companies are focused on the region more than ever. Xiaomi has already launched a wide array of phones, while others like ASUS and Realme are proactively working as well. When the market dictates such dynamics, it is surprising to see Motorola being so laid back.

When compared to its two siblings, the G6 Plus has a slightly larger display, more RAM, and a faster processor. It sports a 5.93-inch Full HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 18:9. The fingerprint scanner is located below the display and also supports face unlock.

Powering it is a Snapdragon 630 SoC along with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage that is expandable via a microSD card. On the rear sits a dual camera setup consisting of a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. On the front, it sports an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies along with a soft LED flash.

The camera app supports multiple photography modes ranging from spot color, portrait mode, and selective black and white, to landmark recognition and even Google Lens integration.

The G6 Plus is backed by a 3200mAh battery that supports Motorola’s TurboPower technology via a USB-C port. Android 8.0 Oreo runs of the box along with a few nifty UI add-ons.

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Vivo V11 Pro with an in-display fingerprint scanner launched

A repackaged X21 with better design

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Vivo was the first company to launch a phone with an in-display fingerprint scanner and is the only brand to sell phones with the feature in India. The midrange segment is very competitive right now thanks to offerings from Xiaomi, ASUS, and Nokia.

To differentiate its products from the rest, Vivo has launched the V11 Pro in India today. While many call it a close sibling of the X21, the V11 Pro packs a lot of new features like a much smaller water-droplet notch and a unique body.

The front now looks very futuristic thanks to thinner chin, higher screen-to-body ratio, and the addition of an infrared sensor for facial recognition. Thanks to the smaller notch, Vivo managed to pack a 6.4-inch FullView display with a 91.27 percent screen-to-body ratio.

The display also houses the fingerprint scanner, and the technology has improved a lot. The sensor is now fourth-generation and slightly faster than the X21’s.

The back has a vertical dual-camera setup — a 12-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor that are capable of shooting pictures with a bokeh effect. The front has a 25-megapixel sensor that produces AI-assisted pictures.

The V11 Pro is powered by a Snapdragon 660 SoC along with 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage. Backing these internals is a 3400mAh battery that supports dual-engine fast charging. It runs on Android 8.1 Oreo-based Funtouch OS 4.5 that has added features like gesture navigation.

Vivo also launched the V11, which houses the same internals, but misses out an in-display fingerprint scanner. In many other international markets, the V11 Pro is also called simply the V11.

The phone is available for purchase via all major online and offline sellers for INR 25,990 (US$ 360). HDFC Bank is offering an INR 2,000 cashback when purchased using their credit or debit cards.

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