India

Redmi Note 8 Pro intends to be the best at gaming and photography

It’s powered by an Helio G90T processor

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It has pretty much become a routine now. Xiaomi is known for its aggressive push in the developing markets of India and the brand has been on a spree launching new products every month. Today, it launched the Redmi Note 8 and Note 8 Pro in India, alongside an affordable air purifier.

The Redmi Note series has received a phenomenal response and the brand wants to continue this legacy. Taking quite a few stabs at Realme, the brand is confident its products can outperform the competition and continue leading the smartphone segment.

To start with, the Note 8 Pro gets an improvised design that Xiaomi is calling Aura Design and feature Gamma Green, Halo White, and Shadow Black color options. The rear gets a 3D curved glass and IP52 rating for water and dust resistance.

On the front is a 6.5-inch Full HD+ display with a dot-notch that provides a better screen-to-body ratio. Protecting the screen is a Gorilla Glass 5 panel and chin has been further reduced.

This is the first phone to be powered by a gaming-centric MediaTek Helio G90T processor along with 6GB RAM in the base variant. Xiaomi has also incorporated LiquidCool technology to enhance the processor’s performance over extended durations. The phone also gets dual SIM support along with a dedicated microSD card slot for storage expansion.

The rear gets a quad-camera setup that consists of a 64-megapixel primary sensor, an 8-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 2-megapixel macro sensor, and a 2-megapixel portrait camera. On the front is a 20-megapixel selfie camera. Xiaomi is confident this phone can fulfill the requirements of every type of user.

Backing these internals is a 4500mAh battery that supports 18W fast charging. This time, the brand is also bundling along a fast-charge adapter with the phone. Xiaomi claimed it can last up to two days on a single charge, though we’ll be able to confirm this only after an extended review.

Lastly, the phone is available in three configurations. The starting option comes with 6GB+64GB configuration and costs INR 14,999 (US$ 210), followed by 6GB+128GB for INR 15,999 (US$ 223), and 8GB+128GB at INR 17,999 (US$ 250). It’ll be up for sale from October 21 via Mi.com, Amazon, and Mi Home stores.

Xiaomi also announced the release of MIUI 11 and it’ll be available to previous devices in a phased manner.

India

Poco X2 is coming in February

The wait is almost over

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The long wait is now almost over. POCO India just revealed that the next Pocophone will launch on February 4, 2020.

Announced in a tweet, the next phone will be called POCO X2 and, according to the company, will make you go “Bruh, it’s Smooth AF.”

Why smooth? It’s likely referring to a high screen refresh rate — a feature that was introduced in 2019 by the likes of OnePlus and ASUS and will likely come to several phones in 2020. It’s possible the POCO X2 will have up to a 120hz screen refresh rate.

The phone’s dedicated website also highlighted the cameras, a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, liquid cooling, and fast charging. If the POCO X2 will carry on the “flagship killer” tag that the Pocophone F1 carried, then it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that it will carry the latest Qualcomm SoC.

There’s still a lot that we don’t know, but we don’t have to wait too long to find out!

SEE ALSO: POCO is now officially an independent brand

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India now the world’s second-largest smartphone market

It finally surpassed the US

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With a population of 1.3 billion, India is the second-most populated country in the world. The total number of population in India presents an opportunity for tech companies willing to break ground with their products. The proliferation of tech brands in the country testifies to the Indians’ demand for new tech products — particularly, smartphones.

Over the years, the smartphone market in India grew significantly. According to the latest statistics from Counterpoint Research, India finally surpassed the US to become the second-largest smartphone market in the world.

India’s growth remained while smartphone shipments remained flat globally.

The total smartphone shipment in India reached 158 million in 2019 with a 7% year-on-year growth.  The bulk of this shipment came from Indian buyers looking for midrange smartphones with flagship capabilities. These buyers, as the research notes, are buying these devices as their first or second smartphone.

Photo lifted from Counterpoint Research

Xiaomi leads the way

Chinese tech companies saw a strong surge in India and drove the majority of smartphone shipments. Xiaomi, in particular, leads the pack with 28% of smartphones shipped coming from the company. The company now has to prioritize the Indian market, as the market finally became its largest last 2019.

Samsung (24%), Vivo (16%), and OPPO (9%) also did well last 2019. Interestingly, Realme’s growth in India has been staggering — from 3% in 2018 to 10% in 2019, the company registered a 255% year-on-year growth.

Other companies like ASUS and OnePlus also grew significantly on an annual basis. ASUS registered a 67% growth while OnePlus at 29% growth.

While budget devices remain popular among Indians, the market for midrange and flagship devices is also growing. One company to benefit from this growth is Apple, wherein the lowered entry price of iPhone 11 compared to iPhone XR made it a hit among Indians with deep pockets.

Feature phones are declining

While the Indian smartphone market grew significantly, the market for feature phones dropped significantly. The market saw a steep 38% year-on-year decline during the last quarter of 2019. Counterpoint Research blames this to a slow down in shipments from a leading feature phone maker, Reliance Jio.

Surely, the Indian smartphone continues to be a competitive market for most tech companies. The growing adoption of smartphones in India means that there is no slowing down for its market. Perhaps, there will come a time when smartphone shipments in India may even surpass that of China’s.

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Vivo U20 review: The most powerful budget phone right now

More capable than its Xiaomi and Realme counterparts

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In late September of 2019, vivo announced a new budget smartphone called the vivo U10. It was powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 665 — the same processor found on two of the most popular budget phones at that time: the Redmi Note 8 and the Realme 5.

Vivo’s entry into that very competitive price segment was a pretty good success. Just right after, competition came up with newer models at a slightly higher price segment and so did vivo with the slightly more premium U20.

With Snapdragon 675 running under the hood, the vivo U20 has a slight edge over its competition. But is there more to this phone? Here’s our full review.

Ordinary but solid design

With a 6.53-inch display, the Vivo U20 is a big phone that doesn’t feel bulky. It’s worth noting that vivo went with a full HD+ panel on the U20 instead of the HD+ panel found on the U10. The bump in resolution is much appreciated, as well as the wide viewing angles. The display is bright enough for outdoors or sunny days.

The front of the phone has an odd ridge against the curved frame, making it feel a little uncomfortable when you’re holding it, but it shouldn’t be an issue if you use the bundled case.

Its glossy back catches fingerprints quite easily. You’ll have to keep wiping it clean if you’re particular about smudges and grime, so the case definitely comes in handy.

You’ll find the vivo branding in landscape orientation, with the triple camera module and LED flash along the same line. There’s also the rear mounted fingerprint scanner. It’s smaller than what I’m used to and is placed a bit too high for comfortable use, but it works well and works fast.

On the right side of the phone are the power and volume buttons, and on the left is the hybrid SIM card tray for two nano SIM cards or one SIM card and one microSD card. At the bottom a 3.5mm headphone jack, loudspeaker grille, microphone, and sadly, a microUSB port.

The Vivo U20 is available in two colors: Racing Black and and Blaze Blue. The unit we have is Racing Black.

Capable gaming phone at such a good price

The vivo U20’s internals are actually pretty impressive. The Snapdragon 675 is a pretty powerful processor, especially at this price point. It’s able to handle multi-tasking and gaming with no lag or issues at all. It’s interesting to see vivo come out with it at the same price point as the Redmi Note 8 and Realme 5, which are powered by the much less capable Snapdragon 665.

Coupled with either 4GB or 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, gaming with the U20 is a good experience. I played PUBG Mobile on the high preset with graphics set to HD, and frame rate set to high; and hey, I had zero issues — no lag, no stutters.

Just like other phones running on Snapdragon 675, it does get a little warm when you’re playing games after about 20 or so minutes.

Ultra Game mode lets you block incoming notifications and automatically answer phone calls in hands-free mode when you’re playing games. There’s also an off-screen Autoplay feature which lets you run a game even with the display switched off.

Nifty software features you’ll either love or hate

The vivo U20 runs Funtouch OS 9.2 on top of Android 9 Pie out of the box. There a little bit of bloatware pre-installed like Gaana, Amazon, Opera, and a couple more, but you can easily uninstall most of them.

FunTouch OS is something you’ll either love or hate depending on your preference. If you’ve used it before you’ll be familiar with the slight oddities. Otherwise there are a few things you’ll need to get used to that’s not found on other Android smartphones.

For example, you’ll need to swipe up from the bottom of the screen to access the quick toggles which is the exact opposite of the action on every other Android smartphone. If that’s not to your liking, you change it to a swipe down from the upper right corner of the phone — similar to how it is on iOS.

There’s also vivo’s smart assistant Jovi which can recognize products you point the camera at. It can also remind you to drink water every day so you don’t have to install a third party app. Overall, it’s not really much more useful than Google Assistant.

A few features I like are raise-to-wake, the ability to launch apps by drawing alphabets on the lockscreen, and a Motorbike mode. There’s also dark mode and gesture navigation.

Average camera performance

The vivo U20 has a triple camera setup: a 16MP primary camera with a Sony IMX499 sensor, 8MP ultra wide angle lens and a 2MP macro lens. Up front, there’s a 16MP selfie camera.

Vivo’s camera app is hasn’t changed much recently. It has a variety of modes, including night mode, portrait mode, live photo, AR stickers, along with the usual timelapse and panorama. There’s also a pro mode for those who like to tweak their camera settings.

 

The vivo U20 is quick to focus and handles exposure well. Daytime images look pretty good in the gallery app. You’ll notice that they do suffer in terms of details when you zoom into them. There’s a tiny bit of grain that sweeps into each photo as well.

Portrait photos has pretty good edge detection. Photos come out with a good amount of detail and a natural level of bokeh. There’s also a separate bokeh mode where you can adjust the level of blur. The results are pretty good, too.

The ultra wide angle camera suffers from the same distortion at the edges and lack of details that we see on other phones at this price range.

Low light photos aren’t great unfortunately. There’s a real lack of details and a lot of grain. The dedicated night mode does help get brighter images, but they aren’t that much better. There’s also no image stabilization so you’ll want to stay really still if you’re using the night mode to take photos.

Great battery life

The vivo U20 is powered by a massive 5,000 mAh battery, and that translates to great battery life. You can use this phone for a day and a half on a single charge before you’ll need to reach for the charger.

On a day of heavy usage, with a bit of gaming, a couple shots on the camera, and the usual bits of social media and Whatsapp, I still had plenty of battery life percentage left when I got home at the end of the day.

Despite the gigantic battery, charging the U20 doesn’t take too long either. The bundled 18W Dual-Engine fast charger got the phone up from zero to over 30 percent in half an hour, reaching about 60 to 70 percent in one hour. A charge to 100 percent takes about an hour and 45 minutes.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

No one expected vivo to come out of nowhere and suddenly be this strong of a contender in this aggressive entry-level price segment. This is a company that lately have been pumping out more expensive smartphones, and what we have here is an entry level smartphone that is pretty premium for its price.

Its powerful processor and great battery life are great; if only the camera were better. And if we are to nitpick, we would have loved to not have seen a microUSB port on this phone.

If you’re on a budget and are looking for the most powerful phone in the INR 10,990 price range (US$ 155), the Vivo U20 is your best option right now.

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