As Apple plots India push, Samsung stakes turf with revamped phones

As Apple plots India push, Samsung stakes turf with revamped phones

Samsung Electronics Co Ltd is regaining smartphone share in India with a revamped line-up packed with special features including a safety mode for motorcyclists, as rival Apple Inc readies a renewed push into the world’s fastest-growing market.

Long the leader in price-conscious India, the South Korean giant had been losing ground to local rivals such as Micromax and Lava, as well as Chinese brands. But Samsung’s Indian market share rose to 30 per cent as of February this year, from 28.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015 and 27.4 per cent in the final quarter of 2014, research firm Counterpoint says.

The company credits strong sales for its mid-tier products, particularly its new Galaxy J series phones.

“Differentiated offerings are driving the trend in the mid-to-low-end segment,” said Manu Sharma, vice president of product marketing for Samsung India Electronics.

For example, Samsung recently introduced its “S bike” mode, a feature targeted at India’s legions of motorbike riders that, when activated, notifies callers that the phone’s owner is riding and cannot answer.

Other draws for Indian buyers include models with features for using less data or keeping the phone alive for longer when charging is not possible.

Researcher GfK says the J2, J5 and J7 account for nearly 20 per cent of the Indian mobile market by value. Production cost savings are also enabling Samsung to sell higher-quality phones for less, analysts said.

CUTTING PRODUCTION COSTS

Samsung’s surge in the No. 2 smartphone market behind China comes as arch-rival Apple struggles to gain a footing with its expensive phones, holding market share of just 2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2015. The U.S. firm’s renewed efforts to import and sell used iPhones, meanwhile, are facing opposition from local vendors.

Samsung’s gains also underscore how the world’s No. 1 smartphone maker, with just under a fifth of the global market as of the end of 2015, is finding its footing after a long slide.

Though still squeezed by Apple in the premium segment and by Chinese rivals such as Huawei Technologies Co Ltd at the lower end, analysts say Samsung is righting itself by launching more attractive products and shaving production costs to compete better on price.

“Samsung mid-level smartphones, especially the J series, have been doing quite well in emerging countries, especially in India,” said Tarun Pathak, an analyst for Counterpoint Technology, noting that budget-tier products have driven volumes for the South Korean firm in recent quarters.

Such efforts, and better-than-anticipated sales for its flagship Galaxy S7 devices, are expected to lift Samsung’s earnings. Some analysts now expect Samsung’s January-March profit to top 6 trillion won ($5.2 billion), compared with the Thomson Reuters StarMine SmartEstimate of 5.6 trillion won derived from a survey of 22 analysts.

Though Samsung will offer no details beyond estimated January-March revenue and operating profit when it gives guidance on Thursday, analysts expect its mobile division to have been its top earner for the first time in seven quarters.

PRODUCT OVERHAUL

Since mid-2014, Samsung has been overhauling its product design, particularly in the mid-to-low tier segments, phasing out old and unpopular models and launching new devices including the A, E and J series.

The newer devices incorporate parts and features traditionally found only in high-end phones, such as metal frames and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens.

As well as giving the phones a premium feel, that also enables Samsung to increase the number components common across its products, cutting costs and enabling more aggressive pricing, analysts said.

Dongbu Securities analyst Yoo Eui-hyung said such efforts could boost mobile division margins by 1 or 2 percentage points, although savings were likely to be offset by price cuts.

“Samsung is trying to hold its ground,” he said.

Still, Samsung is expected to remain under pressure from Chinese competitors growing more aggressive overseas as growth at home slows.

“Samsung has regrouped itself but will have to be constantly on its toes,” IDC analyst Kiranjeet Kaur said.

In addition to trying to secure permission to sell used, or refurbished, phones in India, Apple is betting its new 4-inch iPhone SE can help it gain new customers in the country.

The cheapest iPhone SE will sell at 39,000 Indian rupees ($587), before discounts or promotions, compared with 8,350 rupees for the Galaxy J2 or 14,249 rupees ($215) for the J7, according to the companies’ Indian online stores.

Despite the price gap, Apple’s emerging market-focused phone could pose a threat to Samsung, some analysts say, particularly if it wins approval to import refurbished iPhones.

“Apple’s portfolio strategy with the iPhone SE launch is particularly designed to make room for refurb devices for sub-$300 price-points,” said Neil Shah, another Counterpoint analyst. “So Samsung and others who are playing in the $200-$400 segment should be worried.”

Huawei's new P9 strives to take on the iPhone with its Leica camera

Huawei's new P9 strives to take on the iPhone with its Leica camera

On expected lines, Chinese smartphone giant, Huawei took the wraps off its laters flagship smartphone the P9 on Wednesday.  The phone is being offered in two variants, the P9 and the P9 Plus.

It is a slick looking phone which measures just 6.95mm, 144 grams and super slim bezels. It has a full metal body, something one comes to expect of a top of the line smartphone these days. The larger P9 Plus is slightly thicker and heavier at 6.98 mm and 162 grams.

The bigger story about the P9 is its unique camera system on the back. It has a dual-camera system on its back for which it has worked with iconic German camera brand Leica.

It has twin 12-megapixel Leica SUMMARIT lenses which deliver 1.25 micro pixels and a ultra wide f/1.1 aperture, which is the highest ever seen on a smartphone. There is also a laser auto-focus system and optical image stabilisation.

Interestingly, one of the camera on takes monochrome shots while the other focusses on taking coloured shots. The phone combines both images into one to create the final photo. Huawei says that the monochrome image takes in 300 per cent more light and 50 per cent more contrast than a coloured photo because it doesn’t need to resolve the colours of the lighting. We have Chinese brand Qiku take a similar approach with its cameras. There’s also a depth sensor which also allows for refocussing capabilities.

On the front too, there is a 8-megapixel camera and overall, Huawei is very gung-ho about the camera on the P9 and P9 Plus and it believes it can take-on the iPhone 6S and the new Galaxy S7.

As for the core functionality of the phones they run on Huawei’s new Kirin 955 oct-core processor. The smaller model has 3 or 4GB RAM while the larger P9 Plus has 4GB RAM. Similarly, the P9 comes in 32GB and 64GB variants with a microSD card slot, while the larger P9 Plus comes on in a 64GB versions also supporting microSD cards.

The display on the P9 is a 5.2-inch Full HD LCD screen, while the P9 Plus for obvious reasons gets a larger 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED screen with Huawei’s ‘Press Touch’ technology which is similar to Apple’s 3D touch.

Other frills of the phones include an improved fingerprint scanner on the back, large 3,000 and 3,400mAh batteries, USB Type C connectivity, and stereo speakers.

The phone runs on Android 6.0 marshmallow customised with Huawei’s own UI.

Besides this it is also accompanied by a new wearable that is called the Huawei Talkband B3 which is IP57 certified and has PMOLED screen. It will start at 169 Euros which around Rs 12,800.

The phones will go on sale on April 16 in a number of countries including the US,UK, China and many more for a starting price of 599 Euros which is around Rs 45,000. The larger P9 Plus will cost 749 Euros which is around Rs 56,000.

Currently, there is no word of an India launch.

All-metal Meizu M3 Note with Helio P10, fingerprint scanner launched

Meizu M3 Note with fingerprint scanner launched

Chinese company Meizu has launched the successor of its budget phone M2 Note, aka the M3 Note. The Meizu M3 Note has been launched in China at a starting price of CNY 799 (about Rs 8,200) for the 2GB RAM and 16GB memory variant. The 3GB RAM and 32GB memory variant of the phone meanwhile has been priced at CNY 999 (about Rs 10,300).

The M3 Note is now available for registration in China and will be available for buy from April 11. There is however no word yet regarding its global availability and pricing.

In terms of specification set, the M3 Note has a 5.5-inch FullHD display with a 1080×1920 pixels resolution and is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor coupled with 2GB/3GB RAM and 16GB/32GB memory. The phone supports expandable storage using microSD card.

The dualSIM phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop-based Flyme OS and comes with a physical home button housing mTouch 2.1 fingerprint reader. The M3 Note boasts of 6000 series aluminum unibody. Connectivity options include: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0 with BLE, and GPS/ A-GPS.

On the camera front, it has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone is backed by a 4,100mAh battery.

The Meizu M3 Note will be available in the colours: Grey, Gold, and Silver.

Meizu is also expected to unveil a second phone, come January 13, again in China. The phone in question could be the Pro 6, successor to the Pro 5. The flagship phone from Meizu will be powered by MediaTek’s next-generation Helio X25 processor. The USP of the phone however is said to be 6 gigs of onboard RAM.

Rumoured specs of the Pro 6 include: a FullHD display, Meizu’s MBack 3.0 fingerprint technology, Flyme 6.0 OS, Hi-Fi 3.0, and fast charging support. It is also said to include a 3D touch-like display feature.

Bengaluru based Creo will make the first 'unstealable' smartphone

Creo's first smartphone, Mark 1 will be 'unstealable'

Creo, the start-up based from Bengaluru, achieved limelight after sending out teasers of an Android device that promises to be a ‘new phone every month.’ The company secured $3 million in a funding round in January and has scheduled the launch of their first phone on April 13. With the launch date closing up, more and more details are leaking out to the public. According to a new report from Firstpost, the device will house a 21Megapixel camera unit.

Five reasons why this phone is great

  1. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  2. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  3. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  4. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.
  5. The phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.

 

Apart from that, the report also specifies that the device will come with extra safety features that will render the device ‘unstealable’. The user will be able to track the device despite any amount of factory resets performed on the smartphone. The software will be based on Android Lollipop 5.1.1 but will still have most of the updated features from Marshmallow. The company is banking on the software experience more than anything else. Creo claims to be “working on building the Android experience of the future” by putting out features that are undreamt of on a smartphone.

Earlier, the company released a few images with a resolution of 6144 x 3456 pixels, which apparently comes from the phones camera. This further proves that the phone might indeed feature a 21Megapixel primary camera.

Established smartphone companies like Apple and Microsoft are focussing on the software end of the technology and it seems even Indian start-ups like Creo and Yu have recognized the untapped potential in this field. With just a few days to go, the much anticipated device, with all its features, will be out in the open. Stay tuned for more information.

Panasonic Eluga Arc with fingerprint scanner, 2GB RAM launched

Panasonic Eluga Arc with fingerprint scanner, 2GB RAM launched at Rs 12,490

Panasonic India launched the Eluga Arc phone on Thursday at a price of Rs 12,490. The USP of the phone is its 2.5D curve display and rear mounted fingerprint scanner.

Speaking of specifications, the Panasonic Eluga Arc comes with a 4.7-inch HD IPS display and is powered by a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor coupled with Adreno 306 GPU and 2GB RAM. The phone comes with 16GB of internal memory which is further expandable by up to 32GB via microSD card.

The dualSIM phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop out-of-the-box and supports 4G VoLTE connectivity option.

One the camera front, the Eluga Arc has an 8-megapixel camera on the rear with LED flash along with a 5-megapixel camera on the front.

“Appealing to on-the-go professionals, the Eluga Arc is enabled with Android for Work support which allows enhanced IT Security and BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) compatibility for private smart devices to operate securely on corporate networks,” the company said in a statement. The phone also features an IR blaster to control home appliances like TVs, DVD players and ACs.

The Arc is backed by an 1,800mAh battery and supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 1.0.

“For smartphone users, a major concern is the confidentiality and security of the highly volatile data, with cloud storage usage growing rapidly across segments. This control-sensitive device, which achieves complex tasks with a single fingerprint is personalised for the user and protects the smartphone investment,” Pankaj Rana, business head, Mobility Division, Panasonic India said.

BlackBerry will launch Rs 25,000 Android phone in India

BlackBerry will launch Rs 25,000 Android phone in India

BlackBerry’s smartphones haven’t done great in the recent past. Its own platform has been struggling for traction as big ticket developers have been abandoning it while its first Android smartphone – the Priv – hasn’t also done too well. So, naturally there have been some whispers, that BlackBerry may stop making smartphones. On his first trip to India, BlackBerry CEO John Chen has squashed all rumours regarding its exit from the hardware space and said that it will launch a phone between Rs 20,000-Rs 26,000.

“You would probably see more on the mid-price range, which is usually around $300-400. I doubt that BlackBerry can compete on the low end in this market,” said Chen in an interview with the Economic Times.

Chen admitted that the Priv didn’t do well because it was a standalone high-end smartphone without a family of devices backing it up.

“Currently, we just talk about Priv. It’s expensive, because it has no family. Normally, companies release more than one device. But we need to ensure that we don’t build too many phones, while extending our distribution channel,” he said.

The Blackberry CEO also said that the timing of launching the Priv wasn’t ideal. He believed that the high-end market for Android smartphones has gone soft, though he believed that the execution could have been better on his company’s part.

“Execution could have been better because I tried to sell these phones through carriers as retail shops. Carriers are important but I need to be more directly available to customers by myself or through the partners,” admitted Chen.

Chen also remained adamant that BlackBerry 10 isn’t dead as a platform. He admitted that it wasn’t a successful because it didn’t have app support but it remained the most secure platform and governments still used it.

“BB10 OS is definitely not dead. The reason is even if I want to make it dead, I can’t because we have a lot of key government customers around the world that rely on it and will continue to buy it,” said Chen.

In fact, Chen says because BB10 lacked application support Blackberry decided to go with Android to create a product that was more consumer centric.

Besides this, Chen said that BlackBerry would be scaling up its investments in India after wildly scaling them back. He believes India is a going to be big market for the SME model.

Of late, there have been rumours about Blackberry launching three smartphones this year. There codenames are Vienna, Hamburg and Rome.

Don't buy Apple iPhone SE now, buy it after a month

Don't buy Apple iPhone SE now, buy it after a month

Apple has launched the iPhone SE in India at a rather lofty price of Rs 39,000. As many will remember, when Apple originally announced the price of the iPhone SE, the press release sent to journalists said that it will cost Rs 30,000 for the 16GB version of the phone, only to be corrected a couple of hours later.

The interesting bit is that a price correction is most likely to happen in the market as well. In a month or so, the phone is likely to be available at a price that would make it more palatable to the average consumer.

In Q4, the Cupertino based company imported a lot of  the ageing iPhone 5S in India. The [hone by the way, due to its market price of lower than Rs 30,000, has become one of its best selling models in the country.

“Apple imported many iPhone 5S units in Q4 of 2015,” said Sanchit Vir Gogia, the chief analyst and CEO at GreyHound Research. “It is likely that Apple hasn’t yet finished this stock of the iPhone 5S in India and it is waiting to get rid of inventory before moving to fix the price of the iPhone SE.”

If Apple priced the iPhone SE for around Rs 30,000, it would’ve killed the market for the iPhone 5S. “But Apple could reduce the price of the iPhone SE in the next couple of months,” said Gogia.

Apple will likely not reduce the MRP of the iPhone SE, but as the way things work these days for the company in India, its partners or distributors could reduce the price of the phone which would bring it back to around Rs 30,000.

Apple will also likely offer cash back and EMI offers which would make the new iPhone SE a tastier deal. Already, the 16GB iPhone 6S which has a MRP of Rs 62,000 in India sells online for as low as Rs 44,000. A month or so ago it was even available for less than Rs 42,000.

It is highly likely that the Cupertino-based company could adopt a similar approach for the iPhone SE.

It is also worth noting the iPhone SE uses many of the same components as the iPhone 6S. It has the same A9 processor and it uses the same 12-megapixel rear camera. Unlike the iPhone 5C which was the previous iPhone that Apple made for emerging markets, Apple has managed to retain multiple premium features found in the iPhone 6S, including a premium chassis.

For many markets, the iPhone SE is being pitched as an affordable iPhone which is not evident in India with the current pricing but in a couple of months that can all change.

Meizu may launch Redmi Note 3 rival M3 Note in India in May

Meizu may launch Redmi Note 3 rival M3 Note in India in May

Chinese company Meizu launched its budget phone M3 Note in its home turf just yesterday. Now, sources have told India Today Online that the company will launch the M3 Note in India as early as May. Furthermore, the phone could be priced as low as Rs 9,000 which would pit it straight up against Xiaomi’s new Redmi Note 3.

The Meizu M3 Note has been launched in China at a starting price of CNY 799 (about Rs 8,200) for the 2GB RAM and 16GB memory variant. The company is also offering a 3GB RAM and 32GB memory variant of the phone at CNY 999 (about Rs 10,300). It isn’t clear yet which variant (or both) will be coming to India.

The M3 Note has a 5.5-inch FullHD display and is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P10 processor. The phone supports expandable storage using microSD card.

The dualSIM phone runs Android 5.1 Lollipop-based Flyme OS and comes with a physical home button housing mTouch 2.1 fingerprint reader. The M3 Note also boasts of 6000 series aluminum unibody.

On the camera front, it has a 13-megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The phone is backed by a 4,100mAh battery.

When launched, Xiaomi’s Redmi Note 3 will be its biggest rival. The Redmi Note 3 is available in two variants: while the 16GB variant has been priced at Rs 9,999, the 32GB memory variant of the phone comes at Rs 11,999. The phone comes with full metal unibody and also includes a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.

Meizu is also expected to unveil a second phone, come January 13. Chances are it may unveil the Pro 6, however there isn’t any official confirmation on that for now. The USP of the phone is said to be its 6 gigs of onboard RAM.

Micromax to unveil revamped brand on April 13

Micromax to unveil revamped brand on April 13

Micromax Mobile, which is India’s largest indigenous smartphone brand, is all set to unveil a new brand identity on April 13 at an event in Gurgaon. The company has sent out invites for an event with a hashtag #GutsToChange.

Sources have told IndiaToday.in that the company could launch a new smartphone and unveil a new logo. The company could also introduce a new brand ambassador.

This will also be the first event in more than a year in which co-founder Rahul Sharma will take charge of the proceedings. In the last few months Micromax has seen a lot of churn. Its CEO Vineet Taneja, who joined the company in 2014 from Samsung, resigned and the company lost market share to Chinese up-starts like Xiaomi and a rejuvenated Samsung.

In the past few months, the company has been making a number of investments in Indian start-ups and has been on a path to building services play. The company has made investments in HealthifyMe, shopping service Scandid, travel app IXIGO, Gaana, cloud service MiMedia payment service Transerv.

“We will be putting the services platform in over 50 million devices,” Rahul Sharma told the Indian Express.

Micromax is also building its own fork of Android which will integrate all these services that it has made investments in. It is likely that the company is planning to create a customised and unique version of Android which will lend Micromax devices a brand identity just the way it does for brands like Xiaomi and OnePlus.

To further these ambitions, the company also wants to open an online retail store by Diwali and it will launch a new cohesive product portfolio by July-August.

However, analysts aren’t convinced about this new direction. “Another wrong step. Seriously,” tweeted GreyHound Research’s Sanchit Vir Gogia on the news of it opening an online store. “They should be focusing on the core hardware, than software and services,” said Gogia, who is the chief analyst and CEO at GreyHound Research.

FIR against Freedom 251 makers premature: High court

FIR against Freedom 251 makers premature: High court

Ia major relief to the makers of ‘Freedom 251’ smartphone, the Allahabad High Court on Friday said the FIR filed against the Ringing Bells Pvt. Ltd. — the Noida-based firm that created a global buzz after announcing the launch of the controversial smartphone in February — seemed premature.

A division bench comprising Justices B.K. Narayan and R.N. Mishra ordered that no coercive step be taken against the company’s officials and their business till the next hearing on May 18.

During the course of hearing, the bench kept on asking the prosecution lawyers as to how an offence under Section 420 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) was made out against the makers of ‘Freedom 251’ smartphone but no cogent reply was offered. The court then ordered them to file a reply within two weeks.

A first information report (FIR) was registered in March against Ringing Bells director Mohit Goel and company president Ashok Chaddha under Section 420 of the IPC as well as the Information Technology (IT) Act on a complaint filed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Kirit Somaiya.

The court also allowed the petitioners the liberty to move an application for the release of their passports.

“We are very happy with today’s (Friday’s) order. We shall now press for the quashing of the FIR as there is no merit in it and extraneous factors have gone into its lodging. This FIR is a strategy to derail the timely launch of the flagship product of the company,” said Abhishek Vikram, counsel for Ringing Bells.

“The company has already sold 28,000 units of its other products and has developed innovative strategies to meet its cost for delivering the smartphone for Rs.251 to its customers. The company’s aim is to reduce the digital divide between urban and rural India by selling the smartphone for Rs 251,” Vikram added.

Ringing Bells launched ‘Freedom 251’ in February in the presence of veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi.

It distributed some “prototypes” of the product to the media which turned out to be Adcom handsets. However, the company maintained that the device has been developed “with immense support” from the government.

According to the company, the smartphone will run on Android 5.1 operating system and sport a 4-inch qHD IPS display, a 3.2-megapixel primary and a 0.3-megapixel front camera.

However, doubts were raised after assessments of the handset’s viability concluded that such a device cannot be offered for less than Rs.2,300-2,400.

The company said it planned to give 25 lakh handsets in the first phase before June 30.

Ringing Bells had received 30,000 orders on the very first day. The remaining customers for the first 25 lakh handsets were to be selected on first-come-first-served basis as the company received about seven crore registrations before the payment gateway crashed.

Later, the company decided to return the money to the customers who pre-booked the Rs 251 device on the first day of the sale.