Archive for January, 2019

Redmi is targeting to sell 1 million units of its brand-new Redmi Note 7 smartphone in the first month of availability, a company executive revealed on Weibo. Wang Teng Thomas, who is a product director at Xiaomi, replied to a customer’s query on whether there will be sufficient units of the Redmi Note 7 during the first flash sale by saying that there should be one million units of the phone available during January and it wouldn’t be hard for the company to sell them. The Redmi Note 7 went on sale in China for the first time on Tuesday and was quickly sold it. It is unclear how many units Redmi had put on sale.

Although 1 million is not a massive number, the Redmi Note 7 is not a flagship smartphone and with the smartphone sales slowing down in the Chinese market, selling 1 million units of a budget phone in a month is no longer a cakewalk even though the company has achieved the same easily in the past. As we mentioned earlier, Redmi is hoping to sell 1 million units of the Redmi Note 7 in January.

In a separate post, Wang Teng also revealed that after establishing the Redmi brand, Xiaomi will be using Mi brand to focus on high-end devices and the consumers shouldn’t expect to see deals on Mi flagship phones much longer. He was responding to a Xiaomi consumer, who wrote that Redmi Note 7 and Mi 8 are currently the company’s best value-for-money phones as Xiaomi is running a promotion for Mi 8, which brings down the price of Mi 8 base model to just CNY 2,099 (roughly Rs. 22,000). The phone was originally launched with a starting price-tag of CNY 2,699 (roughly Rs. 27,500) in May last year.

Coming back to the Redmi Note 7, the smartphone was unveiled last week and carries a starting price-tag of CNY 999 (roughly Rs. 10,200). The phone features a 6.3-inch full-HD+ (1080×2340 pixels) display and is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC. Redmi Note 7 also packs up to 6GB of RAM and 32GB or 64GB of inbuilt storage.

Additionally, the smartphone comes with a dual-camera setup on the back with a 48-megapixel primary sensor and a 5-megapixel secondary sensor. There is a 13-megapixel front shooter as well. The Redmi Note 7 also includes a 4,000mAh battery as well as the usual connectivity options like WiFi a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth v5.0. The Redmi Note 7 also comes with watertight seals on various ports and buttons.

As we mentioned earlier, Redmi held the first flash sale for the phone on Tuesday in China and it lasted just 8 minutes and 36 seconds. It is unclear how many units of the phone were put on sale.

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WhatsApp began the public rollout of the group voice and video calling feature back in August last year, but making a group call was not exactly a simple process. WhatsApp for Android has now received a new update that introduces a dedicated call button in group chats – something that arrived for iPhone users last month. It can be used to make group calls by adding the participants all at once from a slide-out tray containing the contact card of all members in a group. The new WhatsApp update for Android also fixes a bug which caused the GIF functionality to malfunction.

The new WhatsApp version (v2.19.9) was first spotted by the folks over at WABetaInfo. So, how does this new call button prove to be helpful? Well, when the group calling feature first arrived on WhatsApp, one had to first start a voice or video call with a contact. Once the call was in progress, the caller was required to tap a button at the top-right corner of the screen to add another participant to the call. As soon as the call was connected, an ‘Add Person’ icon would appear at the top above the recipient’s name. Needless to say, it was a slightly cumbersome process.

The new group call button added by the latest WhatsApp update makes it a lot easier to start a group video or voice call and was first spotted in a beta build back in November. As you can see in the screenshot above, there is now a dedicated button at the top right corner in group chats. Tapping on this button opens a slide-out tray which contains the contact cards of all group members. Here, you can tap on the names of people you want to participate in your group voice or video call. To download the latest stable version of WhatsApp for Android, visit the Google Play store or To recall, the new group call shortcut button arrived for iPhone users last month.

It appears that the new group call button was not available on the app’s latest version downloaded from the official WhatsApp website. As for the GIF bug, it reportedly broke the GIF tab in the app, but it has now been fixed with the latest update.

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Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola are reteaming for a new feature-length film called On the Rocks, which “follows a young mother (Rashida Jones, from Parks and Rec) who reconnects with her larger-than-life playboy father (Murray) on an adventure through New York”. Murray and Coppola have previously worked together on the Oscar- and BAFTA-winning Lost in Translation, more than 15 years ago, and the 2015 Netflix holiday special, A Very Murray Christmas. This will be the first original feature film for Apple, as part of its multi-year partnership with indie studio A24, which is behind Oscar winners such as Moonlight, Brie Larson-starrer Room, and sci-fi pic Ex Machina.

The Hollywood Reporter brings word of the new development, claiming that Murray-Coppola’s On the Rocks will go into production during the spring in New York. Coppola will also produce the film alongside Youree Henley (The Beguiled), with Mitch Glazer (The Recruit) and Coppola’s brother Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom) serving as executive producers. Ms. Coppola previously worked with A24 on her 2013 satirical crime film The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson, which was based on a true story.

Apple and A24 announced their movie-producing deal back in November, wherein the latter will produce a slate of original films for the former. A24 can continue to make and distribute films outside of the deal. There is no clarity on several necessary details, be it whether the Apple-A24 movies will have a theatrical release before arriving on Apple’s upcoming streaming service, or whether they will have to conform to Apple’s reported ‘family-friendly’ approach that applies for its original series productions.

The last of those is particularly interesting when it comes to both Coppola and A24’s output, which has mostly fallen in the R rating (‘A’ classification here in India) over the years. Coppola’s last work was 2017’s period drama The Beguiled, which won her the Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival. Murray last voiced a character in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and was last seen in his Facebook Watch reality series Bill Murray & Brian Doyle-Murray’s Extra Innings. He is currently filming Zombieland 2.

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Mi Soundbar, Xiaomi’s first home audio product in India, will go on sale in India for the first time today at 12 noon. The soundbar was introduced in the country last week by the company, and its highlight feature, according to Xiaomi, is that it can be set up in less than 30 seconds. The company also claims that the Mi Soundbar can work with any TV. The soundbar was launched by Xiaomi alongside its two new Mi TV models in India – the Mi TV 4X Pro 55 and the Mi TV 4A Pro 43. The new TV models were first put on sale on Tuesday in the country and the next sale is scheduled for January 20.

Xiaomi Mi Soundbar price in India
The Mi Soundbar price in India has been set at Rs. 4,999. It will go on sale in India today, January 16, at 12pm IST. The Mi Soundbar will be available via and Mi Home stores in the country. To recall, Xiaomi launched the Mi Soundbar in India alongside two new Mi TV models – and these went on sale via Flipkart,, and Mi Home stores in the country on Tuesday, January 15.

Xiaomi Mi Soundbar specifications, features
The Mi Soundbar features two 20mm dome speakers to cover the higher frequencies, apart from two 2.5-inch woofers for the low frequencies, and four passive radiators for the extreme low-end, Xiaomi said. As we mentioned, Xiaomi claims the Mi Soundbar can be set up in just 30 seconds.

In terms of connectivity options, the Mi Soundbar features Bluetooth v4.2, S/PDIF, Optical, Line-in, and 3.5mm aux-in. The Mi Soundbar package includes the soundbar, user manual, adapter, a SPDIF cable, two screws and two expansion screws.

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Facebook told Reuters on Tuesday that it would extend some of its political advertising rules and tools for curbing election interference to India, Nigeria, Ukraine and the European Union before significant votes in the next few months.

As the largest social media service in nearly every big country, Facebook since 2016 has become a means for politicians and their adversaries to distribute fake news and other propaganda.

Buying Facebook ads can widen the audience for such material, but some of those influence efforts may violate election rules and the company’s policies.

Under pressure from authorities around the world, Facebook last year introduced several initiatives to increase oversight of political ads.

Beginning on Wednesday in Nigeria, only advertisers located in the country will be able to run electoral ads, mirroring a policy unveiled during an Irish referendum last May, Katie Harbath, Facebook’s director of global politics and outreach, said in an interview.

The same policy will take effect in Ukraine in February. Nigeria holds a presidential election on February 16, while Ukraine will follow on March 31.

In India, which votes for parliament this spring, Facebook will place electoral ads in a searchable online library starting from next month, said Rob Leathern, a director of product management at the company.

“We’re learning from every country,” Leathern said. “We know we’re not going to be perfect, but our goal is continuing, ongoing improvement.”

Facebook believes that holding the ads in a library for seven years is a key part of fighting interference, he added.

The library will resemble archives brought to the United States, Brazil and Britain last year.

The newfound transparency drew some applause from elected officials and campaign accountability groups, but they also criticized Facebook for allowing advertisers in the United States to obfuscate their identities.

The Indian archive will contain contact information for some ad buyers or their official regulatory certificates. For individuals buying political ads, Facebook said it would ensure their listed name matches government-issued documents.

The European Union would get a version of that authorization and transparency system ahead of the bloc’s parliamentary elections in May, Leathern said.

The ad hoc approach, with varying policies and transparency depending on the region, reflects local laws and conversations with governments and civil society groups, Harbath said.

That means extra steps to verify identities and locations of political ad buyers in the United States and India will not be introduced in every big election this year, Leathern said.

In addition, ad libraries in some countries will not include what the company calls “issue” ads, Leathern said.

Facebook’s US archive includes ads about much-debated issues such as climate change and immigration policy even though they may not directly relate to a ballot measure.

Australia, Indonesia, Israel and the Philippines are among nations holding key votes this year for which Facebook said it is still weighing policies.

Leathern and Harbath said they hoped to have a set of tools that applies to advertisers globally by the end of June. They declined to elaborate, saying lessons from the next couple of months would help shape the worldwide product.

“Our goal was to get to a global solution,” Harbath said. “And so, until we can get to that in June, we had to look at the different elections and what we think we can do.”

Other Facebook teams remain focused on identifying problematic political behaviour unrelated to ads.

Last month, researchers working for a US Senate committee concluded that the Russian government’s Internet Research Agency used social media ads and regular posts on inauthentic accounts to promote then presidential candidate Donald Trump to millions of Americans. Russia has denied the accusation.

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China will seek to establish an international lunar base one day, possibly using 3D printing technology to build facilities, the Chinese space agency said Monday, weeks after landing a rover on the moon’s far side.

The agency said four more lunar missions are planned, confirming the launch of a probe by the end of the year to bring back samples from the moon.

The future launches will culminate with a mission to test equipment for an international moon research base, Wu Yanhua, deputy chief commander of China’s Lunar Exploration Programme, said at a press briefing.

“China, the United States, Russia and Europe are all discussing whether to build a research base or a research station on the moon,” Wu said.

Scientists are looking into “whether we can use 3D printing technology” to build lunar facilities, he added.

China took a major step in its ambition to achieve space superpower status when it became the first nation to land a probe on the far side of the moon on January 3.

The Chang’e-4 lander – named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology – released a rover that will perform experiments in the Von Karman Crater, which is located in the South Pole-Aitken Basin.

The rover, dubbed Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit), was preparing to go back to work after waking from five days of hibernation on Thursday.

“It will be the first time that we are able to study the origin and formation… (of) the darker side the moon, including the age of… the moon,” said Wu Weiren, general designer of the Lunar Exploration Programme.

Basking the mission’s success, the China National Space Administration discussed plans for the future missions.

The Chang’e-5 probe, originally scheduled to collect moon samples in the second half of 2017, will launch by the end of the year, Wu said.

The mission was delayed after its planned carrier, the powerful Long March 5 Y2 rocket, failed in a separate launch in July 2017.

Following that mission, China will launch Chang’e-6 to gather samples on the moon’s south pole and bring them back to Earth, Wu said.

“We will decide whether it will do it on the dark side of the moon or the near side depending on the sampling situation of the Chang’e-5,” Wu told reporters.

It will be followed by Chang’e-7, which will conduct a “comprehensive exploration of the moon’s south pole”, including its topography, material composition and space environment, he said.

Finally, the Chang’e-8 mission will test technologies and do “some preliminary exploration for countries to jointly build a lunar research base in the future”, Wu said.

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Vivo has quietly launched a new smartphone in India called the Vivo Y91 which features a dual camera, a dewdrop notch, and an eye-catching gradient design on the rear panel. The new smartphone from the Chinese company is priced at Rs. 10,990 and takes on similarly priced offerings from brands like Xiaomi and Realme. The Vivo Y91 is claimed to deliver a superior photography experience with its AI-backed dual-rear cameras at a budget price point.

Vivo Y91 price in India
The Vivo Y91 price in India has been set at Rs. 10,990 in India and is now available for sale from the official Vivo India e-shop. However, it appears that the Rs. 10,990 price tag is introductory pricing, as the smartphone is listed at a discount of 8 percent on its original price of Rs. 11,990. It comes bundled with a free Bluetooth earphone. Vivo is also offering an exchange offer (only for old Vivo smartphones), no-cost EMI, and 15-day replacement with the purchase of the new smartphone. We’ve reached out to Vivo India for confirmation of the launch and pricing.

Vivo Y91 specifications
The Vivo Y91 features a 6.22-inch Halo FullView display with an HD+ resolution (720×1520) and 88.6 percent screen-to-body ratio with a dewdrop notch on top and minimal side-bezels. The new Vivo smartphone is powered by the octa-core MediaTek Helio P22 SoC paired with a PowerVR GE8320 GPU and 2GB of RAM. In the imaging department, the Vivo Y91 features a dual rear camera setup consisting of a 13-megapixel (f/2.2 aperture) primary sensor and 2-megapixel (f/2.4) secondary sensor for capturing depth information, while on the front, there is an 8-megapixel (f/1.8) camera to handle selfies.

The AI-backed cameras bring features such as smart beautification which detects attributes such as gender, skin tone, and external lighting to apply the requisite effects and deliver the best photos. Portrait mode, slow-motion capture and face unlock are also on the table, however, there is also fingerprint sensor on the back. In the storage department, there is 32GB of inbuilt storage which can further be expanded via microSD card (up to 256GB).

The dual-SIM Vivo Y91 (Nano+Nano) has support for 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0, GLONASS, GPS, and Wi-Fi 2.4G, while a USB 2.0 port is there for charging and file transfer. The Vivo Y91 comes equipped with a 4,030mAh battery that is supported by a native smart power management system to conserve battery juice. The new smartphone tips the scale at 163.5 grams and measures 75.09 x 8.28 x 155.11mm. As for the color options, the Vivo Y91 comes in Ocean Blue and Starry Black shades with a gradient texture.

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Hotstar is making its biggest original content play to date with the announcement of ‘Hotstar Specials’, which brings together 15 well-known Indian stars and filmmakers in Shekhar Kapur, Neeraj Pandey, Kabir Khan, Nikkhil Advani, Ram Madhvani, Venkat Prabhu, Sudhir Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Nagesh Kukunoor, Mahesh Manjrekar, Vishal Furia, Rohan Sippy, Debbie Rao, Sharad Devarajan, and Salman Khan. There are no details on which capacity the aforementioned 15 will be involved in nor what kind of originals we can expect, with Hotstar simply claiming they “will feature an extensive variety, [be] mounted on a big scale, [and] unconstrained by format”.

The company says the first of these Hotstar Specials will go live before the end of the current quarter — that’s March — with each original available in a total of seven languages: Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. This is a surprising move from Hotstar given its reluctance to chase original content in the past, in favour of licensing films and TV shows from Hollywood and Bollywood studios, a sizeable catalogue of Star India-owned TV channels, and live sports spanning cricket, football, kabaddi, badminton, hockey, and Formula 1.

With the launch of Hotstar Specials, the streaming service brings itself in line with the strategy being used by its biggest international and local competitors such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Eros Now, Voot, ZEE5, Viu, and ALTBalaji. All together, they released over 100 originals across genres and format last year.

Of course, this is far from Hotstar’s first play in the field of originals. Past efforts include a revival of the cult hit comedy series Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, the now-cancelled news comedy show On Air with AIB, the cinematic stage films under the CinePlay banner, the romantic series Tanhaiyan, the cricket-themed talk show The Fanatics, and the Tamil comedy series As I’m Suffering From Kadhal.

“Star has always challenged conventions and been at the forefront of content reinvention in India,” Star India’s managing director Sanjay Gupta said in a prepared statement. “With the mobile phone leading an explosion in the number of screens in the country, we feel that our content also needs to reinvent and boldly move forward. With Hotstar Specials, we hope to create the biggest Indian stories delivered to a billion screens. To bring this vision alive, we are proud to partner with a stellar line up of talent who are headlining our first set of Hotstar Specials.”

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To help small newsrooms overcome challenges in their strive to go digital, Google is creating a new publishing platform for local news publishers.

Google News Initiative has partnered with Web development companies, Automattic and – home to 30 percent of the world’s websites – and has invested $1.2 million (roughly Rs. 8.5 crores) in its effort to create “Newspack”.

Newspack is a fast, secure, low-cost publishing system tailor-made to the needs of small newsrooms, Google said in a statement on Monday.

The new publishing tool will be made available to publishers globally later in the year.

“Newspapers with long histories have had to cut back on staff and reduce coverage and reporters who try to start new digital publications face an interminable struggle with technical and business problems,” said Jim Albrecht, Product Management Director, Google Search.

“Journalists should be writing stories and covering their communities, not worrying about designing websites, configuring CMSs, or building commerce systems.”

While Newspack publishers will have access to all the plugins created by the WordPress developer community, the core product is not trying to be all things to all publishers.

“It is trying to help small publishers succeed by building best practices into the product while removing distractions that may divert scarce resources. We like to call it an opinionated CMS — it knows the right thing to do, even when you don’t,” explained Albrecht.

Google said it will also advise on the Newspack feature set, based on feedback from its extensive contact with local publishers, and provide technical support on the integration of Google products.

Google News in November launched a new innovation challenge to help scribes and publishers in the Asia-Pacific region produce quality journalism in the digital age.

According to Google, in Asia-Pacific, journalists and publishers are increasingly grappling with questions over how quality journalism can thrive in the digital age.

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India is expected to become the global hub for video game development with its world-class game developers, according to the UN agency dealing with trade.

Another area of promise is the visual effects (VFX) and animation industry, which grew 16.4 percent in 2016 to reach a size of $8.2 billion (roughly Rs. 58,000 crores), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said on Monday in its Creative Economy Outlook report.

The report covered creative services and creative goods in its overview of the creative economy, which it said was a powerful, growing force.

“Although the downturn in global trade has impacted all industries, the report shows the creative economy is more resilient than most,” according to Marisa Henderson, the chief of UNCTAD’s creative economy programme.

“The performance of the creative economy is encouraging and shows it is thriving through the intersection of culture, technology, business and innovation.”

The report said: “India has become the centre for outsourcing work, such as game development and game support services. In the coming years, the country is expected to become the hub for development, porting and dubbing of various games across the globe due to low costs and the easy availability of game developers with world-class game development experience.”

It added that with a youth population of over 350 million, India is also one of the largest markets for the global gaming industry.

Governments in India are implementing policies favourable to the growth of VFX and animation industry to enable it to “compete with established markets such as the US, Canada and emerging market centres in Republic of Korea, France, China and Malaysia”, the report said.

UNCTAD cited examples of Maharashtra, which it said was assisting the setting up of the National Centre of Excellence in Animation, VFX, Gaming and Comics; Karnataka including digital arts in the curriculum of fine arts schools, and Telangana creating an incubation centre.

“Indian gastronomy is undergoing rapid growth,” the report said, adding “food service sales in the country of $1.3 billion are growing at about 10 percent annually (making it one of the fastest growing sellers in the world)”.

India’s creative services exports in 2014 stood at $54 billion, led by telecommunications, computer and information services with $52.3 billion, the report said.

The other areas covered in the category include research and development; advertising; market research; architectural and engineering services; and personal cultural and recreational services.

According to the report, India’s creative goods exports nearly tripled from $7.4 billion in 2005 to $20.2 billion in 2014. Design goods accounted to the largest share of creative goods exports with a value of $17.9 billion .

This category includes art crafts, audiovisuals, design, digital fabrication, new media, performing arts, publishing and visual arts.

However, India’s creative goods exports have fallen from a high of $25.8 billion in 2012.

Asia was the main recipient of India’s creative good exports receiving 58 percent of the exports and the Americas came next with 20 percent, the report said.

Jewellery formed the backbone of exports in this category accounting for more than half of at $13.2 billion, followed by fashion accessories at $3.2 billion, the report said.

Printed media and publishing exports totalled $252 million in 2015, according to the UNCTAD.

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