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Apple seeks up to 20% increase in new iPhone production for 2021

Apple Inc has asked suppliers to build as many as 90 million next-generation iPhones this year, a sharp increase from its 2020 iPhone shipments, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has maintained a consistent level in recent years of roughly 75 million units for the initial run from a device's launch through the end of the year. The upgraded forecast for 2021 would suggest the company anticipates its first iPhone launch since the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines will unlock additional demand. The next iPhones will be Apple's second with 5G, a key enticement pushing users to upgrade.

This year's update will be more incremental than last year's iPhone 12, emphasizing processor, camera and display improvements, the people said, asking not to be named as the plans are not public. Apple is planning updates to all of the current models, spanning the 5.4-inch and 6.1-inch regular versions and the 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch Pro models. The phones, codenamed D16, D17, D63, and D64, are all expected to be announced in September, earlier than last year's October introduction partly thanks to the supply chain recovering.

At least one of the new versions will have an LTPO (low-temperature polycrystalline oxide) display capable of alternating its refresh rate based on the content being shown.

Samsung chooses FY21 as first year to avail 6% PLI incentives

Samsung Electronics, the only company to achieve production target for the handset production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, has chosen FY20-21 as its first year to avail the 6% incentive, a person familiar with the matter said.

"Samsung will take its incentives for the first year - FY20-21. It did all the hard work and met its targets," the person said.

The choice means that while the rest 15 manufacturers including iPhone makers Foxconn, Wistron etc. will produce incremental goods worth Rs 4000 crore in the current fiscal which started on April 1, Samsung will need to manufacture double of that in a year marred by the Covid second wave and an anticipated third wave, to avail of the second year's incentives, say industry experts.

Samsung didn't respond to ET's emailed query.

"Samsung had a quick ramp up last year because of its already installed capacity in their Noida factory and larger dependency on Korea rather than China for its supply chain, which is why they were able to achieve the targets while everyone else lagged behind," said an industry expert who did not wish to be named.

"But in the current year when India was facing a destructive second wave, their factory was working on 50-60% capacity due to the disruptions as well as falling market demand. With another spurt of Covid infections predicted in the fourth quarter, producing an additional Rs 8000 crore worth of goods may be challenging for the company," he added.

The South Korean electronics maker clocked in revenue of Rs 70,628 crore in FY19-20, of which close to 70% came from the mobile phone segment, according to business intelligence firm Tofler.

As per the scheme guidelines, Samsung, having met the Rs4,000 crore production target for the first year, must produce mobile phones worth Rs 8000 crore in the second year over and above their base year (FY19-20) revenues in the above $200 price category, to avail of the second-year incentives of 6% cashbacks.

"In the first year of the scheme, Samsung had started manufacturing high value phones locally while outsourcing the production of lower segment phones via EMS (electronics manufacturing services) players," a smartphone market research analyst said. "We believe it will continue the same strategy going forward, but, it must be kept in mind that demand for above $200 phones in India is limited and they may have to rely on higher exports for meeting targets."

In a relief to the handset manufacturing industry at large, the government earlier this month decided to extend the timeline for PLI scheme by one year while accepting FY20-21 as zero year for companies to make fresh investments and expand manufacturing capacity amid Covid-related difficulties.

But Samsung, being the only producer to qualify the targets, has chosen to stick to the original timeline to avail the crucial 6% incentive.

"It was a wise decision because you can't let go of incentives for already produced output over uncertainties of the future," the person quoted above said.

The ambitious Rs41,000 crore handset PLI scheme-which entails incentives in the form of cash payouts based on investment and targeted increments in production--is aimed at making India a more attractive manufacturing destination and weaning companies away from bases such as China and Vietnam. The Centre is looking to make the country a global manufacturing hub with an export target for phones worth $100 billion over the next five years.

The PLI offers graded incentives of 6% of incremental sales of goods achieved over base year for the first two years each, 5% for the third and fourth year and 4% for the fifth year. To qualify for these, global companies must produce incremental goods worth Rs 4,000 crore, Rs 8,000 crore, Rs 15,000 crore, Rs 25,000 crore and Rs 50,000 crore in five successive years.

Realme X7 Pro starts receiving Android 11 update in India

Smartphone maker Realme is busy rolling out Android 11 updates for its smartphones. Last week the company rolled out Android 11 update for its C-series smartphone and now it is updating the mid-range X-series smartphone.

The company has started rolling out Android 11 update for its Realme X7 Pro smartphone. With the latest Android update, the smartphone also receives Realme UI 2.0 update.

Realme said that in order to ensure the stability of this update is being rolled out in a staged manner. The update will be randomly pushed out to a limited number of users today and will have a broader rollout in a few days after making sure there are no critical bugs.

The update comes with version number RMX2121_11.C.03 and Realme advises the users to charge the smartphone completely before downloading the update.

With Android 11 update, Realme X7 Pro users will be able to experience features like default screen recorder, better media controller, native smart home control, one-time permission to apps, security fixes via Google Play and others.

Here's the complete changelog of the update

• Personalise the user interface to make it your own
• You can now create your own wallpaper by picking colours from your photos.
• Third-party icons for apps on the home screen are now supported.
• Three Dark mode styles are available: Enhanced, medium and gentle; wallpapers and icons can be adjusted to Dark mode, and the display contrast can be adjusted automatically to ambient light.

High Efficiency
• You can now drag text, images or files out of a floating window or from one app to another app in Split-screen mode.
• Optimised the editing page of Smart Sidebar: Two tabs are displayed and the order of items can be customised.

• Added "Tone tunes": Consecutive notification tones will be linked to form a single melody.
• You can now determine a time period when Do Not Disturb is on.
• Added weather animations to provide you with a more interesting experience.
• Optimised vibration effects for text input and gameplay.
• Optimised "Auto brightness".

• You can now remove a folder or combine it with another one.
• Added filters for "Drawer mode": You can now filter apps by name, install time or usage frequency to find an app more quickly.

Security and Privacy
• You can now turn "App lock" on or off in Quick Settings.
• More powerful SOS functions
• Emergency info: You can quickly display your personal emergency info to first responders. The information can be shown even when your screen is locked.
• Optimised "Permission manager": You can now choose "Allow only once" for sensitive permissions to better protect your privacy.

• Added Immersive mode which reduces disturbances while gaming so you can stay focused.
• You can change the Game Assistant call-up method.

• You can share your personal hotspot with others via a QR code.

• Added the Cloud Sync for Private Safe feature which allows you to sync the photos in your Private Safe to the cloud.
• Optimised the photo editing feature with upgraded algorithms and more markup effects and filters.

HeyTap Cloud
• You can back up your photos, documents, system settings, WeChat data and more, and easily migrate to a new phone.
• You can select the types of data to be backed up or restored.
• You can create multiple backups for your phone.

• Added the inertial zoom feature which makes zooming smoother during video shooting.
• Added the level and grid feature to help you compose videos.

• Added "Sound amplifier": You can amplify faint sounds and soften loud sounds when wearing earphones.

Apple may make more units of iPhone 13 than any other iPhone

Cupertino-based tech giant Apple is expected to launch its next-generation iPhone 13 in September this year. Now a new online report suggests that the company is looking at boosting the initial production of iPhone 13 models.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Apple is asking its suppliers to speed up the production for this year's iPhone 13 models. As per the report, by the end of this year, Apple expects to ship 90 million units of the iPhone 13.

Apple's big 'bet' on iPhone 13
The report reveals that usually, Apple orders 75 million units for the new iPhone for its launch period, which runs from September till the end of this year. However, this year the company is planning to increase the production by 20%.

As per Bloomberg, Apple believes that the iPhone models this year will witness stronger sales as the Covid-19 vaccination drive is in progress across the globe. Also, this will be the second iPhone to support 5G network, which will push the users to upgrade.

What to expect from iPhone 13
The Bloomberg report also revealed some details about the upcoming iPhone series. The report added that the iPhone 13 model will have the same size as the current generation ranging from 5.4-inch to 6.7-inch.

Apple is also said to introduce two entry-level models and two advanced models. Bloomberg also reported that at least one iPhone this year will come with an LTPO display, which is designed to offer a variable refresh rate.

Rumours suggest that the display of the iPhone 13 Pro model will offer a 120Hz refresh rate. The company is not said to experiment a lot with the design and the iPhone 13 models will come with a pretty much similar design.

The report also mentions that the upcoming iPhone models will come with updated cameras which will include optical zoom and new video recording functionalities. Apple is also said to be testing iPhone models without a notch and with Touch ID under the screen, but these features will not be included in this year's lineup.

Oppo India R&D team worked on Reno6 Series 5G devices as per operators' needs: Company official

Smartphone maker Oppo India on Wednesday said its R&D in India has contributed to the development of Reno6 Series 5G smartphones to meet the telecom operators requirement. On the sidelines of the launch of Reno6 Pro 5G and Reno6 5G smartphones, Oppo India Vice-President and Head (Research and Development) Tasleem Arif said 5G is a revolutionary technology that is speeding up the advent of digitisation with a shift across industries, and Oppo wants to be a part of this important revolution.

"Innovating for advance 5G technology is a key focus area for us. Aligned with this strategy and our move to make our users future-ready, both Reno6 devices are 5G-enabled.

"Our India R&D team has worked relentlessly on validating Reno6 Series 5G devices as per the operator needs including performing interoperability and compliance tests," Arif said.

In India, the government has allocated three spectrum bands for 5G trials to Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and MTNL, while there is a proposal to add higher frequency bands when the 5G services are commercially rolled out in India.

"Reno6 Series is a true 5G smartphone with Reno6 Pro supporting 11 5G bands and Reno6 supporting 13 5G bands," Arif said.

The company unveiled Reno6 Pro 5G with 12 gb RAM and 256 gb internal memory priced at Rs 39,990, and Reno6 5G with 8GB RAM and 128 gb internal memory priced at Rs 29,990.

Oppo India Chief Marketing Officer Damyant Singh Khanoria said the company started the first quarter of 2021 with 35 per cent year-on-year growth.

"By democraticising 5G technology across price segments, we continue to build our legacy," Khanoria said.

Oppo will sell Reno6 Pro 5G on Flipkart and across all mainline retailers, while Reno6 5G will be only available on Flipkart from July 20.

Mini LED display coming to 11-inch iPad Pro next year

People who like moderately large iPads have a reason to rejoice as the 11-inch iPad Pro might be getting a mini-LED display next year.

Apple is planning to add a Mini LED screen to the 11-inch iPad Pro in 2022, following the introduction of the technology on this year's 12.9-inch model, according to a research note by analyst Ming-chi Kuo, reported The Verge.

Apple released new versions of the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro this year, both featuring M1 processors but only the larger model including a Mini LED display.

Mini LED is a new screen technology that involves using thousands of tiny LEDs to create focused local dimming zones, allowing for better contrast and HDR performance. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro has 2,500 local dimming zones.

Kuo also said that Apple is planning to bring Mini LED screens to the MacBook line. 14-inch and 16-inch Mini LED models are reportedly going into production this quarter, while Kuo believes a redesigned MacBook Air with the display technology will be released in 2022.

Mini LED technology was reported to have been the cause of supply constraints for the new iPad Pro before it launched earlier this year.

The device still isn't readily in stock, with Apple estimating shipping times of between two to three weeks for most models on its US website.

Zenfone 8 likely to come in India soon as ASUS 8Z: Report

Taiwanese tech giant ASUS is likely to launch its Zenfone 8 smartphone in India soon as ASUS 8Z.

The company has confirmed via a tweet by Dinesh Sharma, Business Head, Commercial PC and Smartphone, ASUS India that the sleek Zenfone 8 smartphone will be launched in India soon.

The tweet didn't reveal the exact date the product will be launched but it states that it is coming soon, GizmoChina reported.

The Zenfone 8 was launched alongside the ZenFone 8 Flip in Europe this year in May.

The Zenfone 8 was later launched in the US not too long ago. The company has not talked about the India launch until now but ASUS India's head did disclose that the smartphone will be released in the country, the report said.

The delay is likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic that gripped India around the period it was launched in Europe.

Considering the court order issued over a trademark dispute about the use of the 'Zen' or 'ZenFone' moniker, the Zenfone 8 will be launched in India as ASUS 8Z.

The device was spotted on Google's website under the ASUS 8Z moniker.

The Zenfone 8 features a 5.92-inch AMOLED screen with a punch hole at the top left corner and FHD+ resolution.

The display has a 120Hz refresh rate, a Pixelworks chip, HDR10+ and is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus. Powering the device is a Snapdragon 888 processor paired with LPDDR5 RAM and UFS 3.1 storage.

The compact flagship sports a dual-camera setup at the rear of which the main camera is a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor teaming up with a 12MP ultrawide angle camera that can also shoot macro pictures. For selfies, there is a 12MP Sony IMX363 camera.

The Zenfone 8 packs a 4000mAh battery with support for 30W fast charging.

Huami to unveil new OS, chip for smartwatches on July 13

Wearable brand Huami, which owns the Amazfit and Zepp, is reportedly developing a new operating system and new chipset for its smartwatches.

The company will be announcing its new those at the event dubbed "The Future of Health" on July 13, GizmoChina reported.

A Weibo post by Huang Wang, the founder, and CEO of Huami Technology, revealed that its new self-developed operating system is better suited for watches and can better take advantage of the health features present in wearables.

The CEO also shared a video of what appears to be a redesigned interface for heart rate measurement.

It's unclear if the operating system is still based on RTOS or it is entirely new from scratch. However, one feature is a dynamic watch face.

The Chinese leaker who has had hands-on experience with the new operating system praises the UI and user experience.

More details about its upcoming Huangshan chipset were also revealed.

According to Huang, the new processor, which should launch as the Huangshan 2S, will have an independent GPU.

It will be a dual-core chipset based on the RISC-V architecture, and it will not only be more powerful but also have lower power consumption.

Nothing ear 1 to cost Rs 5,999 on Flipkart in India

Consumer tech brand Nothing on Monday said that its first true wireless earbuds -- Nothing ear (1) -- will cost Rs 5,999 in India, as the wireless hearable market goes through a transformation in the country.

Available on Flipkart after its official launch globally on July 27, Nothing ear (1) features state-of-the-art Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) which uses three high definition mics to bring music, films and podcasts into sharp focus.

The London-based brand, headed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, earlier announced the global price of the earbuds at 99 pounds.

"India is an important market for Nothing and and in partnership with Flipkart, we look forward to introducing ear (1) to Indian users at the same time as our global launch," said Manu Sharma, Vice President and General Manager, Nothing India.

"Starting with ear (1), our products will be uniquely designed and easy to use. Above all, they will be devices we are proud to use ourselves and recommend to our friends and family," he said in a statement.

According to the company, the true wireless earbuds will combine raw beauty and precise engineering for a pure sound experience.

"We believe the earphones market is begging for differentiation, space where we can elevate design and deliver value from day one," according to Sharma.

The company had said that Flipkart will play an integral role in building Nothing's presence in India and launching its highly-anticipated true wireless earbuds.

The earbuds will combine notes of transparency, iconic form and refined functionality.

WhatsApp Voice Messages Playback Speed Feature | TECHBYTES

Stellantis: Most models to have electric versions by 2025

Stellantis is a little late to the global electric vehicle party, but on Thursday it pledged to catch up and pass its competitors. CEO Carlos Tavares says that by 2025, 98 per cent of its models in Europe and North America will have electric versions. He says the company that combined Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot is developing four electric vehicle platforms with ranges from 500 kilometers (311 miles) to 800 kilometers (497 miles).

The models include a fully electric Ram pickup and Jeep Grand Cherokee, as well as small cars. There even will be an electric Dodge muscle car.

The company says it will use its electric commercial vehicle expertise from Europe to build EV models worldwide.

Tavares says Stellantis will spend no less than 30 billion euros (USD 35.6 billion) over the next five years on EVs. It will build five battery factories in the U.S. and Europe.

Stellantis says the Opel brand will go fully electric in Europe by 2028, with 100per cent of its vehicles in China being electric. It will bring back the Manta sports car with a fully electric version by the middle of the decade.

The company is unveiling its electric vehicle plans with a trans-Atlantic webcast on Thursday.

Tesla sold 33,155 China-made vehicles in June -CPCA

U.S. electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc sold 33,155 China-made vehicles, including those for export, in June, China Passenger Car Association (CPCA) said on Thursday.

Tesla, which is making Model 3 sedans and Model Y sport-utility vehicles in Shanghai, sold 28,138 China-made cars in China and exported 5,017 cars in June.

In May, Tesla sold 33,463 China-made cars.

On Thursday, Tesla launched Model Y cars with a standard driving range in China, lowering the starting price for the vehicle to 276,000 yuan ($42,588) in the world's biggest auto market.

BYD sold 40,532 so-called new energy vehicles, which include battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, last month in China. General Motors Co's venture with SAIC Motor sold 30,479 such cars.

CPCA also said China sold 1.6 million passenger cars in June, down 5.3% from a year earlier.

Jeep unveils the 2022 Electrified Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe

Netherlands headquartered automaker Stellantis marking the celebration of its EV Day 2021, on Thursday revealed the first images of its all-new 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe plug-in hybrid under its Jeep brand.

The fifth generation of the Grand Cherokee, which has sold more than 7 million units worldwide over the past 30 years, will be unveiled at the 2021 New York International Auto Show. This will include the entire Grand Cherokee lineup, the automaker said in a media release.

Further adding to the announcement Stellantis said that in a year when the Jeep brand celebrates 80 years of achievements and innovations, the introduction of the Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is another step toward expanding electrification and strengthening the Jeep brand's vision of zero-emission, 100 per cent freedom.

Mexico, U.S. agree GM Silao union vote will be held by Aug 20

The United States and Mexico on Thursday agreed that a new union vote will be held at the General Motors Silao plant by Aug. 20, the U.S. Trade Representative's Office (USTR) said.

USTR said Mexico has agreed to a number of safeguards before the vote, including having Mexican federal inspectors and impartial international observers from the International Labor Organization at the facility ahead of the vote.

Mexico said in May that it would review labor practices at the GM plant in central Mexico after a formal complaint from USTR.

German region to fine Tesla for illegal construction

A German regional authority said it was preparing to fine Tesla for illegal building activity on the site of its planned new car factory near Berlin.

The environment ministry for Brandenburg, the state that surrounds Berlin and in which the factory will be located, had found that Tesla had constructed tanks on the territory for which it had no authorization, wrote Tagesspiegel newspaper, which first reported the fine.

The company was banned from using the tanks it had already built, the newspaper added.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment.

Elon Musk's China battery partner is now richer than Jack Ma

Zeng Yuqun, the founder of the world's biggest electric-vehicle battery maker, has overtaken Jack Ma in the wealth rankings, a symbolic moment in the rise of China's green billionaires.

Zeng's net worth has jumped to $49.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, as shares of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd surged this year. That exceeds Alibaba Group Holding Ltd co-founder Ma's wealth of $48.1 billion and makes Zeng one of the five richest people in Asia for the first time.

It's the latest sign of how a new generation of tycoons in China is amassing vast fortunes in the clean-energy boom. Investors have pushed up stocks such as CATL, a key supplier to Tesla Inc, as the country leads the market for electric-vehicle sales and pursues an ambitious policy of reaching carbon neutrality in 2060.

"The billionaire ranking used to be dominated by real estate tycoons and later tech entrepreneurs, and now we are seeing more from the new energy sector," said Hao Gao, director of Tsinghua University's NIFR Global Family Business Research Center. "As the industry leader for electric-vehicle batteries, CATL will benefit most from the carbon emission goal."

A spokeswoman for CATL declined to comment on Zeng's net worth.

Zeng, 53, who hails from a hillside village in Fujian province in southeast China, built CATL into a battery juggernaut in less than a decade, creating the largest global producer of rechargeable cells for plug-in vehicles.

Global electric-vehicle battery sales more than doubled in the first five months of this year from a year earlier, with CATL accounting for 31.2% of the market, the largest share, according to an SNE Research report. New-energy vehicle retail sales in China rose 9.8% in 2020 to 1.11 million units, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

BloombergNEF expects the company's global sales growth to continue, benefiting from economies of scale, a cost-competitive upstream supply chain and an established client base.

CATL's stock has surged more than 20-fold since the company went public in Shenzhen in 2018. It's up 59% this year alone as demand for EVs increases, countries work to reduce carbon emissions and costs tumble.

CATL trades at more than 100 times estimated earnings, compared with about 13 times for competitor Panasonic Corp.

China Tesla Supplier Surpasses Financial Giants in Size: Chart

In addition to Tesla, CATL counts BMW AG and Volkswagen AG among its customers. In an interview last year, Zeng said he and Tesla chief executive Officer Elon Musk text about technology, Covid-19 and Musk's main interest: cheaper batteries and cars.

Zeng, who earned a doctorate in condensed matter physics from the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing, isn't the only billionaire who's benefiting from the surge in CATL's stock. Huang Shilin, a vice chairman of the company, is worth more than $21 billion, while Li Ping, who's also a vice chairman, has an $8.5 billion fortune.

As Zeng's star rises, Ma's has been on the wane. The value of Ma's fintech arm Ant Group Co has plummeted since the former English teacher openly pushed back against Beijing, prompting Chinese authorities to quash the company's plans for a huge initial public offering. Ma, 56, has all but dropped from public view, and has lost $2.5 billion in wealth this year.

Volkswagen to appeal Italian court decision on class action over Dieselgate

Volkswagen said on Thursday it would appeal against a decision by an Italian court ordering the German group to refund consumers participating in a class action lawsuit over the carmaker's rigging of diesel emissions tests.

Italian consumer group Altroconsumo said a court ordered Volkswagen to pay 3,300 euros ($3,900), plus interest, to each of the more than 63,000 consumers who joined the class action, for a total amount of over 200 million euros ($236 million).

Altroconsumo said Volkswagen was found liable for an unfair commercial practice after installing banned software on EA189 engines in order to lower NOx (nitrogen oxide) emissions during tests.

A spokesperson for Volkswagen said the German automaker considered Altroconsumo's class action inadmissible and that its allegations were without merit.

"Volkswagen will seek to have the judgement overturned by the second instance court in Venice", the spokesperson told Reuters in an emailed statement.

"Class members have not suffered any economic loss because of the NOx issue since all vehicles are technically safe and roadworthy, and no loss in their trade value resulted in the Italian market because of the NOx issue", the person added.

Altroconsumo started legal action against Volkswagen in 2017, together with its sister organisations in Belgium (Test Aankoop/Test Achats), Spain (OCU) and Portugal (Deco), as part of a Euroconsumers coordinated class action.

Volvo Car reports 52 % increase in half-yearly retail sales in India

New Delhi: Volvo Car India on Friday said its retail sales have increased by 52 per cent in the first half of the year at 713 units as compared with the same period of last year. The Swedish luxury carmaker had retailed 469 cars in the January-June period of 2020.

Volvo's mid-size luxury SUV XC60 contributed the most, being the highest selling model in the first half of the year, the automaker said in a statement.

The company is confident and positive about a much stronger growth in the remaining part of the year as it has already announced the launch of its first full-electric SUV XC40 Recharge in the country later this year, it added.

Besides, the company plans to introduce the petrol variants of its premium sedan S90 and XC60 in the second half of 2021.

"A 52 per cent growth in the high-end luxury mobility during a highly depressed consumer sentiment phase and major covid restrictions in the marketplace shows the confidence that the Indian consumer has in Brand Volvo," Volvo Car India Managing Director said.

Despite uncertain conditions, it has been a good first half giving the company a strong base as it moves forward in the year and brings new products for consumers, he added.

Volvo established its presence in India in 2007 and currently markets its products through 25 dealerships.

Volkswagen posts H1 operating profit of $13 billion

New Delhi: Volkswagen first-half operating profit is expected to come in at around 11 billion euros ($13 billion), it said on Friday, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels on the back of strong demand in Europe and the United States.

The good result was driven in particular by demand for premium brands Porsche and Audi as well as the group's financial services arm, Volkswagen said. The Chinese market was slightly weaker in the period, it said, without specifying.

In the same period last year, Volkswagen posted an operating loss of 1.49 billion euros, burdened by the impact of the coronavirus crisis. In 2019, that result stood at around 9 billion.

Along with rivals, Volkswagen has also been hit by a global shortage of crucial semiconductors, and Europe's largest carmaker said it now expected the main impact of the bottleneck to occur in the second half of the year.

Reported automotive net cash flow is expected to reach around 10 billion euros in the first six months, according to preliminary figures, up from the 5.57 billion in 2019 and the negative 4.8 billion last year.

Volkswagen is scheduled to publish second-quarter results on July 29.

EV maker Nio to have 4,000 battery swapping stations globally in 2025

Chinese electric vehicle maker Nio Inc plans to have 4,000 battery swapping stations globally in 2025, its president Qin Lihong said on Friday.

The company, which makes premium electric cars, aims to have 700 battery swapping stations by the end of this year. A battery swapping station allows drivers to change the battery in their cars to power the rides.

JioPhone: The 'Next' approach to disrupt entry level smartphone market and ailing telcos?

An aggressive device price, robust specifications bundled with attractive data packages will decide the fate of the JioPhone Next.

Smartphones have become a necessary commodity in a post pandemic world where education and businesses are increasingly looking towards an online world for continuity. But considering the dynamics of the Indian mobile market, pricing will play a critical role.

Touted as an affordable 4G smartphone, the JioPhone Next in partnership with Google will give competition to the entry level smartphone market dominated by RedMI, RealMe, Micromax, Lava etc. Though the company has not divulged price, analysts expect an aggressive price of Rs 2500-3000 to ruffle feathers in the industry.

India has 850 million mobile phone users, out of which around 550 million are smartphone users, while the rest 300 million are feature phone users.

For the new Jio device, the potential market stands at 300 million with the addressable market expected to be at 140-150 million, according to CyberMedia Research.

And out of this, 60-65 million JioPhone (launched few years back) users will be a quick bait for upgradation.

"Jio and Google have sought to address not just smartphone affordability, but are also solving for the 3Vs - voice, vernacular and video, for consumers from aspirational India. As many first-time internet users seek to get connected digitally, offerings such as the JioPhone Next are well-timed to bridge India's digital divide in the post-pandemic future," Prabhu Ram, Head - Industry Intelligence Group, CMR said.

The Jio-Google symbiotic partnership will seek to attain scale and attract millions of users to their ecosystem and services. While Jio can lock users to its 4G services, Google would benefit with the boost in its Android base, Ram said.

A report from Counterpoint Research says 60-65 million active 4G Jio Phone (smart feature phone) users are probably the lowest hanging opportunity for Jio to upgrade them to Jio Next and boost ARPU and services usage. Simultaneously, the 2G feature phone users from Airtel and Vodafone Idea will be an important segment to target aggressively with this new ultra-affordable smartphone.

Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst, TechArc says, "All India smartphone penetration stands at 42.20 %. The potential is huge but it's more of an economic issue than a technology issue. This means we have to somehow connect this unconnected base with the internet. There are some thresholds which we can't overcome. Like the whole 58% of people using feature phones can't be converted to smartphones."

For the next 2-3 years, at least 50-60 million 2G feature phones will be sold every year and for JioPhone Next pricing has to be very aggressive to succeed in a cost sensitive Indian mobile market, Kawoosa said.

On June 24, 2021, in its 44th annual general meeting (AGM), Reliance Industries (RIL) Chairman Mukesh Ambani had announced the launch of the JioPhone Next 4G smartphone to be available from September 10 this year.

The phone will run on an optimized version of Android, with support for latest Android software and security updates. Other features include the Google Assistant, automatic read-aloud of screen text, language translation, smart camera with augmented reality filters and much more.

JioPhone Next - third time lucky?

Pricing has been a big hindrance for people using 2G services to shift to 4G smartphones.

This will be Jio's third attempt in devices. Earlier, it had launched its own brand of devices LYF. Then in 2017, it came up with the Jio Phone to convert feature phone users to 4G. First, it was launched at Rs 1500 which was refundable after three years, then an offer of Rs 500 with the exchange of an old feature phone. It is estimated that the JioPhone did sales of around 110 million but the inventory was higher.

Navkendar Singh, Research Director, IDC India says, "If LYF had launched handsets a few years earlier, it would have had a first mover advantage. By the time Jio launched, 4G was coming in China and there were multiple 4G devices coming from China. LYF could have gone bigger but because of timings it didn't happen and the company started investing less on it. "

Device business in India is anyways not a telecom player strength where 90-95 per cent of the user base is prepaid. Being a full 4G service operator, the target of Jio remained the same. How to tap unconnected and feature phone users?

"Even at Rs 1500 (upfront payment), the JioPhone was expensive for this section. Besides, the monthly upkeep for such users went up and the battery level of this phone didn't last as much as their previous feature phone. Screen size was a problem if one had to use data. Then came the offer of Rs 500, subsequently which sales went up," he said.

With the JioPhone Next, Jio is again trying to lure the feature phone users. But will it succeed this time?

The users of state run telecom player BSNL which still doesn't offer 4G services yet will be up for grabs. Not to forget, 2G users of Airtel and Vodafone Idea.

Though, Airtel has been trying to offer bundled offers with device makers to shift 2G users to 4G but it has not seen much traction.

Experts say the JioPhone Next will be heavily subsidized with offers such as EMI, buyback, cashback and other attractive deals to bring new customers into its ecosystem.

"Affordability is one part, such feature phone users need a compelling reason to shift to smartphones. What kind of additional services can Jio or Google offer to these users - in agriculture, health, education etc," Singh said.

Shipra Sinha, Analyst - Industry Intelligence Group (IIG), CMR says the earlier JioPhone was a smart feature phone with few smart features for users. "While it did initially do well, it failed in offering a good 'smartphone experience' in the face of intense competition from other true smartphone players. If Google and Jio are able to offer good hardware and software experience at an attractive price-point, they will win big."

However, many feel India could become a great test bed for the JioPhone Next and if it succeeds, it would be a good value proposition in other emerging markets to bridge the digital divide.

"It is a tough nut to crack. Jio Phone Next will do numbers -- may be another 100 million but for shaking the market you need much more than this," Singh adds.

Though the world is moving towards 5G, 2G i.e., feature phones will continue to exist in the Indian market for many years to come.

Blaupunkt re-enters India TV market with local partner Super Plastronics

German consumer electronics brand Blaupunkt is re-entering the Indian market through an exclusive licensing agreement with homegrown contract manufacturer Super Plastronics.

As per the licensing contract, Blaupunkt's manufacturing, branding, designing, packaging, and retailing supply chain will be handled by Super Plastronics. The products will be available to consumers from July 10 on Flipkart.

Super Plastronics will invest more than Rs 200 crore in Blaupunkt in the next three years in technology and innovation, said Super Plastronics CEO Avneet Singh Marwah.

"Apart from that, we are investing in a new manufacturing plant in Uttar Pradesh. In the next three years, we are expanding our service centre from 550 to 760 and also investing in warehousing in tier 2 and 3 cities to improve last-mile delivery," said Marwah.

Marwah said the company will strive to take Blaupunkt's huge legacy in audio to the smart television segment to compete against the Chinese smartphone brands who have ventured into television.

"Within two years, we aim to capture 6% market share of the Indian TV market and counter Chinese smartphone brands," said Marwah.

Super Plastronics is also the exclusive India licensee for Kodak and Thomson televisions and appliances in India.

Electronics exports touched record levels in march before Covid hit

India's exports of electronics goods touched an all-time high of Rs 9812 crore in March, just before Covid second wave hit the country, data released by the commerce ministry last week showed.

Of this, mobile phones remained the top contributor with exports worth Rs 3421 crore or roughly 35% of total electronics exports.

For the year FY20-21, exports of electronics goods was at Rs 78,606 crore, a 1.17% decline from previous fiscal's Rs 79,536 crore ,despite washout of production of 45 days during the Covid first wave, the data showed.

While exports of mobile phones decreased 16% to Rs 22,868 crore for the whole year, imports more than doubled to Rs 16,643 crore on account of a shutdown of manufacturing facilities and high imports of completely built units from China to cater to high local demand.

Laptops and personal computers continued to be the largest imported product category, recording a 50% rise in imports to Rs 35,133 by value during the previous fiscal with exports at Rs 176 crore. Experts said that the low exports were due to absence of a local manufacturing ecosystem.

Overall, imports of electronics goods for the financial year also continued to be high at Rs 3.7 lakh crore, up 5.26% on year.

Besides smartphones, electronics goods comprises computers/laptops, electric inverters, transformers, battery chargers, scanners, printers, speakers, TVs, base stations and microprocessors.

The National Policy on Electronics 2019 envisages total production of electronics in India to the tune of $400 billion by 2025. Close to $190 billion, or 48% of this is expected to come from mobile phones as per official figures.

Further, the industry is estimating that 13% of this target production can be achieved from laptops, tablets or PCs and another 22% from industrial electronics.

The central government's production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for mobile phones is expected to generate an output of Rs 10.5 lakh crore over the next five years, 60% of which will be exported, according to official figures.

Whereas the PLI for IT hardware ie. laptops, tablets, all-in-one personal computers (PCs) and servers will give rise to production worth Rs 1.61 lakh crore, of which exports will be to the tune of Rs 60,000 crore over four years.

ASUS, Flipkart ink strategic partnership to launch new range of products

Taiwanese tech major ASUS has signed a strategic partnership with homegrown e-commerce marketplace Flipkart to launch a new range of products for helping customers in India digitally access education, e-commerce, social interaction, and work.

"The partnership will kick off with both companies announcing the launch of a new range of innovative products that are designed to be 'Thoughtfully Simple' yet highly affordable on July 15, 2021, at 12 noon," the companies said in a statement on Thursday.

As per ASUS, the partnership with Flipkart is one of the major steps in a series of strategic efforts to deepen its commitment to the Indian market and to serve the unmet needs of Indian customers with its range of products.

"India has the stature of the home market within ASUS and we are deeply committed to the needs of our Indian consumers and the Indian Market... Flipkart has been our long-term strategic partner to bring path-breaking innovations to the Indian market. We are very happy and strongly believe this collaboration will bring about a radical change in the digital lives of Indians," said Leon Yu, Regional Director, India, and South Asia, ASUS.

"... Asus has been a long-standing partner with its best-in-class technology solutions and I'm excited to take this partnership ahead with the upcoming launch of a new range of its offerings aimed at simplifying digital access for millions of Indians and I expect it to become a customer favorite," added Ajay Veer Yadav, Senior Vice-President, Mobiles, Electronics and Large Appliances at Flipkart.

48MP & above rear camera demand grow globally: Report

The camera resolution in smartphones continues to grow as for the rear main camera, demand for 48MP and above resolution returned to growth, collectively accounting for 38.7 per cent of total smartphone shipments in Q1 2021, says a new report.

According to market research firm Counterpoint, for the front main camera, the share of 16MP and above megapixel counts edged down to 33.2 per cent, down 0.7 percentage points from Q4 2020.

"With 5G capability spreading to lower price segments, the cost of a smartphone RF front-end subsystem alone has increased by 50 per cent with additional frequency band support," Alicia Gong, Research Analyst, said in a statement.

"The increase in bill of materials (BoM) cost, particularly for low-end to mid-end smartphones, had temporarily slowed down the resolution improvement in Q1 2021," Gong added.

However, according to the report, the demand for high-resolution main cameras will continue to increase.

According to the findings from Counterpoint's Smartphone Camera Tracker, Q1 2021, the shipment share of 108MP jumped to over 3.4 per cent in Q1 2021.

The demand for 64MP continues to increase as it has become a sweet spot for the wholesale price band of $300-$499.

This resolution also expands its share in lower price segments like $200-$299 and even $100-$199, although the shift to 64MP from 48MP slows down due to the BoM cost increase, particularly in 5G smartphones.

The 50MP share temporarily declined primarily due to the decrease in Huawei's premium smartphone shipments.

However, the research firm expects the share to return to growth from Q2 2021 as more Android brands start equipping their flagship models with big-pixel and large-area image sensors.

With a good cost performance balance, 48MP is taking much of shipments across multiple price segments, the report said.

Within the $100-$199 price band, the collective share of 48MP and 64MP reached 46 per cent in Q1 2021. Both resolutions are becoming mainstream and will have a long-lasting impact on the rear camera design.

There is little room left for the 20MP-44MP zone and the proportion of 16MP also tends to decrease.

Regarding 13MP and 12MP, the two still commanded the largest shipment share in Q1 2021 with 25.5 per cent and 24.6 per cent, respectively.

The resolution of the front-facing camera is also improving continuously to shoot super-clear selfie images. In Q1 2021, the collective share of 20MP and above resolutions was back above 20 per cent and the high demand will continue with widespread adoption across multiple price segments.

Smartphone makers ask Indian retailers to brace for supply shortage

Samsung India smartphone sales team has been informing retailers verbally that there could be up to 70% shortfall in supplies of handsets in July due to severe shortage of semiconductor chips and components.

Supplies from brands like Apple, HP, Lenovo, Dell, Xiaomi, OnePlus and Realme too are badly affected, multiple retailers told ET.

The global chip and component shortage has intensified, affecting supplies of smartphones, laptops, smart televisions and internet-connected appliances in India once again after the industry faced the issue last year too.

Car makers too are feeling the pinch and the shortage is hindering them from scaling up production leading to production loss of 10-15% that could continue for next two quarters, three industry executives said.

This comes at a time when retailers and companies said they are reporting brisk revival in sales across categories after states eased lockdowns last month.

Several vehicle makers, such as Ford, have either shut the India plant temporarily or adjusted the production plan due to the shortage.

Hyundai has been utilising the chipsets meant for smaller cars in bigger vehicles, while Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Motors have produced vehicles without chipsets and have installed them either in the stockyard or dealerships intermittently in the last couple of quarters to ensure quicker delivery to consumers.

Tata Motors' marquee brands, Jaguar Land Rover, said this week that it is expected to take a knock of one lakh units in just two quarters, pulling the company into the red. Back home, the company is struggling with the shortage with all models having a waiting period of two to 10 weeks.

Shailesh Chandra, president of passenger vehicle business at Tata Motors, said while the demand side is on a progressive recovery path, the industry continues to see uncertainty on account of global semiconductor shortage and rising commodity prices.

The shortage of chips and components has increased due to the recent rise in Covid cases in Taiwan and Vietnam, which are key production markets accounting for over half of the global production, and drought in Taiwan considering a lot of water is used in manufacturing.

Smartphone maker Realme India and Europe CEO Madhav Sheth said the company can meet 80% of the demand. "We are working with industry suppliers and partners closely to resolve stock issues and meet pent-up demand. We are confident to have enough stock for the upcoming festive season," he said.

"Supply is patchy across the board - smartphones, home appliances, laptops, televisions, everywhere," says Ritesh Ghosal, chief of marketing at Tata-owned electronics retail chain Croma. He says the retailer is losing significant sales due to the shortage, with sales growing at 50% in laptops and over 100% in tablets as compared to last year despite the shortage.

Ghosal said there has been an unforeseen increase in demand and conservative forecasting by manufacturers and retailers so that they don't lock their capital into inventory due to uncertainties adding further to the shortage.

Rival chain Vijay Sales director Nilesh Gupta said not all models are available and there are instances when laptop and tablet brands get completely out of stock. He, however, says the silver lining is when one brand gets stocked out, some other brand is available.

South India's largest cellphone retail chain Sangeetha Mobiles director Chandu Reddy said some brands have informed that supplies will be extremely limited in July, with top selling model supplies extremely low.

Most brands and retailers have said sales grew by 10-15% year-on-year in the markets which opened last month and the momentum is building.

A Xiaomi spokesperson said due to the pandemic, there was a shortage across the supply chain over the last one year. With the lockdown restrictions easing out, the company is optimistic that the supply chain will pick up pace, while it is also expanding local manufacturing capabilities.

Neeraj Bahl, MD of BSH Household Appliances India, which sells Bosch and Siemens range, said the global parent has informed that there will be a supply shortage of connected dishwashers and built-in appliances.

Ravi Bhatia, president at the consultancy firm JATO Dynamics India, said the problem was acute. Indian manufacturers are especially facing a challenge for supply of high-end trims, he said.

"These trims with advanced infotainment and in cabin convenience features. The revenue and profit contribution of these variants have grown in recent times. The shortage will therefore hit the bottom line," said Bhatia.

Industry executives said the higher the content of semiconductor in a car, the longer the waiting period.

Emails sent to Samsung, Apple, HP, Dell, Lenovo and OnePlus remained unanswered.

Qualcomm launches Asus-made flagship smartphone at $1,499

Chip-maker Qualcomm and Taiwanese tech brand Asus on Thursday introduced a $1,499 phone that is powered by Snapdragon 888 chipset and will be available from August.

Weighing 210 grams in Midnight Blue colour, the smartphone (16GB +512GB) is designed and manufactured by ASUS for the 'Insider' community at the moment, and houses custom premium earbuds from Master & Dynamic, a Quick Charge 5 adaptor, charging cables and a protective case.

The 6.78-inch smartphone with Samsung AMOLED screen and a 144Hz screen refresh rate offers an elite gaming and breakthrough audio and sound experience.

Mike Roberts, Qualcomm's VP of product marketing, said during a presentation that, "never before has such a complete Snapdragon experience been brought together in one single amazing device".

With QuickCharge 5 and a charger in the box, the smartphone charges at 65W and claims to give full charge in 30 minutes. It houses a 4000mAh high-capacity battery.

The dual-SIM device comes with Master & Dynamic Snapdragon Sound earbuds that support 24-bit, 96kHz audio and high-quality voice codecs.

On the back, there's a second-generation Qualcomm ultrasonic fingerprint sensor.

The rear camera setup has main Sony flagship IMX686 64 MP image sensor, a 12 MP Sony Ultrawide Camera with dual pixel image sensor and an 8MP Telephoto Camera with 3x optical zoom and up to 12x total zoom.

The front camera has a 24MP sensor.

The smartphone runs Android 11 and offers 8K UHD video recording at 30 fps for main rear camera and 4K UHD video at 30 /60 fps for main rear camera.

Samsung considering launching Galaxy S21 FE in US, Europe only

Seoul: Samsung Electronics is considering launching the upcoming budget model of the Galaxy S21 smartphone in the US and Europe only, industry sources said on Friday, due to global semiconductor shortages.

Samsung is reviewing a plan to release the Galaxy S21 Fan Edition (FE) in the US and Europe after skipping the domestic market and other countries following the tight supply of mobile application processors, according to the sources.

The Galaxy S21 FE will be reportedly powered by the Snapdragon 888 processor from Qualcomm Inc. But due to supply issues, the South Korean tech giant may also use in-house Exynos chips, the sources said, according to Yonhap news agency.

Industry insiders also predicted that Samsung may push back the launch of the Galaxy S21 FE from its planned schedule.

The world's largest smartphone maker was first expected to unveil the Galaxy S21 FE with its new foldable smartphones at the Galaxy Unpacked online event in August. But market watchers now predict that the Galaxy S21 FE is likely to be introduced separately in October.

The Galaxy S21 FE is the budget edition of the Galaxy S21 flagship smartphone released in January. Its price is estimated to be around the 700,000 won (US$610) range.

Samsung has yet to confirm any information about the Galaxy S21 FE's specifications, but foreign tech reviewers predicted that it will come with a 6.4-inch display supporting 120Hz refresh rate.

They also expect the device to have a triple rear camera setup and a 4,370mAh battery.

Future iPhone may include sensors that measure temperature

Apple has been researching camera technology that would allow an iPhone image to be analysed to determine the temperature of the object photographed.

Typically, it's Apple Watch that is most associated with Apple's health ambitions.

However, a newly-revealed patent application shows that devices like the iPhone and potentially iPad could have a role to play in monitoring a user's health, reports AppleInsider.

"Camera attachment and image data processing for temperature measurement," is concerned with the measurement of any object's temperature. However, while Apple gives few examples of its use, the ones it alludes to are all about "measuring body temperature," and doing so on iPhone.

"Given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones, the [proposed] attachment can be used to convert a smartphone into a temperature measurement device to provide readily accessible temperature measurements," said the patent application.

"In some embodiments, the attachment is a passive attachment (without electronics or need for a power supply) and may thereby reduce manufacturing costs and increase availability," it added

The attachment referred to in the text and shown in the drawings, resembles Olloclip lens systems. Rather than necessarily being a permanent part of the iPhone's camera, the attachment could be temporarily added when a user wants to measure temperature.

"For example," continues the patent application, "a camera attachment [could be] provided that includes a frame configured to couple with a camera".

The frame would be more than a mounting method for a lens, it would form a key part of the whole measurement process, the report said.

Lenovo unveils 2 new detachable PCs in India

Lenovo on Friday unveiled its premium detachable PCs -- the Yoga Duet 7i and IdeaPad Duet 3 -- for the Indian consumers.

Lenovo Yoga Duet 7i will be available on and, at Rs 79,999 and IdeaPad Duet 3 will be available at Rs 29,999 on and online partner platforms from July 12.

"We are excited to introduce the new detachable PCs, which will take the grab-and-go form factor's innovation to the next level and address the need for a portable yet practical and secure device," Pankaj Harjai, Director, Tablets and Smart Devices, Lenovo India, said in a statement.

"Users can use them in the form that is most appropriate for the nature of the task, e.g. a PC when studying or working and a tablet for entertainment and sketching," Harjai added.

The Lenovo Yoga Duet 7i is a Yoga PC with a detachable, backlit Bluetooth 5 keyboard to enable freestyle working mode, along with an adjustable kickstand for easier viewing and switching into drafting mode.

This ultra-thin detachable 2-in-1 allows users to choose between the tablet mode with or without a kickstand and the traditional laptop mode after attaching the keyboard.

It includes an array of smart features such as the Lenovo Voice Assistant, more secure facial login via the infrared (IR)camera with Windows Hello and intelligent presence-sensing features.

It comes with a rechargeable Lenovo E-Color Pen which has a built-in smart sensor that allows users to pick colours from guides or any real-life object by simply touching the object's surface with the pen's tip while pressing down.

This premium device is powered by 11th Gen Intel Core i5 processors and Intel Iris Xe graphics and features an excellent audio-visual performance with Dolby Audio and Dolby Vision.

Equipped with classroom essentials, the IdeaPad Duet 3 is Lenovo's first-ever IdeaPad PC with a detachable Bluetooth 5 keyboard.

It is powered by Intel Celeron processors and Intel UHD graphics, with up to 10.3-inch Full HD IPS panel display at 330 nits bright, up to 4GB solid memory, and up to 7 hours of battery life.

The IdeaPad Duet 3 makes hands-free communication easier with Cortana digital assistant plus dual 360-degree mics, while the clever privacy shutter on the webcam helps users safeguard themselves from unwanted onlookers.

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Apple Watch may soon let you check your blood glucose levels | TECHBYTES

Apple might have a big feature lined up for the future iterations of the Apple Watch.

As per a recent SEC filing, it seems that upcoming models of Apple Watch will have glucose monitoring capabilities on them.

The regulatory documents have been filed by a UK-based startup called Rockley Photonics, as spotted by Telegraph.

The company designs sensors that can monitor a person's blood using infrared light.

The specialised sensors can monitor elements that are normally monitored using medical or specialised equipment.

The company recently revealed its financial standings as it plans to go public in New York soon.

As per the filings, it has Apple listed as one of its "few large customers."

iOS 14.5.1 now rolling out with a fix for App Tracking Transparency bug | ENGLISH | TECHBYTES

Apple has started rolling out an update to its iOS 14.5 update, which brings a fix for the App Tracking Transparency bug that users widely reported.

The new iOS 14.5.1 is a minor incremental update and is about 130MB in size, which could vary depending on the model.

Several iPhone users reported that a bug prevented some users from accessing the new privacy-related feature App Tracking Transparency prompt after upgrading to iOS 14.5.

Apple, alongside, has also rolled out iPad OS 14.5.1, macOS Big Sur 11.3.1 and watchOS 7.4.1 updates.

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Apple Music With Hi-Res May Be Launching Soon | TECHBYTES

Apple could be adding a new Hi-Fi tier to its Apple Music, offering high-resolution music streaming to better compete with Spotify.

Sources close to Hits Daily Double claim the announcement will be made within weeks.

This means the new "Hi-Fi" tier will bring CD-quality, lossless audio to iPhones and iPads.

Details are sketchy at the moment, but the new Apple Music HiFi will reportedly cost $9.99 per user, the same as its individual plans.

Essentially, Apple Music HiFi will provide a high-quality

Apps limited to max of 5GB RAM in iPadOS: Report

Despite Apple offering the M1 iPad Pro in configurations with 8GB and 16GB of RAM, developers are now indicating that apps are limited to just 5GB of RAM usage, regardless of the configuration, the app is running on.

The M1 iPad Pro comes in two memory configurations -- the 128GB, 256GB and 512GB models feature 8GB of RAM, while the 1TB and 2TB variants offer 16GB of memory, the highest ever in an iPad.

Even with the unprecedented amount of RAM on the iPad, developers are reportedly severely limited in the amount they can use, MacRumors reported on Friday.

Posted by the developer behind the graphic and design app Artstudio Pro on the Procreate Forum, apps can only use 5GB of RAM on the new M1 iPad Pros.

Attempting to use anymore will cause the app to crash, the developer said.

According to the report, after making stress tests and other tests on the new M1 iPad Pro with 16GB of RAM, it turned out that the app can use only 5GB of RAM.

Following the release of its M1-optimised app, Procreate also noted on Twitter that with either 8GB or 16GB of available RAM, the app is limited by the amount of RAM it can use.

The previous maximum RAM in an iPad was last year's iPad Pro which featured 6GB of RAM, regardless of storage configuration.

Given, a 5GB limit on apps imposed by iPadOS wouldn't necessarily ring any alarm bells as developers would have access to the majority of the available memory, the report said.

Apple sued over false accusations in Apple Store thefts

San Francisco: Apple is being sued by a man due to repeated accusations that he was behind numerous thefts at Apple Stores in the US, attempted robberies that were conducted by others who were impersonating him.

The lawsuit, filed on May 28 in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, is suing Apple and Security Industry Specialists, a contractor working for Apple on store security.

The lawsuit claims the plaintiff Ousmane Bah was falsely accused of performing some Apple Store thefts, which led to his arrest in New York in November 2018, AppleInsider reported.

The lawsuit appears to be a continuation of another legal action by Bah against Apple and SIS, launched in April 2019.

It seems the claims are the same as in that lawsuit, but specifically takes aim at the activities in the Massachusetts Apple Stores.

According to the lawsuit, Bah received a learner's permit for driving in New York state in March 2018, which took the form of a printout that contained details of his height, weight, date of birth, and eye colour, but not his photograph.

Bah lost his temporary permit within the following two months but had received a permanent plastic version with his photograph.

The missing temporary permit is alleged to have been used by someone else as identification for an Apple Store theft in Greenwich, Connecticut in April 2018.

The man is said to have not resembled Bah at all, aside from being Black, such as being 6 foot 1 inch tall when Bah is 5 foot 7 inches.

Bah said Apple and SIS created a record for Bah as the thief in the video and published the information to both SIS agents and Apple Stores in the US.

Intel reiterates chip supply shortages could last several years

TAIPEI: Intel Corp's CEO said on Monday it could take several years for a global shortage of semiconductors to be resolved, a problem that has shuttered some auto production lines and is also being felt in other areas, including consumer electronics.

Pat Gelsinger told a virtual session of the Computex trade show in Taipei that the work-and-study-from-home trend during the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a "cycle of explosive growth in semiconductors" that has placed huge strain on global supply chains.

"But while the industry has taken steps to address near term constraints it could still take a couple of years for the ecosystem to address shortages of foundry capacity, substrates and components."

Gelsinger had told The Washington Post in an interview in mid-April the shortage was going to take "a couple of years" to abate, and that it planned to start producing chips within six to nine months to address shortages at U.S. car plants.

Intel announced a $20 billion plan in March to expand its advanced chip manufacturing capacity, building two factories in Arizona and opening its plants to outside customers.

"We plan to expand to other locations in the U.S. and Europe, ensuring a sustainable and secure semiconductor supply chain for the world," Gelsinger said, without elaborating.

Intel's plans could directly challenge the two other companies in the world that can make the most advanced chips - Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) and South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

The two have come to dominate the semiconductor manufacturing business, moving its centre of gravity from the United States, where much of the technology was once invented, to Asia, where more than two-thirds of advanced chips are now manufactured.

Intel unveils fastest chip for laptops, 5G product for PCs

Chip giant Intel on Monday announced a pair of new 11th Gen U-series chips, one of which marks the first 5GHz clock speed for thin and light laptops.

At the virtual 'Computex 2021' tech event, the company also introduced its first 5G product for the next generation of PC experiences, called Intel 5G Solution 5000, following the previously announced collaboration with MediaTek and Fibocom.

The two new mobile U-series processors with Intel Iris Xe graphics are called Core i7-1195G7 and Core i5-1155G7.

The Core i7-1195G7 is the one that is the most powerful one, achieving 5.0GHz clock speed.

The new 11th Gen mobile chips offer four-core and eight-threads configurations.

"We've taken the world's best processor for thin-and-light Windows laptops and made the experience even better with the addition of our two new 11th Gen Intel Core processors with Intel Iris Xe graphics," said Chris Walker, Intel corporate vice president and general manager of Mobility Client Platforms.

"In addition, we know real-world performance and connectivity are vital to our partners and the people who rely on PCs every day, so we're continuing that momentum with more platform capabilities and choice in the market with the launch of our first 5G product for PCs: the Intel 5G Solution 5000," he added.

The Intel 5G Solution 5000 claims to deliver nearly five-times speed increases over Intel Gigabit Long-Term Evolution (LTE) from anywhere.

Acer, ASUS and HP are among the first OEMs expected this year to enable modern connected laptops with the Intel 5G Solution 5000 based on 11th Gen Intel Core U- and H-series processors.

The Intel 5G Solution 5000 builds on two recently announced collaborations with ecosystem partners, China Mobile, HP and MediaTek and DoCoMo and HP, to usher a new generation of fully connected PCs, the company said.

Realme expands Smart TV 4K lineup with new 43-inch, 50-inch models priced from Rs 27,999

Chinese smartphone maker Realme Monday launched new models of Realme Smart TV 4K in two sizes--43-inch and 50-inch, priced at Rs 27,999 and Rs 39,999, respectively.

The smart TVs will go on sale from June 4, 2021, 12 noon onwards at Realme .com, Flipkart, and mainline channels.

The new 4K LED smart TVs come equipped with Dolby Vision that offers high-dynamic-range (HDR) with a wide color gamut of up to 83% NTSC and 90% DCI-P3.

The Realme Smart TV 4K further provides seven display modes--Standard, Vivid, Sport, Movie, Game, Energy Saving, and User.

The Realme Smart TV 4K features a 4K UHD processor by Taiwanese chipmaker MediaTek, a quad-core 64-bit architecture, an ARM Cortex-A53 1.5GHz CPU, and a Mali G52 GPU. The hardware is paired with 2GB RAM and 16GB of flash ROM that powers the Android 10-based TV platform.

On the media and entertainment side, the Realme Smart TV 4K comes with 24W quad stereo speakers located at the bottom of the TV, comprising one full-range speaker and one tweeter. The speaker setup is claimed to reproduce sound from 148Hz to 20,000Hz.

The speaker hardware is combined with the Dolby Atmos immersive audio technology and DTS HD Sound System, a home theatre audio format of surround sound audio technology for movie production.

Additionally, the smart TVs are equipped with hands-free voice control, in combination with Google Assistant that allows the users to check information or control the TV and AIoT devices with the Google voice assistant.

It also comes with the TÜV Rheinland Low Blue Light Certification.

The Realme Smart TV 4K comes with a one-year warranty plus a one more year screen warranty.

"The first range of Smart TV by Realme was a huge success and we are hoping our customers will show the same affection to the new range of Smart 4K TVs. Our vision is to provide customers with a relaxing viewing experience and to bring best-in-class technology to every Indian in order to build smart, free, trendsetting, and connected lifestyles," said Madhav Sheth, Vice President, Realme and Chief Executive Officer, Realme India and Europe.

"Whether you love watching movies, streaming shows, or gaming, these Realme TVs with the immersive sound of Dolby Atmos® and the ultra-vivid picture of Dolby Vision® will take your entertainment experience to the next level", added Ashim Mathur, Senior Regional Director, Emerging Markets, Dolby Laboratories.

Realme launches X7 Max 5G powered by Dimensity 1200 chipset from Rs 26,999

Chinese smartphone brand Realme Monday expanded its X-series smartphone range with the launch of X7 Max 5G, which is also its first smartphone powered by the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 5G chipset.

The Realme X7 Max 5G comes in two variants--8GB RAM+128GB ROM priced at Rs 26,999, and 12GB RAM+256GB ROM priced at Rs 29,999.

It will be available in three colors--Mercury Silver, Asteroid Black, and Milky Way.

It will go on sale from June 4, 2021, 12 noon onwards at, Flipkart, and mainline channels.

Features-wise, the Realme X7 Max 5G smartphone comes with a 6.43-inch FHD+ Super AMOLED display, with a 20:9 aspect ratio, 120Hz refresh rate, and a 360Hz touch sampling rate. It is claimed to offer a peak brightness of 1,000 nits, 100% DCI-P3 color gamut, and a 91.7% screen-to-body ratio.

Under the hood, it packs a 6nm-based Dimensity 1200 5G chipset having a "1+3+4" octa-core architecture that combines one A78 ultra-large core at 3GHz, three A78 large cores, and four low-power cores. It supports dual-channel UFS3.1, too.

Thanks to 5G connectivity, it offers 5G+5G Dual SIM Dual Standby for independent networking with standalone (SA) network, along with support for Voice Over 5G New Radio (VoNR) and 5G carrier aggregation.

The smartphone is powered by a 4500mAh battery that supports 50W SuperDart Charger that is said to charge 50% of the battery in about 16 minutes.

The rear side of the smartphone houses a triple-camera setup of a 64MP primary Sony IMX682 sensor, an 8MP ultra-wide sensor, and a 2MP macro lens. It packs a 16MP camera at the front.

The Realme X7 Max 5G comes with Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res, in addition to Realme UI 2.0 based on Android 11.

It is IPX4 certified which means the smartphone is resistant to water splashes from any direction.

"Realme believes that the next-gen flagship chipsets should feature new processes, new architecture, and new 5G technology to deliver cutting-edge performance and the MediaTek Dimensity 1200 in Realme X7 Max 5G will provide a far advanced dual 5G experience to our users. Realme believes in providing future-ready devices to its customers and with Realme X7 Max 5G we believe the young users will be able to cherish the benefits of advanced 5G technology," said Madhav Sheth, Vice President, Realme and Chief Executive Officer, Realme India and Europe.

Japanese companies to develop chipmaking technology with TSMC: Nikkei

About 20 Japanese companies, including electronic component maker Ibiden Co, will work with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) to develop chip manufacturing technology in Japan, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Japan's government will pay half of the 37 billion yen ($337 million) cost of a research facility, The Nikkei said, without disclosing its sources.

TSMC in February said it will spend about $178 million to open a material research subsidiary near Tokyo.

In a statement to Reuters, TSMC said that facility "aims to leverage more expertise in the field of materials to bring value to the industry".

"We appreciate the support from Japan's government for us to drive semiconductor technology advancement together with TSMC's partners in Japan," it added, without elaborating.

Japan wants to cooperate with the Taiwanese company to help its semiconductor manufacturers to stay competitive as chip demand grows with the expansion of 5G infrastructure, autonomous driving technology, data centres and artificial intelligence (AI).

Ibiden did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Samsung sales drop in Q1 foundry market on US plant suspension

Seoul: Samsung Electronics maintained the second spot in the foundry market in the first quarter of the year, but its share fell slightly due to the temporary shutdown of its chip plant in the US, a report showed on Monday.

Samsung's foundry business logged a market share of 17 percent in the January-March period, down from 18 percent a quarter earlier, after its revenue dropped 2 percent to $4.108 billion, according to the latest report from industry tracker TrendForce.

"This February, a freak winter storm in Texas caused power outages in Austin and forced Samsung to temporarily shut down its fab Line S2 that was located in the vicinity," TrendForce said.

"The suspension of wafer input at the fab for almost a whole month caused Samsung to become one of the very few foundries that posted a revenue drop for 1Q21."

Samsung, also the world's largest memory chip producer, earlier said it suffered more than 300 billion won ($270 million) in damage due to a wafer production disruption at its Texas plant, reports Yonhap news agency.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) raised its dominant market share by 1 percentage point to 55 percent in the first quarter with revenue of $12.9 billion, up 2 percent from the last three months of 2020.

"TSMC's main revenue drivers have been its 7nm and 16/12nm nodes," it said. "The revenue from the 7nm foundry service has kept climbing at a stable pace thanks to orders from AMD, MediaTek, and Qualcomm, registering a QoQ increase of 23 percent for 1Q21."

Another Taiwanese chipmaker, United Microelectronics Corp. (UMC), took the No. 3 spot in the foundry market with a 7 percent share, with its revenue increasing 5 percent quarter-on-quarter to $1.67 billion.

The quarterly total revenue of the top 10 foundries rose by 1 percent quarter-on-quarter to a record high of $22.75 billion in the first quarter, according to TrendForce.

"Owing to soaring demands for various end devices, manufacturers have been ramping up their component procurement activities, and foundry capacities, as a result, have been in shortage since 2020, with various foundries raising their wafer prices and adjusting their product mixes to ensure profitability," it said.

The market researcher predicted that the total revenue of the top 10 foundries will likely reach a new high with a 1-3 percent increase expected in the second quarter of the year.

Japan's Renesas sees fire-damaged chip plant back to full capacity by mid-June

TOKYO: Renesas Electronics Corp on Tuesday said restoring full production capacity at a fire-damaged chip plant in Japan would take longer than expected, predicting a return to normal by mid-June rather than the previously estimated end of May.

Capacity on the Naka plant's 300mm chip line in eastern Japan had returned to about 88% of pre-fire levels at the end of May, the company said in a statement. All new equipment would be installed and switched on "by mid-June", it added.

The fire, caused by an electrical fault, was a blow to carmakers around the world already struggling to find enough automotive semiconductors. Renesas makes nearly a third of the microcontroller chips used in cars around the world.

An area of 600 square meters (6,458 square feet) was burned in the fire, with 23 machines destroyed and the ultra-sensitive clean room needed for chip manufacturing filled with smoke and soot.

The Japanese government called on equipment makers to help Renesas, while customers, including Toyota Motor Corp sent officials to help the chipmaker restart the line.

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2. Google
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Twitter partners RazorPay for Tip Jar service, in talks with others

As it enables iOS and Android users in India to send money or 'tip directly to their select favourite accounts with substantial followers, Twitter has collaborated with payments gateway provider RazorPay to facilitate the Tip Jar feature in the country.

Reliable sources told IANS on Thursday that Twitter, which is also in talks with other payments providers in the country, will not charge its users for the 'Tip Jar' service.

Once you clicks on the 'Tip Jar' icon, you will be redirected to a Razorpay payments gateway webpage in a usually manner, and you can then pay via various modes like UPI, net banking, debit or credit cards etc.

Currently, the 'Tip Jar' feature supports a variety of payment options and links like Bandcamp, Cash App (owned by Square, a Jack Dorsey company), Patreon, Paypal and Venmo.

At the moment, only a small group of people including non-profits, journalists and creators around the world who use Twitter in English will be able to add Tip Jar to their profile and receive tips.

Everyone using Twitter in English can send tips or cash gifts to a limited number of accounts. Turning on Tip Jar adds an icon next to the Follow button on your profile page,

You will also be able to toggle the Tip Jar feature. Android users will be able to send money in Twitter's audio chat app Spaces.

"We're updating our tipping prompt and Help Center to make it clearer that other apps may share info between people sending/receiving tips, per their terms," Twitter had said.

New rules designed to prevent misuse of social media; WhatsApp users have nothing to fear: Prasad

 IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said that WhatsApp users have nothing to fear about new social media rules, that are designed to prevent abuse and misuse of platforms, and offer users a robust forum for grievance redressal. Prasad said that the government welcomes criticism including the right to ask questions.

"The rules only empower the ordinary users of social media when they become victims of abuse and misuse," Prasad posted on micro-blogging platform Koo, and also tweeted.

The government fully recognises and respects the right of privacy, he asserted.

"Ordinary users of WhatsApp have nothing to fear about the new Rules. Its entire objective is to find out who started the message that led to commissioning of specific crimes mentioned in the Rules," Prasad added.

The new IT rules require the social media companies to set up an India-based grievance redressal officer, compliance officer and nodal officer "so that millions of users of social media who have a grievance get a forum for its redressal", he said.

The government on Wednesday had staunchly defended its new digital rules, saying the requirement of messaging platforms like WhatsApp to disclose origin of flagged messages does not violate privacy, and went on to seek a compliance report from large social media firms.

The new rules, announced on February 25, require large social media platforms -- defined as those with over 50 lakh users in the country -- to follow additional due diligence, including appointment of chief compliance officer, nodal contact person and resident grievance officer.

Non-compliance with rules would result in these platforms losing their intermediary status that provides them immunity from liabilities over any third-party data hosted by them. In other words, they could be liable for criminal action in case of complaints.

Twitter asks IT Ministry for 3-month extension on new rules

With WhatsApp suing the Indian government over the new IT rules for social media platforms, Twitter on Thursday requested the IT Ministry to consider a minimum of three-month extension in order for the company to implement the new intermediary guidelines.

Twitter, which witnessed a police raid on its offices in Delhi and Gurugram early this week related to the alleged Congress toolkit controversy, said that it reaffirms that Twitter continues to accept grievances from users and law enforcement via its existing grievance redressal channel available under the new IT Rules.

Stressing that it will strive to comply with applicable law in India, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that right now, "we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve".

"We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules," Twitter said in its first reaction after the police raids on its offices.

On Monday, Delhi Police visited Twitter India's local offices in the National Capital Region after Twitter had marked one of the tweets of BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as "manipulated media".

Twitter's presumptive judgement has triggered widespread outrage among Indian users across the country.

The company spokesperson said that it plans to advocate for changes to elements of these regulations that inhibit free, open public conversation.

"We will continue our constructive dialogue with the Indian government and believe it is critical to adopt a collaborative approach. It is the collective responsibility of elected officials, industry, and civil society to safeguard the interests of the public," the spokesperson said.

The new rules notified in the gazette of India on February 25 under the Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021, came into effect from May 26.

WhatsApp has moved the Delhi High Court against the new IT rules for intermediaries, saying these would violate privacy.

Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the government is committed to the right to privacy, but simultaneously it also has to maintain law and order and ensure national security.

The Union Ministry of Electronics and IT has written to the social media platforms, directing them to respond on their compliance to the new digital rules as soon as possible.

Facebook has said that the company aims to comply with the provisions of the new intermediary guidelines and is working towards it.

Twitter said in its fresh statement that it is particularly concerned about the requirement to make an individual (the compliance officer) criminally liable for content on the platform, the requirements for proactive monitoring, and the blanket authority to seek information about our customers.

"This represents dangerous overreach that is inconsistent with open, democratic principles," the company argued.

"We urge the Ministry of Electronics and IT to publish these Standard Operating Protocols on procedural aspects of compliance for public consultation. We would request the Ministry to consider a minimum of 3 months extension in order for Twitter to implement the Rules".

Twitter was recently served with a non-compliance notice and have withheld a portion of the content identified in the blocking order under its 'Country Withheld Content' policy.

"The content identified was originally reported to us in the blocking orders issued since February 2021. We maintain that the content reported in the original order constitutes protected, legitimate free speech, under Indian and international law, and we have formally communicated this to the government," the company informed.

Twitter said that it has not taken any action on verified accounts that consist of news media entities, journalists, activists and politicians.

"The escalated content constitutes legitimate free speech. Yet, due to the law's limited scope under Section 69A which gives limited room to an intermediary to defend the content, we have been compelled to withhold in response to a non-compliance notice. Not doing so poses penal consequences with many risks for Twitter employees," the company noted.

Paytm plans to launch India's biggest IPO later this year

Paytm, India's leading digital payments provider, is aiming to raise about Rs 21,800 crore ($3 billion) in an initial public offering (IPO) late this year, according to a person familiar with the deal, in what could be the country's largest debut ever.

The startup, backed by investors including Berkshire Hathaway Inc., SoftBank Group Corp. and Ant Group Co., plans to list in India around November and its offering could coincide with the Diwali festival season, said the person, asking not to be named because the details are private.

Paytm, formally called One97 Communications Pvt. Ltd., is targeting a valuation of around $25 billion to $30 billion from the IPO. The One97 board plans to meet this Friday to formally approve the Paytm IPO, said the person.

Paytm declined to comment in response to emailed questions.

If successful, the Paytm IPO would surpass Coal India Ltd.'s offering, which raised more than Rs 15,000 crore in 2010 in the country's largest IPO so far.

Banks shortlisted to run the Paytm IPO include Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co., with Morgan Stanley the leading contender, the person said. The process is expected to get rolling in late June or early July. The banks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The public market debut will include a mix of new and existing shares to meet regulatory obligations in India. The country's regulations require that 10% of shares are floated within two years and 25% within five years.

Paytm, led by founder and Chief Executive Officer Vijay Shekhar Sharma, has been focusing on ramping up revenue and monetising its services over the past year. It's expanded beyond digital payments into banking, credit cards, financial services, wealth management and digital wallets. It also supports India's financial payments backbone, the Unified Payments Interface or UPI.

Paytm has fended off stiff competition from a swath of global players including Walmart Inc.-owned PhonePe, Google Pay, Amazon Pay as well as Facebook Inc.-owned WhatsApp Pay. It has the biggest market share of India's merchant payments.

Paytm has over 20 million merchant partners and its users make 1.4 billion monthly transactions, according to numbers in a recent company blog post.

In a recent conversation, CEO Sharma said Paytm had its best ever quarter in the first three months of this year after pandemic-related spending spurred digital payments.

Oppo partners Thales to launch first 5G SA-compatible eSIM

Chinese smartphone brand Oppo Thursday launched the first 5G standalone (SA)-compatible eSIM on its 5G smartphone, the Oppo Find X3 Pro, developed in collaboration with eSIM connectivity management company, Thales.

"The 5G Standalone (SA) eSIM-based Oppo Find X3 Pro will provide users with the advanced 5G experience offered by 5G SA networks, as well as providing both users and mobile operators with the benefits of eSIM technology," Oppo said in a statement.

The two companies jointly collaborated on eSIM server validation, device debugging, verification, function development, etc., the statement added.

Unlike traditional SIMs that need to be physically inserted into devices, an eSIM or embedded SIM comes integrated with the device.

In addition to smartphones and wearable devices, eSIMs are also increasingly finding their use in connected vehicles and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

Furthermore, as Oppo's key eSIM solutions partner, Thales eSIM solutions have also been included in the Oppo Watch, the smartphone brand's first watch with built-in cellular connectivity.

"Through our technical collaboration with Thales, we have made the Find X3 Pro one of the first devices in the world to be equipped with 5G SA-Compatible eSIM. As 5G SA networks are being deployed around the world, the addition of 5G SA-Compatible eSIM brings more possibilities for Find X3 Pro users worldwide," said Xia Yang, Senior Director of Carrier Product, Oppo.

"We are honored to continue our partnership with Oppo, for validating and commercializing the first 5G SA-Compatible eSIM on the Oppo Find X3 Pro," added Jérôme Bendell, Vice President of Thales North Asia and CEO of Thales in China.

India's wearables market shipped 11.4 million units in 1Q21, up 170.3% on-year: IDC

Driven by demand amid pandemic, the Indian wearables market (earwear, wristband, and watch) grew strongly at 170.3% on-year in 1Q21, shipping 11.4 million units, according to the recent data from the International Data Corporation's (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker report.

The strong growth in the watch and earwear categories led to the highest ever first-quarter shipments in India. The watches category grew 463.8% on-year in 1Q21 to become the fastest-growing category in wearables, while the wristwear category (wristbands and watches) grew 74.8% on-year.

The earwear category too enjoyed a triple-digit growth of 209.3% in 1Q21.

"The ongoing consumer enthusiasm for earwear devices demonstrates the category's healthy appetite. Vendors are trying to capitalize on the ride with low and mid-priced devices. This is not only helping lower the category's ASP but also adding improved features to acquire new users," said Anisha Dumbre, Market Analyst, IDC India.

Category-wise, wristbands declined 22.4% on-year in 1Q21, finishing the quarter with 760,000 unit shipments. It was led by China's Xiaomi. OnePlus, the new entrant in this category replaced Realme for the second position.

Meanwhile, 1.4 million watches were shipped in 1Q21, the second quarter in a row with over a million shipments of watches, as per the report. Noise continued to dominate this category, followed by boAt.

The average selling price (ASP) of the watches category fell to $88 in 1Q21 due to the surge of low-cost devices in the market as vendors attempt to capitalize on this market by introducing more affordable devices.

The earwear category grew 209.3% on-year with 9.3 million shipments in the first quarter of the year, led by boAt at the first position and OnePlus, respectively.

The Truly Wireless Stereo (TWS) category grew 284.4% on-year with a 35.0% share in the overall earwear category. It was led by boAt while OnePlus finished second, mainly supported by OnePlus Buds Z.

However, shipments for overall wearables fell by 24.9% sequentially in 1Q21, owing primarily to a drop in earwear shipments which experienced an on-quarter decline of 28.6% in 1Q21.

"The second wave of the pandemic has caused a sudden stir across vendors and channel partners, impacting the planned launches to postpone and delay in deliveries. However, over last year, the value of wearables has rapidly expanded, and hence, the demand for these devices is expected to continue strong in 2021," said Jaipal Singh, Associate Research Manager, Client Devices, IDC India.

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Realme to launch Smart TV 4K in India on May 31

Fast-growing smartphone and TV brand Realme on Monday announced it will launch Realme Smart TV 4K in India on May 31.

The Realme Smart TV 4K will come in two sizes -- 50-inch and 43-inch, featuring a spectacular viewing experience with Dolby Vision enabled 4K display and Dolby Atmos immersive audio.

"From a disruptive brand to a tech trendsetter, Realme is now working on a comprehensive ecosystem of Techlife products, including smartphones and Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) products, to offer a life driven by technology to everyone in India," the company said in a statement.

The fastest growing TV brand after its inception, Realme in 2020 launched smart TV (43-inch and 32-inch) and Realme smart TV SLED 4K in 55-inch size in 2020.

The SLED display technology is co-developed by Realme and John Rooymans, chief scientist of SPD Technology (Spectral Power Distribution).

While most LED TVs including QLED use only a blue backlight which is then turned to white, SLED uses Red, Green and Blue (RGB) LED light for the initial stage, hence reducing the harmful effects of blue light and providing higher colour purity.

"The year 2021 marks a new phase of our growth with cutting-edge advanced innovation and technology in the smart TV segment," the company said.

Apple says to hold 'WWDC21' from June 7 to June 11

 Apple on Monday sent media invites for its flagship developer conference 'WWDC 2021 from June 7-11 in a virtual avatar.

The annual conference will announce latest software and technologies from Apple.

"And away we go. WWDC21, June 7-11 Join us on June 7 at 10 a.m. PDT as WWDC21 takes off with an Apple Keynote announcing our latest software and technologies," the company said in a media invite.

Free for all developers, WWDC21 will offer unique insight into the future of iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS.

"We love bringing our developers together each year at WWDC to learn about our latest technologies and to connect them with Apple engineers," Susan Prescott, Apple's vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations and Enterprise and Education Marketing had said in an earlier statement..

"We are working to make WWDC21 our biggest and best yet, and are excited to offer Apple developers new tools to support them as they create apps that change the way we live, work, and play."

WWDC21 is an opportunity for developers to learn about the new technologies, tools, and frameworks they rely on to build innovative and platform-differentiating apps and games.

WWDC21 will provide Apple's worldwide community of more than 28 million developers, as well as the next generation of app developers, with the information and tools needed to turn their ideas into reality.

This year's conference will include announcements from the keynote and State of the Union stages, online sessions, 1:1 labs offering technical guidance, and new ways for developers to interact with Apple engineers and designers to learn about the latest frameworks and technologies.

Israel signs cloud services deal with Amazon, Google

 Israel's government said on Monday it had signed a deal with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google for a more than $1 billion project to provide cloud services for the country's public sector and military.

A month ago, AWS and Google won a tender, beating out Microsoft, Oracle and IBM for the four phase project known as "Nimbus".

Finance Ministry officials said they expected to start moving data to the cloud in about two months, but it will not be a centralised system since there are two providers, while some data will not be on the cloud.

The four phases of the project include acquisition and construction of cloud infrastructure, formulating government policy for migrating to the cloud, integration and migration, and control and optimisation of cloud activity.

Nimbus is a multi-year project intended to provide a comprehensive solution for the provision of cloud services to the government, the defence system and other groups in the economy, the ministry said.

It noted that the availability of cloud services in Israel will allow significant transfer of government services to capitalise on the technological advantages in the cloud to improve services to citizens and increase economic efficiency. It will also help promote Israel's innovation and encourage the creation of an eco-system in cloud technologies, it added.

Under the deal, Google and Amazon are committed to making reciprocal purchases and industrial cooperation in Israel equivalent to 20% of the value of the contract.

Another tender process is under way to address the third part of the project, in which dozens of local suppliers will be selected to assist in the migration of government systems to the cloud and the development of systems in the cloud environment.

WhatsApp says won't limit functionality for users not accepting new privacy policy

WhatsApp has told the government that it will not restrict the functionality of the messaging app for Indian users who do not accept its contentious privacy policy till the country's proposed personal data protection law comes into effect. It, however, would continue to nudge users to allow them to share data of business transactions to third party companies including its parent Facebook, people familiar with the development said.

"They will wait for the Personal Data Protection Bill to be passed. Till then, WhatsApp will send reminders to accept the new policy and not disable any feature," a senior government official told ET. The Bill which is currently with the Joint Parliamentary Committee is likely to be tabled in the Parliament later this year.

Last week, the government directed the Facebook-owned company to withdraw its policy, saying it was harmful to the "interests of Indian citizens". The ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY), had given the company seven days to respond to its letter on May 18.

The official also said that the company in its response to the government two days ago said that it will comply with the provisions of the PDP bill whenever it comes into effect. According to experts, the Bill contains provisions relating to purpose limitation of data collection which may make the latest Whatsapp policy unviable in India.

Another senior official told that though the matter is subjudice in the Court, the government is trying to exert pressure on the company to not force the policy on Indian users. "We have taken the same stance in the Court," he said.

"We have responded to the Government of India's letter and assured them that the privacy of users remains our highest priority. As a reminder, the recent update does not change the privacy of people's personal messages. Its purpose is to provide additional information about how people can interact with businesses if they choose to do so," a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement.

"We will not limit the functionality of how WhatsApp works in the coming weeks. Instead, we will continue to remind users from time to time about the update as well as when people choose to use relevant optional features, like communicating with a business that is receiving support from Facebook," the spokesperson said. "We hope this approach reinforces the choice that all users have whether or not they want to interact with a business. We will maintain this approach until at least the forthcoming PDP law comes into effect," the spokesperson added.

The government had said in its letter that "Changes to the privacy policy and the manner of introducing these changes, including in frequently asked questions (FAQs), undermines the sacrosanct values of informational privacy, data security and user choice for Indian users, and harms the rights and interests of Indian citizens." WhatsApp responded to the government on Saturday.

WhatsApp, in its FAQs on its website, had warned users that they may lose few functionalities if they do not accept its new privacy policy. It had also said that after slowly curtailing the functionality, the company will eventually delete the user accounts. The policy came into effect on May 15 after being deferred from February.

With over 400 million users, India has the biggest user base for WhatsApp globally.

Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter may lose 'intermediaries' tag in two days

Top social media platforms like Facebook, Whatsapp, and Twitter are at the risk of losing their status and protections as "intermediaries" and may become liable for criminal action, if they do not comply with the IT Rules which were notified in February and come into effect from Wednesday, official sources told ET. Significant social media intermediaries were given three months time to comply with the new rules -- a deadline which expires on May 26 -- but sources said that none of the top platforms has complied till date.

If they lose their immunity as intermediaries, they will be equally responsible for any unlawful content (say obscene pictures or impersonation) as the person posting such content under the Indian Penal Code. The top requirements under the new rules were to appoint Resident Grievance Officer, Chief Compliance Officer and Nodal Contact Person and publish their details on their website along with a physical contact address. The rules had also mandated traceability of the originator of messages along with provision for voluntary verification to users as a means to establish their identity.

The platforms were to also furnish monthly reports as to how many grievances were filed and settled. Sources said that the platforms sought more time -- up to six months -- for furnishing compliance but the government is unwilling to give any extension. In their defence, platforms have been saying that they are awaiting instructions from their company headquarters in the US.

"They do business in India, earn good revenue but grievance redressal will have to await instructions from the US. Some platforms like Twitter keep their own fact-checkers whose names are neither made public nor is there any transparency as to how they are selected and what is their standing," said the official.

Except one Indian social media company Koo, none of the significant social media intermediaries have appointed the officers. "The point to note is that why should the appointment of three persons namely Resident Grievance Officer, the Chief Compliance Officer and Nodal Contact Person should take more than three months? People who are victims of social media have suffered because of the abuse practically because they do not know whom to approach in social media in absence of any public information," the official said.

Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp did not immediately respond to ET requests for comments.

After Jio, Airtel plans to add airwaves in eight key markets

Competitive intensity between Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel is set to rise. Just days after Reliance Jio said it was deploying additional spectrum across Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Bharti Airtel has set in motion plans to add airwaves in eight key markets, including Punjab and Gujarat, in the coming weeks.

Sunil Mittal-led Airtel rolled out additional airwaves in the 1800 MHz band in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Monday and will add units in the 900 MHz band in the latter two circles shortly.

Both telcos aim to boost 4G broadband coverage as vast swathes of India's corporate workforce operate from home amid lockdowns during the Covid second wave. The two operators are leveraging recent spectrum purchases to attract new data subscribers and users from Vodafone Idea. The result: consumers are unlikely to see an increase in their mobile phone bills soon.

"With the fight for mobile broadband users hotting up between Airtel and Jio via fresh spectrum deployments, tariff hikes could be delayed by at least another three months, and any revenue growth till then would come from user adds and a mix improvement via larger share of 4G users," an analyst at a global brokerage told ET.

After deploying 11.2 units and 5 units of additional 1800 MHz airwaves in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, respectively, Airtel is set to add airwaves in the 900 MHz band in Gujarat, UP-East, Kerala, Bihar, Odisha and Jharkhand to boost high-speed data capacity, a senior company executive told ET.

Last week, Jio deployed an extra 20 units of 4G airwaves in AP/Telangana and 15 units in Karnataka.

Airtel is also adding extra spectrum in the 1800 MHz and 2300 MHz bands in Punjab, MP and Odisha shortly to ramp up 4G coverage and boost 5G-readiness. It will also deploy 800 MHz spectrum in MP in a few weeks.

In the initial weeks, "Airtel is likely to go flat out to maximise 4G user gains in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where it has the largest spectrum bank among operators," said another company executive. This, since adoption of work from home, online classes and video streaming have surged, calling for additional spectrum capacities to maintain network experience.

In the auction in March, Airtel acquired 355.45 units of airwaves worth Rs 18,699 crore and market leader Jio picked up 488.35 units in 22 circles for Rs 57,123 crore. Since both telcos have 5G-ready networks, they bulked up on crucial airwaves to cater to the surge in data usage and future-proof themselves ahead of 5G rollouts.

Tatas reviving Tata Teleservices: Company to cater to SMEs in new avatar

 Tata Sons is reviving telecom entity Tata Teleservices in a new avatar called Tata Tele Business Services (TTBS), which will cater to small and medium enterprises.

The revamped company will also support Tata Electronics, which was created to tap the SME segment, and its SuperApp digital platform, which will bring its various consumer services together.

TTBS has launched Smartflo, a cloud-hosted communication platform targeting SMEs that have a hybrid work culture where people work from home and remote locations. Smartflo can be accessed through mobile phones and desktops.

Tata Sons had written off its investment of Rs 28,600 crore in Tata Teleservices in 2020. The consumer mobile business was transferred to Bharti Airtel but the enterprise segment was not merged with Tata Communications. The company is being rebranded now to tap the SME sector.

Tata Communications caters primarily to large enterprises. India is estimated to have about 63 million small and medium enterprises.

TTBS will offer services including intelligent call routing, call monitoring and an option for a dashboard to check the number of inbound and outbound calls. The service can be used for banking, insurance, manufacturing, ecommerce, healthcare, fintech and SMEs, which deal with customers in large numbers.

Tata Sons has cleaned up the financial mess in the entity and will resume operations on a clean slate, top officials aware of the development said.

Tata Sons did not comment.

The holding company has put together a top team comprising of officials from Tata Teleservices, Tata Sons and Tata Communications to drive the initiative, a senior official said.

Harjit Singh Chauhan, president of the enterprise business at Tata Teleservices, is heading the revamped entity, which is also looking at the 5G space, where it will offer services to other telecom operators.

"Perhaps the most important part for 5G services will be the enterprise segment. Anybody who concentrates their resources towards that segment is following a sound approach. Its success will also depend on the timing and results of the auction of 5G spectrum as well as how the subsequent market plays out," said Mahesh Uppal, director at Com First, a telecom consultancy.

In 2020, Tata Sons made provisions of Rs 16,439 crore for its closed telecom business, taking the total amount written off to almost Rs 60,000 crore.

Tata Teleservices took a hit after its three licences were among those cancelled by the Supreme Court in 2012 for irregularities in spectrum allocations. Later, the company got into a legal spat with its partner NTT Docomo, which decided to withdraw.

Eventually, Reliance Jio's entry in 2016 and a tariff war led the Tatas to sign a pact with Bharti Airtel to hive off the consumer mobile business of Tata Teleservices without any debt transfer.

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Oppo Reno 5A With IP68 Build, Snapdragon 765G SoC Launched | TAMIL | TECHBYTES

Oppo Reno 5A has been launched in Japan with IP68 certification. The new Oppo phone comes with quad rear cameras and features a 90Hz display. Other key highlights of the Oppo Reno 5A include a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC, 128GB storage, and a hole-punch design. The smartphone also comes preloaded with artificial intelligence (AI) backed features, such as an Ultra Night Video, Live HDR, and Neon Portrait. It is also capable of recording videos from both front and rear cameras simultaneously.

Oppo Reno 5A availability
Oppo Reno 5A price is yet to be revealed. However, the phone is coming to Japan's Y! Mobile early next June in Ice Blue and Silver Black colours. Details about the pricing and availability of the Reno 5A in other markets were not revealed at the time of filing this story.

The Oppo Reno 5A has been designed as the successor to the Reno 3A that was launched last year with a price tag of JPY 39,800 (roughly Rs. 26,600).

Oppo Reno 5A specifications
The Oppo Reno 5A runs on Android 11 with ColorOS 11 on top and features a 6.5-inch full-HD+ (1,080x2,400 pixels) LTPS display with a 20:9 aspect ratio and a 90 Hz refresh rate. The display also has up to 180Hz touch sampling rate and 405ppi of pixel density. Under the hood, the Oppo Reno 5A has an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G SoC, along with 6GB of LPDDR4x RAM. There is a quad rear camera setup that houses a 64-megapixel primary sensor with an f/1.7 lens. The camera setup also includes an 8-megapixel secondary camera sensor with an f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle lens, a 2-megapixel monochrome sensor with an f/2.4 lens, and a 2-megapixel macro shooter.

For selfies and video chats, the Reno 5A offers a 16-megapixel camera sensor at the front with an f/2.0 lens. The phone also offers considerable dust and water resistance thanks to its IP68 certification.

The Oppo Reno 5A has 128GB of onboard storage that is expandable via a microSD card (up to 1TB). Connectivity options include 5G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v5.1, GPS/ A-GPS, NFC, USB Type-C, and 3.5mm headphone jack. Sensors on board include an accelerometer, ambient light, gyroscope, pedometer, and a proximity sensor. There is also a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor.

Seagate may have just unveiled the world's fastest HDD | TAMIl | TECHBYTES

Seagate has finally disclosed the official specs of its first dual-actuator hard disk drive (HDD) the Mach.2 Exos 2X14 and listed it on its website.

Although SSDs have now become the standard for business laptops and workstations, HDDs still have a place in data centers due to their ability to store large amounts of data relatively cheaply. However, Seagate's Mach.2 multi-actuator technology aims to speed up the rate at which HDDs can transfer data without sacrificing their storage capacity.

While traditional HDDs have one actuator with read/write heads, the company's Mach.2 drives have two in order to double both their sequential and random read/write speeds. Seagate has been working closely with Microsoft since the end of 2017 to develop its multi-actuator technology and based on the Mach.2 Exos 2X14's specs, its efforts have paid off.

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The company's first Mach.2 drive has a sustained transfer rate of 524MB/s which is even faster than its Exos 15E900, making it the fastest HDD in the world right now.

Seagate's Exos 2X14 HDD has a capacity of 14TB but the drive is essentially two 7TB HDDs fused together in a hermetically sealed helium-filled 3.5inch chassis. It features a spindle speed of 7200 RPM, a 256MB multisegmented cache and a single-port SAS 12GB/s interface.

When plugged into a server in a data center, the host system will view the Exos 2X14 as two logical drives that can be addressed independently. The sequential read/write speeds of Seagate's new HDD are so fast that the drive can even rival some inexpensive SATA/SAS SSDs at a far lower cost-per-TB.

The drive's performance increase does come at the cost of higher power consumption though and the Exos 2X14 drive consumes 7.2w in idle mode and up to 13.5W under heavy load. This amount of power is higher than the 12W usually recommended for 3.5-inch HDDS but data centers can leverage Seagate's PowerBalance capability to reduce power consumption though this does come at the cost of 50 percent lower sequential read/write speeds and five to ten percent lower random reads/writes.

While Seagate's first Mach.2 HDD is now listed on its site, the drive is only available to select customers and won't be coming to the open market anytime soon. However, there is a possibility that the company's multi-actuator technology could eventually be found in other HDDs.

Realme C25 Review | TAMIL | TECHBYTES

After launching the C12 and C15 with identical processors and similar features last year, Realme has decided to broaden the differences between the successors to these two models in 2021. The C25 (successor to the C15) gets a significant processor upgrade in the form of the MediaTek Helio G70 (instead the older Helio G35) but at the same time, drops the camera count from four to three.

However, despite having more power, the Realme C25 already has a very notable competitor which comes from the manufacturer's own stable, the Realme Narzo 30A (Review). Launched earlier this year, the Narzo 30A gets you an even better Helio G85 processor and has a lower starting price, but also has only two rear cameras. This might leave the Realme C25 in a tough spot, as it will have to lean heavily on its third camera, a 2-megapixel macro camera, to stand out. Can that feature make the Realme C25 worth its Rs 9,999 starting price? Or does the Narzo 30A make it irrelevant?

Realme C25 price in India
The Realme C25 is priced at Rs. 9,999 for the base 4GB RAM + 64GB storage variant, while the higher end variant with 128GB of storage is priced at Rs. 10,999. Both variants are available in new Watery Blue and Watery Grey finishes.

Realme C25 design
Just like the C15, Realme has gone with a plastic unibody with the C25. Its dimensions remain very similar to those of the Realme C15 ₹ 8,989 (Review) and so does the overall design with a new textured finish and a bold, embossed Realme logo at the back.
The camera layout looks similar too, but with the C15's quad-camera setup replaced by three cameras, the LED flash makes its way inside the module. Also, at the back is a fingerprint reader, which is quick to unlock the phone.

The triple-card SIM tray sits on the left of the phone, while the volume rocker and the power/unlock buttons are on the right. The volume rocker sits well above the power button and is hard to reach without adjusting your grip.

Despite being made out of plastic, the phone felt quite bulky at 209g and this is mainly due to the 6,000mAh battery inside. The plastic back is quite prone to scratches, but thanks to the matte finish, does not pick up fingerprints. The fine grooves of the textured back and the rounded edges offer a solid grip.

Today's Top 5 Interesting Trending Technological News | #2 | Tamil | TECHBYTES

1. Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 (2021)
2. Microsoft Office for Android Finally Gets Dark Mode
3. OnePlus TV 40Y1 India Launch Set for May 24
4. Redmi Note 10 5G
5. Social Media Firms Asked by Government to Remove Reference to 'Indian Variant' of Coronavirus

Apple HomePod, Mini to support lossless audio via software update

Apple is bringing its lossless audio technology to HomePod and HomePod Mini in a future software update.

Apple has developed its own lossless audio compression technology called Apple Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC).

In a new support document, the tech giant also revealed that Apple TV 4K will only support standard lossless audio at its launch.

Apple Music will offer more than 20 million songs in lossless quality for free at the launch of ALAC technology in June that will reach over 75 million by the end of this year.

Most audio compression techniques lose some amount of data contained in the original source file.

Lossless compression is a form of compression that preserves all of the original data.

In addition to Lossless Audio Codec (ALAC), the entire Apple Music catalog is now also encoded using ALAC in resolutions ranging from "16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD Quality) up to 24-bit/192 kHz," the company informed.

Apple will deliver music using lossless audio compression to iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.

"Lossless will play back normally on Bluetooth speakers and headphones. However, Bluetooth connections don't support lossless audio," said the company.

Broadcast radio, live radio and on-demand content from Apple Music 1, Apple Music Hits, Apple Music Country and music videos will not be available in lossless audio.

"We're offering Apple Music subscribers the additional option to access our entire catalog encoded using lossless audio compression at no extra cost," said the company.

New Apple privacy ad highlights App Tracking Transparency

Apple has shared a new privacy-focused ad highlighting how its App Tracking Transparency feature stops various kinds of tracking on the iPhone.

The ad spot follows an average smartphone user as he goes about his daily routine.

Throughout the video, everyday tasks and interactions -- which are meant to reflect common apps -- lead to people collecting more data about him and following him around, reports Apple Insider.

Eventually, the protagonist is surrounded by a large group of people all harvesting his data. But when he pulls out his iPhone and enables ATT, they all begin to disappear.

The ad spot is part of the ongoing "Privacy. That's iPhone" ad campaign, and follows a more explanatory ATT video that was published in late April.

Apple rolled out the ATT in iOS 14.5 as part of a broader privacy push. It's a relatively simple change that requires all apps to obtain permission before they track users across other apps and websites, the report said.

Although praised by digital rights and privacy groups, the feature has been criticised by advertising-dependent companies like Facebook, it added.

An analytics report from earlier in May indicated that 96 per cent of iPhone users are using ATT to opt out of tracking.

A separate survey of smartphone users in the U.S. suggested that the majority support Apple's privacy push, and at least 36 per cent said ATT was their favorite iOS 14.5 feature.

5G to spur contractual staffing requirement in telecom; hiring sentiment positive: TeamLease

The much-awaited 5G services roll-out is expected to spur telecom contractual staffing over the next two years and will emerge as a key driver for hiring activities in the sector, according to a senior official at TeamLease.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) already set the ball in motion for 5G trials earlier this month, when it approved applications of telecom companies including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea for conducting the trials.

According to Deval Singh, Business Head- Telecom, IT and ITES, Media and Government, TeamLease Services, the outlook for contractual hiring in the sector remains positive, notwithstanding some ambiguities on account of the second severe wave of COVID-19.

"Telecom vertical is one of the biggest markets for staffing industry...this was one of the verticals which grew even during the COVID times, and I believe that trend will continue in 2021," Singh told PTI.

The 5G roll-out in future will offer a boost to the economy and to the labour market, Singh said.

"The second wave is a little ambiguous, so no one knows how the growth will be shaped. Having said that, there will be a clear impact for the next two years in telecom industry in a positive way with launch of 5G services, when it comes to economy and when it comes to labour market," Singh noted.

As per TeamLease, the talent requirement by the industry is expected to see 18 per cent growth this year, with profiles ranging from technicians to installation engineers, and from civil engineers to project managers, in demand.

The growth would have been more pronounced but for the second wave of pandemic. The industry is, however, optimistic that once the overall situation improves, 5G would galvanise job opportunities in the sector.

The demand for contractual staff in the telecom sector surged in 2020 despite the backdrop of lockdown and movement curbs, as remote working and social distancing norms drove data usage to new highs, pushing players to invest in network capacities. Telecom services have been categorised as 'essential services' amid lockdown.

"We hired over 50 per cent more in 2020, than in 2019," Singh said but did not comment on absolute numbers. TeamLease Services is a human resource company offering a solutions to over 3,500 employers for their hiring, productivity and scale challenges.

Singh said telecom companies have not put brakes on hiring, and with the government approving applications for 5G trials now, the hiring confidence is "even more".

It is pertinent to mention here that the list of telecom gear makers approved by DoT for trials include Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, C-DOT and Reliance Jio's indigenously developed technologies. The duration of the trials, at present, is for a period of six months, including a time period of two months for procurement and setting up of the equipment.

The permission letters specify that each operator would have to conduct trials in rural and semi-urban settings in addition to urban settings so that the benefit of the 5G technology proliferates across the country.

A recent report by Ericsson has estimated that India can potentially have 40 million 5G users in the first year when the next-generation service is made available to them.

According to Ericsson ConsumerLab report, consumers have shown willingness to pay 50 per cent more for 5G plans bundled with digital services while they want to pay only 10 per cent more for just 5G connectivity.

Samsung Notes passes 1 billion installs on Play Store

South Korean tech giant's Samsung Notes has been downloaded more than one billion times on Google Play Store.

Samsung Notes allows users to create new notes, view, edit and sync notes with other Galaxy devices.

As with many other Samsung Apps, Notes is only compatible with Samsung devices, Android Police reported.

Samsung Notes is like having a handy notebook on phone. Users can write digital or handwritten notes whenever they get an idea and save them for later.

The report said that part of the reason why it needed an extra year and a half compared to its email counterpart to pass the same threshold is mainly explained by the fact that some older Samsung devices didn't come with it pre-installed and the app seems to have been moved to the Play Store more recently too.

With Samsung Notes users can create notes containing texts, images with footnotes, voice recordings and music.

Previously made memos from S Note and Memo also can be imported into Samsung Notes.

It provides various brush types and colour mixers so that you can draw fabulous paintings like professional painters.

PhonePe's Indus OS deal in a legal tangle

A seemingly straightforward acquisition by PhonePe, of homegrown content discovery platform Indus OS for about $60 million, has spiralled into a legal tangle as India's second-largest fintech battles two existing investors in the five-year-old startup-- Affle Global and early-stage investment firm Ventureast-- in a Singapore court.

Both factions have filed competing lawsuits against the other in the Supreme Court of Singapore. ET has seen court filings, regulatory disclosures and spoken to three sources briefed on the matter.

Walmart-backed PhonePe was in the final stages of closing its acquisition of Indus OS before mid-June with the term-sheet signed and ready, according to the people cited above.

But, Indus OS' minority stakeholder, global mobile advertising company Affle Global sought an injunction over the deal in the Singapore court filing an arbitration case against IndusOS, earlier in May. Affle Global in the case makes an appeal on its right of first refusal (ROFR) against the sale of Indus OS founder's stake to PhonePe.

In turn, PhonePe hit back and dragged Affle and another one of Indus OS' investors--Ventureast--to court in Singapore. This case is slated to be heard on Monday.

PhonePe confirmed the developments to ET and termed Affle's move as an 'unfortunate bad faith stalling tactic'.

"We believe they (Affle and Ventureast) have deliberately and wilfully colluded to act in bad faith and violate the legal provisions of the term sheet which they are both signatories to. Accordingly, we have filed a lawsuit against these parties to protect our legal interests and are confident that the honourable court would uphold our position," the company said.

A person in the know of matters told ET, "it's become really muddy. Affle is raising issues on valuation of Indus OS and right of first refusal (ROFR) on stakes held by the company's founders."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Affle Global said it has not signed any alleged binding-term sheet with PhonePe or any Walmart-owned company with respect to sale of any investment till date.

"We are dismayed about the inaccurate news/information being seeded about the alleged acquisition of Samsung Ventures- backed OS Labs Pte Ltd," the person added.

Responding to a detailed questionnaire from ET, Affle Global claimed that it has invested over $20 million, so far, in Indus OS and owns a 20% stake, while valuing the startup at $90 million.

It also said it has more than 25% minority voting rights in OSlabs Pte Ltd, the Singapore-based holding company of Indus OS.

"Certain matters related to OSlabs Pte Ltd are the subject of arbitration and before the Singapore courts and therefore we are not in a position to share or confirm any specifics. In view of our track record and conduct till date, we are confident that Affle Global Pte Ltd will see a just outcome in the Singapore courts," the company stated.

The escalating boardroom battle has also left a clutch of Indus OS's prominent investors --Omidyar Network India, Samsung's venture arm and JSW Ventures - in a bind with expectations of a quick exit belied by the legal wrangle.

Reiterating PhonePe's commitment to "completing the deal as soon as there is a decision on the court proceedings," a spokesperson for the company said the legal hurdles "will not impact our plans to acquire Indus OS at all."

IndusOS has also been made a defendant, although PhonePe is not seeking damages from Indus OS or its founders.

Bennett, Coleman and Company Ltd (BCCL), the publisher of this paper, is an investor in Affle Holdings Pte Ltd, which owns Affle Global.

Why is PhonePe suing Ventureast?

Sources in the know said Affle Global had held talks with Ventureast to buy the investment firm's stake in IndusOS, a successful completion of the transaction would also grant Affle Global increased voting rights.

"Any transactions between existing investors are strictly private and confidential so we are not able to say anything more," Affle said, when asked if the company has bought out Ventureast's stake in Indus OS.

Sarath Naru, managing partner, Ventureast said he can 'neither confirm nor deny' the charges by PhonePe and the lawsuit against Ventureast.

Indus OS keen to seal Phone Pe deal

PhonePe has secured over 30% stake in the Indus OS company and has gained two seats on the board of the startup, according to sources who said Omidyar, JSW Ventures, Micromax and other angel investors have sold their shares to PhonePe with the payments major aiming to acquire around 90-92% stake in Indus OS.

A JSW Group spokesperson said it has no comments to make on the matter. Emails sent to Omidyar, Samsung and Micromax did not elicit any response till press time Sunday.

A representative for Phone Pe said "yes, we have acquired around 30% of the company and are the single largest shareholder of Indus OS already."

" Over the next few days, subject to the outcome of the court proceedings, we hope to conclude the remaining paperwork and get majority ownership of the company. All three founders are staying on and will continue to lead the company's operations post deal too," the person added.

Meanwhile, Indus OS, which is at the centre of this legal storm, said it is willing to close its acquisition with PhonePe and that "all the founders and board members have signed the term sheet to sell a significant majority in the company to PhonePe."

Indus OS was founded by three IIT alumni - Rakesh Deshmukh, Akash Dongre and Sudhir Bangarambandi - in 2015. The company operates a local Android app store called Indus App Bazaar, which offers apps and content in over a dozen Indian languages. The company said it hosts more than 400,000 apps and caters to over 100 million users across India.

The acquisition will help PhonePe bring a wider array of apps on its platform through in-app integrations. This is PhonePe's second acquisition after it bought point-of-sale startup Zopper in 2018.

"We are very excited about executing on the future vision and strategy for Indus OS in alignment with them. I believe this is the best path forward for Indus OS and we remain fully committed to concluding the deal as soon as possible," a spokesperson for IndusOS said.

Inside the Discovery-AT&T deal: Cute emails, a big loan and now, a media giant

In the predawn hours of April 1, David Zaslav, CEO of Discovery, arrived at a rented town house in Manhattan's Greenwich Village -- decorated with photos of rock stars and one of actor Steve McQueen in sunglasses holding a gun -- to prepare for a meeting that would soon reverberate across the U.S. media industry.

Sworn to secrecy, Zaslav's lieutenants snacked on a breakfast of artisanal doughnuts from a 24-hour bakery as they finalized their pitch. Just before 8 a.m., ahead of schedule, their quarry arrived: John Stankey, the AT&T CEO who controlled the WarnerMedia assets that Zaslav coveted.

A journey that began with an informal, emoji-speckled email exchange in February was now fully underway. The covert discussions would last three months, stretching from Dallas to the Denver suburbs to downtown Manhattan, where a war room was established in the cramped garden level of the rented town house. To prevent leaks, bankers used maritime nicknames like "Columbus" and "Magellan." Even the CEO of WarnerMedia was kept in the dark while his company was being negotiated out from under him.

It would culminate on Monday with the announcement of a blockbuster media deal that combined AT&T's WarnerMedia, including HBO, CNN and the Warner Bros. film studio, with Discovery's cable and broadcast holdings, creating a powerful new force in U.S. entertainment, sports, reality TV, news and streaming video. And it represented an astounding late career act for Zaslav, 61, that would put him in control of one of the biggest media companies in the world.

April 1 was "the moment when we started to get to work to put this deal together," Bruce Campbell, Discovery's chief strategist, recalled in an interview.

This account is based on interviews with 18 people who helped put together or had knowledge of the biggest media deal of the year, many of whom spoke on condition of anonymity in order to share the details of sensitive conversations.

Like many a modern romance, the marriage of two of the country's biggest media companies started with an emoji.

On a chilly Saturday in February, Zaslav was watching the Golf Channel at his oceanfront East Hampton, New York, estate when he tapped out an email to the man he wanted to woo. "You around...." Zaslav wrote to Stankey just before 3 p.m. on Feb. 13, adding icons of a golfer and sunglasses. "I've been thinking...."

Only a few minutes passed before his iPhone beamed with the reply. "Always scares me when you do that :)" Stankey replied. "Would you like to chat?" Their initial conversation lasted several hours.

Zaslav invited Stankey to visit him in New York on March 2. Zaslav lives in Conan O'Brien's former apartment on Central Park West, but he bought a town house in Greenwich Village after his wife, Pam, grew weary of Zaslav's impromptu meetings at their home.

That town house was under renovation -- so Zaslav rented another one, where he eventually met with his potential partner from AT&T.

As the conversations gathered intensity, Zaslav looped in his Discovery brain trust for the April 1 meeting with Stankey, where he needed to put his best foot forward.

Around 5:30 a.m., Zaslav was joined by two associates: Gunnar Wiedenfels, Discovery's chief financial officer, and Campbell, his longtime lieutenant and a colleague of 24 years, who had helped hammer out many of Discovery's acquisitions, including its $14.6 billion purchase of Scripps in 2018 and the $1.1 billion purchase of Eurosport in 2015.

After the group from AT&T arrived, everyone gathered in a room so small that any time anyone received a call, the person would have to leave the room to take it. Campbell spent a good part of the next four weeks pacing around an adjacent kitchen island talking on the phone.

The McQueen photo, Campbell said, "became a totem or sort of the mascot of the deal to me."

Even as Zaslav negotiated with Stankey, he knew he would also have to sell the idea to two of the biggest names in American media. John Malone, billionaire chairman of Liberty Media, and Steven Newhouse, chairman of Advance, which owns Condé Nast, were the primary shareholders in Discovery and would need to sign off.

For advice, Discovery turned to Allen & Co.; AT&T tapped LionTree, the boutique firm run by Hollywood deal maestro Aryeh Bourkoff. Bourkoff's presence was noteworthy: One of his earliest clients was Malone.

In a reminder of the whiplash-inducing speed at which AT&T was shedding WarnerMedia, once a prized asset, one of the bankers involved, Kurt Simon of Goldman Sachs (hired by AT&T), had helped broker its purchase of Time Warner just three years earlier. Now he was back at the negotiating table figuring out how to unwind it.

Code names were used to ensure secrecy. For AT&T, WarnerMedia was "Magellan" and Discovery was "Drake." The Discovery side had its own cryptic handles, calling the deal "Project Home Run," with each company named for baseball greats: "Williams" for WarnerMedia, "Aaron" for AT&T and "DiMaggio" for Discovery.

For AT&T, the appeal was obvious: shedding a big portion of the crushing debt the company had amassed. But in order to complete the transaction, AT&T needed a bridge loan worth more than $40 billion. Goldman Sachs could not provide the entire amount, so JPMorgan stepped in to help cover the loan.

Stankey insisted on another point: He wanted the new company to have a simple ownership structure, with just one class of shares that anyone could buy. It would make the company smoother to run. And by eliminating the use of shares with disproportionate voting power, the AT&T leader would ensure that the new company could be an easier takeover target in the future, should an even bigger suitor -- say, Amazon or Apple -- come calling.

To meet this demand, Zaslav would need to convince both Malone and the Newhouse family to relinquish some of their power in the newly formed business. (Together, Liberty and Advance controlled about 44% of Discovery's voting rights.) In exchange for the concession, Advance was rewarded with a stake worth 14% more than its shares would have otherwise fetched in the new company. Both Malone and Newhouse will sit on the board.

Deals are rarely smooth, and an anomaly with Discovery's share price dovetailed with the negotiations. Discovery's stock began to inexplicably rocket in February and March to $75 from $45 because of a convoluted trading scandal involving Archegos, a little-known private investment firm that bet big on Discovery and other companies via derivatives using billions in borrowed money.

With banks forced to buy shares to hedge their spiraling exposure to Archegos, Discovery's market value jumped nearly 60%, for no obvious reason to outsiders. But by May, the stock had returned to where it was during Zaslav's initial approach, and the two sides ultimately forged a deal that gave 71% of the new company to AT&T shareholders and 29% to Discovery.

Now, the trick was closing it before word could leak out.

One awkward conversation awaiting Stankey was with Jason Kilar, the former chief of Hulu tapped by AT&T, with great fanfare, just a year earlier to lead WarnerMedia. To mark the occasion of his anniversary on the job, Kilar had agreed -- with AT&T's blessing -- to be profiled by The Wall Street Journal. He invited a reporter in late April to interview him on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, California, unaware that across the country, his colleagues were feverishly working to close the deal.

At some point during the week of May 3, Stankey dropped the bomb: He informed Kilar that the company would soon change hands, and it was unclear what Kilar's role might be. The 2,600-word Journal profile of Kilar, which included a quote from Stankey, was published on May 14, three days before the deal was announced.

Usually a cheerful presence on Twitter, Kilar didn't bother sharing the article with his 37,000 followers. By the weekend, Kilar had retained entertainment power lawyer Allen Grubman to start negotiating his exit.

A little after 7 a.m. Sunday, Zaslav boarded a corporate jet at a small airport on the East End of Long Island, not far from his home, to head to AT&T's Dallas headquarters to put the finishing touches on the deal. But just over an hour into the flight, word got out through Bloomberg's black-and-orange terminal screens: "AT&T is in talks to combine content assets with Discovery."

"Do we have a problem?" Zaslav asked his colleagues, 36,000 feet in the air. Three months had passed without a leak; could this derail everything?

From across the cabin, David Leavy, Discovery's chief corporate operating officer, offered reassurance: "We'll hold the line."

The jet, a Falcon 7X, landed in Dallas after a three-hour flight. AT&T and Discovery's boards had convened via video, and the deal was unanimously approved. Malone, 80, patching in from his Colorado estate, reflected on how Discovery, a tiny channel dating from 1985, grew into a behemoth that had now absorbed such fabled American brands as Warner Bros. and Turner.

The paperwork wasn't quite finished, but both sides still decided to toast the occasion. A group of Discovery and AT&T executives retired to the telephone company's executive dining room, with its panoramic views of the Dallas skyline. Dinner included options of ravioli, steak or fish. The sun was just beginning to set as Zaslav gave a toast.

"These assets aren't just better together," he said. "We think it's going to be the best media company in the world."

Ethiopia shuns China-backed consortium in favour of US

Addis Ababa (Ethiopia): Washington has gained a major victory in its push to challenge Beijing's economic influence around the world as a US-backed consortium beat another financed by China in a closely watched telecommunications auction in Ethiopia.

According to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Ethiopia said on Saturday that it tapped a group of telecommunications companies led by the UK's Vodafone Group PLC to build a nationwide 5G-capable wireless network. The group had financial backing from a newly created US foreign aid agency for the multibillion-dollar project.

The losing bidder was South Africa's MTN Group Ltd., whose proposal was financed partly by a Chinese investor.

The US agency, International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), offered low-interest loans to Vodafone on the condition that the money won't be used to buy telecom equipment from China's Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp as Washington considers both companies a spying threat.

The DFC was created in 2019 with the aim to offer alternatives to cheap Chinese financing for foreign infrastructure projects, reports WSJ.

The telecom license auction in Ethiopia took on wider geopolitical significance amid heightened competition between the US and China over key technological pursuits, from the rollout of 5G to chip manufacturing.

"The US and China are fighting a proxy war in Ethiopia for influence," said Zemedeneh Negatu, chairman of Fairfax Africa Fund LLC, a US-based investment firm.

The US is using new financial tools to win influence and ensure that strategic assets in foreign countries, while challenging Beijing's economic footprint overseas.

The MTN Group of South Africa, which is a longtime customer of Huawei and ZTE, said it made its bid in partnership with China's Silk Road Fund, which has investments from a couple of Chinese banks.

"This marks the beginning of a new era in our country," the Ethiopian Communications Authority tweeted on Saturday after announcing the winning bidder.

The DFC on Friday said that it is also working closely with US government agencies to monitor the violent conflict in Tigray, which the US has called 'ethnic cleansing', adding that it will carefully consider the impact of any potential financing if the Vodafone consortium, reports WSJ.

The US loans would carry interest rates well below those of commercial banks if the financing goes ahead. The idea is to help the carrier buy equipment from non-Chinese suppliers, such as Ericsson AB, Nokia, or Samsung Electronics. Their equipment is often more expensive than Huawei or ZTE hardware, according to wireless executives and US officials.

Ethiopia is an important US strategic ally because of its location near the Red Sea. The US has tried to neutralise terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State in the region.

DoT favours price cut for 5G, 700MHz bands

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) believes a cut in base price of 5G airwaves and the 700 MHz band plus a lesser upfront payment will be needed to attract telcos to bid for spectrum in the next sale expected sometime in 2022, a senior government official said.

"It is best if the telcos push their case again with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), and a reduction in price and lesser upfront payment is the best way ahead," the official said, asking not to be named.

In the March auction, the government managed to sell only 37% of the over 2,300 units of spectrum across seven bands on sale, with the highly efficient but pricey 700 MHz band going unsold for the second time, owing to, what carriers claims, its high base price.

The DoT is also likely to shortly seek a fresh base price for the 3300 MHz-3600 MHz band earmarked for 5G, the 700 MHz band, and other new bands which can be used for the next-gen technology. Following this, Trai will need to start a fresh consultation process for arriving at the prices. The regulator usually cuts prices of unsold spectrum.

Industry executives say operators Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio), Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) are likely to ask Trai to reduce the price of the 3,300-3,600 MHz and 700 MHz bands by at least 50%.

No pressing need for telcos to bid

They will also seek an increase in the spectrum payment moratorium period beyond two years and cut in the upfront payment for airwaves that will be put up for sale in the next auction.

"The 700 MHz band, which is the most efficient sub-GHz 4G band, and the 3.3-3.6 GHz frequencies for 5G need to be reduced by 50-60%," a senior industry executive said, adding that only then will telcos show some bidding interest.

The DoT had earlier accepted the Trai's recommendation of Rs 492 crore per unit for 5G spectrum in the 3,300-3,600 MHz bands, but all the telcos said they won't bid at these levels. A CLSA report said that India's 5G pricing is the most expensive in the world, four times higher than in South Korea and seven times higher than in the UK.

Trai had cut the 700 MHz band price by 43% from the 2016 auction level to Rs 6,568 crore per MHz for pan-India spectrum, which again went unsold in March.

A second telecom executive said the industry is also likely to push for a longer spectrum payment moratorium besides a cut in upfront payment.

So far, winning bidders could pay the entire amount upfront, or 25% to 50%--depending on the band--and the balance over a maximum of 16 equated annual instalments after a moratorium of two years.

"Reserve price of the 700 MHz spectrum is too high and the band has not seen any demand in successive auctions. We do not expect it to change unless the reserve price is lowered sharply," said Kunal Vora, senior telecom analyst at BNP Paribas.

He added that the 3,300-3600 MHz spectrum, also referred to as mid-band airwaves, is likely to be the most popular band for 5G rollout. "Operators will need a large quantity of spectrum in this band to have an effective 5G network and for that, they would prefer low price per MHz.

"Operators have high levels of debt and are likely to prefer the low upfront payment, moratorium and deferred payment liability," Vora added.

The second executive added that if the prices are not reduced and some other conditions not relaxed, there is no pressing need for telcos to bid, especially as Airtel and Jio have already acquired 4G bands in March that are effective for 5G rollouts.

The three telcos did not respond to ET's queries.

Poco hit by ecommerce curbs, expects sales rebound in H2

The second wave is hurting the sales of the online-only smartphone brand Poco in major states, which have disallowed ecommerce companies to deliver non-essentials but the brand is expecting a quick rebound in sales once the restrictions ease in the second half of this year, a top executive said.

Xiaomi's sub-brand, which became independent in the first quarter of 2020, has grown its sales by four times since then and was even ranked third online smartphone brand in terms of volumes in the month of November last year, according to research firm IDC. But analysts say Poco is yet to establish a strong brand positioning and differentiate itself from Xiaomi.

The current quarter has been tough for the brand as it had to suspend all phone launches for the month of May, Poco country director Anuj Sharma told ET.

"We made a conscious decision to not launch anything in the month of May, amid the second wave. The Poco M2 Reloaded was launched via our Twitter handle, summarising the launch in just three tweets thereby prioritizing the well-being of the employees and the production crew," he said.

Because the brand continues to have a lean portfolio in the India market, its manufacturing operations haven't faced any major disruptions, Sharma said.

"We don't have multiple manufacturing lines developing multiple devices, thus having less impact on the business. We are hopeful that the current scenario will improve and we can pick up from where we left off," said Sharma.

India's sixth largest brand by volume will continue to bring out three-four products per quarter in the sub-Rs15,000 price segment.

"In terms of product portfolio, we don't plan to have an expanded portfolio, to ensure consumers have an easy choice to buy. There will definitely be upgrades to older products, through which we aim to expand our portfolio," the brand head said.

When asked about expanding its retail presence in the offline market, Sharma said the brand will continue to be online-exclusive for the time being.

"Offline market is important in the Indian consumer space. To expand into that, we need to be a bit more established and have coverage with regards to price bands and product offerings before we consider going offline."

Unlike rival Realme, which also emerged from being a sub-brand but grew exponentially in just three years to establish itself independently as India's number fourth and world's number sixth, Poco is yet to make that mark.

"I think Poco needs to have a clear reason for existence," said Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst at TechArc. "Its phones are as good as its parent brand Xiaomi, its channel strategy is also the same, and so is the target audience. It's not like Realme from the BBK stack, which was for say online initially."

World's supply of chips is in danger unless Taiwan gets vaccines

Back in February, as the world was beating a path to Taiwan's door for help to tackle a shortage of semiconductors, the health minister got into a scrap with China over Covid-19 vaccines.

Beijing, he suggested, had used political pressure to derail Taiwan's plan to purchase five million doses directly from Germany's BioNTech SE, rather than via a Chinese company which held the rights to develop and market the BioNTech-Pfizer Inc. vaccine across China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying retorted that Taipei "should stop hyping up political issues under the pretext of vaccine issues."

Three months later, Taiwan is paying the price for a lack of vaccines, with a surge in virus cases that threatens to trigger a lockdown. Having successfully sidestepped the first Covid wave, the government now faces a health emergency -- only about 1% of its population is vaccinated so far -- with the potential to disrupt the chip industry that dominates the local economy, and which is critical to an already-squeezed global supply.

That's a link made by the head of Taiwan's office in New York, who warned of "logistical problems" without access to more shots. Yet by shunning vaccines from China and warning of more chip shortages if it can't source enough doses elsewhere, the government is giving even greater incentive to the world's biggest economies to make investments that may erode Taiwan's competitive edge in semiconductors over the long term.

Taiwan's predicament illustrates its strategic yet vulnerable position at the confluence of U.S.-China tensions. Separated by a 110 mile (177 kilometer)-wide strait, Taiwan is regarded as a province by Beijing and its conquest is President Xi Jinping's key goal for historical and ideological reasons. The U.S. is an ally of Taipei's democratic government and a big buyer of its exports, dominated by chips produced by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

The onset late last year of chip shortages that have hobbled industries from autos to computer gaming had looked to give Taipei global leverage. TSMC is the world's leading provider of cutting-edge semiconductors and holds 56% of the so-called foundry business of manufacturing chips designed by customers including Apple Inc. and Qualcomm Inc.

But Taiwan has suffered a sudden reversal of fortunes. The pandemic comes just as a drought triggers power outages, stoking economic uncertainty and a slump in what was the world's best performing stock index in the four years to January.

What's more, the very source of Taiwan's recent geopolitical clout -- its dominance of the market for cutting-edge chips -- is under attack as governments from the U.S. to Europe and Japan, alerted to the strategic nature of the semiconductor supply chain, seek to spur production at home. China is pumping billions into catching up after Washington imposed export controls on U.S. chip technology.

"I think we've become too dependent on Taiwan and Korea, that's the point, we need a more balanced global supply chain," Pat Gelsinger, chief executive officer of Silicon Valley's Intel Corp., the world's biggest chipmaker, said in an interview. The U.S. and Europe should act "more aggressively" to counter the "imbalance" of Asia's lead in manufacturing semiconductors that are mostly consumed in the west, he said.

Intel is a rival and plans to challenge TSMC at the cutting edge, but Gelsinger isn't the only voice making for uncomfortable listening in Taiwan. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said this month that while the Biden administration is working with Taipei and TSMC to address the chip shortage, it's also looking to reduce U.S. dependence on Taiwan. TSMC is in the process of building a new fabrication facility in the U.S.

Some in Washington have suggested that Taiwan is a backdoor to China by enabling tech transfers. Republicans Michael McCaul and Tom Cotton have called on the administration to engage with Taipei to do more to "mitigate the risk of Taiwanese companies providing services and technologies to entities of concern," a reference to Chinese state-backed companies with links to the military.

With the prospect of some $50 billion in government funding to build out chip making in the U.S. and the promise of still more in Europe and South Korea, there are signs that Taiwan is starting to feel the heat.

The government is working to draft a new export control list targeting technologies with military use, to tighten curbs on exports to China and raise the penalty for violations, according to a person familiar with the issue who asked not to be named discussing policy deliberations.

That's after Alchip Technologies Ltd's stock took a beating in April when the Washington Post reported that it supplied chips to Phytium, a People's Liberation Army-affiliated entity. Alchip said it has always been in compliance with government regulations and that Phytium projects were on hold.

Taipei has become more alert to the possibility of Chinese companies ramping up efforts to recruit Taiwanese engineers. Last month the Cabinet met to discuss how to prevent the outflow of local talent, with the Ministry of Labor instructing local job-search websites to remove ads recruiting Taiwanese citizens to work for China, particularly in the semiconductor industry.

Companies and headhunters can be fined as much as NT$500,000 ($17,900) for advertising such jobs and NT$5 million for facilitating local engineers' employment with Chinese companies on the mainland, ministry official Huang Chiao-ting said. Job search site 1111 said it has removed close to 3,000 job listings. Investigators have visited the local offices of four Chinese companies, including Bitmain Technologies Ltd, within the last two months to look into allegations they recruited engineers illegally.

"By more aggressively investigating Chinese companies' efforts to poach Taiwanese engineers, we hope we can help prevent potential trade secrets leaking to China should local talent get hired away," said Judy Chen, a spokeswoman for the Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office. She declined to name the other companies probed.

Members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are considering amending the law to boost penalties for intellectual property theft. Lawmaker Chao Tien-lin is proposing life sentences for those found guilty of economic espionage, a crime not currently on the statute books in Taiwan.

"Taiwan needs to win trust from its partners and help prevent China from building a supply chain from stolen technology," Chao said in comments provided by his assistant.

Whether it's enough to allay concerns in Washington may become clearer with the publication of President Joe Biden's review of the semiconductor supply chain. The 100 day review is due to conclude on June 4. What's already known is that there is bipartisan support to build U.S. chip making, and Taiwan is in the cross hairs.

"Taiwan dominates semiconductor manufacturing, and one company, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, virtually controls the market," Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican who introduced the CHIPS for America Act to boost U.S. production, said on the Senate floor this month.

The sustainability of Taiwan's industry has also come into question after it suffered power outages this month, focusing attention on environmental factors including water shortages and uncertainty over future electricity supply for power-hungry chip plants.

Dried reservoir bed at the Second Baoshan Reservoir in Hsinchu, April 2021. Photographer: Billy H.C. Kwok/Bloomberg
Taiwan can potentially overcome the virus outbreak as well as the power and water shortages, showing its companies "can still satisfy global demand by manufacturing mostly in Taiwan without any issue," said Arisa Liu, a researcher at the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research.

In the short term that will require vaccines, most likely from Europe or the U.S.

According to Chunhuei Chi, a former health-policy adviser in Taiwan who is now director of the Center for Global Health at Oregon State University, "many politicians in Taiwan urged the Taiwanese government to use microchips as leverage" for vaccines.

While the government is reluctant to use that leverage explicitly, "if the U.S. is concerned about the supply of chips from TSMC, the U.S. would have incentives to provide Taiwan with vaccines to make sure production will not be disrupted by this outbreak," he said.

Netflix in search of executive to oversee gaming expansion: Source

Netflix Inc is looking to hire an executive to oversee its expansion into videogames, a person familiar with the matter said, a sign that it is ramping up efforts to grow beyond its traditional business as streaming competition intensifies.

The move comes at a time when the video gaming industry has benefited from a surge in demand from gamers staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Netflix has experimented with interactive programming in the past with movies such as "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch" and "You vs. Wild" that enabled viewers to decide the characters' moves. It has also created games based on shows "Stranger Things" and "La casa de Papel (Money Heist)".

The Information reported earlier on Friday Netflix had discussed offering a bundle of games similar to Apple's online subscription offering, Apple Arcade, as an option.

While the details of the company's games strategy are still very much in flux, it has decided that the games will not feature advertising, the report said.

Xiaomi Redmi Note series reaches 20 million sales

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has announced that it has sold 200 million Redmi Note phones across the world.

The series has been the maker's bestseller since the arrival of the first Redmi Note in March 2014 and has been the driving force that pushed Xiaomi up to third place in the world, GSMArena reported on Thursday.

The company also announced China will finally get the Note 10 series on May 26, and the country might get a new device as well, according to an official poster on Weibo.

The upcoming smartphone might feature three cameras, lined up vertically.

While it might look like the regular Redmi Note 10 5G, the dual-LED flash is positioned slightly higher, suggesting a different internal design and likely more changes. We'll just have to wait until next week to hear more details, the report said.

While Redmi is preparing for the local launch of the Note 10, its CEO revealed another milestone -- 45.2 million Note 9 phones were sold all over the globe, which is over 20 per cent of the total amount of 200 million sold since 2014.

In the first half of May, Redmi India has unveiled Redmi Note 10S along with its first-ever Redmi Watch in the Indian market.

The smartphone comes in two storage variants -- 6GB+64GB and 6GB+128GB -- at Rs 14,999 and Rs 15,999, respectively.

Ericsson, Nokia contribute to pandemic relief efforts

Companies like telecom gear maker Ericsson and Nokia are contributing in the fight against COVID-19 in India, including through facilitating procurement of medical equipment. Ericsson said it has made an upfront donation to UNICEF which supports the fight against the pandemic across 35 countries, including India.

The company, in a statement, said it is also encouraging employees to make donations to UNICEF until May 31, 2021 and at the end of this period, Ericsson will match the total employee donations.

"With this money, UNICEF will address the immediate need for medical equipment in India," an Ericsson India spokesperson told .

Apart from this, Ercisson India continues to support initiatives such as collecting COVID test samples for testing at designated government labs in Chennai and Pune, and donating personal protection equipment to hospitals and sanitation workers, which the company started last year, the spokesperson said.

When contacted, a Nokia India spokesperson said the company is supporting hospitals and makeshift COVID-19 facilities with medical equipment.

"Nokia has supported various hospitals at multiple locations to augment capacities with makeshift Covid facilities, ICU beds, oxygen plants, ventilator and other critical medical equipment," the spokesperson said.

Telecom gear firm Huawei India has announced plans to facilitate 400 oxygen concentrators, 400 contactless remote vital parameter monitoring devices, 25 HFNC CPAP oxygen therapy systems, and other medical supplies worth Rs 5 crore for public hospitals, makeshift hospitals and other facilities for COVID-19.

The company has also set up an emergency team to handle all COVID-19-related concerns of employees and their dependents and provide them hospitalisation support.

It has arranged for emergency beds with oxygen support in partnership with leading hospitals for employees and their dependents.

Reliance Jio adds up 20 MHz spectrum in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana

Reliance Jio said on Friday that it has successfully implemented additional 20 MHz spectrum across Telangana and Andhra Pradesh to enhance subscriber experience. This would add upto the existing 40 MHz spectrum and enhance the total spectrum availability in the region by 50 per cent, a press release from the company said.

In the recently concluded spectrum auctions conducted by the Department of Telecommunications, Jio acquired 5 MHz of 850MHz band; 5MHz of 1800MHz band; and 10 MHz of 2300 MHz band for Telanganaand Andhra Pradesh.

As on date, Jio has gone ahead with deployment of all the three spectrums across all its sites spread across both the Telugu States. As a result, all the customers in the region would be benefitted with immediate effect and their network experience is bound to improve, Reliance said.

According to the latest Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, Jio has extended its market leadership in both these States with over 3.16 crore mobile subscribers and nearly 40 per cent customer marketshare in the region, said the company.

China could have shut down Australia's 5G network without Huawei ban: report

Canberra (Australia): Much before their diplomatic ties spiraled down, Beijing could have shut down Canberra's 5G network and brought the nation to its knees if Huawei was not banned, a top spy has revealed.

The Australian Signals Directorate spent more than eight months trying to find a way to make the Chinese company's telecommunications equipment acceptably safe but ultimately told the Turnbull government the risk could not be contained satisfactorily, as reported by the Sunday Morning Herald.

According to the Sunday Morning Herald, "Australia was the first country to ban Huawei from its 5G system in 2018, a decision many more have followed. The government of Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to demand that Canberra reverse the veto. It is number two on a list of 14 demands released by the Chinese embassy in Canberra in November as a prerequisite to improving relations. Number one on the list calls for China's foreign investment to be unrestricted."

A senior Australian spy said the main risk was not Chinese spying but that Beijing could order Huawei to disconnect the Australian 5G network altogether. "Here's the thing that most commentators get confused about with 5G, including some of our American friends," the spy told this correspondent for the new book Red Zone, extracted in Saturday's Good Weekend magazine. "It's not about the interception of telephone calls. We've got that problem with 4G, we had it with 3G," as reported by the Sunday Morning Herald.

The official said the real problem was that Beijing could order Huawei or the other major Chinese telecoms gear maker, ZTE, "to switch things off, and that disrupts the country - elements of it, or the whole country. That's why you've got to be concerned.

"The sewerage pump stops working. Clean water doesn't come to you. You can imagine the social implications of that. Or the public transport network doesn't work. Or electric cars that are self-driving don't work. And that has implications for society, implications for the economy."

For these reasons, he said, the 5G network would be "No.1 on our critical infrastructure list" in need of protection once it was fully operational.

Huawei has always insisted that if so ordered by China's authorities, it would never comply. The prime minister who made the 2018 decision, Malcolm Turnbull, did not believe the company: "One thing you know - if the Chinese Communist Party called on Huawei to act against Australia's interests, it would have to do it," he said in an interview for the book. "Huawei says, 'Oh no, we would refuse.' That's laughable. They would have no option but to comply."

Beijing passed a 2017 law that requires all companies, private as well as publicly owned, to co-operate with the Chinese government on any national security matter.

But before banning Huawei, Turnbull tried to find a way to make it acceptable: "I went back and forth with Mike Burgess [then head of the ASD and now ASIO's director-general of security], pressing him to find an effective means of mitigating the risk.

"I would have preferred to have all vendors available in Australia, but not at the expense of security."

Burgess assembled a crack team of the ASD's best hackers, a Red Team tasked to act as Beijing. They were told to use Huawei against Australia.

The vulnerabilities they exposed formed the basis for the protection measures the ASD compiled, as reported by the Sunday Morning Herald.

Burgess and his staff brought the full list of more than 300 measures to Turnbull on A3 sheets of paper. They included that Australia would need to have full and sole access to the source code, full access to hardware schematics and that updates should only be done in Australia.

But even then, ASD advised, the risk of the shutdown could not be fully mitigated.

Nvidia sets 4-for-1 stock split, shares rise

Nvidia Corp on Friday announced a four-for-one stock split as it looks to make its stock less expensive for investors, sending the chipmaker's shares up 3%.

The company's stock, which was last up at over $600 in premarket trading, has gained nearly 12% this year after its value more than doubled in 2020.

Stock splits can potentially attract retail investors who make small trades. However, as brokerages increasingly allow customers to buy parts of shares, the benefit of share splits appears to have diluted over time.

Apple split its stock 4-for-1, while electric carmaker Tesla split its stock 5-for-1 last year, with both companies saying they aimed to make their shares more affordable to individual investors.

Santa Clara, California-based Nvidia said stock holders of record on July 21 would receive dividend of three additional shares after the close of trading on July 19, with the stock trading on a split-adjusted basis beginning July 20.

The announced split will require stockholder approval at the company's annual meeting in June.

BMO investment arm sold Microsoft shares over U.S. Army headset

A responsible-investment arm of Canada's Bank of Montreal sold roughly $275 million worth of Microsoft Corp shares because of the company's recent U.S. Army contract for augmented reality headsets, a bank spokesman said on Friday.

BMO's responsible investment managers worried that the $22 billion Army contract Microsoft won in March moves the technology from a proof-of-concept phase to a battlefield-ready product outside its investment strategies' mandate, BMO representatives said.

The contract "sits at odds with our central investment philosophy to avoid companies with damaging businesses practices, and we class bespoke military equipment as one component of our avoid criteria," Jamie Jenkins, head of the Responsible Global Equities team at BMO, said in an e-mailed statement.

Microsoft representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many traditional socially focused investment funds bar ownership of defense contractors or companies involved in areas like alcohol or gambling. BMO's move shows how such prohibitions can extend to technology companies doing business with government agencies.

On Tuesday, Inc indefinitely extended a moratorium it imposed last year on police use of its facial recognition software due to civil rights concerns.

Over the past two years, Microsoft has worked with the Army on the prototyping phase of what is called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. The project is based on Microsoft's HoloLens product and backed by the Azure cloud computing services. In March the company said the Army had moved into the production phase of the project.

BMO will continue to own Microsoft in traditional investment strategies not bound to social-investing strategies, a spokesman said.

A deal by BMO to sell its European asset-management business to Ameriprise Financial Inc for $1.1 billion remains on track to close in the fourth quarter, the BMO spokesman said.

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