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Apple to delay launch of 4-inch iPhone SE in India

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New Delhi: Apple lovers started pre-ordering their 4-inch iPhone SE or 9.7-inch iPad Pro devices from Thursday (the device will start shipping to them from March 31). However, experts here are disappointed as India – touted as an emerging market for the smallest and “cheapest” iPhone SE – will only start to see the first device by April 8.

Billed as a trendsetter for the smartphone market in India, at $399 (US pricing), the device will be available in India for Rs.39,000 (retail price) which is within a premium segment in India for smartphones so the question of it being the cheapest iPhone ever does not hold any truth.

The first big disappointment is that although the smartphone has been designed for the emerging markets, it has not been made available in the first round in the fastest growing and one of the largest emerging markets – India.

“By making it available in the first round itself in the country, Apple could have indicated that the Indian market is high on its priority list. Though the company had mentioned about the significance of the India market for it, not including it in the list of the countries where iPhone SE would be made available first is definitely a big turn off,” says Faisal Kawoosa, lead analyst with CyberMedia Research (CMR), a market research firm.

The 64 GB version of the phone will come at $499 while the 16 GB model will cost users $399 (US price).

It will be available in four colours including sleek rose gold, the company announced during its special “spring lineup” at the packed auditorium at its Cupertino, California-based headquarters, earlier this week.

The iPhone SE is a mix between the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 generations of devices with size and design of iPhone 5S and the specs and capabilities of the iPhone 6S.

“Fundamentally, iPhone still remains a premium segment phone in India even with SE launch and now it would be available through the continuum of the premium range of smartphones. In India, smartphones above Rs 30,000 contribute just a little over three percent to the market,” Kawoosa told reporters.

The iPhone will have a 64-bit A9 processor and M9 motion co-processor. The camera is also carried over from the 6S; it is the same 12-megapixel iSight camera with a true tone flash.

With its new image signal processor, it has the ability to shoot Panorama up to 63MP, 4K video (1080p up to 60 fps) and slo-mo up to 240 fps.

The phone is claimed to have an improved battery life, Bluetooth 4.2 and new microphones.

But the truth is: India is a phablet-obsessed nation and 46 percent of the smartphones sold in the country have a screen size of five-inch or above.

In the price range Rs.30,000-Rs.40,000, iPhone 4SE will be competing with phablets which contribute over 60 percent of the smartphones market.

“In such a scenario, just positioning it as the ‘most powerful 4 inch Smartphone’ won’t work alone. After all, size does matter, at least for India,” the CMR analyst noted.

However, according to Anshul Gupta, research director at global market research firm Gartner, iPhone SE will help Apple broaden their market segment in the country.

“Users will be able to buy a phone with latest features which is very different from buying an older version at a lower price. I think this will appeal more people to buy an Apple phone who otherwise couldn’t afford their flagship phone,” he said.

“This will make the market more competitive at that price point as Apple is preparing to take more share,” Gupta added.

Beetel Teletech Limited, a subsidiary of US-based Brightstar Corporation, will make available iPhone SE in India beginning April 8.

“Pre-orders open on March 29 at 12:01am,” a company statement said, adding that the phone will be available at over 3,500 retail locations across India.

“For India to really become an Apple market, we will have to wait for a couple of years with the increased uptake of the premium segment in the country,” Kawoosa predicted.

In 2015, there was a 53 percent rise in the premium segment smartphone market in India.

“For 2016, we expect Apple missing the five-million mark even with the iPhone SE push,” he added.

Apple has also launched a new lightweight 9.7-inch iPad Pro which is touted as 40 percent less reflective than an iPad Air 2. (Nishant Arora, IANS)

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Google Home: Your best friend who instantly heeds commands

At this price point, Google Home is a good choice as it saves time while performing some key daily tasks for you

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Google Home.

“OK Google, wake me up at 8 a.m. and book an appointment with the hair stylist at 10 a.m.,” went the instruction to Google Home — the voice-activated speaker powered by Google Assistant.

“Sure, your alarm is set for 8 a.m. and the appointment has been fixed for 10 a.m.,” came the instant reply from Google Assistant — the new lady in my home who, according to senior company executives, has received over 4.5 lakh marriage proposals from India.

The logo of Google

Following the launch of “Amazon Echo” smart speaker in India last year, Google has now brought its “Home” speaker range to the country. Google Home and Home Mini speakers — priced at Rs 9,999 and Rs 4,499, respectively — can help people with their commute, play their favourite songs and videos, plan their daily schedule and lots more.

Let’s see how Google Home fares in the Indian context.

The speaker is capable of understanding the thick Indian accent thanks to two microphones on either side of the LED lights that light up when the device recognises the opening “OK Google” voice command. The two microphones utilise the neural beam forming technique to enable accurate voice recognition. The curves of the device resemble a wine glass. The lower part holds the speakers and the upper part is the main body with the touch-sensitive top.

When the volume is increased or decreased, the device responds with the shimmering ivory-coloured light ring.

Google has trained the Assistant in English and has promised Hindi support later this year.”Play ‘Firestone’ by KYGO,” went another voice command and lo! the device checked the Google Play music subscription — the company is giving six-month free Google Play music subscription when you buy the device — and instantly played the song.

The device also works with music streaming platforms like Saavn and Gaana. The music output was good for a medium-sized room. “OK, Google, play Arijit Singh songs.” She returned with the hit number “Enna sona kyun rab ne banaya”.

If you want to chat or listen to her in an another room, pair another Home device or a Bluetooth speaker with Chromecast support. Another option is to attach a Chromecast Audio device to a speaker. Google Assistant told us the correct score of Delhi Daredevils while it chased the Mumbai Indians’ total in one of the IPL matches.

However, to a question on happenings in Syria, she played a 30-second news bulletin from BBC News. Google has simulated hundreds of thousands of noisy environments and applied Machine Learning (ML) to recognise patterns that allow it to filter and separate speech from noise. Google Assistant understands several languages and can translates sentences into Spanish, French and more.

Also Read: Google Will Take Action If Apps Violate Its Policies

Not only multimedia, Google Home can also control smart devices such as connected Internet of Things (IoT) device “Philips Hue” in your drawing room. We set up Google Home to control a light bulb which was connected via “Philips Hue”. We asked the device to dim, turn off and turn on the light and got the desired results.

What didn’t work?

While playing music, Google Home at times did not receive the command in one go. We had to raise our voice twice or sometimes thrice to get the command through the noisy environment. One important takeaway: Never keep your Google Assistant-enabled smartphone near Home device as the voice command does wake up Assistant in the smartphone too and could ruin the whole experience.

Conclusion: At this price point, Google Home is a good choice as it saves time while performing some key daily tasks for you. It is not the replacement of your better half yet, but does help you with daily chores. Take it home. IANS