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Samsung has fixed Galaxy Fold, but it’s not yet ready for most: Here’s why

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Samsung Electronic Co.’s Galaxy Fold is no longer a $1,980 (Rs 1,64,999) brick. Six months after launching a device with a strange screen protector and a tendency to crack, the South Korean-technology giant is back with a much-improved product. It’s still not ready for most consumers, though.


The screen protector is now under a plastic rim so it’s essentially impossible to remove. That should prevent the cracks that doomed the original Fold. There are also new caps at the top and bottom of the hinge to stop debris getting into the display. With the previous model, dust and other gunk sometimes caused the screen to bubble up and break. The hinge – the mechanism that lets users open and shut the phone – also seems slightly stronger.



The inner screen opens up to become a tablet about 7 inches in size. There’s also a 4-inch outer screen that is mostly used for quickly replying to messages, and handling phone calls. The external screen works well for dialing numbers and accepting calls, but it’s too cramped for most other tasks.


The larger screen inside, however, is compelling. Being able to have a tablet-sized screen in your pocket makes the Galaxy Fold one of the best smartphones for watching video. It’s an excellent YouTube machine. You can also pin multiple apps on the screen at once, so it’s easy to watch video, text and browse the web at the same time.


The operating system lets you slice up the screen in inventive and useful ways. One app can take up the whole of the left side of the screen, while another app takes up the top right area, with a third filling in the remaining bottom right of the display. You can also add several small “pop up view” apps that float around the screen, although this starts getting confusing and messy with more than three or four apps.


There are still drawbacks with the folding display, though. In very bright environments, it’s harder to see. And the crease that runs down the center of the screen shows up when you’re viewing something dark. And one issue from the first model remains: The screen can pick up dents from fingernails. Over several months or a year of use, that’s likely to bother customers. Samsung has said this is an inherent characteristic of its foldable phone design and offers a $149.99 screen replacement within the first year.


The Fold is not water or dust resistant, practical features that most high-end smartphones offer these days. And if it’s near a magnet, the screen sometimes switches off. The box is loaded up with warnings, such as being careful with the screen.


Rather than a polished device for the masses, the Fold seems to be a showcase for Samsung’s vision of the future of mobile computing. More of a “beta” test product, not a blockbuster. The company is already working on future versions of the Fold that will hopefully be cheaper, sturdier and have a much better external screen.





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Now, ask Alexa to pay utility bills as Amazon adds voice-based feature

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In yet another step towards making online buying and other services completely voiced-based and hinged on its virtual assistant Alexa, Amazon on Wednesday announced that users in India can now pay their utility bills with Amazon Pay just by voice commands.


This new Alexa feature supports payment of bills across categories such as electricity, water, post-paid mobile, cooking gas, broadband and DTH among other utility payments. “Users of Amazon Echo, Fire TV Stick and other devices with Alexa built-in can just say commands such as ‘Alexa, pay my mobile bill’ or ‘Alexa, pay my electricity bill’ to get started,” the company said.



For existing Amazon Pay users, Alexa will retrieve the amount due for bills from their registered Amazon account and ask for customer confirmation before processing the payment. Customers can enable a voice pin on the Alexa app to make transactions more secure. Once approved, Alexa will complete the transaction using Amazon Pay, and send a notification to the customer’s registered mobile phone number, confirming the transaction. For new Amazon Pay customers, Alexa will send a link to register their bill details on the Amazon shopping app before proceeding with bill payment.


In addition to making payments, customers can ask Alexa the balance in the wallet and also command it to top it up from a bank account linked to Amazon Pay. This new feature on Alexa will further help in reducing payment friction as customers will be able to complete their payment transactions with just their voice command.


“This new integration of Amazon Pay with Alexa will help reduce both time and effort for customers who use Amazon Pay for bill payments and repeat similar transactions every month. We are also excited to share that this is an India-first feature which Alexa customers in India can enjoy before any other international customers,” Puneesh Kumar, Country Manager for Alexa Experiences and Devices, Amazon India said.


The company last month announced that Alexa can now speak in Hindi. Going forward it is planning to launch its voice assistant in a host of other Indian languages. Taking the competition to Google Assistant, Amazon is ramping up the usage of Alexa in India by tying up with speaker manufacturers, mobile phone companies to make Alexa the primary voice assistant on devices.


At the moment Alexa knows 500 skills in Hindi. In English Alexa can perform over 30,000 tasks. “Amazon Pay’s integration with Alexa will enable customers to use digital payments for their daily use cases making it hassle-free and swift. Paying of bills such as electricity, water, post-paid mobile, cooking gas, DTH and more will become seamless with just one voice command,” Mahendra Nerurkar, Director, Amazon Pay said.




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Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro India launch today at 12 PM: Expected specs, & more

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Chinese electronics manufacturer Xiaomi is set to launch the Redmi Note 8 Pro in India on October 16. Successor to the Redmi Note 7 Pro, the phone would bring several new upgrades, including a 64-megapixel sensor-based quad rear camera set-up, MediaTek Helio G90T mobile processor and fast charging support. Apart from the phone, Xiaomi is also expected to announce its next iteration of Android operating system-based user interface, the MIUI 11.


Redmi Note 8 Pro specifications



The Redmi Note 8 Pro boasts a glass build with Gorilla Glass 5 protection on the front and back. On the front, the phone has a 6.53-inch dot-shaped notch screen of fullHD+ (2340 x 1080p) resolution. The HDR-ready screen has anti-oil and anti-fingerprint coating for protection against smudges. Powering the phone is MediaTek Helio G90T system-on-chip, which is a midrange mobile processor aimed at gaming-centric smartphones. Though the phone’s Chinese version is powered by Android 9 Pie operating system-based MIUI 10 user interface, there are chances that the Redmi Note 8 Pro Indian version would boot the MIUI 11.


Imaging is covered by a quad camera set-up on the back, featuring a 64-megapixel primary sensor with an f/1.89 aperture, an 8MP ultra-wide angle sensor of an f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree field of view (FoV), a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor. On the front, the phone has a 20MP sensor of an f/2.0 aperture.


Powering the phone is a 4,500 mAh battery, which supports 18W fast charging through supplied charger. The phone has USB type-C port for charging and data transfers, and a 3.5mm port for audio out. The phone’s Chinese variant comes with 6GB RAM and up to 128GB internal storage. However, the Indian variant is likely to get different RAM and storage configurations.





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Realme Buds 2 review: Budget earphones with impressive design, audio output

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Earlier this year, Realme decided to bet on an otherwise fading world of wired earbuds and introduced the Realme Buds. Expanding the portfolio, the company has now launched the second iteration of its wired earphones, the Realme Buds 2, which offers additional features, better build quality and improved audio output while keeping the price in the same ballpark. Let’s take a look at what this new pair of earphones offers:


Design and build quality



Realme Buds 2 has a great build quality, especially considering the price tag of Rs 599. The earphones use a 3.55 mm jack and have your regular three-button remote with a microphone that allows you to answer calls and change songs on your smartphone. But where it gets even better is the Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)-braided cable below the Y-splitter which should give it additional durability. There is also a yellow rubber clip to help you keep the cables in an organised manner. The earbuds have a magnetic casing that allows you to hang it around your neck when idle. The earbuds feel comfortable and fit nicely. And even if it doesn’t, you have some additional silicon earbuds in the box. Take your pick. Look-wise, the earbuds’ yellow-and-black colour scheme is classic. And it’s not just the earbuds. Realme has taken great care of the product’s packaging, and it shows during the unpacking.


Performance


The earbuds have two 11.2 mm drivers, each with 32ohm impedance rating and 108dB sensitivity rating. True to its tagline ‘feel the real bass’, the earphones has an elevated bass response, sometimes to the point of being overpowering. I doubt you’ll ever need to crank it up to the top volume. Despite that, the overall sound output is quite crisp and clean at all levels with sharp vocals. The passive noise cancellation facility isn’t just a buzzword and you can actually rely on the earbuds to help you through a crowded commute. However, there’s a fair bit of cable noise. Another issue that my voice wasn’t always clear enough to the person on the other end when I used the mic for calls.


Verdict


Despite a few issues, Realme Buds 2 does most of the things rights. Its TPU-braided cable, magnetic feature, and even the overall sound quality are definitely of the breed of those found in earbuds priced at the higher end of the price range. At Rs 599, the Realme Buds 2 are a steal and make a great buy.




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