De Beers: Women Self-Purchasing More Diamonds

RAPAPORT… Millennials are increasingly buying diamond jewelry for themselves, helping drive retail sales in the US to record levels, according to research by De Beers.

Sales of bridal jewelry have been stable in markets where there is a tradition of giving engagement rings, but other types of jewelry offer the greatest growth opportunity among millennials, the company explained Friday in an insight report. De Beers figures showed that self-purchasing by US millennials accounted for 31% of all non-bridal sales in 2015, compared with 25% in 2013.

“American consumers continue to express strong desire for diamonds, but their purchasing habits are changing rapidly,” said De Beers CEO Bruce Cleaver. “While bridal diamond jewelry remains fundamental, we are seeing both single and married women buying for themselves more frequently and more purchases being made online. Meanwhile, products such as multi-diamond jewelry are becoming more popular.”

The bridal sector constitutes 28% of the US market, and gifting for married women makes up another 37%, showing that these more traditional areas are still the backbone of the industry, De Beers pointed out. However, single women’s spending on diamond jewelry jumped 20% in the US between 2013 and 2015, and with American marriage rates at historic lows, that sales demographic is expected to gain importance, the company added.

Overall US diamond-jewelry demand increased 4.4% to $41 billion in 2016 — the first time that figure exceeded $40 billion — driven by a stable economic environment, job creation, wage growth and improved consumer confidence, the report said. Global demand crept up 0.3% to $80 billion.

The positive data mirrors a report from last week by consultancy firm Bain & Company, which predicted the global luxury market for personal luxury goods would increase 2% to 4% this year to between $287 billion (EUR 254 billion) and $292 billion (EUR 259 billion). However, it added, much of this growth will come from economic recoveries in China and Europe, with the US luxury market hampered by a strong dollar, political uncertainty and weak department-store performance.

Correction, June 8, 2017: De Beers released its new research in a “Diamond Insight” publication on Friday, and not in its annual “Insight Report,” as previously stated.

More people are buying diamonds for themselves as global sales bounce back

Shoppers are increasingly treating themselves to diamond jewellery, rather than buying it for others – helping push the global market back into growth.

Worldwide diamond sales hit $80bn (£62bn) in 2016, according to industry leader De Beers, reversing a dip the year before when demand from China and India slumped.

Global sales were bolstered by rising demand in the US, the world’s biggest diamond market, which accounts for 50pc of all polished stones.

Stephen Lussier, marketing director of De Beers, said that one-third of all sales in the US were now down to “self-purchase”, up from around a quarter before 2008.

“Gift-giving is still the foundation of sales, but there is a trend of economically empowered women buying diamond jewellery for themselves,” Mr Lussier said.

This is split across younger, “millennial” shoppers – those born after 1980 – and married women, according to De Beers.

jewellers
US diamond retail sales recorded their fifth straight year of growth

The increasing popularity of designer jewellery, such as “stackable” diamond rings, was also driving self-purchase, Mr Lussier added. “It’s very hard for men to buy design-oriented jewellery because we get it wrong. We can buy the classical cuts but women are more particular about designer jewellery.”

Diamond jewellery sales in India slumped 8.8pc last year after the local market was hit by a six-week jewellers’ strike and a surprise demonisation programme launched by the government.

The removal of high-denomination banknotes in a crackdown on the black market rocked the local diamond industry, which is largely cash driven. Although India only accounts for 6pc of global retail sales, it is responsible for around 90pc of the world’s diamond cutting and polishing.

Mr Lussier said the world diamond market was looking “pretty steady” this year, with India bouncing back more quickly than expected, and sales rising in China.

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone's Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New products at CES 2017 dominated the news this week
  • Nokia 6 launch on Sunday stole CES’ thunder a little bit
  • Vodafone now has a Rs. 499 unlimited calling postpaid plan

Predictably, CES 2017 dominated tech news this week with a range of exciting launches and demos, but just as we were putting the finishing touches to this piece, another launch grabbed the headlines. HMD Global, the new custodians of the Nokia brand, announced the launch of Nokia 6, a phone that runs Android 7.0 out of the box.

The Nokia 6 has a 5.5-inch full-HD display wrapped in 2.5D Gorilla Glass. The smartphone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 SoC alongside 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. The Nokia 6 is a dual SIM smartphone that is backed by a 3000mAh non-removable battery. See full specifications of the Nokia 6, which will unfortunately be a China-exclusive smartphone. HMD Global confirmed more Nokia Android phones are coming soon.

Before we get to all the CES launches from this week, let’s take a look at some important stories from closer home. Vodafone is taking the battle to Reliance Jio and Airtel with the launch of a new postpaid plan that offers unlimited calling, and 3GB of 4G data each month. The revamped Vodafone Red postpaid plans come soon after Airtel started offering 3GB of free mobile data per month to prepaid and postpaid customers switching to its 4G network.

Nokia 6, Asus ZenFone AR and Other CES 2017 Launches, Vodafone's Rs. 499 Plan, More News This Week

Friday saw the launch of the Samsung Galaxy J1 (4G) in India – the same phone was launched in Russia in March last year, after quietly making its way to Dubai in January. In both those markets, it was sold as the Samsung Galaxy J1 (2016). This is an entry level phone from Samsung, priced at Rs. 6,890.

From CES, one of the highlights was the launch of the Asus ZenFone AR, the first smartphone with 8GB of RAM. It also come with support for Google’s Tango augmented reality programme and DayDream virtual reality software. Asus ZenFone AR, like the other Tango device – the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro – is designed around machine vision with a camera and sensor setup that provides motion tracking, depth perception, and area learning.

In addition to the ZenFone AR, Also also unveiled the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom camera smartphone with 5000mAh battery at the event. The phone has dual rear cameras and offers 2.3x optical zoom.

Samsung used CES to showcase the new A (2017) smartphones launched earlier this week. The Galaxy A3 (2017), Galaxy A5 (2017), Galaxy A7 (2017) sport “enhanced” cameras compared to their predecessors, optimised for low-light conditions.

Later, pricing of the two of the new Samsung phones came to light as well.

LG also unveiled its K-series phones on the CES floor – the range covers the LG K3 (2017), LG K4 (2017), LG K8 (2017), and the LG K10 (2017).

LG also showed the LG Stylus 3. The South Korean company says that the new 2017 variants of the LG K3, K4, K8, K10 smartphones, and the Stylus 3 will strengthen its portfolio in the mid-range segment.

At its CES 2017 event, Xiaomi unveiled the latest Mi TV 4 and Mi Router HD, apart from announcing a brand new White colour variant of the Mi MIX smartphone. All the Xiaomi CES 2017 devices will be available later this year in China. Slimmer than an iPhone 7, the Mi TV 4 is the company’s thinnest TV to date.

The Xiaomi Mi MIX was unveiled as a limited edition concept smartphone, made in collaboration with French designer Philippe Stark, in October last year, and it will go on sale later this year.

Chipmaker Qualcomm finally took the wraps off its Snapdragon 835 SoC. Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 packs an Adreno 540 GPU, and is 30 percent smaller than the Snapdragon 820. The first 10nm chip by Qualcomm comes with longer battery life and will enable thinner designs.

Nvidia launched a new version of its Shield Android TV, called just Shield, at CES 2017. It comes with Google Assistant integration and supports 4K HDR. The new Nvidia Shield will cost $199 (roughly Rs. 13,200) but the company has not announced the availability of the device yet. It will be the first Android TV with Google’s Assistant, but others will follow, and it will come to other platforms over time.

There were also a lot of laptop launches at CES – Dell launched a range of products including a Latitude 2-in-1 business laptop, XPS 13 2-in-1, as well as new Alienware and Inspiron 7000 Gaming laptops. It also launched the new XPS 15 laptop, a Rose Gold variant of the XPS 13, and the XPS 27 AIO.

Asus launched the ZenBook 3 Deluxe UX490UA, and unveiled a new, slimmed-down business laptop, along with a VR-ready compact PC.

LG launched its new Gram 14 laptop, which it claims offers a battery life of around 24 hours. However, the benchmark test used by the company for this claim has turned out to be a 10-year old measurement tool. LG’s new Gram 14 laptop weighs around 980 grams, and is powered by Intel’s latest Kaby Lake processors. It comes with up to 16GB of RAM and houses up to 512GB of SSD storage.

Toshiba expanded its Portege laptop portfolio to launch a 2-in-1 offering – Portege X20W – pricing details of the 2-in-1 have not been announced yet. The Portege X20W convertible’s main highlight is touted to be its 16-hour battery life. Meanwhile, HP unveiled the refreshed EliteBook x360, a 15.6-inch Spectre x360, alongside the new Envy Curved AIO 34, the new Sprout Pro by HP, and Omen X 35 Curved Display.

Lenovo refreshed the ThinkPad X1 line, launching a host of products under its portfolio including the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, ThinkPad X1 Yoga, ThinkPad X1 Tablet, Miix 720, Lenovo Active Pen 2, Lenovo Legion Y720 Laptop, Lenovo Legion Y520 Laptop, Lenovo Smart Assistant, Lenovo Smart Assistant Harman Kardon Edition, Lenovo Smart Storage, Lenovo 500 Multimedia Controller, and Lenovo New Glass C200.

Asus also showed the Chromebook Flip C302 2-in-1 convertible, a high-end Chromebook. Samsung unveiled a Chromebook with stylus support, while Acer showed off a rugged Chromebook, targeted at classrooms.

Dell also launched a range of new gaming laptops in its Alienware and Inspiron lines, and Lenovo showed its range of Legion gaming laptops, and also a new VR headset, which will work with Microsoft’s Windows Holographic Program. Samsung also showcased a new gaming laptop, the Notebook Odyssey. The most jaw-dropping of the lot though was probably Razer’s Project Valerie concept laptop, which comes with three 4K displays, for “total immersion gaming”.

On the audio front, JBL launched the Pulse 3, Flip 4, Playlist, and BassPro Go speakers; Sennheiser unveiled wireless headphones and recording earbuds; Sony showed Google-Home friendly soundboards, along with new headphones and speakers; and LG announced a Dolby Atmos capable soundbar.

As usual, CES also saw a number of wearables being launched – some of the highlights were the Misfit Vapor, the Casio WSD-F20 rugged Android Wear watch, and the Motiv fitness ring, which comes with a heart rate sensor. There were a few VR related announcements for new accessories from HTC Vive, while the other products are still works in progress.

Outside of CES, we had two more launches in India this week. We saw the launch of the Xolo Era 2X – the 2GB RAM variant has been priced at Rs. 6,666 while the 3GB RAM variant has been priced at Rs. 7,499. It replaces the Xolo Era 1X, which launched with a price tag of Rs. 4,999 last year. Other than this, we had the launch of the Sennheiser HD 200 PRO closed-backover-ear headphones in India, priced at Rs. 6,490.

Besides this, TRAI released a consultation paper on net neutrality – you have till February 15 to send in your responses to the regulator on this important issue.

Paytm also announced an interesting development this week – it’s finally received approval to launch its payments bank – the actual rollout will still take a little time, but it’s expected in the coming months. Paytm had earlier announced that it’s going to merge its Wallet and Payments Bank, so your wallet balance will automatically become your bank balance.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai visited India this week, and launched new programs to help SMBs go digital. He visited his alma mater IIT-Kharagpur, where he talked to students, and told NDTV’s Vikram Chandra in an interview Google is keen to work on UPI. He also met IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad who says Google should tailor its services to local needs.

These were the highlights of the week for us, let us know via the comments what caught your eye this week.

 

Honor 8 Lite, UberPOOL Ola Share Ban, Reliance Jio Playing by Rules, and More: Your 360 Daily

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Stop using Windows XP or Vista by end of the year to continue using Gmail
  • LG’s Android Wear smartwatches priced close to Apple Watches
  • PS, Xbox piracy forums hacked, user details out in the open

Globally, carpooling is seen as a viable solution for semi-public transportation. But a technicality is preventing services like UberPOOL or Ola Share to operate in the state of Karnataka. Today, a day before the deadline for the operators to shut carpooling services, Uber seems to suggest that it is operating within legal bounds with UberPOOL. It will be unfortunate to see this service get disrupted because of an outdated law, as many people we personally know rely on it to get around the city at a reasonable price. Now, we continue with today’s other top stories.

Honor 8 Lite, UberPOOL Ola Share Ban, Reliance Jio Playing by Rules, and More: Your 360 Daily

1) Gmail will stop working on old Chrome browsers, Windows XP and Vista OS
All users of Google Chrome version 53 and below will not be able to use Gmail, the popular email service, by the end of this year. And since the last version released for Windows XP and Vista was Chrome 49, the two ancient operating systems will be affected as a result of this. Users will have to upgrade to the newest Chrome, the most recent being version 55, to continue, and upgrade from an OS newer than XP or Vista.

2) Huawei launches Honor 8 Lite in Finland
Huawei has launched a watered-down version of its popular Honor 8 smartphone. Dubbed the Honor 8 Lite, it comes with a comparatively inferior HiSilicon Kirin 655 SoC (Honor 8 had Kirin 950) and 3GB of RAM instead of 4GB available on the big brother. It does seem to retain the same shiny, slippery glass body of the superior model. Pricing when converted from euros comes to about Rs. 20,000.

3) Reliance Jio free usage plans playing by the rules, says TRAI
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has concluded that Reliance Jio’s free usage plans, which have strongly disrupted the telecom market in India, are compliant with regulations. This was in response to rival operators calling the plans ‘predatory’.

 

4) LG’s upcoming high-end Android Wear smartwatch to cost $349
We have been hearing rumours about LG launching two smartwatches that will run the latest Android Wear 2.0. Today’s rumours suggest that the more expensive of the two will cost $349 (roughly Rs. 23,500), while the other will cost $100 less. Incidentally, the pricing is in line with the Apple Watch Series 2 and Series 1 in the US, respectively. It is also said that the new watches will support Android Pay.

In other smartwatch news, MIT made a smartwatch app that can understand the tone of a conversation. The technology could have some medical applications.

5) YouTube iOS app brings controls to lockscreen, Chrome for Android has new features too
The YouTube app for iOS got an update that got the much-needed playback controls to the lockscreen, when you’re playing videos via a streaming device like a Chromecast.

In other Google product related news, Chrome for Android got many new features too.

6) Apple may use in-house chip inside new MacBook Pro
Apple may be taking small steps to remove the reliance on Intel for its Mac computers. It is rumoured that the company is working on an in-house chip that may not entirely replace Intel Core chips on Macs in the near future, but integrate with it to perform low-end tasks.

7) PlayStation, Xbox piracy forums user data hacked
Popular sites for pirated content playable on the PlayStation and Xbox gaming consoles were hacked, with data of over 2.5 million accounts said to be compromised. Details such as usernames, passwords, IP and email addresses were exposed due to the hack.

iPhone 8 Price, HTC 10 evo Launch, YouTube Go Comes to India, and More: Your 360 Daily Rohan Naravane, 09 February 2017

HIGHLIGHTS

  • It doesn’t seem like the sell-kidney-for-iPhone jokes are going to stop
  • YouTube Go is a dedicated app for watching and sharing videos offline
  • SoftBank loses $300 million in India after investing in Ola, Snapdeal

The world has already had enough of the selling-kidney-to-buy-iPhone jokes, but unfortunately those may not stop, as the high-end variant of the iPhone 8 is said to cost $1,000 (roughly Rs. 68,000) in the US. If true, after all the taxes and duties added, this iPhone SKU might end up costing upwards of Rs. 80,000 in India. One of the reasons cited for the price bump is a switch to OLED displays instead of LCD. Fortunately, this is said to be the pricing of the highest-end model in the lineup, with a cheaper ‘iPhone 7s’ and ‘iPhone 7s Plus’ starting out at the usual $649.

Let’s move on to the remaining top stories of the day.

iPhone 8 Price, HTC 10 evo Launch, YouTube Go Comes to India, and More: Your 360 Daily

1) HTC 10 evo launched in India at Rs. 48,990
The HTC 10 evo is available for sale in the country at a price tag of Rs. 48,990. It’s got a 5.5-inch Quad HD display, water-resistance and comes with Android 7.0 Nougat. What sticks sorely for this otherwise interesting high-end device is the use of the Snapdragon 810 chip from 2015, which was known for notorious heating issues in phones like the Xperia Z3+. We wonder at the response HTC will receive for the product.

2) YouTube Go launched in India for shareable, offline videos
A common sight when using public transport today in India is of people watching videos on their smartphones. To push YouTube adoption without paying for mobile data, the YouTube Go app is a standalone app from Google that lets you download videos and watch them offline later. It also has a convenient ‘send’ and ‘receive’ feature, that allows for transferring downloaded videos to other YouTube Go users locally, without using mobile data.

 

3) Android Wear 2.0 launched with two new LG smartwatches
After a delay of several months, the next major update to Android Wear – dubbed Android Wear 2.0 – is out. Two new watches from LG, namely the LG Watch Style and LG Watch Sport, run this new operating system, while other compatible watches will get the update eventually. Android Wear 2.0 brings the Google Assistant to the wrist, along with other features like the ability to install apps directly on the watch, Android Pay integration, keyboard input, etc. Those LG watches mentioned above are priced at $249 (roughly Rs. 17,000) and $349 (roughly Rs. 24,000) respectively.

4) 170 days after its release, Android Nougat only runs on 1 percent of all Android devices
This should come as no surprise, considering there are many stakeholders in the Android update process. Android 7.0 Nougat, the most recent version of Android, despite being launched almost half a year ago, only runs on 1 percent of active Android devices. Android 5.0 Lollipop, which was out in 2014, is still the most used Android version to date.

5) SoftBank loses $350 million on India investments like Ola, Snapdeal
Japanese company Softbank has reported an investment loss of $350 million (roughly Rs. 2,345 crores) on its investments in India, which include cab-hailing service Ola and e-commerce platform Snapdeal. The Japanese firm has so far invested close to $2 billion in India and earlier this year it stated that it is looking to scale up investments to $10 billion in next 5-10 years.

6) 5G is official now, has its own logo
The 3GPP cellular standards group has officially christened the next generation of wireless communication technology as 5G. The logo has a familiar design as the official 4G logo that came before it. The final specifications of 5G are said to complete by 2018, with the next phase being completed by 2020.

7) Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon argue GST’s tax collection at source provision
At a press conference organised by FICCI on Thursday, the heads of Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal all found common cause as they expressed their worries about the TCS (Tax Collection at Source) provision of the GST (Goods and Services Tax). Under this provision, online marketplaces are responsible for collecting – and paying – taxes on behalf of their sellers. This is something that all three companies, the major players in the e-commerce space in India, are against, as they argue it will hamper the growth of e-commerce.

8) Idea Money Adopts USSD-based digital payments
Idea Cellular today said it has enabled USSD-based platform for shopkeepers and customers to conduct digital transactions using Idea Money service. USSD is mobile short code that enables financial and banking transactions even on feature phones.

Moto G5 Plus India Launch, Airtel Free Roaming, Paytm’s 200 Million Users, and More: Your 360 Daily

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Moto G5 Plus to be launched in India on March 15
  • Airtel ends roaming charges on incoming and outgoing calls
  • Paytm user base hits 200 million, new Paytm Mall app launched

Just a day after the Moto G5 and Moto G5 Plus global launch, Lenovo has sent out invites announcing the India launch date of the latter. The invite says that the Moto G5 Plus will be launched in India on March 15, but there was no mention of the Moto G5 for the domestic market. At the MWC 2017 event, Moto G5 Plus price for the 2GB RAM + 32GB variant was announced as $229 (roughly Rs. 15,300), whereas the 3GB RAM + 32GB model has been priced at $279 (approximately Rs. 19,700). Price of the 4GB RAM + 64GB storage model has not been announced so far.

Moto G5 Plus India Launch, Airtel Free Roaming, Paytm’s 200 Million Users, and More: Your 360 Daily

The new Moto G5 Plus has a 5.2-inch full-HD screen, 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 chipset, microSD card expansion up to 128GB, 12-megapixel rear camera with dual-LED flash, 5-megapixel front camera, 3000mAh battery with TurboPower fast charging technology. On the software side, the Moto G5 Plus runs the Android 7.0 Nougat operating system and supports Google Assistant AI-based digital assistant, along with features such as Moto Display, Moto Actions, Twist, and a new One Button Nav that allows users to navigate the interface using the fingerprint sensor.

But this is not the only launch to get excited about, as MWC 2017 saw a number of smartphones and other devices being announced. Let’s take a look at those, and more, in 360 Daily. For other MWC stories including all the announcements from Nokia, LG, Moto, Samsung, and others, check out our MWC hub.

Oppo unveils 5x Dual Camera Zoom system
At the ongoing MWC 2017, Oppo unveiled its new 5x Dual Camera Zoom system, which features a periscope-style setup that is claimed to kill the need of the camera bump on the back because of its 5.7mm thickness. The 5x Dual Camera Zoom system packs more than 50 parts which have been stacked in a 5.7mm module. Oppo’s new camera zoom system diverts light through a prism into a stabilised telephoto lens set at a 90-degree angle. The new imaging system will make its way to Oppo smartphones later this year.

Airtel announces ‘war on roaming’ with free incoming calls in all circles
Airtel has repealed roaming charges for users for incoming calls outside their home circle, terming this a “war on roaming.” India’s biggest telecom operator also said that it will stop premium charges on outgoing calls while roaming. For international roaming starting April 1 2017, the company will offer customers protection from bill shocks. Call charges have been reduced by up to 90 percent to as low as Rs. 3 per minute on international roaming, while data charges by up to 99 percent to Rs. 3 per MB in popular roaming destinations, Airtel said on Monday.

Paytm Mall app launched for standalone e-commerce services
Paytm has spun off the e-commerce part of its app into a standalone app named Paytm Mall, while the wallet business remains in the main app. The Paytm Mall app features the expected categories, such as electronics, fashion, furnishings, and so on. Cashback offers that were provided on the Paytm app e-commerce transactions till now are offered on the Paytm Mall app. The company also announced today that its user base has crossed the 200 million mark.

 

Lenovo Tab 4 series Android tablets launched
While Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S3 and Galaxy Book were the tablets of note at MWC 2017, Lenovo launched its new Tab 4 series models at the event. The four Lenovo tablets, named Tab 4 8, Tab 4 10, Tab 4 8 Plus, and Tab 4 10 Plus, run Android 7.0 Nougat and offer battery life of up to 12 hours, the company said. The four models are being targeted at both kids and adults, and come with multi-user mode.

The Lenovo Tab 4 8 and Tab 4 10 sport 8-inch and 10.1-inch displays, respectively; both feature HD screens, Snapdragon 425 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and come in 16GB and 32GB storage options. The respective Plus models feature the same screen size but come with Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM.

Samsung Gear VR 2017 edition launched, comes with touch controller
The Samsung Gear VR virtual reality headset received an update at MWC 2017, and it will now come with a VR controller which, Samsung says, makes it easier for the user to interact with VR apps and games. With the controller, users will be able to “point, drag and drop, tilt, shoot, among other actions, while the Trigger allows for enhanced gaming experiences.” The new Gear VR headset has 42mm lenses with 101-degree FOV (Field of View) and “advanced distortion correction technology” to minimise users’ motion sickness.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium, the first phone with Snapdragon 835 processor, launched
Sony surprised one and all with the launch of its Xperia XZ Premium smartphone, the first model with the new Snapdragon 835 chipset. However, while Sony beat Samsung – which has dibs on the new Qualcomm SoC – in announcing the first such smartphone, the new Xperia XZ Premium will not be available for purchase till Spring this year. The new Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a 5.5-inch 4K display, 4GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, up to 256GB microSD card support, 19-megapixel rear camera with the new Motion Eye camera system, 13-megapixel front camera, Android 7.0 Nougat software, and a 3230mAh battery.

This was, however, not the only Sony launch at MWC 2017, as the company also unveiled the Xperia XZs, Xperia XA1 Ultra, and Xperia XA1 smartphones. Along with these, the company also launched the Xperia Touch interactive Android projector that can turn any surface into a touchscreen panel; it will be launched in April.

Gionee A1, A1 Plus selfie phones with big batteries launched
While for most brands selfie phones and big battery phones are two distinct niches, Gionee has gone ahead and combined the two with the new Android Nougat-based Gionee A1 and Gionee A1 Plus smartphones. Launched at MWC 2017, the new Gionee A1 has a 16-megapixel front camera and 40101mAh battery, while the Gionee A1 Plus comes with a 20-megapixel sensor in front and packs a 4550mAh battery.

Gionee A1 has a 5.5-inch full-HD screen, Helio P10 processor, 4GB of RAM, 64GB internal storage, microSD support, 13-megapixel rear camera, and fingerprint sensor on the back. The Gionee A1 Plus has a bigger 6-inch full-HD screen, MediaTek Helio P25 SoC, 4GB of RAM, 64GB inbuilt storage, microSD expansion, and dual 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras on the back.

Disclosure: Paytm’s parent company One97 is an investor in Gadgets 360

Arms, Despicable Me 3, and More – The Weekend Chill

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Arms is available on the Nintendo Switch
  • Despicable Me 3 gets an early theatrical release in India
  • American Gods airs on Amazon Prime Video

Last Friday, Marvel released the first teaser trailer for Black Panther during the fourth game of the NBA Finals. Starring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa aka Black Panther, who reprises his role from Captain America: Civil War, the teaser provides a look at how director Ryan Coogler has dreamed up the technologically-advanced African nation of Wakanda. Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis star alongside. Black Panther opens February 16, 2018.

On Saturday, Star Wars’ John Boyega showed up at EA’s pre-E3 2017 event via a recorded video to announce that Captain Phasma and his character Finn would be present in Star Wars Battlefront II. The game’s multiplayer will span all three eras of Star Wars, and unlike the original, it will have a single-player campaign that will bridge the gap between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Star Wars Battlefront II releases November 17.Arms, Despicable Me 3, and More – The Weekend Chill

Netflix has added two new cast members for the second season of A Series of Unfortunate Events, in Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly) and Tony Hale (Veep, Arrested Development). While Hale’s role is unknown, Fillion will play Lemony Snicket’s (Patrick Warburton) older brother, Jacques Snicket. Production is now underway on the 10-episode second season, with a Q1 2018 scheduled release.

Game of Thrones’ seventh season is just a month away at this point, and HBO’s marketing wheels has given us an official look at the special effects behind the new season. Meanwhile, new promotional images have popped up as well, giving us a look at Bran Stark, Samwell Tarly, Podrick Payne, and Tormund Giantsbane among others.

Thanks to Sony’s PlayStation event at E3 2017, we got an extended look at the upcoming Spider-Man game on Tuesday, which seems to be taking its cues from Batman: Arkham series. There are some stealth-based moments here, followed by a long helicopter chase that stretches Spidey’s capabilities. The game doesn’t have a specific release date, just 2018.

Despite the disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse, Fox is moving forward with a new entry titled X-Men: Dark Phoenix. It has now decided on a director in Simon Kinberg, who has been a writer on three of the last four X-Men films, in addition to the failed Fantastic Four reboot. Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult, and Sophie Turner are expected to return. Dark Phoenix will be a directorial debut for Kinberg, which is currently scheduled for November 2, 2018.

After the turnaround to the reception for films in the DC universe with Wonder Woman, DC Films co-chairman Geoff Johns has agreed that their initial grittier approach might not have been the best idea. In an interview with The Wrap, he described their future vision as: “Get to the essence of the character and make the movies fun. Just make sure that the characters are the characters with heart, humour, hope, heroics, and optimism at the base.”

Lastly, after two weeks of teasers, director Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) has released the first in his series of short films, Oats Studios. The 22-minute film, starring Sigourney Weaver as a resistance leader, is called Rakka. In it, an alien race arrives on Earth to conquer the planet, enslaving and torturing people, while a group led by Weaver puts up a fight. Rakka is available for free on YouTube and Steam.

That’s all the entertainment news for this week. Welcome back to The Weekend Chill, your one-stop destination for what to watch, play, or listen to this weekend. Here are the best picks:

TV:
The Handmaid’s Tale
Hulu’s new original – from creator, showrunner, and executive producer Bruce Miller – is based on Canadian author Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel of the same name. It’s set in near-future New England where a totalitarian military dictatorship has overthrown the United States government, and established a rigid system that subjugates women in the name of declining fertility rates.

The show follows a handmaid named Offred (Elisabeth Moss), who is enslaved to produce a child for Commander Waterford (Joseph Fiennes) and his wife Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski), while protecting herself from the ills of the society around her. Handmaids are supposed to not speak up, or read in Gilead, and Offred follows the rules without a meep so she can one day find the daughter taken from her.

It’s easily one of the best shows to come out this year, and has developed beyond Atwood’s book during the first season. If you’re the kind who likes to wait for the season to get over, and then binge-watch it at once, you can do that now with The Handmaid’s Tale.

How to access: Hulu
Time commitment: 10 hours

American Gods
Based on Neil Gaiman’s multiple award-winning book that brings together Americana, fantasy, and ancient and modern mythology, American Gods tells the story of a war brewing between the Old Gods and New Gods, as the former fear becoming irrelevant, as their believers are dying off or being seduced by the money, technology, and fame offered by the latter.

The story is told through the viewpoint of Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), an ex-con who becomes bodyguard for conman Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), even as Shadow reels from the recent death of his wife. Created by Byran Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049), with Gaiman serving as executive producer, the show brings the meticulous visual style that Fuller developed during his Hannibal years.

American Gods airs its final episode of the season on Sunday night in the US, so it gives you the perfect excuse to catch up before that. The show can be quite confusing at times, so we’ve got episode by episode recaps if you need reading material during your journey.

How to access: Amazon Prime Video, or Starz
Time commitment: 8 hours

Movies:
Despicable Me 3
Two films and $1.5 billion in, the studio – including franchise veteran writers Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul – has developed a blueprint that it knows will work, surrounding its protagonist Gru with his three adopted daughters, and the beloved Minions. With Despicable Me 3, the film gives the villainous Gru two more characters to bounce off his idiosyncrasies.

There’s new villain, Balthazar Bratt (South Park’s Trey Parker), a former child star who’s obsessed with his 80s-style character. See his last name for added emphasis. And the second is Gru’s twin-brother Dru, who is everything Gru isn’t. After Gru and Lucy are thrown out of the Anti-Villain League for failing to stop Balthazar, they enlist Dru’s help.

Directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda, and co-directed by Eric Guillon, Despicable Me 3 has received average ratings from early reviews. Of course, that’s not going to matter to the film’s target audience: kids.

How to access: Out in cinema halls
Time commitment: 1 hour and 30 minutes

The Lego Batman Movie
After Will Arnett’s satirical portrayal of the Dark Knight won many fans in 2014’s The Lego Movie, Warner Bros. and DC gave him the natural upgrade – a standalone spin-off film, where audiences would get more of the zany version of Batman, who only “works in black, and sometimes very, very dark grey.” That’s what The Lego Batman Movie is ultimately about: it lets loose his egomaniac personality, and the seeming obliviousness to anything around him.

The good part? It works, and works great. Supporting Arnett as part of the voice cast are Ralph Fiennes as Alfred, the butler; Michael Cera, who plays Dick Grayson, Batman’s adopted son who adopts the codename of Robin; Rosario Dawson as Barbara Gordon, the new commissioner of Gotham City; and Zach Galifianakis as the crazy Joker, Batman’s arch enemy who wants acceptance of the very thing.

The Lego Batman Movie takes place at a frenetic pace for the most part, but is still clever enough to know when to insert clever pauses that add the requisite emphasis. Kudos to director Chris McKay, and the three editors – David Burrows, Matt Villa, and John Venzon. Now available on Blu-ray, it comes with several animated shorts, making-of featurettes, and deleted scenes.

How to access: Amazon US, Amazon Video US, iTunes US, Microsoft Store, or YouTube
Time commitment: 1 hour and 46 minutes

John Wick: Chapter 2
In the 2014 original, Keanu Reeves’ eponymous character – a retired expert assassin – navigated grief over the death of his wife by connecting with a puppy she left for him as a posthumous gift. So when a bunch of thugs break into his house and kill the dog, Wick is furious. You wouldn’t know it from his demeanour, but his actions are the obvious proof. And that’s what made the movie so exciting – the well-choreographed action.

That film ended with Wick narrowly escaping death after a bounty had been placed on his head. The sequel picks up shortly after, with Wick forced back out of retirement – it just keeps happening to him, doesn’t it? – to help stop a former associate from… let’s be honest, it’s not like anyone cares about the plot anyway.

John Wick: Chapter 2 was rated at a similar level as the first film, with the successor cranking up the action and gore, but with the originality factor dissipating. If you get the Blu-ray, you’ll get access to a commentary track with Reeves and director Chad Stahelski, a fight choreography featurette and fight rehearsals, and deleted scenes.

How to access: Amazon US, Amazon Video US, Google Play Movies, iTunes US, or YouTube
Time commitment: 2 hour and 2 minutes

Neruda
From Chilean director Pablo Larraín – who directed Natalie Portman as JFK’s wife in Oscar-nominated Jackie – comes the story of a Chilean poet with whom he shared a name: Pablo Neruda. Neruda wasn’t just a Nobel Prize-winning poet but also the most famous communist in post-WWII Chile during his life. With Chile’s political allegiances shifting, Neruda disappeared from public life to protect himself.

Neruda, the film, follows a police inspector Óscar Peluchonneau (Gael García Bernal) who hunts down the poet (Luis Gnecco) in his home country. Meanwhile, international pressure grows as Pablo Picasso leads European artists to call for Neruda’s freedom. The poet takes it upon himself to create a game of cat-and-mouse, all while becoming a dual icon of liberty and literature.

Larraín’s film was well-received by most critics, with praise directed towards Gnecco’s performance, and the director’s soft touch and his mastery at delivering a superb third act. Neruda is a film that raises many questions, but doesn’t offer any easy answers.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoLK73Uj-C8?rel=0&showinfo=0&enablejsapi=1]

How to access: Amazon Video US, Google Play Movies, iTunes US, Microsoft Store, or YouTube
Time commitment: 1 hour and 47 minutes

Video games:
Arms
After delivering updated versions of titles designed for the Wii U, Nintendo has finally come out with its first new IP for the Switch. It’s called Arms, and that’s because characters have specially-designed extendable, well, arms that help punch and beat their opponents in a closed arena. Designed to be played using a mix of button presses and quick hand motions, Arms is being called “the first fighting game of its kind”.

Since it’s all about the punch, there’s a lot you can do with them: guide them mid-flight, avoid incoming attacks by dashing, powering-up for extra damage, curving fists around obstacles, and most importantly, fill up a special gauge so you can deal out combinations for a finishing move. But whatever you do, don’t forget to grab your Joy-Con and put on the wrist grip.

The team behind Arms has spent a lot of time trying to give each character special attributes, with different types of arms meant for different styles of play. The game has been generally well-received by most critics, with it being accessible to newcomers, and adjustable to more dedicated players.

 

Chandigarh: 58 vending zones; No more street shopping at Plaza, sectors 1-6 too no go

Soon, Sectors 17, 19 and 22, which are known hubs for street vendors, would become no vending zones, according to the office of the chief architect. Also, sectors 1 to 6, where the top brass of Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana stay and which include the famous tourist spots, Sukhna Lake and Rock Garden, have also been recommended as no vending zones.

This was told by Chief Architect Kapil Setia at a meeting of senior officers, including UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore, UT Adviser Parimal Rai and Home Secretary Anurag Aggarwal. The chief architect also informed officials that as many as 58 sites across the city have been identified as vending zones where street vendors would be allowed to ply their wares.

Confirming the development, Additional Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation, Uma Shankar Gupta, said they would now conduct a joint inspection to check the final feasibility before issuing license. “Both officials from MC and the chief architect’s office would visit each of the sites. The no vending zones have been earmarked keeping in mind the heritage,” Gupta told the Chandigarh Newsline.

The 58 vending zones include sectors 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 23, 36, 38, 54, 46. The engineering wing would also assist the MC and the office of the chief architect.

The survey began in July 2016 under Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Act, 2014, with the aim of registering and rehabilitating street vendors so that they are not exploited. It also calls for proper rationing of urban streets and spaces. Until the survey was being conducted, the MC announced that it would not displace any street vendor because of which vendors came up at Sector 17 plaza as well.

The vendors will have to pay Rs 2,000 per month as vending fee for non-essential service providers, whereas essential service providers like tea stall, barber, cycle repair shops have to pay Rs 1,500 per month as vending fee. However, due to a delay in making the vending zones, licences could not be given.

The agency, Haryana Nav Yuvak Kala Sangam, which conducted the survey, had identified 21,621 vendors under the Street Vendors Act, 2014. The MC had proposed two categories of vendors – service providers and non-service providers. The vendors’ fees were also proposed to vary area-wise and the type of service they
provided.

More than half of shopping-related searches come from mobile devices

For the first time ever, consumers all over the world carried out more shopping-related searches on their mobile phones than on their computers.

Data from the new Salesforce Q1 2017 Shopping Index analyzed the shopping habits of more than 500 million consumers in 27 countries, with smartphones coming out on top for the first time.Man using mobile payments online shopping and icon customer network connection on screen, mobile-banking and omni channel

“A couple years ago, if you were browsing Facebook on your phone and saw a jumper you wanted to buy, you had to wait until you got to your computer to log on and purchase it. However, now, with the evolution of mobile, we can easily search on-the-go and make a purchase instantly,” comments Jamie Merrick, director of Industry Insights at Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware).

“Given that the conversion rate of a shopper who has used a search function is three times higher than non-search traffic, this has a huge impact on UK retailers’ approach to commerce. Having a mobile-first approach is key to ensuring shoppers have a seamless and easy mobile experience so that retailers don’t miss out on revenue growth,” adds Merrick.

Salesforce’s report says mobile drove more than half (53 percent) of all traffic, and 32 percent of all orders, while shopper spend was increased six percent in the same period.

As for the UK, site search resulted in 35 percent of revenue, which is the highest rate in the whole world.

Sixteen percent of shoppers expressed buying signals, which is the highest rate ever outside a period that’s not Q4. Growth in spend slightly outpaced traffic growth, while the average order value increased three percent year-on-year.

“This trend in mobile search also highlights the importance of unified commerce across all channels — if a customer shops in-store, browses online or purchases on mobile, the experience should be consistent and as pleasurable for the customer as possible,” Merrick concluded.

Apple Swift Playgrounds Educational Coding App Expands to Robots, Drones, and More

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Swift Playgrounds to offer new way to learn to code using robots, drones
  • It is an intuitive programming language for building apps
  • The Swift Playgrounds 1.5 update will be available from June 5

Tech giant Apple has announced that Swift Playgrounds, its educational coding app for iPad, will now offer a new way to learn to code using robots, drones and musical instruments.

Swift Playgrounds is great for students and beginners learning to code with Swift, Apple’s intuitive programming language for building apps.

“More than one million kids and adults from around the world are already using Swift Playgrounds to learn the fundamentals of coding with Swift in a fun and interactive way,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Software Engineering.

“Now they can instantly see the code they create and directly control their favourite robots, drones and instruments through Swift Playgrounds. It’s an incredibly exciting and powerful way to learn,” added Federighi.

Apple Swift Playgrounds Educational Coding App Expands to Robots, Drones, and More

Apple is working with leading device makers to make it easy to connect to Bluetooth-enabled robots within the Swift Playgrounds app, allowing kids to programme and control popular devices, including LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, Sphero SPRK+, Parrot drones and more.

The Swift Playgrounds 1.5 update will be available as a free download on the App Store starting from June 5.

Swift Playgrounds is compatible with all iPad Air and iPad Pro models and iPad mini 2 and later running iOS 10 or even later versions.