It’s been a crazy week that’s taken people by surprise on a number of fronts. In India, the biggest news of the week is of course the demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes; the notes have been discontinued, and new Rs. 500, and Rs. 2000 notes are being issued, though right now it’s hard enough just to get Rs. 100 notes from ATMs.
This has spawned some crazy rumours, such as the idea that the Rs. 2000 note is tracking you via GPS. No, the new Rs. 2000 note will not have a ‘Nano GPS chip’ – the tech that’s described in the rumours is practically science fiction. Even so, the idea seems to have struck a chord with the people, even forcing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to publicly dismiss them.
For many of us, the switch away from Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes has meant that we need to switch to online payments – FreeCharge and other digital wallet companies are thrilled, reporting huge gains. Companies like Grofers also benefited since people will find it difficult to use cash to buy their groceries, for example. The demonetisation also led e-commerce companies to halt cash on delivery for orders over Rs. 2000. Amazon had stopped the option completely, although it re-enabled this on Friday. In the meantime, FreeCharge launched wallets on delivery and the other wallets are also going to implement this. If you are thinking of starting to use a mobile wallet, we have a simple guide to help you choose.
We’re all still feeling the effects of the demonetisation, though hopefully it’ll be business as usual soon. However, on Tuesday, the RBI website went offline as it struggled to cope with the surge of traffic following Prime MInister Modi’s announcement on demonetisation. The PM’s popularity seems to have suffered a little at first because of the decision – a Twitter analytics website showed that PM Modi lost 3 lakh followers the next day following the demonetisation announcement. It balanced out quickly though, as the PM got an additional 4.3 followers one day later. That was only one of the big stories of the week though. Here’s everything else you might have missed.
There were a lot of interesting launches including the India release of the BlackBerry DTEK 50 and BlackBerry DTEK 60 Android smartphones. Described by BlackBerry as the most secure Android smartphones in the world, the two devices are priced at Rs. 21,990 and Rs. 46,990 respectively, and both run on Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, with BlackBerry’s skin on top.
We also got two other phones that a lot of people have been waiting for, at the Asus ZenFone Max 3 launch, with two variants, the Asus ZenFone 3 Max (ZC520TL) and the Asus ZenFone 3 Max (ZC553KL) (Review). Aside from these, the Lenovo Phab 2 Plus with a dual-rear camera was also launched in India.
We also got the launch of the cheapest Reliance Lyf Phone with Android Marshmallow, the Lyf F8. The phone runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, and will set you back by Rs. 4,199. Other phone launches this week include the Panasonic P71 with 16GB of inbuilt storage, the Hyve Pryme with a deca-core SoC, and the Zopo Color F2, which has a multi-function fingerprint sensor.
Nikon launched a new camera this week, the Nikon D5600 DSLR with SnapBridge functionality that allows for easy backup and transfer of photos. Xiaomi also had a slew of launches this week in China – the Chinese company launched a splash-resistant Bluetooth headset, a Bluetooth mouse, and its Piston 3 in-ear headphones, along with a pollution mask that has a rechargeable air filter. Logitech also launched its ‘affordable’ Prodigy gaming keyboard and headset in India, at Rs. 4,995 and Rs. 6,945 respectively.
Of course, the other big news of the week was the US presidential election, whose results took many by surprise. It was such a surprise, for so many, that we’re now hearing people suggest that big data was the biggest loser of the election. In India, there has been some fear that a Trump presidency could be bad for the IT industry, but experts say this may not be the case. Tim Cook wrote a letter to his employees after the results were declared, quoting the civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella simply congratulated Trump, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg talked about how progress does not move in a straight line.
Speaking of Zuckerberg, many feel that fake news on Facebook had an impact on the elections, but the CEO was quick to debunk this, and dismissed worries about Facebook users existing in “bubbles” where they only see news or perspectives echoing their viewpoints. This perhaps raises the interesting question of how Facebook can say to advertisers that it can influence your buying decisions, but not your votes. Gadgets 360 spoke to Facebook about fake news and a whole lot more weeks ago, when the company said its strategy will be rely on users’ reporting of false content.
And just like the RBI website, the US election results also took down a website – the Canadian Immigration Bureau website, to be precise.
Meanwhile, the smog problem in India – and particularly Delhi – is far from fixed. There are a lot of different causes, and for people who are living in affected areas, we’d strongly urge that you at least buy an air mask – we have a guide to some different types of masks you can buy.
We’ve also tried to answer all your questions about choosing an air purifier, and we’ve put together a guide comparing the features and specifications of some of the most popular models of air purifiers to help you shop. Remember – kids need masks too, and getting the right fit is essential.
Aside from masks and purifiers, there are a few more gadgets you can buy, but aside from that, there are also some common-sense measures that you can follow without spending much money, to minimise the harmful effects of air pollution.
We also got a look at some patent sketches that show what Samsung’s rumoured foldable phone will look like, and it’s a pretty cool idea that gives you some of the feel of a flip phone without having two displays. The rumour is that the phone will be unveiled next year.
In China meanwhile, Alibaba had it’s annual Singles’ Day sale – which has taken place on 11/11 since 2009. Alibaba said it racked up more than $5 billion (roughly Rs. 33,515 crores) in transactions in the first hour of its annual ‘Singles’ Day’ sales blitz on Friday, ending the day with scarcely believable $17 billion in the bank.
Back home in India, Reliance Retail, which makes the Jio compatible Lyf-brand handsets is investigating the alleged explosion of one of its phones. A user tweeted about the incident and Lyf has responded over the social network – hopefully this will be an isolated incident.
WhatsApp meanwhile got a couple of important updates this week. The messaging service announced support for animated GIF images, so you can spam away at your friends now; and the beta version of the app has now added two-step authentication for greater security.
There were some interesting announcements from Google as well this week – for one thing, Google Play in India now supports netbanking, which is a huge step forward as many people do not have credit or debit cards. It also launched YouTube Kids in India, which is a free, standalone app that has a custom user interface and keeps kids from stumbling across inappropriate content. Apart from this, YouTube also announced support for HDR videos, though this is something that will improve the experience for only a small number of users for now.
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