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Oppo Reportedly Hires MediaTek and Unisoc Engineers for Its Own Chip

Oppo is long-rumored to be working on an in-house chip to compete against the likes of Qualcomm, MediaTek, Samsung’s Exynos, and Huawei’s Kirin. Now, the Chinese tech giant has reportedly hired several top executives from MediaTek and Unisoc.

According to Nikkei Asian Review, Oppo has recently hired MediaTek’s former co-chief operating officer Jeffery Ju and a former Xiaomi executive. Another executive working on MediaTek’s 5G chips is said to join Oppo in a couple of months. In addition, Oppo is eyeing to hire senior talents in Qualcomm and Huawei as well.

“Oppo has been aggressively recruiting chip talent since last year as they realized that owning the chip design capability will give it more control over its supply chain,” a source told Nikkei. “Developing chips, however, could mean burning a lot of money, and even if they have hired a group of experienced professionals, such efforts take years to mature.”

In response, Oppo told Nikkei that it “already has chip-related capability” and that “any R&D investment is to strengthen its product competitiveness and user experience”.

Nikkei points out that Oppo’s efforts to come up with its own chipset is part of a larger “de-Americanization” campaign aimed to reduce the company’s dependency on US-based suppliers.

As you might be aware already, Oppo currently sources its chipsets from Qualcomm and MediaTek. We will have to wait to see if this Oppo’s chipset ends up like Xiaomi’s Surge S1 or would gain traction to help Oppo establish itself as a potential chipset maker.

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PUBG Mobile Partners with Airtel for PUBG Mobile Pro League South Asia

PUBG Mobile 0.17.0 Update with Death Replay to Come on March 3

Popular battle royale game PUBG Mobile is partnering with Airtel for the PUBG Mobile Pro League in South Asia. With this partnership, Airtel is the preferred network of the eSports tournament. Moreover, valued Airtel subscribers will gain access to certain additional benefits.

According to the press release, exciting moments from the PMPL tournament will be available on Airtel Xstream. Plus, users will get access to some exclusive experiences as well. It’s unclear what these experiences are, but it’s still exciting news.

The PUBG Mobile Pro League is starting today and will carry on till June 14th. In the tournament, the top 20 teams will compete for a spot in the PUBG Mobile World Championships. The tournament is being livestreamed from 6PM IST today (May 29th), to 10:20PM IST. The streams will be available from Friday to Sunday every week on the Airtel Xstream app and the PUBG Mobile eSports channel.

“Airtel has been consistently rated as the India’s best network by multiple global experts and we are thrilled to join forces with PMPL to power the country’s Esports revolution. Given the growing popularity of online gaming amongst the youth, we will also be bringing the best of Esports in India to our digital entertainment platforms as part of Airtel Thanks.” says Airtel’s Chief Marketing Officer, Shashwat Sharma

“PUBG MOBILE is always (sic) to deliver good quality product and superior Esports experience to players and audiences around the world. With the help of Airtel high speed network service, we have more confidence that players can enjoy wonderful PUBG MOBILE Esports tournaments,” says James, Director of PUBG MOBILE Global Esports of Tencent Games.

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Realme Buds Q Confirmed to Launch Soon in India For Under Rs. 2,000

Having unveiled the Realme Buds Q in China earlier this week, Chinese tech company, Realme, is all set to launch it in India in the coming days. In a tweet earlier today, Realme CMO, Francis Wang, not only confirmed the impending launch, but also revealed that it will be priced below Rs. 2,000.

#BudsAirNeo brings features like Super Low Lantency, 13mm big bass, 10m wireless range, standing at the best choice below 3k. Still looking for TrueWiless below 2k? #realmeBudsQ coming soon. pic.twitter.com/A2f5mb9MlH

— Francis Wang (@FrancisRealme) May 29, 2020

As mentioned already, the Realme Buds Q is a pair of entry-level TWS earbuds that was launched in China just a few days back. Designed by French designer José Lévy, they are said to be inspired by the soft and round pebbles that fit the curve of the palm and the ear canal. The earbuds feature 10mm bass boost drivers and support the super low latency mode and touch controls of the Buds Air Neo.

Other notable features include IPX4 certification that denotes sweat resistance. As for battery life, Realme promises up to 4.5 hours of continuous playback on a single charge, but that goes up to 20 hours with the charging case. The Realme Buds Q is priced at 129 yuan in China, which is just over Rs. 1,300, so it will be interesting to see how it will be priced in India.

It’s worth noting here that Realme launched the Buds Air Neo in India last Monday – the same day that it announced the Buds Q in China. The Neo comes with 13mm drivers for extra bass, touch controls for music playback and voice calling, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, 10m wireless range and more. It is priced at Rs. 2,999, making it an attractive option for many. That said, the Realme Buds Q will likely be the device that will take on the newly-released Redmi Earbuds S in real earnest.

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ByteDance Wants to Move TikTok Team out of China: Report

ByteDance Wants to Move TikTok Team out of China - Report

Last week, Disney’s Kevin Mayer became the CEO of ByteDance-owned popular short-form video platform TikTok. As reported first by Reuters, this is apparently one of ByteDance’s steps to move the decision-making authorities and research team from China.

According to a recent Reuters report citing industry sources familiar with the matter, ByteDance has been making moves to shift its teams from China as part of a new strategy.

To support the transition, ByteDance has expanded TikTok’s engineering, and research & development operations in Mountain View, California. As per the source, the company had hired over 150 engineers for its California team.

ByteDance might be attempting to address the privacy concerns revolving around the app with this restructuring. The company has apparently hired a few data engineers from the U.S. as well.

Apart from this, ByteDance has reportedly hired a New York-based investor relations director named Michelle Huang to maintain healthy relations with private equity firms such as General Atlantic and KKR.

The changes in strategy have allegedly caused caution in ByteDance’s internal team. The major concern is if they would be laid off as part of BytDance’s bigger plans for gradually moving out of China.

TikTok has long been alleged by US lawmakers as being an app used by the Chinese government to spy on US citizens. “As long as TikTok or any other application operates in a way that gives the Chinese government and Communist Party leverage, it is impossible to separate the dangers of using such an application from the reality that users’ information could be at risk.”, Republican Senator Marco Rubio told Reuters.

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‘Government-Backed’ Hackers Targeted Dozens of Indians: Google

Google says it sent out 1,755 warnings last month to notify users who were targeted by ‘government-backed attackers’. In an official blog post this week, the company said that hacking and phishing activities from “hack-for-hire” firms have been on the rise in the midst of the pandemic.

The victims of the state-sponsored hacking include people from several countries, including between 51 and 100 individuals from India. Google did not say whether they were targeted by the Indian government or by agents working for other nations, but claimed that many of the alleged hacking activities originated from India.

According to Google, many of these cyber-criminals have been creating Gmail accounts spoofing the World Health Organization (WHO). The accounts have largely targeted business leaders in financial services, consulting and healthcare corporations in a number of countries, including the US, Slovenia, Canada, India, Bahrain, Cyprus and the UK.

As for their modus operandi, they’re looking to lure unsuspecting users into signing-up for COVID-19 newsletters from the WHO. Of course, they have no affiliation with the WHO and are using a fake site that looks suspiciously like the real deal, but in reality, is an attempt to get potential victims to give up their Google account credentials, and occasionally, even their phone numbers.

Spoofed WHO Newsletter sign-up prompt (Image Courtesy: Google)

Through their devious means, the state-sponsored hackers are mostly looking to collect intelligence or steal intellectual property, says Google. Some of the cyber-criminals also target activists, while others attempt to launch ‘coordinated influence operations’ and disinformation campaigns. To prevent the spread of misinformation, Google says it has removed more than a thousand YouTube channels that were part of a large campaign and were behaving in a coordinated manner.

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Samsung Galaxy Watch Active Certified by US FCC Ahead of Launch

Two new Galaxy Watch Active models from Samsung have been certified by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), revealing several key details. The upcoming devices have model numbers SM-R845 and SM-R855, and both will offer LTE connectivity alongside Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. While the former comes with a 45mm case made out of stainless steel, details about the latter are a bit more fuzzy.

As can be seen from the image above, the R845 will have MIL-STD-810G durability and 5ATM water resistance, meaning, it can remain submerged in up to 50 meters of water for 10 minutes without getting totaled. The image further reveals that the display on the watch will be protected by Gorilla Glass DX, while connectivity options will include GPS. The image also suggests that the device will be manufactured in Vietnam.

There’s no info about the R850 at this time, but reports seem to suggest that it might be a smaller variant of the R845. While a higher model number typically means a larger or more powerful variant, Samsung’s watches generally go the other way with their model number hierarchy. As pointed out by Droid-Life, the larger, 44mm Galaxy Watch Active 2 from last year has the model number R820, while the smaller, 40mm model is R830.

It will be interesting to see when Samsung finally announces its next-gen Galaxy Watch Active lineup, but one would suspect that it would be sooner rather than later. The company, last year, unveiled the Watch Active 2 just days after it showed up on the FCC website. However, it’s tough to say whether a similar ETA will apply this year amidst the pandemic, but we’ll hopefully get some news in the coming days.

Featured Image Courtesy: Samsung (Via FCC)

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SpiceJet to Start Drone Trials for Cargo Deliveries

SpiceJet's Cargo Delivery Arm SpiceXpress to Start Drone Trials for Cargo Deliveries

SpiceJet’s cargo delivery service SpiceXpress has received approval from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to conduct drone trials. The company aims to deliver medical supplies, essentials, and e-commerce products after successful trials and approvals.

“Testing of drone technology for last mile connectivity and cost-effective cargo deliveries are a big leap in the air transportation of essential and non-essential supplies in India,” said Ajay Singh, SpiceJet Chairman & Managing Director, in a statement.

SpiceXpress has reportedly formed a consortium that includes drone manufacturer Throttle Aerospace, an analytics and software-based firm AeoLogic, and air traffic awareness & collision avoidance services provider Involia.

According to reports, SpiceXpress was granted permission for conducting trials based on the recommendations of the Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) Experiment Assessment and Monitoring Committee.

“Drones will ensure a faster delivery bringing down costs and would go a long way to augment the airline’s business to offer express delivery of medicines, perishable items and e-commerce”, said the company.

To be specific, SpiceXpress said it plans to introduce its last-mile delivery services focused on reaching remote areas in a cost-efficient manner right from its warehouse.

While SpiceJet has not explicitly mentioned the timeline for drone delivery trials, we could expect it to happen sooner rather than later taking the ongoing coronavirus crisis into consideration. It will be interesting to see if SpiceJet manages to implement this system on a large scale across the country.

In case you’re wondering, using drones for last-mile delivery is not entirely a novel idea. Last October, Alphabet’s Wing started commercial drone deliveries in the U.S.

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Paytm Lets Vodafone Idea Feature Phone Users Recharge Using UPI

Paytm Lets Vodafone Idea Feature Phone Users Recharge Using UPI

Paytm has partnered with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) and Vodafone Idea to enable UPI recharges for feature phone users. The service is implemented through NPCI’s payment service *99# that works on Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).

“Paytm is now empowering feature phone users to recharge for their Vodafone Idea numbers with just a valid UPI ID. Along with the telecom major and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to extend this service throughout the country,” said Paytm in a statement.

With this feature, Paytm points out that feature phone users will no longer have to visit physical stores to get recharges done. That said, let’s take a look at how you can get started with it.

To begin with, you will need a functional UPI ID to recharge Vodafone Idea numbers with this method. In order to register a new UPI ID, all you have to do is dial the USSD code – *99#. In this step, choose the bank account linked to your mobile number and set the UPI PIN. You will now get your UPI ID.

Once you have a valid UPI ID, dial *99*1*3# to access the recharge portal. It will automatically detect your bank account. Enter your UPI ID, recharge amount, and UPI PIN to perform the transaction.

Announcing the initiative, Paytm Senior VP Abhay Sharma said, “There are over 550 million feature phone users in the country. A majority of them are migrants and daily wage earners. Due to the ongoing lockdown, many people who rely mainly on mobile phone stores, recharge kiosks are finding it difficult to top-up their basic feature phones which rarely have internet data facility”.

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Xbox Series X Can Add 120FPS, HDR to Old Games

For those of you who don’t know, I prefer a PlayStation over an Xbox. However, I can’t deny that Microsoft is doing a much better job of drumming up excitement for its console than Sony. The Redmond giant has given us a sneak peek at the design, hardware specifications, and also some third party games for the Xbox Series X. It has also clarified that the Series X will support a lot of older Xbox One and Xbox 360 games as well!

That’s exciting enough as it is, but now Microsoft is saying that the Xbox Series X can not only play older games, but make them better! Apparently, the console will be able to add HDR and 120FPS support to older games that don’t have either of those features!

“Through collaboration with the Xbox Advanced Technology Group, Xbox Series X provides a new and innovative HDR reconstruction technology that allows the platform to automatically add HDR support to games,” says Xbox Platform Team’s Project Management Director, Jason Ronald. “Because the platform handles the technology itself, we can enable HDR with zero impact on game performance. We can also apply it to Xbox 360 and the original Xbox games which are nearly 20 years old. Long before HDR exists.”

The great part about this implementation is that developers will not need to do any additional work. Xbox Series X will also increase frame rates of 30FPS games to 60FPS, and 60FPS to 120FPS. These improvements will not come to all games, however. Microsoft said that the company’s technology can increase “the frame rate of a select set of games from 30fps to 60fps or increasing 60fps to 120fps.”

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Instagram Starts Showing Two-Row Stories to Select Users

instagram stories two-row test

Are you someone who hops onto Instagram every so often to check out new Stories? Is it a hassle scrolling through the single-file carousel looking for a particular story? Well, Instagram is currently testing a minor redesign of the Stories carousel to let you see updates from more users in one go.

The single row of scrollable Instagram Stories has now been replaced with a two-row carousel, as seen in the images below. The new redesign was shared by social media consultant Matt Navarra on Twitter earlier this week. Instagram seems to be testing the same with a select few users, who can now swipe through more Stories in a jiffy. But, it also takes a lot more space – dense arrangement than the previously minimal one – at the top of the feed.

Image Courtesy: Twitter/ Matt Navarra

Another feature test that may hard to swallow for many is the switcheroo between the DM and notification access icons. The DM icon can now be seen sitting in the bottom navigation bar while the activity icon is where the DM icon should be.

Currently, Instagram DMs are only a left-swipe away from the home feed, thus, making it super accessible to the users. Its placement on the navigation bar is not bad but takes away from the existing experience. This test has been around for quite a long time now. I’ve seen it around 6-odd months ago and it seems to be limited to select users as only one of the screenshots has this interface.

Instagram Stories, even though it was cloned from Snapchat, has gone to become one of the most used features of the photo-sharing app. The company gives users access to a host of camera features and integrations to make the most out of their daily updates on Stories.

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