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Exclusive: It ain't just Airtel, many Indian carriers are bringing microSIMs. But why?

25 Sep

Yesterday, we wrote about Airtel’s microSIMs doing the rounds and we decided to do a little digging ourselves. And guess what, almost every carrier is planning to launch microSIM cards. At least one carrier, Aircel, is about to start retailing them for post-paid numbers. Our sources tell us that more carriers are planning to launch microSIM cards in the coming days and weeks.

But why would they do that, considering that the iPhone 4 is the only phone out there that uses microSIM cards and only two carriers – Airtel and Vodafone – are officially supposed to be launching it in India. Why would an Aircel or for that matter any other carrier launch microSIM cards?

There can be only two reasons:

1. There are more devices coming with microSIM card slots. Currently, it is only the iPhone 4 but probably other handset manufacturers also see merit in using microSIM cards and are planning to launch phones with these smaller SIM cards. But had that been the case, more carriers around the world would have been introducing them.

2. Apple is planning to launch factory unlocked iPhone 4/3G version of the iPad in India. We have our doubts about the iPhone 4, considering Apple already has a deal with Airtel and Vodafone for the past two years. But then stranger things have happened.

Exclusive: MOTO KEY to be a Nokia C3 rival, low-end QWERTY phone

30 Aug

At a time when all we expect from Motorola are some sexy droids, the big ‘M’ seems to have other plans too – especially ones targeting the lower-end of the spectrum. We can now confirm that one of those phones will be the Moto KEY, a phone with a QWERTY keypad aimed at text-savvy and online social networking crazy teens. The device will run on Moto’s proprietary OS and will compete with the Nokia C3.

Moto KEY specs:

Frequencies: Quad-band GSM/EDGE
Dimensions: 61x109x12.35 mm
Display: 2.3-inch QVGA
Weight: 102.2 gm
Talktime/Standby: 200 mins/250 hrs
Battery: 930 mAh
Memory: Internal 50 MB, microSD up to 32 GB
Camera: 3.0 MP
Others: QWERTY keypad, FM radio, 3.5 mm audio jack

We are not sure when Motorola will launch this phone but in order to remain relevant, it should be no later than the end of this year, lest we see Android smartphones breach the Rs 5,000 barrier.

Nokia set to launch Ovi Life Tools on RCom in India

18 Aug

After announcing Ovi Life Tools with Tata DoCoMo and Bharti Airtel, Nokia is all set to launch the service with Reliance Communications (RCom). Nokia and RCom are organising a press conference on August 20 and our sources indicate that it will be about Life Tools.

Ovi Life Tools is a SMS/USSD based service aimed at rural audience for providing information related to market rates, weather, news and education.

Exclusive: HTC Paradise and Fiesta caught in the wild!

5 Aug

HTC has been hiding too many Android phones up its sleeves and it is about time that some of them started showing up. One of our readers, DB, claims that he managed to snap up two unknown HTC Android smartphones that were AT&T samples on Craigslist and sought our help out to know what they were. Turns out that he had the HTC Fiesta and Paradise, both running Android.

The Paradise appears to be a variant of the Aria and has a slide-out QWERTY keypad. We were the first to write about the Paradise when we had the UA profile of seven unannounced HTC phones way back in January.

The Aria was an AT&T exclusive and has just been launched in Taiwan and might even be launched in India. It has specs similar to the Hero but in a more conventional design sans the chin. The Paradise shares the same looks and adds a QWERTY keyboard to it.

Out tipster says the Fiesta has a 3.2 MP camera and that’s all that he knows about it. We had first written about the Fiesta over a year ago and indicated that it might be headed over to AT&T. In all probability, we believe that the Fiesta has been scrapped. Then again, we have seen stranger things happening and this might be one of them!

Exclusive: Indian government to enforce SAR rating regulations for phones sold in the country

29 Jul

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) of the Indian government is set to enforce a regulation regarding Specific Absorption Rate (SAR) ratings of cellphones sold in India, according to a notification sent to all handset vendors in the country. The regulation will apply to phones whether they are imported or manufactured in India.

DoT has decided to adopt the International Commission on Non-Iodizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) guidelines in the telcom sector (both handsets and carrier base stations) for “limiting exposure to time varying electric, magnetic and electromagnetic fields.” The document, which is in CellPassion’s possession, states that cellphones manufactured in India or imported to India should comply with basic restrictions in terms of SAR value limited to 2W/kg localised for head and trunk in the frequency range of 10 MHz to 10 GHz.

Further, handsets imported to India will have to bear self-certification from the handset manufacturer that they meet the required standards. We learn that the regulation has not been enforced, yet.

What is SAR? SAR rating, in simple terms, denotes the amount of radiation that is absorbed by the human tissue while using a mobile phone. It is calculated by the amount of energy absorbed by a unit mass of tissue.

Domestic handset brands attracts design house Longcheer to set shop in India

17 May

India is not only the fastest growing cellphone market by new subscriber additions but is also the second largest handset market in the world with about 15 million new handsets sold every month. No wonder, Indian entrepreneurs and business houses have stepped in with their own handset brands complete with their high-profile brand ambassadors and massive marketing budgets that sponsor cricket tournaments and teams.

Micromax, a domestic brand, which began retailing its range of cellphones in 2008 is today India’s third largest handset brand and sells over a million units a month, slightly behind Samsung. The company was one of the sponsors of the recently-concluded IPL cricket tournament and has Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar as its brand ambassador.

Wynn Telecom, a newly-launched handset brand in India, has already roped in Bollywood actors Saif Ali Khan and Bipasha Basu as its brand ambassadors and claims that it will have the largest service centre footprint in the country. The company is yet to launch its handset in the market.

These are just two examples. There are many such handset brands in India, which operate only in India and are making global handset brands like Nokia and Samsung nervous. And this is exactly the kind of market that a design house like Longcheer thrives in.

Longcheer is a Singapore-based design house that designs mobile phones and related products like USB modems and data cards for other brands. The company has set shop in Noida near New Delhi with an aim to hire about 30-40 employees. Manu Nagar, the CEO of the Indian subsidary, has about 15 years of experience in this industry with his last stint being with MediaTek, the company on whose chipset platform most of these handsets from domestic brands work. Thanks to his MediaTek days, Nagar knows the needs of these handset brands and what it will take for them to thrive when competing with global handset vendors that ship over a hundred million units every year.

“Domestic brands can provide customised products aimed at local markets that these big players cannot. For instance, we can help a brand launch phones with local language keypads for individual markets throughout the country. This is simply not possible with a big global brand as they seek volumes,” says Nagar.

While a domestic player can make decent margins by selling even a few thousand units of a phone model, for a global player, the number is usually hundreds of thousands every month.

Take the dual-SIM phenomenon, which has become a very crucial feature in India thanks to the sheer number of carriers and the ensuing tariff wars. However, Nokia is yet to launch a dual-SIM phone as it fails to respond to local market needs. On his recent trip to India, Nokia’s Anssi Vanjoki, now the head of the company’s smartphone business, told us that the company has to look at the complete ecosystem, which includes carriers, before announcing a product. (Carriers resent dual-SIM phones for obvious reasons.)

But are domestic handset brands mature enough to spend some serious money to get their own industrial designs and user interfaces? After all, they have done pretty well for themselves by shopping in the streets of Shenzen and placing orders with OEMs that churn out an existing model and simply re-brand them. Nagar thinks they are. “We are already working with a couple of players,” he informs us. Wynn Telecom today announced its partnership with Longcheer and the other major player is anyone’s guess.

One area where we don’t necessarily agree is when it comes to blatant copying of both industrial design and user interfaces of major handset brands by these domestic players. Pick up any QWERTY keyboard phone from these domestic brands and nine-out-of-ten of them will look like a BlackBerry handled and almost all of them would have a BlackBerry-like user interface

Longcheer’s Nagar feels that there is a difference between ‘same’ and ‘similar.’ We agree that there might be a blurry line that separates the two but if these brands are really thinking of becoming a major international handset brand in the coming years, they need to do better than aping what the biggies have done. “That’s exactly where Longcheer comes into play,” exclaims Nagar.

Longcheer is inaugurating its Noida office tomorrow.

Exclusive: Nokia to launch 5235 Comes With Music phone in India

9 Apr

Nokia is expected to kick start its ‘Comes With Music’ offering in India with the launch of the 5235, with the announcement coming as early as April 12. Comes With Music is an offering where users can download unlimited songs from Nokia’s music store for one year and keep the songs after that period. The offer will be valid on certain phones that will come in special ‘Comes With Music’ pack.

The 5235 Comes With Music is basically the Nokia 5230 in a new package and with a bumped up internal memory of 320 MB. The 5235 is expected to be priced higher than the 5230.

While Nokia has always served DRM protected songs, the Comes With Music service in India is expected to feature DRM-free songs, just like what Nokia offers in China. We will keep our eyes peeled for any official confirmation. In the meanwhile, you can check the specs and features of the 5235 here.