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Apple’s partners and Samsung apply for India’s $6.6 billion local smartphone production program

Posted by | Apple, Asia, Gadgets, hardware, india, oppo, Realme, Samsung, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

South Korean giant Samsung, Apple’s contract manufacturing partners Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron, and Indian smartphone vendors Micromax and Lava among others have applied for India’s $6.6 billion incentive program aimed at boosting the local smartphone manufacturing, New Delhi said on Saturday.

The scheme, called Production-Linked Incentive Scheme, will offer a range of incentives to companies including a 6% financial incentive on additional sales of goods produced locally over five years, with 2019-2020 set as the base year, India’s IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a press conference.

22 companies have applied for the incentive program — that also includes manufacturing of electronics components — and have agreed to export 60% of their locally produced units outside of India, said Prasad. He said the companies estimate they will produce smartphones and components worth $153 billion during the five-year duration.

The Production-Linked Incentive Scheme is aimed at turning India into a global hub of high-quality manufacturing of smartphones and support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s push to make the country self-reliant, said Prasad.

A total of 22 companies have filed their application under the PLI Scheme. These companies will produce mobile phones and components worth Rs 11.5 lakh crore in the coming 5 years out of which products worth Rs 7 lakh crore will be exported. pic.twitter.com/3yUky3HkOC

— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) August 1, 2020

As part of their applications, the companies have also agreed to offer direct and indirect employment to roughly 1.2 million Indians, the Indian minister said.

The interest of Samsung and Apple, two companies that account for more than 50% of the global smartphone sales revenue, in India is a testament of the opportunities they see in the world’s second largest internet market, said Prasad. “Apple and Samsung, India welcomes you with attractive policies. Now expand your presence in the country,” he said.

Missing from the list of companies that the Indian minister revealed today are Chinese smartphone makers Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, and Realme that have not applied for the incentive program.

The Indian government did not prevent companies from any country from participating to the program, Prasad insisted in a call with reporters Saturday noon. Chinese smartphone vendors command roughly 80% of the Indian handset market, according to research firm Canalys.

“We are optimistic and looking forward to building a strong ecosystem across the value chain and integrating with the global value chains, thereby strengthening electronics manufacturing ecosystem in the country,” he said. The deadline for applying to participate in India’s program, which began in April, ended on Friday this week.

The participation of Wistron, Foxconn, and Pegatron is also indicative of Apple’s future plans to produce locally in India. Apple’s contract manufacturing partner, Taiwan-based Wistron, first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. Last month, Foxconn kickstarted assembly of a small batch of iPhone 11 units. This was the first time any Apple supplier assembled a current-generation iPhone model in the country.

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Apple begins assembling iPhone 11 in India

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Asia, Gadgets, hardware, india, iPhone, iphone 11, OnePlus, oppo, Samsung, TC, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner Foxconn has started to assemble the current generation of iPhone units — the iPhone 11 lineup — in its plant near Chennai, India, a source familiar with the matter told TechCrunch.

A small batch of locally manufactured iPhone 11 units has already shipped to retail stores, but the production yield is currently limited, the person said, requesting anonymity as matters are private. Apple, in general, has ambitions to scale up its local production efforts in India, the person said.

The local production of current iPhone 11 models illustrates Apple’s further commitment to India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, as it explores ways to cut its reliance on China, which produces the vast majority of iPhone models today.

Apple’s contract manufacturing partner, Taiwan-based Wistron, first began assembling older iPhone models in 2017. But until now, Apple has not been able to have an assembly partner produce the current generation iPhone model in India.

Wistron, which has locally assembled older iPhone SE, iPhone 6s and iPhone 7 models in the past in its Bangalore plant, currently assembles iPhone XR units in India. Apple discontinued the local production of iPhone SE and iPhone 6s last year, the person said.

Piyush Goyal, India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, tweeted on Friday that Apple had begun assembling iPhone 11 models in India. Apple did not comment on this story.

Assembling handsets in India enables smartphone vendors — including Apple — to avoid roughly 20% import duty that the Indian government levies on imported electronics products.

Xiaomi, Vivo, Samsung, Oppo, OnePlus and a range of other smartphone companies have inked deals with contract manufacturers across India in recent years to produce much of their locally sold smartphone units in the country itself.

Xiaomi, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, said earlier this month that nearly every smartphone it sells in India is produced in the country.

Apple has been exploring ways to ramp up its production in India for years, but the company has struggled to find contract manufacturers that adhere to its safety and quality standards, people familiar with the matter have told TechCrunch.

News outlet The Information reported in March that some of Apple’s other contract manufacturers have attempted to enter — or expand in — India, but have run into regulatory and local law issues. Pegatron, another assembly partner of Apple, plans to set up a local subsidiary in India and begin operations in the country, according to Bloomberg.

Foxconn, which counts India as one of its biggest markets, plans to invest $1 billion in its operations in the country, Reuters reported earlier this month. In June this year, New Delhi announced a $6.6 billion plan to attract top smartphone manufacturers.

Apple plans to launch its online store in India in a few months and open its first brick-and-mortar retail store next year, chief executive Tim Cook announced earlier this year. The online store’s launch in India remains on track despite the pandemic, a person familiar with the matter said.

The iPhone maker currently commands roughly 1% of the smartphone market in India, but is among firms that dominate the premium handset segment (phones priced at $400 or above). Apple has also been the least impacted smartphone maker in the country amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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India smartphone shipments slashed in half in Q2 2020

Posted by | Apple, Asia, China, coronavirus, COVID-19, Gadgets, Handset, hardware, india, oppo, Samsung, smartphone, vivo, Xiaomi | No Comments

Even the world’s second largest smartphone market isn’t immune to COVID-19.

Smartphone shipments in India fell 48% in the second quarter compared with the same period a year ago, the most drastic drop one of the rare growing markets has seen in a decade, research firm Canalys reported Friday evening.

About 17.3 million smartphone units shipped in Q2 2020, down from 33 million in Q2 2019 and 33.5 million in Q1 2020, the research firm said.

You can blame coronavirus, more than a million cases of which has been reported in India.

New Delhi ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March to contain the spread of the virus that saw all shops across the country — save for some of those that sell grocery items and pharmacies — temporarily cease operation. Even e-commerce giants such as Amazon and Flipkart were prohibited from selling smartphones and other items classified as “non-essential” by the government.

The protracted lockdown lasted until mid-May, after which the Indian government deemed that other stores and e-commerce deliveries could resume their services in much of country. New Delhi’s stringent measure explains why India’s smartphone market dipped so heavily.

China, the world’s largest smartphone market, in comparison, saw only an 18% drop in shipments in the quarter that ended in March — the period when the country was most impacted by the virus. In Q1, when India was largely not impacted by the virus, smartphone shipments grew by 4% in the country. (Globally, smartphone shipments shrank by 13% in Q1 — a figure that is projected to only slightly improve to a 12% decline this year.)

“It’s been a rocky road to recovery for the smartphone market in India,” said Madhumita Chaudhary, an analyst at Canalys. “While vendors witnessed a crest in sales as soon as markets opened, production facilities struggled with staffing shortages on top of new regulations around manufacturing, resulting in lower production output.”

Smartphone shipment estimates for the Indian market through Q1 2019 to Q1 2020 (Canalys)

Despite the lockdown, Xiaomi maintained its dominance in India. The Chinese smartphone vendor, which has been the top smartphone vendor in India since late 2018, shipped 5.3 million smartphone units in the quarter that ended in June this year and commanded 30.9% of the local market, Canalys estimated.

With 3.7 million units shipped and 21.3% market share in India, Vivo retained the second spot. Samsung, which once ruled the Indian smartphone market and has made major investments in the country in recent months, settled for the third spot with 16.8% share.

Nearly every smartphone vendor has launched new handsets in India in recent weeks as they look to recover from the downtime, and several more new smartphone launches are planned in the next month.

But for some of these players, the virus is not the only obstacle.

Anti-China sentiment has been gaining mindshare in India in recent months, ever since more than 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a military clash in the Himalayas in June. “Boycott China” — and variations of it — has been trending on Twitter in India as a number of people posted videos destroying Chinese-made smartphones, TVs and other products. Late last month, India also banned 59 apps and services developed by Chinese firms.

Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo, which now assumes the fourth spot in India, and other Chinese smartphone vendors command nearly 80% of the smartphone market in India.

Canalys’ Chaudhary, however, believes these smartphone firms will be able to largely avoid the backlash as “alternatives by Samsung, Nokia, or even Apple are hardly price-competitive.”

Apple, which commands only 1% of the Indian smartphone market, was the least impacted among the top 10 vendors as iPhone shipments fell just 20% year-on-year to over 250,000 in Q2 2020, Canalys said.

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How Reliance Jio Platforms became India’s biggest telecom network

Posted by | Apple, Apps, Asia, bharti airtel, Extra Crunch, Facebook, india, Mark Zuckerberg, Market Analysis, Media, Microsoft, Mobile, Mukesh Ambani, payments, reliance industries, telecom, Venture Capital, vodafone, Vodafone Idea, Xiaomi | No Comments

It’s raised $5.7 billion from Facebook. It’s taken $1.5 billion from KKR, another $1.5 billion from Vista Equity Partners, $1.5 billion from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund$1.35 billion from Silver Lake, $1.2 billion from Mubadala, $870 million from General Atlantic, $750 million from Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, $600 million from TPG, and $250 million from L Catterton.

And it’s done all that in just nine weeks.

India’s Reliance Jio Platforms is the world’s most ambitious tech company. Founder Mukesh Ambani has made it his dream to provide every Indian with access to affordable and comprehensive telecommunications services, and Jio has so far proven successful, attracting nearly 400 million subscribers in just a few years.

The unparalleled growth of Reliance Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of India’s most-valued firm (Reliance Industries), has shocked rivals and spooked foreign tech companies such as Google and Amazon, both of which are now reportedly eyeing a slice of one of the world’s largest telecom markets.

What can we learn from Reliance Jio Platforms’s growth? What does the future hold for Jio and for India’s tech startup ecosystem in general?

Through a series of reports, Extra Crunch is going to investigate those questions. We previously profiled Mukesh Ambani himself, and in today’s installment, we are going to look at how Reliance Jio went from a telco upstart to the dominant tech company in four years.

The birth of a new empire

Months after India’s richest man, Mukesh Ambani, launched his telecom network Reliance Jio, Sunil Mittal of Airtel — his chief rival — was struggling in public to contain his frustration.

That Ambani would try to win over subscribers by offering them free voice calling wasn’t a surprise, Mittal said at the World Economic Forum in January 2017. But making voice calls and the bulk of 4G mobile data completely free for seven months clearly “meant that they have not gotten the attention they wanted,” he said, hopeful the local regulator would soon intervene.

This wasn’t the first time Ambani and Mittal were competing directly against each other: in 2002, Ambani had launched a telecommunications company and sought to win the market by distributing free handsets.

In India, carrier lock-in is not popular as people prefer pay-as-you-go voice and data plans. But luckily for Mittal in their first go around, Ambani’s journey was cut short due to a family feud with his brother — read more about that here.

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Xiaomi’s Mi Smart Band 5 sports bigger display and new wireless charging system — and starts at $27

Posted by | Android, Asia, China, hardware, Health, spongebob squarepants, Wearables, Xiaomi | No Comments

One of the world’s best selling wearable lineups just added a new gadget to the mix.

Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi today unveiled the Mi Smart Band 5 that delivers several improvements and adds features, such as a bigger screen, new wireless charging system and women’s health mode over the company’s one-year-old Mi Smart Band 4 — while retaining its dirt-cheap price point.

The Mi Smart Band 5 features a 1.1-inch AMOLED display that is 20% larger than the one its immediate predecessor sported.

With the new band, the world’s second largest wearable vendor is also bringing a range of new animated watch faces, including characters from TV series such as Spongebob Squarepants, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Detective Conan, and eight colorful straps.

Xiaomi says the new smart band is powered by an improved processor — the name of which it did not specify — to enable tracking of menstrual cycles for the first time, and support additional features such as stress assessment that will tell the wearer when it’s a good time to relax.

The Mi Smart Band 5, compatible with iPhones as well as Android handsets, also monitors the wearer’s sleep cycle more efficiently now, adding support for REM sleep as well as evaluating deep and light sleep sessions. The company claimed its heart-rate monitoring is now 50% more precise.

One of the biggest improvements in the new band is its new charging system. This is a refreshing change as previous models in Xiaomi’s Mi Smart Band lineup have received complaints from users who described having to get the tracker out of the strap as a clumsy process. Now the company says its new magnetic charging dock automatically snaps onto the bottom of the band. Charging the band once delivers up to 14-days of continuous usage.

Like the Mi Smart Band 4, the Band 5 supports the company’s homegrown digital voice assistant XiaoAI that a user can trigger by swiping to the right of the display.

There is an additional variant of the Smart Band 5 that supports NFC. This model features support for mobile payment services, and can be used to unlock smart doors and also serve as a transportation card at select subways.

The Mi Smart Band 5 goes on sale in China next week at a price point of RMB 189 ($26.75) while the NFC variant of the band is priced at RMB 229 ($32.5). The company says the device will be made available in international markets “soon.”

Xiaomi continues to be one of the leading players in the wearable market as it aggressively refreshes and introduces new devices. In November last year, Xiaomi debuted its first smartwatch — called the Mi Watch —  that looks strikingly similar to the Apple Watch. The Mi Watch is priced at $185.

According to research firm IDC, the company shipped 10.1 million wearable devices in the quarter that ended in March this year. It is ahead of Samsung, Huawei and Fitbit. Apple maintains its top spot in the category.

Data: IDC

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Xiaomi releases MIUI 12 global update with more privacy controls, revamped user interface

Posted by | Android, Apps, Asia, miui, POCO, Redmi, Xiaomi | No Comments

Xiaomi on Tuesday unveiled the global version of MIUI 12, the latest update to its Android -based operating system, for hundreds of millions of smartphones as the Chinese electronics giant pushes to broaden its services ecosystem.

The world’s fourth largest smartphone firm said it is delivering a range of new features to its overseas users with MIUI 12, including a revamped user interface, the ability to cast the phone screen without the need to connect it to a computer, improvement to multitasking support and battery life and more privacy controls to users.

Chief among the new changes is how the software looks. A company executive said animation renders slightly differently after installing MIUI 12, stretching more naturally across the screen — especially on smartphones with rounded corners — as a user taps on an app.

Xiaomi has been able to deliver this graphical improvement thanks to what it calls “kernel-level innovation” that includes a new rendering engine, she said.

“With our rendering, we have enabled color blending and Gaussian blur. You can see various degrees of blurring happening in real time as light penetrates different materials,” explained Louisa Jia, head of marketing and operations of Global MIUI, at an event today.

MIUI 12, which is built atop Android 9 and Android 10 (depending on the device on which it will be rolled out), also changes how storage, memory and power consumption usage are displayed on the phone, making it easier for users to quickly understand the state of their device at a glance.

As part of the new coat of paint, Xiaomi is also deploying dark mode across all third-party apps, including those that have not introduced support for this feature yet.

Support for multitasking is also getting an improvement, popping any additional app on a floating screen that users can move around to any part of the screen and engage quickly without having to switch from the game or other app that they were focusing on. The company said it is also introducing an “ultra battery saver” feature that kicks in when the level of phone charge hits 5%. The new feature shuts off every non-essential service to deliver an additional five hours of battery life.

Privacy

Another interesting feature the company is introducing grants more privacy control to users. MIUI 12 will allow users to easily monitor and restrict apps from using the camera, microphone, location, contacts, storage, call history and calendar.

Whenever an app uses any of these, a persistent icon appears in the notification bar, tapping which will allow users to see which app is using this data and easily shut that access. Additionally, like with newer versions of Android and iOS, MIUI 12 gives users the ability to determine how often an app can access sensitive personal information.

Xiaomi said with MIUI 12, it is also providing users with the ability to strip off sensitive information, such as location data from a photo before they share it with their friends. By default, the new operating system will strip off such data from photos — a feature that privacy advocates have long desired, and business communication app Slack recently introduced to its service.

MIUI 12 will roll out to select smartphones — Mi 9, Mi 9T, Mi 9T Pro, Redmi K20 and Redmi K20 Pro — at the end of June, and dozens of smartphone models, including Poco F1 and Redmi 6, that were launched in 2018, “soon afterward,” said Jia. The company said it will make a beta version of MIUI 12 available to users next week for those who don’t want to wait too long.

More than 300 million smartphones ran MIUI software at the end of last year, Xiaomi revealed in its most recent earnings call in late March. The company previously stated that it is banking on MIUI to expand its services ecosystem as it looks to cut its financial reliance on sales of gadgets.

In 2018, Xiaomi started to display ads in the lockscreen and settings app to users in India and select other markets.

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Fitbit’s Chinese rival Amazfit mulls a transparent, self-disinfecting mask

Posted by | Asia, biotech, China, Gadgets, GoPro, huami, huawei, shenzhen, smartwatch, TC, wearable devices, Xiaomi | No Comments

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a wave of Chinese companies with manufacturing operations to produce virus-fighting equipment: Shenzhen-based electric vehicle giant BYD quickly moved to launch what it claims to be the world’s largest mask plant; Hangzhou-based voice intelligence startup Rokid is making thermal imaging glasses targeted at the US market; and many more.

The latest of such efforts comes from Huami, the NASDAQ-listed wearables startup that makes Xiaomi’s Mi Bands and sells its own fitness tracking watches under the Amazfit brand in more than 70 countries. In a phone interview with TechCrunch, the firm said it is developing a see-through plastic mask with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port. The caveat is that the lights only sanitize the inside of the mask and users still have to clean the outer surface themselves.

The Aeri concept comes with built-in ultraviolet lights that can disinfect filters within 10 minutes when connected to a power supply through a USB port.

Called Aeri, the mask uses removable filters that are on par with N95 filtration capacity. If the concept materializes, each filter could last up to a month and a half, significantly longer than the average life of surgical masks and N95 respirators. The modular design allows for customized accessories such as a fan for breathable comfort, hence the mask’s name Aeri, a homophone of “airy”.

Aeri started from the premise that wearing masks could thwart the increasingly common adoption of facial recognition. That said, imaging companies have been working on biometric upgrades to allow analyses of other facial features such as irises or the tip of noses.

Aeri might still have a market appeal though, argued Pengtao Yu, vice president of industrial design at Huami. “Whether people need to unlock their phones or not, they want to see each other’s faces at social occasions,” said Yu, the California-based Chinese designer who had served clients including Nest Labs, Roku, GoPro and Huawei prior to joining Huami.

Huami’s U.S. operation, which focuses on research and development, opened in 2014 and now counts a dozen of employees.

Many companies turning to pandemic-fighting manufacturing have taken a hit from their core business, but Huami has managed to stay afloat. Its Q1 revenue was up 36% year-over-year to hit $154 million, although net income decreased to $2.7 million from $10.6 million. Its stocks have been declining, however, sliding from a high point of $16 in January to around $10 in mid-May.

Huami is in the process of prototyping the Aeri masks. In Shenzhen, which houses the wearables company’s headquarters, the development cycle for hardware products — from ideation to market rollout — takes as short as 6-12 months thanks to the city’s rich supply chain resources, said Yu.

Huami hasn’t priced Aeri at this early stage, but Yu admitted that the masks are targeting the “mass consumer market” around the world, not only for protection against viruses but also everyday air pollution, rather than appealing to medical workers. Given Huami’s history of making wearables at thin margins, it won’t be surprising that Aeri will be competitively priced.

The Aeri project is part of Huami’s pivot to enter the general health sector beyond pure fitness monitoring. The company has recently teamed up with a laboratory led by Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the public face of China’s fight against COVID-19, to track respiratory diseases using wearables. It’s also in talks with the German public health authority to collaborate on a smartwatch-powered virus monitoring app, the company told TechCrunch.

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Xiaomi spinoff POCO’s F2 Pro undercuts Android rivals with low price and flagship features

Posted by | Amazon, Android, Asia, hardware, Mobile, POCO, Qualcomm, smartphones, Sony, Xiaomi | No Comments

POCO, a brand that spun out of Chinese electronics giant Xiaomi earlier this year, today launched the POCO F2 Pro smartphone as it continues its new journey as an independent firm.

The POCO F2 Pro, like its two-year-old sleeper hit predecessor Pocophone F1 smartphone, punches above its price class. It features an all-screen 6.67-inch full-HD+ AMOLED display (with 2400×1080 pixels), in-screen fingerprint scanner, support for 5G, quad-core rear camera setup and a pop-up front camera that quietly tucks away when not in use. It also features a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The smartphone comes in two variants: one with 6GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage that is priced at €499 (roughly $540), and the other that features 8GB of RAM and 256GB internal storage that costs €599 (roughly $650).

Both the variants run Android 10 and are going on sale globally starting Tuesday through Gearbest and Aliexpress e-commerce sites. POCO said it will soon begin selling the POCO F2 Pro on Amazon, Lazada and Shopee among other e-commerce sites, including its official website.

The dual-SIM card-supported smartphone, a popular feature in several Asian markets, is powered by Qualcomm’s flagship octa-core Snapdragon 865 processor, coupled with Adreno 650GPU. POCO F2 Pro also sports what the company claims to be the largest vapor chamber in any smartphone to support LiquidCool, a technology that keeps the device cool even when a user is playing high-end games such as Fortnite and PUBG.

A total score of 589,983.

CPU Benchmark score of 184,817.

GFXbench Manhattan 4.0 benchmark score of 40.

Yes, the #POCOF2Pro is simply #PowerfullyCool! pic.twitter.com/KgyHJt2dI4

— POCO (@POCOGlobal) May 12, 2020

On the camera front, the POCO F2 Pro features a 64MP Sony IMX686 sensor, which serves as the primary camera, with a 13MP ultra wide-angle lens, a 5MP macro and one 2MP depth sensor. The pop-up camera, which serves as the selfie sensor, is a 20MP lens. The rear camera setup is capable of recording videos in 8K resolution at 24fps, and 4K in 60fps.

The POCO F2 Pro, which comes in Neon Blue, Electric Purple, Cyber Grey, Phantom White, houses a 4,700mAh battery with support for fast charging, and ships with a 33W charger in the box.

POCO listed a number of additional features that other flagship Android smartphones offer, such as support for HDR10+, display brightness of 500 nits, Corning Gorilla Glass 5 that protects the screen and an IR blaster. But its display lacks support for 120Hz refresh rate — as seen on OnePlus 8T Pro that makes viewing experience extra smooth.

POCO F2 Pro is the second smartphone from the company since it spun out of Xiaomi earlier this year. The company’s first product, called Pocophone F1, launched in 2018 and was well received by the market.

At the time of the launch, Xiaomi executives said they had big plans for the POCO brand but never launched anything afterward. During the period the company also saw a big departure when Jai Mani, a senior product executive, left the firm. Earlier this year, the company launched the mid-range POCO X2 smartphone in India.

POCO executives today shared little plans on what the future holds for the firm, but assured that they are here to stay. “We’re back. It’s been awhile, but we are back,” said Angus Ng, a product marketing manager at POCO.

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Xiaomi, Samsung and others begin to resume smartphone production in India

Posted by | Apple, Asia, coronavirus, COVID-19, Covid19, Foxconn, Gadgets, hardware, oppo, Samsung, vivo, wistron, Xiaomi | No Comments

Xiaomi, Vivo, Samsung, Oppo and other smartphone companies have received approval from some state governments in India to partially resume manufacturing and assembling of devices amid the ongoing lockdown in the world’s second largest handset market that completely shut operations at these plants in late March.

The companies said that they have secured permission to kick start their manufacturing operations in the country, though several restrictions such as operating with limited workforce are still in place. (The federal government allowed the resumption of smartphone production earlier this month, but state governments have the final say on whether the local conditions are safe enough to enforce the relaxation.)

New Delhi’s decision comes days after it extended the lockdown by two weeks earlier this month but eased some restrictions to revive economic activity that’s been stalled since the stringent stay-at-home orders were imposed across the nation in late March.

Earlier this week, the government permitted e-commerce firms and ride-hailing services to resume services in green and orange zones, districts that have seen less severe outbreak of the coronavirus, across the country. Green and orange zones account for 82% of India’s 733 districts.

Xiaomi, which launched a range of gadgets in India today including its Snapdragon 865-powered Mi 10 smartphone, said earlier this month that it only had inventory to meet demand for up to three weeks.

Manu Kumar Jain, a VP at Xiaomi who oversees the Chinese firm’s business in India, said today that the company, which has been the top smartphone vendor in the country for more than two years, would restart operations in its contract partner Foxconn’s facility in the state of Andhra Pradesh.

A person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that Wistron, a contract partner of Apple, has started limited operations for the iPhone-maker in Bangalore.

Vivo, the second largest smartphone vendor in India, said the company will resume production at 30% of their capacity. “We shall begin production with around 3,000 employees,” a Vivo spokesperson said.

Like Vivo, Oppo will also resume production at its Greater Noida facility with around 3,000 employees who would work in rotation, it said. Samsung, which opened the world’s biggest smartphone factory in India in 2018, said it will restart production in that factory.

“On Thursday, the factory started limited operations, which will be scaled up over a period of time. Employee safety and well-being remaining our absolute priority, we have ensured that all hygiene and social distancing measures are maintained at the premises, as per government guidelines,” said a Samsung spokesperson.

The coronavirus outbreak has severely disrupted several businesses. India did not see any handset sale last month, according to research firm Counterpoint. Counterpoint estimated that the smartphone shipments in India will decline by 10% this year, compared to a 8.9% growth in 2019 and 10% growth in 2018.

Every top smartphone maker in India has either established its own manufacturing plant or partnered with contract vendors to produce units locally in recent years to avail the tax benefits that New Delhi offers.

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Xiaomi launches Mi Commerce in India to boost sales amid lockdown

Posted by | Amazon, Asia, coronavirus, counterpoint, COVID-19, Covid19, eCommerce, Gadgets, Samsung, Walmart, Xiaomi | No Comments

Xiaomi today launched a new e-commerce service in India that allows people in the nation to easily browse and order its handsets and other products from nearby physical retail stores as the Chinese giant rushes to kickstart its sales in its biggest overseas market.

Dubbed Mi Commerce, the service allows people to locate nearby stores that are either run by Xiaomi or those that have tie-ups with the company and browse smartphones, TVs, electric lamps, and a range of other products.

Users can express their “interest” to purchase the selected item through the app that would prompt the retail store to place a confirmation call. The retail store would deliver the item and then process the payment, Xiaomi said. A spokesperson told TechCrunch that Mi Commerce is available only in India currently.

Xiaomi has also launched a WhatsApp Business account that operates on a similar flow. Users can send a message to +91 8861826286 to initiate the conversation with retail stores through Facebook-owned service.

The shift to what is often described in the industry as an online to offline model comes as Xiaomi, like other smartphone vendors, looks to make up its lost sales in recent weeks. India ordered a nationwide lockdown in late March that shut retail shops, and restricted e-commerce firms to only service grocery orders.

According to Hong Kong-headquartered research firm Counterpoint, no smartphone units were sold in India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, in April.

In a call with reporters, Xiaomi executives said they were hopeful that the Indian market would attain at least 80% of its momentum by the end of the year. Counterpoint slashed its smartphone projections for India last month, saying it now expects the market to shrink by 10% this year. Indian smartphone market has consistently grown year-by-year in the last decade.

Mi Commerce would additionally also help potential customers maintain social distance and avoid errands to stores that would otherwise expose them to novel coronavirus.

Xiaomi said it was working with the government for an update on the resumption of smartphone manufacturing plants that are also shut since the lockdown was ordered in March. The company executives said they currently have inventory to meet demand for three to four months.

The Chinese giant is also providing working capital to its retail store partners, it said.

Samsung, which lost the tentpole position in India’s smartphone market to Xiaomi in 2018 and recently the second spot to Vivo, did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment on any similar efforts it has made — or not made — in India.

On Monday, e-commerce firms including Amazon and Walmart in India resumed their service for people in more than 80% zip codes in the country. A lockdown would remain in place for another two weeks in India, but New Delhi has eased some restrictions.

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