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HT Wired Wisdom πŸ’‘: Are you paying too much for some Android flagship phones?

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Thursday, 16 February 2023
By Vishal Mathur

Good morning!

How much should you pay for an Android flagship phone If the past few years tell us anything, sky is the limit. The pit is bottomless. I’ve borne witness to an era when a Rs 30,000 smartphone was a worthy flagship. We’ve evolved. Year after year, a transparent ceiling has stretched. Now, Samsung wants you to part with Rs 1,54,999 for the highest spec Galaxy S23 Ultra phone. Of course, you can. It is your money. Components are expensive, smartness comes at a price. But that isn’t just it. There’s the milking of brand perception. A desire for more. Currency conversion buffers. Yet, the fact remains, you may be overpaying for some phones. That is something OnePlus reminds us of again, effectively. As do Google Pixel 7 phones. Suddenly, rivals seem overpriced. By quite some margin, on the spec sheet.


Read: OnePlus 11 proves why you must not pay ₹1,24,999 for an ‘ultra’ flagship phone

     

I’ve the spec sheet as the comparison point to illustrate why I believe you may be paying too much for some Android flagship phones. Keeping the current crop in mind, that would be the Samsung Galaxy S23 series, particularly Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 Ultra. Important to note, the spec sheet is the primary comparator here, because Samsung hasn’t bothered to share any review devices with me – thus, nothing that proves an experience with largely similar specs can be very different in another phone. Give or take a spec or two, either way. Therefore, I’ll go with simple, conventional wisdom.

There is the new OnePlus 11 (Rs 56,999 and Rs 61,999 depending on the spec you select) does many things better than the Galaxy S23+ (you’ll pay Rs 94,999 or Rs 1,04,999 for the two available options) – more pixels on the display (higher density makes for a richer and fluid viewing experience), a more capable triple camera setup (Hasselblad expertise is in the mix too), more megapixels on the selfie camera and a bigger battery with much faster charging (100-watt compared with 45-watt). Make your pick.

Apart from claiming the benefits of a 200-megapixel camera, the S-Pen and what Samsung claims is a special edition Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip, it turns out the OnePlus 11 and indeed the Pixel 7 Pro (Rs 80,999) have more pixels on the display, more megapixels for accompanying camera sensors and weigh significantly lesser too. Google Tensor G2 chip, my extensive experience with the Pixel 7 phones being a testament, is walking the battery and performance tightrope to perfection. Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 has made significant improvements, more being on reducing power consumption. As I’ve said before, nothing tells me the same processor, memory and storage (capacity and type) combo will behave very differently (read, better) in a Samsung phone, than it does in a OnePlus phone. Experience matters, or at least it should. Unless you have a definite to show me, which illustrates real-world superiority. It is your money after all. And your decision.

Also Read

India is a key part of the R&D machine, says Qualcomm’s Chris Patrick

Samsung stretches foldable phone influence even though it’s still a lonely race

With Android 13, Google aims to piece together the ecosystem and tablet puzzles

INTELLIGENCE


You’d remember our detailed analysis of how ChatGTP and the competition from Google’s Bard effort is pushing the case for AI chatbots. The week then saw Microsoft getting into the game and isn’t holding back. There are three things that’ll happen.

There is a new version of the Bing search engine that is being built afresh, using the same underpinnings of AI, as ChatGTP which you are likely to have already encountered and experienced. This will use the Prometheus model.

A new Edge web browser is in the works, which will have a layer of AI functionality. ‘Chat’ will be your dedicated AI based summarisation of any webpage or article you may be reading. ‘Compose’ will be an AI powered writing assistant, which theoretically can reply to emails and do social media posts for you – that’s the plan, refinement will take quite some time.

It is expected that a melding of OpenAI’s ChatGTP and Microsoft’s Prometheus will eventually be integrated within the productivity apps, Word, Excel and Powerpoint. It isn’t outlandish to expect it – similar models have been tested within Outlook too. Quite how the contours would be, we will know in due course.

ART

The week gone by, provided a chance to change gears a bit. An opportunity to get up close, with the workings of something different. Something creative. Basically, the intersection of art as we know it, and technology as we interact with. Three artists, I met at the 2023 India Art Fair, are relying completely on tech to get the message across. It is a mix of versatile apps such as Procreate, and powerful computing devices such as the Apple iPad Pro. Notice a common theme? Accessibility. Artists are deriving most from apps and devices that we can buy (and many of us do indeed buy). That is how much the gadgets we use, have moved forward. Before layers such as augmented reality begin to figure.

Read: Art and iPad: AR, algorithms and coding give artists more tools to work with

‘Ascension’, an illustrated family portrait by Mumbai based Mira Felicia Malhotra, utilises augmented reality to add an otherwise hidden layer of emotions, sentiments, and feelings. On the face of it, this is a typical single dimensional artwork. At least that’s how it’d look, hanging on the wall. But peek at it through an Apple iPad Pro with augmented reality (the app is Artivive) providing an overlay, and that’s where the magic lies.

As the Kolkata based Varun Desai was telling us about ‘Dimorphism’, we stood within the installation. Amidst the fluid motion of 3D scanned humans (Nomad Sculpt is the app), hand-drawn particles and the grids (these were coded; Desai writes code too), the feeling of being static amidst movement towards a cause, was all too powerful. Reminded me of the first tryst with virtual reality (VR) headsets – you’re unsteady on your feet, yet you’re too engrossed to bother.

And then there is Gaurav Ogale, whose artwork needs an iPad (that’s a reference point, the versatility is wider) to reside. The art tries to take us back to a simpler time, such as that of browsing best seller books, in a bookstore (when was the last time you did that?). A second layer, and why it needs a screen, adds some movement to the pages with animations and sound.

It is no longer just about a canvas and a brush. Artists have a lot more at their disposal. Tools that widen the canvas, the scope of work and the depth of the message. The tablets and apps that you and I can use, are the ones that have the extensive tools artists need. Next time you think of upgrading your computing device (be it iPad or Mac or laptop) with something newer, think again – is it really that old?

I’ll quietly gloss over the fact that the first physical Today at Apple session, got me to revisit whatever little artistic skills I have. Something was drawn out on Procreate with the Apple Pencil. And deleted too, for good measure. There is no proof that shockingly bad artwork, ever existed. My 5-year-old daughter would’ve been mighty unimpressed by her old man’s shoddy efforts.

KNOW

The “truly corrupt” will be no more. Soon. Elon Musk, the man at the wheel over at the Twitter ship, says the legacy verified ticks will be removed. It is probably the millionth time we are hearing of it. Be done with it, finally? If you want to keep the blue tick as some sort of superiority fixture, or want to get one in the future, you’ll need to pay Musk every month for Twitter Blue. That’s $8 (or is it $11?). In Twitter’s world, hard to tell anything these days.

At the time of writing this (this number will surely go up by the time you read this), Reliance Jio’s 5G coverage has now covered 236 Indian cities, across telecom circles. Airtel follows, close behind, but not close enough to match Jio’s rapid 5G rollout pace. Nevertheless, there are no signs of slowing down. That is something Mukesh Ambani, RIL’s Managing Director, made very clear at the Global Investors’ Summit 2023 in Lucknow. By December 2023, which is less than 10 months away, every town and village in the state of Uttar Pradesh will have 5G coverage. Two new pilot initiatives are planned too – Jio School and Jio AI Doctor. We’ll keep a keen eye on the progress.

CONNECTIVITY


Our regular readers would remember that I’ve often spoken about the utility of 5G as an alternative to wired broadband for homes (and indeed offices). Call these 5G hotspots or 5G fixed wireless access (FWA). Basically, a Wi-Fi router in your home that connects to a 5G network, instead of having a cable run all the way to it. If you remember, Reliance Jio had given us a glimpse of something they call the JioAirFiber. Now Airtel has spoken about something similar, for the first time. It is very much in the works. They say, it should be ready sometime in the next six months.

In use will be mmWave (that’s the 26GHz band, according to India’s 5G frequency allotment). The big worry, the cost of these routers. These usually cost service providers about $200, for each home. Quite how Airtel snips this cost down (and it’ll have to do so significantly) in the next few months, will be interesting to see. The cost must be the reason why we haven’t seen JioAirFiber again, since. Home broadband, the wired variant most of us have in our homes, has significant reliability advantages. Along with a much lower cost to deploy and subscribe to. Something 5G FWA must match too.

KNOW MORE

AI chatbots are an absolute rage. As Microsoft goes about reconfiguring the Edge web browser to add what it calls an “AI powered co-pilot” (mind you, this won’t be ChatGTP, but a new AI model called Prometheus), Opera will use ChatGTP for its upcoming AI overlay. The web browser will start with something called ‘Shorten’, that’ll create summaries of webpages and articles. You can read more, here.

     

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Written and edited by Vishal Shanker Mathur. Produced by Md Shad Hasnain.

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