Majority of people in Asia use smartphone as communication tool: Survey

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A study highlighting the role of smartphones in people’s lives in Asia has found that 60 percent people use them to primarily communicate with one another, 24 percent consider them as companions, while the age group of 20 and under use their devices for music and entertainment the most. The survey, conducted by leading Chinese language internet search provider Baidu, also showed that almost 50 percent of Asians get worried when their smartphones run out of battery, which is quite high compared to people from other demographics.

According to Baidu’s “Global Smartphone Usage and Trends-2015″ survey report, 36 percent people across the world update their smartphones once a year.

“If we compare results from different regions we see that three out of 10 people in Asia update their smartphones once a year which is consistent amongst all the age groups but again the age group of 20 to 29 leads it with 38 percent,” it said.

So far as charging frequency is concerned, almost half the user base of smartphones in the world charge their devices just once in a day, according to the survey. But it also found that 35 percent people charge their smartphones multiple times a day, “which speaks about the heavy usage of battery due to the apps on their smartphones”. Nearly 40 percent of all users surveyed installed between 21-50 apps on their phone. However, Asians tend to keep their apps below 20, Baidu reported.

Battery-related overheating issues were particularly found prominent among users in Asia.  ”Overall, the most common problem faced across the globe due to excessive smartphone usage is the ‘phone overheats’ issue which is a whopping 44 percent, ‘trash size’ and ‘slow online’ speed come second and third in the list with 38 percent and 32 percent respectively,” the survey said.

It was also found that Asians are more dependent on their smartphones than the users in the West.  Forty-seven percent of North American users waited for their phones to run out completely. But users in Asia preferred to use a power bank or a battery-saving app when running out of power.

Freedom 251: Ringing Bells to refund pre-booking money to 30,000 customers

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Ringing Bells, the makers of the controversial “Freedom 251” smartphone, has reportedly claimed to have paid back the money it generated from the first 30,000 pre-booking orders on the first day of the sale this month. Mohit Goel, managing director of the Noida-based company, has claimed that the money of all 30,000 customers has been refunded and the company will now accept cash on delivery only, according to news channel ABP News.

Ringing Bells had received 30,000 orders on the first day and the rest of the customers will be selected on first-come-first-serve basis as the company received a mammoth over seven crore registrations. Earlier on Friday, Ringing Bells president Ashok Chadha had announced that the Rs.251 (less than $4) “Freedom 251″ smartphone customers will be required to make payment only when the smartphone is delivered to them.

“The company has decided that we will, henceforth, offer ‘cash on delivery’ mode of payments for those who have placed an order for the ‘Freedom 251′ smartphone. This will ensure further transparency and clear any misgivings,” Chadha said in a statement.

The company plans to give 25 lakh handsets in the first phase before June 30. Ringing Bells has been facing an FIR and defamation suit amid serious questions being raised over the world’s cheapest smartphone. The Noida-based startup claims to have tied up with the payment gateway provider PayUbiz so that it receives payment only on the submission of proof of delivery (POD) to the payment gateway.

“Our humble beginning to provide a high-tech gadget that will benefit all in the hinterlands and bridge the huge gap that clearly exists between the metros and semi-urban/rural areas is in keeping with the government’s initiatives,” Chadha said.

However, Noida-based data centre and BPO Cyfuture, said on Friday they were set to file an FIR against Ringing Bells and deliberating on filing a defamation suittoo. According to Anuj Bairathi, Cyfuture founder and CEO, they met Vishwajeet Srivastava, Gautam Budh Nagar Superintendent of Police (crime branch), who looked into the matter and assured them of a suitable course of action.

“After deciding to file an FIR for fraud and non-payment of dues, we are now thinking to file a defamation suit against Ringing Bells as their allegation of non-performance has tarnished our image,” Bairathi told IANS.

Taking the world by surprise, Ringing Bells launched “Freedom 251″ smartphone that, it said, has been developed “with immense support” from the government. As the makers of the smartphone went gaga over being part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” and “Digital India” initiatives in the last few days, a topgovernment official clarified on Thursday that the government has nothing to do with the “Freedom 251″ smartphone.

“This is not a government project. ‘Make in India’ team has nothing to do with this,” wrote Amitabh Kant, secretary of the department of industrial policy and promotion (DIPP), in a Twitter post.

Netflix is introducing data saving, second screen, and HDR features this year

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If you have a limited data plan for your smartphone and find you can’t always binge-watch Netflix shows when you’re out and about, the video streaming site has some good news for you – an update to the Netflix mobile app later this year will give users more control over how much data they use.

According to a report from Pocket Lint, the update for the iOS and Android app will introduce a data saver button that can be turned on to limit bitrate. Once activated, the app will intelligently select the most economical bandwidth at which to stream the content, meaning some video may drop below 1080p to conserve data.

Netflix added that when the update is released it won’t take into account the screen resolution of the user’s device, it also won’t allow users to set the bitrate limit, but this may change in the future.

Additionally, Netflix is introducing a second screen function, which can be used on smartphones and tablets while users stream videos on their main displays. In development for the last four years, this feature will display information on mobile devices related to whatever content users are watching on their TVs. So no more trawling through IMDB trying to find out an actor’s name or some information about the show you’re watching.

The second screen feature will initially launch on Android and Chromecast, and appear on iOS and consoles sometime later.

Finally, Netflix revealed that it will finally introduce HDR (high dynamic range) content in March for the second season of the hit show Daredevil. It was pointed out, however, that it may not be immediately available at the time of the Daredevil’s March 18 release.

HDR, whichexpands the range of both contrast and color significantly to produce more realistic images, will also appear in other Netflix shows, such as Marco Polo. The company has high expectations for the new technology. “HDR is a bigger leap in terms of experience than 4K,” said Netflix.

Your next smartphone may include 256GB of storage courtesy of Samsung

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Samsung on Thursday announced that it is now mass-producing 256GB embedded memory chips for mobile devices.

The chips, based on Samsung’s V-NAND technology, utilize the Universal Flash Storage (UFS) 2.0 standard and are physically smaller than a microSD card. Capacity, however, is only half of the story as the new memory chips are also incredibly fast.

Samsung says they take advantage of two lanes of data transfer which allows for sequential read speeds of up to 850MB/sec. That’s nearly twice as fast as the average SATA-based solid state drive. They’re a bit slower on the write side as sequential writes check in at up to 260MB/sec.

Random read IOPS (input / output operations per second) are rated at 45,000 with random write IOPS at 40,000. For comparison, Samsung says the previous generation of UFS memory was good for 19,000 and 14,000 read / write IOPS, respectively.

The South Korean technology giant says one 256GB chip can store about 47 full HD movies. For smartphones that support USB 3.0, users will be able to transfer a 5GB movie in about 12 seconds. It’ll obviously take a little longer to transfer, say, a 4K movie, but it’ll still be much faster than what’s available today.

It’s refreshing to see companies continue to push the limits of local flash storage, especially when you consider microSD card slots are becoming less common on flagship phones. Cloud storage is a solid alternative but it’s not a perfect solution as accessing it without a Wi-Fi connection will eat into your monthly data allotment (not to mention the fact that you can’t access it at all if you hit a cellular / Wi-Fi dead zone).

Samsung said it will increase its production volume in line with increases in global demand.

OnePlus 3 smartphone to arrive by June

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OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei has revealed that the Chinese handset maker will release its next flagship smartphone by the end of the second quarter of this year.

In an exclusive interview with CNET, Pei said he hopes the OnePlus 3 – which will actually be the company’s fourth model – will “captivate” users as much as the original did in 2014. The executive was short on details but said the next flagship will feature a new design.

As the publication points out, OnePlus doesn’t publish sales figures although it claims to have more than 800,000 users on its online forum that share tips, tricks and other experiences regarding their phones.

Aside from its attractive price, much of what garnered attention for the three-year-old company early on was the exclusivity generated by its unique invite-only sales model. That gimmick has likely run its course, however, as Pei said OnePlus will begin using more traditional marketing strategies.

Pei also told the publication that the US will be very important for his company this year, added that the OnePlus 3 will arrive in the US and other markets as an unlocked device that’ll continue to be sold directly to consumers. Best yet, he said OnePlus expects to offer a “better” buying process which (fingers crossed) may mean moving away from the annoying invite-only model.

And for the first time, they’ll accept credit card payments in addition to PayPal. Free shipping is also sticking around, we’re told.