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Gaming smartphone vs flagship smartphone: the differences

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re someone who keeps up with the smartphone industry. When was the last time a smartphone got you interested? Probably when Razer released the first gaming smartphone, Razer Phone. We discuss this phenomenon, and what separates them from a flagship smartphone.

The last few years of smartphone development has mostly been focused on pushing VR and AR, improving user experience and providing innovative features aiming to integrate into daily usage. This desperately begs the question, what do we want from a flagship in 2018?

I mean, look at Xiaomi fulfilling almost all needs of consumer through their affordable Redmi lineup. For anyone looking for an extra oomph with a top of the line SoC, they have the Mi lineup of flagship smartphones featuring stellar build quality and top-tier performance. And as usual, we also have flagships from other android smartphone giants such as LG, HTC, Samsung and Huawei. And all of the other mid-tier smartphones either needed extensive modding after rooting a smartphone [which is quite the tricky process, needing enough attention from both the manufacturer and developers].

All we ever wanted was a phone that just worked with no frills.

The Demand

Hardcore gaming on smartphones was unheard of in any market; at least before Asians started making massively multiplayer online role-playing games… for Android. And like the madmen hardcore gamers are, smartphone sales started spiking in Asian regions. Affordable flagships like Xiaomi Mi series and OnePlus started gaining traction, just because of that sweet Snapdragon flagship chip, and a battery to last several gaming sessions.

This newly sprung market’s demand at this point was only this; a smartphone with top of the line specs and cooling system that helps with the throttling smartphones usually face. That’s something we haven’t seen since the gaming focused Xperia Play, and going way back, the Nokia N-Gage.

The Messiah: Razer Phone

Razer was already a well known gaming brand thanks to its brilliant Deathadder gaming mice and Blackwidow gaming keyboards. Led by an eccentric CEO, Min-Liang Tan, Razer also gained popularity for its skits based on seemingly impossible April Fools jokes featuring hilariously impossible technologies. But last year, Razer broke through from its conventional lineup of gaming gears and released a phone.

Enter, the Razer Phone. Featuring a massive 4,000 mAh battery, dual front firing speakers and Dolby Atmos audio, it seemed an easy entrance into the realm of flagships for this gaming company. Add a 120Hz IPS screen to the mix, and it becomes a compelling buy over any smartphone in the industry, at least for the gamers who know the difference between refresh rates of a display. The smartphone was instantly praised by enthusiasts and reviewers, and grabbed a market that none else dared to touch before; android gamers. From there, it was a slippery slope, and like a wrecking ball we saw gaming focused smartphones coming out in torrents. Huawei Honor Play, Nubia Red Magic and Xiaomi’s Blackshark are to name a few.

Return of the Flagships

Gaming smartphones surely brought a brand new dimension to the smartphone market, but that meant that the manufacturers had to sell their flagships too. Except Razer, who were, and still are enjoying a steady stream of income from their only smartphone, the Razer phone; thanks to its amazing display and front firing speakers.Smartphone giants instead focused their efforts towards improving camera modules, smoother user interface, removing ports and adding weird new features; all depending on who you’re asking about.But still, the question stands. Would you pick a flagship smartphone over a gaming phone?

The bitter truth

Earlier this year, Xiaomi, one of the biggest smartphone manufacturers of the decade, released the gaming-oriented Blackshark. Sporting a bold (and to some, downright weird) design, Blackshark generated quite the hype for the performance and the specs it promised to delivered. Xiaomi seemed to underestimate its market, with the Blackshark facing supply shortages within China. Nubia took the chance and released the Red Magic with a lesser processor (Snapdragon 835 against Blackshark’s 845). But the question still stands; what value does a flagship smartphone offer over a gaming smartphone?

The answer is heat dissipation and in result, lesser thermal throttling. Some reviewers dared to run Xiaomi’s Blackshark in a stress test against Xiaomi’s flagship Mi Mix 2S, both featuring the same SoC. The Mi Mix 2S ran cooler and had more consistent performance across the board in almost all applications including gaming. But for the price one would pay for a flagship, the gaming phones surely proved to be an amazing example of bang-for-buck.

The equalizer: ASUS ROG Phone

From the previous results, flagships would still be the weapon of choice for ultimate android gaming device. But still, the biggest trade-offs would be the peripherals and the battery life that gaming smartphones offer. Maybe that’s a deal-breaker to some. The answer to this came from ASUS’s gaming brand, ROG.

ROG revealed its first effort towards a gaming smartphone, called the ROG Phone, around June 2018. The flagship SoC from Qualcomm, Snapdragon 845, has been overclocked to 2.96GHz, compared to the standard 2.8GHz from flagships of well known company such as the Galaxy S9. It also comes packed with 8 gigs of RAM compared to the standard 4GB that most flagships feature.

Up front, the phone features a 6 inch AMOLED Panel with a 90Hz refresh rate, competing against Razer Phone’s 120Hz LCD Display. The corners of the phone are touch sensitive to provide a functionality called the air trigger, mappable buttons in video games for quick access to keys. Flip it over and the phone looks stylish, with an unconventionally designed fingerprint scanner and a cooling system called the “3D vapor chamber cooling”, providing upto 16 times more heat dissipation area and extending CPU endurance upto five folds. Oh, and also an RGB Republic of Gamers logo, something the Blackshark promised… Kinda.

If the vents aren’t enough, ROG released something called the AeroActive cooler, providing a 3.5mm jack and an active cooling fan. This cooler is just the one of many bizarre accessories made for the ROG phone. The most intriguing one is the TwinView Dock, a hand-held grip that comes with extra battery juice and a second screen. Want to play on a massive screen like a king? ASUS is also bringing a mobile desktop dock which you can hook up to a monitor or a TV. ASUS recommends it’s ROG Big Format Gaming Display; massive monitors featuring Nvidia tech and astonishing refresh rates.

Synopsis of value and some words

We come back to our original demand, a phone that doesn’t screw up every two seconds. And as enthusiasts, we want innovation and cool gadgets in this field of tiny computers in our pockets. We finally seem to have gotten it, but at what cost?

For the ultimate multi-tasker and power user, the smartphone industry finally has a market. These smartphones might look tacky and unprofessional; but they’re sure to get your work done efficiently than most smartphones out there.

All we can say is, gaming phones have certainly made smartphones exciting again.

IGTV: game changer or doomed to fail?

Instagram, one of the largest social media platforms with over 1 billion monthly active users, has now launched Instagram TV or IGTV – as you may have noticed by the little orange IGTV button on the top right corner of your updated Instagram home. IGTV is a standalone app – so, in a way, it is to Instagram what Facebook Messenger is to Facebook, but for videos instead of messages. Thankfully, you can also view videos on IGTV through the IGTV button on Instagram home and on users’ Instagram profiles, so you won’t have to feel excluded if you haven’t downloaded the IGTV app yet – unlike Facebook Messenger. What I found myself wondering when I first discovered the IGTV button on Instagram is, since we already have access to video stories on Instagram itself and other video sharing platforms such as YouTube, how much can the introduction of IGTV change the online video world as we know it?

While at first glance IGTV videos looked a lot like Instagram stories (only longer), it turned out to be much more than that. Any Instagram user can create a channel and share videos lasting up to 10 minutes (much more satisfying than having to crop your videos to a mere 30 seconds as is on Instagram) – and for users with larger follower bases, that limit is an hour. While stories can only be 15 seconds per clip and last only 24 hours on your profile, IGTV videos are more like creating YouTube videos, only vertical and filling in your entire screen. Moreover, IGTV, unlike YouTube, allows its users to browse videos and see comments whilst watching videos at the same time – a feature YouTube users have so far been deprived of.

The idea of vertical videos is personally the most exciting aspect of IGTV to me, as this gives way to developing a whole new range of filmmaking techniques that have been largely undiscovered thus far. Film-making, traditionally done in a 16:9 aspect ratio, has always been so to mimic how the human eye views the world – horizontally. However, in the 21st century, our smartphones have gotten us quite accustomed to a more vertical view of the world, and so the new vertical experience reinforces the feeling that this is still the virtual world – a feeling that is very new, and perhaps weird, to us. Even having to rotate to view YouTube videos on full-screen can sometimes feel like too much of a hassle – that’s how much we have gotten used to viewing videos on our phones vertically. So vertical videos on IGTV not only seem convenient (albeit takes some getting used to at first), but create the scope for more experimenting for content-creators and film-makers. In fact, we had already seen a lot of vertical music videos from popular artists in 2017, and now that IGTV has created a platform build specifically for vertical viewing, there is a much broader prospect for those videos now on IGTV. The new vertical viewing experienced introduced in this platform can therefore be a huge game-changer.

What makes IGTV even easier to use is that Instagram is already a mass favorite social media platform. Popular instagrammers won’t have to worry about starting out on a new platform on IGTV but rather building up on an already existing platform. Until now, anyone who wanted to expand using both the video and photography media had to maintain YouTube and Instagram separately – having to build a follower base in both of these platforms. With IGTV now opening Instagram up to a larger range of video content, this changes the entire dynamic – users now have the opportunity to focus on only one platform, Instagram, for both videography and photography rather than having to spread their resources across several platforms. Similarly, users won’t have to switch back and forth on popular YouTube/Instagram personalities but focus on one platform only.

So the real question it all boils down to is : what does this mean for YouTube?

The launch of IGTV almost unquestionably challenges the most popular video website we have, but how much does it really challenge? On one hand, with IGTV being a vertical platform, the type of content that can be shared on IGTV has to be very differently created than what can be shared on YouTube. In this sense, content-creators who want to retain their quality might want to treat these two websites very differently. But what can impact YouTube about IGTV isn’t how the content-creators see it, but how their users see it – and frankly, IGTV has made its platform much more accessible and handy than YouTube is at the moment.

And even if IGTV does gain traction from its users, will it really affect YouTube all that much? IGTV works largely in the same way as YouTube – you have to make your videos first and you can only use the website to share your content, so it has a real scope at competing with YouTube. But to what extent it can really do this can only be determined by what content IGTV is best suited for. YouTube is more of an all-size-fits-all kind of platform – everything made for a horizontal screen (which is mostly everything) is up there, and everything that wasn’t made for a horizontal screen can be uploaded too. In this case, IGTV’s vertical take on things end up giving it the shorter end of the stick – it limits the range of content that can be uploaded there, and so limits how much it can actually challenge YouTube.

In the social media world, Instagram has made a big name already, a name that is right up there with YouTube. Starting out as a platform meant exclusively for photos, Instagram has achieved major success with the introduction of Instagram stories as well, and now with the launch of IGTV, we have no doubt that this will be big as well. What we can only wait to see is, how much of the YouTube territory can IGTV actually conquer? One thing is for sure: it is a huge relief that the new Instagram update is nothing like the Snapchat update that ruined everything, but rather brings hope, excitement, and perhaps even a new era of video culture.

Virtual Reality – the next step in personal entertainment

Virtual Reality is a tech of the future, and as time passes by, AR and VR tech is getting more immersive and integrated into our lives. But it’s still a long time before VR becomes a piece of tech available for the masses, especially in Bangladesh. Despite being overpriced, VR is being developed in Bangladesh, with a lot of cheaper alternatives seeing use in Bangladesh among tech enthusiasts, developers and gamers.

Essentials and useful features

A lot of prerequisites are essential for a perfect VR experience. The best headsets feature head-tracking, motion-tracking and a surround sound. A 9-axis gyroscope helps a lot in this regard. Usually lower priced headsets rely on a smartphone for providing the experience, but dedicated VR headsets such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift have their own screens and hardware to make the experience better. Usually these headsets connect to a PC. A powerful PC will run these headsets with ease.

The affordable options : VR with smartphones

The Google Cardboard VR Headset

There are a lot of cheap options for VR. The cheapest DIY option is setting up a cardboard headset. Here’s a guide from Google to make your own VR headset. The headset doesn’t cost much to make, and only needs a pair of lens and a cardboard box. The experience doesn’t come close to a fully fledged VR headset, but it offers a sort of experience.

The Xiaomi VR Play

The main issue with Google Cardboard is the quality of the materials. You can easily save your time and efforts by buying a Chinese VR headset instead. Options among these include Remax, Xiaomi and the mildly popular VR Box 2.0, costing from a mere 500BDT to 1500BDT, depending on quality and features.

The Xiaomi VR Headset

Move up to around 5,000BDT and you’ll get surround sound built into the headset, as well as much better head support and hardware support with the Xiaomi VR 3D Glasses. You’ll still need a smartphone to enjoy the experience, but needless to say the headset itself is quite well built. The Samsung Gear VR is a much better alternative at a similar price, but it only supports Samsung Galaxy phone starting from the Galaxy S7.

The real deal : 3 degrees of freedom in hardware

3 degrees of freedom headsets involve stationary experiences, usually seated or standing positions which measure roll, pitch and yaw axes.

The Oculus Go

Currently, the cheapest headset with 3 degrees of freedom and hardware support is the brilliant Oculus Go. The Oculus Go promises a no-frills experience by removing the need for any wire or a smartphone. And the best part is the price. The Oculus Go costs 200USD for the 32GB version, and 250USD for the 64GB version. It seems like the best starting point for getting into VR headsets, as the headset supports Netflix and a few games from it’s store.

The Lenovo Mirage

The next biggest substantial update is the Lenovo Mirage. The Mirage is a daydream VR headset which doesn’t need a smartphone to support itself. While Mirage Solo is an excellent VR device, it simply isn’t worth the 400$ price tag, especially considering Lenovo’s selection of video games and apps.

In this segment, it seems the Oculus Go is the best option for casual VR entertainment and activities.

The really real deal: 6 degrees of freedom in hardware

6 degrees of freedom allow the user to walk around inside a physical space. In addition to the 3 degrees of freedom explained above, these headsets also measure surge, sway and heave. These headsets offer the most advanced VR experiences, but they need a powerful system to run.

The Playstation VR

The most affordable experience currently, with 6 degrees of freedom is the Playstation VR. The PSVR is a great VR system by Sony. It isn’t perfect, as there are other HMD (Head mounted devices) offer far better value. But the PSVR can support SteamVR, which in turn opens up a massive library of games. The only edge the PSVR has is the fact that it has a 120hz display. But it’s also a bummer, as the display inside is a 1080p display.

The Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift costs only 400$, and it’s the original pioneer of VR. Problem is, the Rift still needs a room tracker for it to work on certain games, and compatibility with Steam is still quite dodgy. However, the Rift stands among the headsets as one of the lightest ones in the market, and that goes a long way in terms of comfort.

The Samsung HMD Odyssey

To have the best value in terms of hardware VR, you have to spend 500USD for the Samsung HMD Odyssey. The headset is a WMR(Windows Mixed Reality) headset, and fortunately supports SteamVR app store. This means that all the games up on Steam is supported, including Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR. The display is fantastic, using Super AMOLED panels and the head tracking is class leading as well.

The HTC Vive

Another option in the range is the HTC Vive. HTC Vive doesn’t really need any explanation to describe it’s reputation, as the Vive already has a functional enough software experience when compared to WMR. Availability is an issue, and when compared to the Samsung HMD Odyssey, the Odyssey offers better build and display.

Utilities of VR

VR has become a useful and cost efficient tool for everyone. VR helps train workers for efficiency with little cost in a virtual environment. Creating capable workers with utility becomes a lot easier. Getting the equipment is the easiest part, but setting it up for business and integrating the system into technical architecture is the hardest part. If executed properly, it will bring a revolution to the industry.

Efficiency aside, AR helmets help bring up a heads-up display(HUD) to manage inventory for the workers. With proper wearables, it can help managers ensure workplace safety in factories by monitoring heartbeat rate and blood pressure, also being displayed in the HUD of the worker.

Tilt Brush

Artists can make 3D drawings and paintings through Oculus and HTC Vive. Google even has an app for Vive and Rift called Tilt Brush for 3D painting, featuring dynamic brushes such as smoke, snow, fire etc.

And as usual, it brings an entire new dimension to video games. The hardware hasn’t gotten perfect enough to feel more intuitive and convenient than keyboard and mouse, but it’s development has been tremendous. The Oculus GO and it’s affordable price is a testament of how VR is slowly becoming more and more affordable. At this point, we can definitely say that VR is the future, and it’ll go a long way.

Taxing goes digital: what the new 5% VAT on e-commerce means

E-commerce is doing well in Bangladesh. Digital Bangladesh is truly upon us, and everyone is busy digging the fruits of our latest gold rush. Inside sources indicate that e-commerce is growing at an astounding rate of 40%, currently maintaining a market size of 2000 crore BDT (23.612 Million USD). That’s a very, very good growth rate. In fact, it’s not just very good; it’s almost too good to be true. Perhaps that is part of the reason a new e-commerce VAT is being proposed by Finance Minister AMA Muhith. The proposed measure, effective from July 1, will exact 5% tax from e-commerce businesses.

A similar measure is being separately implemented for ride-sharing services such as Uber and Pathao, which will also be levied with 5% VAT. On the other hand, the corporate tax rate ceiling on traditional businesses has been lowered by 2.5% from 42.5% to 40%. “Due to advances in ICT, digital and virtual businesses are fast replacing conventional business,” Muhith stated while declaring the budget last Thursday. “To keep up with these changes, we need radical reform in our tax system.”

It should be noted that this measure is a follow-up to a previous attempt to levy tax on e-commerce for the 2015-2016 budget. Then, Muhith proposed a 4% VAT that was quickly withdrawn under pressure from concerned stakeholders.

From a taxation perspective, it seems logical to levy a single digit tax rate on a fast-growing industry. In fact, if the 40% growth rate holds true, then our e-commerce industry is growing more than twice as fast as India’s e-commerce industry. India’s e-commerce ecosystem currently has a mammoth market cap of 17 billion USD as of 2017, and a projected cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 29.57% for the next 10 years. In comparison, if Bangladesh’s e-commerce industry continues to grow at a 40% CAGR, then it will have a market cap of 682 million USD by 2028.

From a capacity viewpoint, there is ample space for such meteoric growth. An estimated 2 million shoppers buy from popular e-commerce sites such as Daraz and Kiksha- in addition to using food delivery services such as Foodpanda and Hungry Naki- on a daily basis. However, this is simply 2.33% of the total number of active internet connections in Bangladesh (85.9 million). This number, in turn, will only grow as internet penetration increases with the expansion of 4G network and services.

Buyers, sellers and platform operators, however, are unlikely to greet this proposed measure with much enthusiasm. At the moment, e-commerce sales mostly take place in low-cost categories which are highly price sensitive. A price hike of 5% is negligible for upper-middle class urbanites in Dhaka, but it can be a deal breaker for cash-strapped bargain hunters. They can switch to smaller e-commerce sellers who undercut the market prices, or simply opt for brick and mortar purchases.

From a consumer perspective, a higher sales tax seems counter-intuitive. While e-commerce buying is highly convenient, we also suffer trade-offs in terms of waiting time, shipping cost and uncertainty over product quality and authenticity.

E-commerce is a godsend for those who hate shopping, but for those who love it- such as yours truly- e-commerce is still an imperfect substitute. A lower sales tax, which translates to a lower overall price tag compared to a physical purchase, is one of the panaceas which make swallowing the e-commerce pill easier. For e-commerce platforms, the mechanics of processing the new VAT paperwork can seem like a nightmare on its own. According to an insider, the largest e-commerce platforms process an average of 3000 orders per day. That means, on a monthly basis, each operator will have to process an average of 90,000 orders per month. VAT paperwork involves the processing of 5 official documents per order. Thus, 450,000 documents will need to be processed per month.

Return policies and discounts are an accepted norm in the industry. However, with a range of 5000-8000 returns per month, the amount of paperwork that needs to be processed, and then unprocessed, is incomprehensible for the current workforce. Whole new departments will need to be created simply for dealing with the extra paperwork. Not to mention all the money flowing to and fro between the buyer, seller, platform operator and eventually, the exchequer.

The proposed VAT, it should be noted, is still one-third of the standard VAT rate (15%). If the rate doesn’t increase in the foreseeable future, there is a possibility that consumers and sellers alike will adjust to the 5% rate and business will continue as usual. The Government can thus comfortably lay claim to 9.9 Crore BDT (1.18 Million USD) worth of tax revenue in this fiscal year, with hopes to collect a total of 289 Crore BDT over the next 10 years.

That’s a lot of money, indeed.

YouTube Music: Spotify has competition (finally)

It’s no surprise that Google knows where you go most days, where you eat, what kind of products you’re likely to purchase and more or less your entire online presence. They’re monetizing this knowledge of the consumers and trying to sell you a new type of product: YouTube Music.

Google announced on May 17th that they’re killing YouTube Red and turning it into a two level product system, the YouTube Music and the YouTube Premium platforms. The YouTube Music service is going to let users get seamless ad free music on YouTube, even when users switch apps or turn off the screen, for a monthly subscription fee of $9.99. Regular YouTube app users must keep their screen on at all times without switching to Facebook or other apps to continuously play music. YouTube Premium has all those features, but for everything, including music and YouTube Red Originals. This feature costs $11.99 for the user. This means if the user gets YouTube Premium, they also get the YouTube Music service, which seems like the entry point for YouTube Premium.

However, we’re here to discuss YouTube Music, and more importantly, what Spotify can expect for their market. For years now Spotify has had a monopoly of sorts in the mobile music player industry, rarely having any competition. As such their products and services have become a little lackluster. Just recently they had a scandal about removing R. Kelly from the official Spotify playlist, and there are women’s groups who are pressuring the platform to remove artists like Chris Brown and Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have also launched a new hate content and hateful conduct policy, which has been widely criticized for being anti-free speech. Their only competition for a long time, Apple Music, has been slowly stepping out of the spotlight and has yet to take advantage of this.

Yet, with the now YouTube Music label, Google is clearly making moves to take Spotify’s market share in the music app market. With a smart marketing scheme, a library of over 40 million songs and other tools at the disposal of the giant corporation that is Google, Spotify might get caught in a perfect storm.

YouTube Music has a long way to go before it even becomes Spotify’s chief competitor in that market. Yet, we’ve known from Google’s track record that they don’t take many false steps, and most of their endeavors have been successful. It would take a monumental effort from Spotify to stop Google from infringing on their market shares and keep the number one spot in the years to come. For now, they will enjoy being the best-selling music app on the Play Store and App store. Google on the other hand, has other issues. Its YouTube platform has been widely criticized for sudden demonetization and hypocritical ad laws, such as when they let a video of the Jimmy Kimmel show ads for their video on a US school shooting incident, even though that’s against YouTube’s own policies. This kind of behavior and double standards against content creators has seen many get bitter and outright leaving the platform to go to Twitch.com. The battle for musical supremacy is more even than you’d think at first glance, and if not careful, either one of these labels could go down as just another footnote in the history of the other.

bKash’s app is a hit – but what’s next?

bKash is the undisputed leader in Bangladesh’s MFS industry. bKash’s new app may continue that trend, with 2 million downloads since its launch. The app, designed with assistance from foreign players such as Ant Financial, bodes well for industry and consumers alike.

Equipped with a pleasant interface, the bKash app simplifies mobile transactions. It takes 5 steps to transfer money through the app, compared to the 8 steps it takes with the USSD system. QR code integration is another welcome addition. Furthermore, the app is cheaper, as it bypasses the 7% telco charge required with USSD.

Looking towards the future

While bKash’s app is a move in the right direction, some questions come to mind when you view the app from a consumer’s point of view. To be specific, a digital consumer’s point of view.

In Bangladesh, we can categorize digital consumers into two broad categories: information seekers and decision makers. Information Seekers go online mostly for product and services information. Decision Makers, meanwhile, spend a significant amount of time online. They are open to e-commerce buying, usually low-cost items such as clothing and phone accessories. Sales of high-value electronics and furniture are usually sparse, but peak during discount-heavy events such as Black Friday.

According to LightCastle Partners, the Information Seekers (74%) outnumber the Decision Makers (26%) on a 3:1 ratio. This supports bKash’s long-standing communications strategy, which focuses heavily on relaying factual information such as cashback offers and usage instructions.

Who are the decision makers?

Decision makers are innovators and early adopters. They stand in line for the newest iPhone launch. They were instrumental in building the userbase for Uber and Pathao when these giants started in Bangladesh.

It is likely, dear reader, that you are a decision maker too. You are interested, perhaps in wearables, and have tried out the Mi Band 2, if not bought it.

If you are male, you are interested not only in smartphones, but also accessories such as headphones. These aren’t just normal headphones. You know what noise cancellation means, and what audio drivers are. You look for good deals just as much as trophy buys.

If you belong to the fairer sex, perhaps you buy books from Facebook pages. You may have a healthy interest in chic accessories such as tote bags and scented candles from trendy vendors such as MIB and Newton’s Archive. You follow Youtube influencers for makeup tips and have tried your hand at tutorials of your own. You are an avid traveler, saving all year for vacations at Nepal, Thailand or Singapore.

How can bKash help enhance your lifestyle?

If you are Decision Maker, you want more from a mobile wallet app than simple money transfer and store features. Here are some of the ways it can try, based on international best practices:

  • Payments Integration with Social Media: Facebook has its own payment gateway, as does WeChat. This is necessary, even though it’s easy to send money to your friends via the bKash app.

Imagine this scenario: you are planning to see a Marvel film with ten friends and need to collect cash for the tickets. You send a bKash prompt in the thread that asks the participants to pay money. Most of them comply, because it’s easy, convenient and doesn’t require them to get out of Messenger.

As it stands, however, you need to switch to the bKash app, tap the transfer money option, and then input your friends’ numbers, one by one. That’s already five steps more than you need with Facebook integration. Don’t forget, you also have to repeat the whole process ten times.

It doesn’t have to be Facebook, per se. It can be Whatsapp, or even Viber. Anything that the Digital Youth are familiar and comfortable with.

  • Become Your Personal Finance Advisor: Zuckerberg may have his hands on all your personal data, including Murad Takla texts and terrible teenage photos. But you still trust him more than that sleazy teller at your local bank because you feel like he’s not telling the full story about your financial condition.

With apps that use financial advisory and analytics, it’s easy to have a bird’s eye view of all your financial activities at your beck and all. I use an app called Money Manager that displays real time analytics of my wallet and bank balances. It has helped me increase my savings by over 60% in the last year.

  • Cross-functional Integration with IoT devices: The Internet of Things phenomena is no more academic. We are living in it. Obvious examples of applications include Google Home and Amazon Echo. These devices are using soft AI that’s advancing rapidly. Amazon Echo can already order items from Amazon if you authorize it to do so.

What’s to say, we can’t do the same with bKash in the future, to order from Daraz? You don’t need to own an expensive speaker to take advantage of these features. Most Android phones support Google Assistant, which is the most advanced and reliable voice assistant this side of Alexa.

  • Payments Integration with Your Favorite Vendors and Artists: This is not about just Uber, or HungryNaki. Or that sixteenth carsharing knockoff that barged into your newsfeed three days ago.

It’s about that tasteful painter, studying undergrad, who creates personalized notebooks upon request. It’s about that underground band, whose musical brilliance is off the charts, but who are still struggling to make ends meet.

It’s about you, if you have ever tried freelancing full time, or making money out of your hobby.

What bKash can do, is create customized QR codes for such vendors. It can also create Small Entrepreneurs or Aspiring Artist programs. This way, the brand can tap into the pulse of these unique cultures, understanding their stories and helping to empower them.

  • Integration with Traditional Banking Services: Fintech is not the enemy of traditional banking; rather, the two are partners. Many millennials still prefer bank accounts, debit cards and credit cards of their own. However, we often put off acquiring them, because the process seems boring and complicated.

bKash, a subsidiary of BRAC bank, can smartly address this situation. It can fill the information gap by using short clips (5-10 seconds) that explain the benefits of these financial instruments. To invite action, bKash can transfer interested users to BRAC’s website, where they can avail these services through using referrals.

What’s next?

We hope you are as excited about some of these ideas as we are. Unfortunately, the local ecosystem cannot yet support such developments. Good progress is being made; then again, the consumer hardly cares for such news.

We want awesome stuff, and we want it now. bKash, you are good. Maybe even great. But you can be fantastic. Let us know when you get there. We will post, blog and tweet about it to high heaven.

Net Neutrality: what it is and how it affects us

“Treating all content equally online is key to individual empowerment, democracy and economic growth. But the FCC is threatening to take that away”- Tim Berners-Lee

Tim Berners-Lee is the father of World Wide Web, in effect the father of all things internet. And this was what he said about FCC repealing Net Neutrality, a hot topic issue spiraling the news cycles for the last couple of years. So when the creator is worried about its creation’s wellbeing and the oncoming lack of it, it begs the question- FCC who? Net Neutrality what? And why should I care? My objective today is just that – to answer these questions and share an understanding about a prominent threat to our digital freedom looming over us. Because whether it is checking your emails while stuck in Dhaka traffic, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts on your phone, or watching YouTube or Netflix videos at home—all of these are likely to be influenced by decisions made far away from you, and affecting you nonetheless.

Let’s get into Net Neutrality first. And who better to explain it than Tim Berners-Lee himself- “Net neutrality is the fundamental principle that all content should be treated equally online. It’s what ensures those millions of local businesses can compete on an equal footing with corporate giants. It’s what stops Internet and cable providers from slowing down services for those who don’t pay a premium, or blocking content that doesn’t boost their own bottom lines.”

Whether it is checking your emails while stuck in Dhaka traffic, scrolling through Facebook and Instagram posts on your phone, or watching YouTube videos at home—all of these are likely to be influenced by decisions made far away from you, and affecting you nonetheless.

Let me illustrate this with a familiar analogy. Consider an apartment building with a handful of tenants. They share a single water supply line to all of their apartments without any restrictions. And they definitely do not want someone else deciding what, how much, or when the water will be delivered. Can you imagine getting your water later than someone else living in the same building just because they are paying a higher rent? Net neutrality rules are a guarantee that others cannot decide this for you. These rules ensure that Nahian from Dhaka visiting google.com using a specific Internet Service Provider (ISP) will not be treated any differently than Nusaybah browsing yahoo.com while using a different ISP during her weekend trip in Chittagong. It means your ISP cannot make a deal with HBO so that you can watch Game of Thrones in High Definition (HD) but have to pay extra to do the same with Netflix’s Stranger things. Thus ultimately net neutrality is about fairness and equality on the internet.

Sadly we already have something similar actively trying to circumvent Net Neutrality in Bangladesh. Facebook’s Free Basics service allows Robi subscribers to browse Facebook for free. Using Facebook’s Free Basics or its Internet.org service gives you a walled version of the internet in several countries. It is a version of the internet that Facebook controls—where it sets and enforces rules as it chooses. Even Google is working on its own version. This is not giant corporations paying their due in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), rather pushing their own services and limiting choices for the masses.

Now what logic could work for this seemingly outright unethical approach to controlling the internet? Apparently it is efficiency. The argument is that removing rules and regulations will allow companies to innovate, come up with new ideas- like Facebook’s Free Basics- and make the world better. But these giant corporations are not benevolent entities. They are bound to put a profitable number at the yearly report for the shareholders’ meeting and the repeal of these protections would mean they are free to do so without ever batting an eye at the consequences. But at the end of the day, the regulatory power to ensure this never happens is not on our hands. This is where the FCC comes in.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an independent agency of the United States government and regulates interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable. It is there that the blueprint to repeal of Net Neutrality has been conjured under the chairman of FCC, Ajit Pai. Pai was appointed as such by the Trump Administration on October, 2017. A vocal proponent for the repeal of Net Neutrality, Pai now had executive authority over such matters. He wasted no time voting to repeal Net Neutrality last December. Through a frankly surprising string of events, we are here at a point where a senate vote happened which went in favor to not repeal Net Neutrality. While it seemed this regulation was all but dead, it seems it may have some fight left in it. But its future is uncertain and dependent on future political proceedings.

So now the question remains, what can we do? How do we contribute to something that is happening thirteen thousand kilometers away from us? The answer is easy. Make some noise. Use the tool that they are working so hard to control- internet. In all the social media platforms from Reddit to Tumblr and from Twitter to Facebook, support is pouring in from all over the world in favor of Net Neutrality . Join in that wave. Hit the FCC website so hard with feedback that it crashes. The freedom of speech is our greatest weapon. If we don’t protect it while it is free and fair, next time we might have pay for the right to protest.

OnePlus 6: the latest flagship killer?

One Plus is a world renowned smartphone manufacturer known originally for having the Flagship Killer nicknamed smartphone, the OnePlus One. However, as the years have gone by, the smartphones made by the company have moved further and further away from flagship killers and become more like flagships themselves. The trend continues with the OnePlus 6, which is scheduled to be released commercially on May 22nd. The phone strives to bring the users something top of the line, but the prices have gotten very close to the more premium products in the market as well.

Specs:

OnePlus is well known for making every one of their smartphones the top of the line for that generation. Just like its predecessors, the new OnePlus 6 is built with top of the line parts. It uses the very powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 chipset. Its octa-core CPU along with its Adreno 630 GPU ensures beautiful visuals for games and other applications that need the graphical power. Even the cheapest OnePlus 6 comes with 64 GB ROM and a whopping 6 GB of RAM. While the storage is not expandable, the phone also has 128 and 256 GB internal storage versions. The phone will run Android Oreo out of the box but will be upgradable for later updates. The phone has fast charging capabilities through Dash Charge, and it’s 3300 mAh battery means the phone should not need to be charged more than once a day. In a refreshing change of pace, the OnePlus 6 also comes with a 3.5 mm headphone jack, which is seemingly becoming a novelty item for a smartphone to provide in the modern day.

Display and Appearance:

The OnePlus 6 is made to look as premium as possible. The phone’s body is entirely built out of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, meaning it features a full glass body like the iPhone X and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. The whole thing weighs in at about 177 grams, which is heavier than an iPhone X but still quite sleek. The AMOLED display can feature 16 million colors on it and is one of the best in its class. The display on it has the so called notches that have been so controversial for the past year. Thankfully for the ones who don’t like trends like that, the notch can be turned off, unlike the iPhone X. The screen also has a full HD resolution, which is not as impressive as the S9 Plus’s 1440p resolution, but at that size I don’t think many will notice the difference. Speaking of size, the screen of the OnePlus 6 is bigger than all of its predecessors, at 6.28 inches. The screen to body ration of the OnePlus 6 however is only 84%, meaning only 84% of the surface area on the front is covered by its screen. While impressive, this is easily beaten by other phones such as the iPhone X.

Camera:

OnePlus has been careful to not let any reviewer show the exact quality of the photos that the OnePlus 6 can take, but the specs of the cameras on the back and front seem to be up to the mark. The front of the camera features a 16-megapixel lens, whereas the back of it has a 20-megapixel one with dual flash and autofocus. You can take a video with the rear camera on 2160p at 60 frames per second, which is right on par with some of the best phones out there.

Miscellaneous:

The OnePlus 6 is outfitted with a screen protector by the company itself, which seems like a nice touch. The price has gone up, now at 529$ for the cheapest one, which is not so nice. The variant with the 256 GB ROM and 8 GB of RAM is even more expensive, which will be sold for the price of 629$. This makes it the most expensive product on the lineup of the company. There is also a Marvel Avengers edition, as a tie in with the latest Marvel Movie, Avenges: Infinity War. It is being sold exclusively in India and China.

Pre-Release Verdict:

The tagline of the OnePlus 6 is “The Speed You Need.” They live up to those expectations for sure, but it is far from a perfect handset. For starters, the price, which previously was at least manageable, have now skyrocketed, and going towards the direction of other similarly highly priced phones like the iPhone X and the Sony Xperia X22. It’s certainly a top of the line phone but along with 500-600$, many would also have to sacrifice higher resolutions, an official IP waterproofing rating stereo speakers which are found in other flagship phones.

Android P: two steps forward and one step back

With another year comes another Android dessert, NOT heading to a phone near you. With the announcement and release of a second developer preview, Android P, as it’s currently known (until Google can make up its mind on what to call this one), is already out in the world with most of its highlight features out in the open for all the world to see and analyse.

If you were expecting this to feature a major shakeup like Lollipop’s Material Design or Oreo’s Notification Controls, you are in the wrong year. While P has a boatload of new things to bring to the table on an exclusive few devices later in the year, it’s nothing worth going nuts over, yet. Do keep in mind that these are not the final additions, and more things may be added or removed as this gets closer to the release date. With all that said, lets jump into what’s new with Android’s latest treat:

Gesture navigation

We must admit, we were surprised Google hadn’t implemented gesture controls previously as Android had the most diverse landscape with towering screens long before Apple thought of going Plus sized. Anyway, with this new addition to Google’s stable, the navigation bar has been slightly redesigned with the removal of the recent apps button, and instead, swiping up from the home ‘bar,’ you’ll see all of your app icons. Sliding your home button to the left opens up multitasking views, and you’ll be able to perform quick actions from this view. For those who are already terrified at the prospect of learning new controls, the system also has a ‘legacy’ mode where it brings the traditional controls back.

Redesigned quick toggles, settings and notification shade

If you thought the vanilla Android look was boring, you wouldn’t be wrong. Seems Google thought that way too as their quick toggles have been given a slightly ‘bubbly’ look and some colours to liven it up. The same treatment was given to the settings menu as well, all in a bid to liven it up and make it easier to find what you need. Google has also taken to P to further enhance the way you interact with notifications, as a continuation of Oreo’s improvements, such as adding the ability to send pictures straight from the notification. Oh, and the volume slider sees its first proper redesign by now making them vertical, with proper toggles to change profiles.

Efficient learning

Machine learning goes big with Android P as it plays key roles behind the scenes. Starting from learning how you use your apps, to adjusting your brightness based on times and locations, not just from the ambient light sensor. Android P will also use your usage habits to save as much battery as it can. Dubbed Adaptive Battery, it’s mostly targeting to managing battery when your device is idle.

https://youtu.be/gmWIf5sINEc?t=5m3s

Multi-camera and notch support

Android P allows developers to access streams from two different physical cameras simultaneously using the multi-camera API. This API requires either dual camera setups, a norm these days (plus maybe a Pixel 3 prediction). Another new addition is support for the very controversial notched displays, also a trend nowadays (although not a great one).

The annoyances

As mentioned before, many of these features are subject to change and most of the changes are under the hood. As it stands though, P is also set to introduce some interesting annoyances too. For one thing, the gesture control system is nowhere as complete or as intuitive as its iOS counterpart. Also, if you were to bring up the idea of saving screen real estate, you’d lose on that one too because the navigation bar is still very much there. So until Google irons out this new gesture control system, iOS leads by a country mile.

Another interesting annoyance with the current build is the omission of some very helpful shortcuts, which were present in previous versions of Android. Most notably, the expandable small options menu attached to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is gone. Another omission is that small icon to jump directly to the full system settings from the Quick Settings screen. Their attempt at streamlining the DND (Do Not Disturb) has ended up dumbing down a very useful feature. Gone are the Alarms Only and Priority Only modes, and that’s sure to annoy the hell out of most users.

Technically, Android P still isn’t in its complete form yet and things are subject to change, but as it stands, this new one is mostly a just a generational update and nothing more. There are some things that iOS still trumps it on, mostly the gesture based navigation, but assuming Google polishes it up, it could very well become its secret sauce.

Four smartphones under 25,000 BDT

25,000BDT may be a budget segment for first world countries, but in Bangladesh it signifies an ideal price point for buying smartphones. Here are five smartphones that everyone should consider while buying phones within this price range.

1. Redmi Note 5 AI (6GB Version)

The Redmi series of phones are Xiaomi’s answer to low-range phones. Ever since the arrival of this series, Xiaomi completely dominated the this market segment, especially in Asian markets. The Redmi Note 5 Pro is the best within this range, especially the 6 GB version. Featuring Qualcomm’s in-house Kryo cores, the SoC offers class-leading performance in this range. The phone is backed with Xiaomi’s very own MIUI, a custom android ROM featuring plenty of features and gestures. Which is why 6 GB of RAM helps with these tasks. The phone can be found within 25,000 BDT in Bangladeshi markets. An 18:9 display and a mammoth 4000 mAh battery offers amazing value in this price-point as well.

2. Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro

The Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro is another great smartphone in this price range, running Samsung’s TouchWiz ROM. The smartphone is already a year old, but the design is a breath of fresh air. Granted the display up front is a traditional 16:9 display but it’s a Super AMOLED with bright and vibrant colors. The SoC is the Exynos 7870 Octa, offering average battery life. The camera and design is eye-catching, and probably the main reason consumers choose this smartphone in this price range. The smartphone can be found for around 22,000BDT in the market.

3. Huawei Nova 3e

The Huawei Nova 3e is one of the decent smartphones in this range offering official warranty. With official warranty the phone can be found for around 26,000BDT, a smudge above our specified budget. Featuring excellent camera performance and above average battery life, the phone runs Huawei’s very own EMUI ROM with a lot of useful gestures. Battery is 3000 mAh which is average and adequate for a full day of usage. On of the main attractions are the dual cameras which put it a class above its competitors. The beautiful Fullview screen up front is absolutely amazing, and makes the phone look absolutely breathtaking. However, the phone takes a hit in performance as it still uses Huawei’s entry level Kirin 659 processor paired with 4 GB of RAM.

4. Tecno Camon X Pro

The Tecno Camon X Pro is another excellent option that offers excellent day-to-day performance. The power efficiency of the Mediatek Helios P23 is great, thanks to the massive 3750 mAh battery. Multitasking is a breeze with 4 GB of RAM. The stars of the show are the cameras, both rear and front. Both of the cameras have LED flashes, with the rear having a 24 megapixel camera and the front camera with 16 megapixel. And if we haven’t mentioned it yet, the phone dons a 6 inch 18:9 FHD display. Pretty cool.

And if none of these options intrigue you, wait for the Xiaomi Mi 6X. The camera is brilliant, but the price is way too much at the moment. Hopefully, the hype will settle down in a month or two and the phone will be affordable enough.