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India’s Byju’s raises $150 million to expand globally – TechCrunch

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Byju’s, India’s most valuable edtech startup, has received new $150 million as it races to expand the reach of its learning app in the country and some international markets.

The unnamed ongoing financing round was led by Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund of the State of Qatar, and included participation from Owl Ventures, a leading investor in education tech startups. This is Owl Venture’s first investment in an Indian startup.

The 11-year-old startup, which has raised about $925 million to date and was valued at nearly $4 billion in December last year, said it would use the fresh capital to aggressively explore and expand in international markets. The startup has previously said it plans to enter the U.S. and UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

It acquired Osmo, a U.S.-based learning startup that is popular among kids aged between five and 12 for $120 million early this year. Osmo recently unveiled a new product to serve the pre-schoolers market.

Byju’s helps all school-going children understand complex subjects through its app where tutors use real life objects such as pizza and cake. It also prepares students who are pursuing under graduate and graduate level courses. Over the years, Byju’s has invested in tweaking the English accents in its app and adapted to different education systems. It has amassed more than 35 million registered users, about 2.4 million of which are paid customers.

“Investment from prominent sovereign and pension funds validates our strong business fundamentals. Indian ed-tech firms attracting interest from eminent investors demonstrates that India is pioneering the digital learning space globally,” Byju Raveendran, founder and CEO of Byju’s, said in a statement.

In India, Byju’s competes with a handful of players, including Bangalore-based Unacademy, which is aimed at students who are preparing for graduation-level courses. It raised $50 million last month.

India has the largest population in the world in the age bracket of 5 to 24 years. A report by KPMG and Google in 2017 estimated that the country’s online education market would grow to $1.96 billion of sales by 2021.

Byju’s generated around $205 million in revenue in the fiscal year that ended in March. It plans to increase that figure to over $430 million this year. Raveendran has stated that the startup intends to go public in the next two to three years.

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Google Pixel 5a to make mid-range inroads – what you should know

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The successor to Google Pixel 4a is going to be released this year and understandably it will be christened the Pixel 5a. While Google had a rough ride with the Pixel 3 series; the Pixel 4a, and Pixel 5 were launched with the right targeting approach, which paid off. It is expected that Pixel 5a is going to live up to the expectations, and here’s a rundown of what’s known so far about the device that’s set to create waves in the highly competitive mid-range segment.

The probable design

Before a device debuts, the leaked information these days sheds light on how it is eventually going to look and feel. The same is true for Google Pixel 5a, which is going to be right there in the mix with the Pixel 4a 5G and the Pixel 5. Google is known to be notorious when it comes to mudding the lines between devices, and according to OnLeaks, this time around too, it’s going to be a bit foggy.

According to the recent leaked info, Pixel 5a is going to have a taller profile – it’ll be 2.3mm longer, 0.8mm narrower, and slightly thicker as compared to the Pixel 4a. In the leaked renders, the upcoming device appears to have a slightly elongated chin and thinner bezels, again for a taller slimmer profile that Google might be targeting in order to attract the younger buyers. It is highly unlikely that the Pixel 5a will have anything other than the customary plastic body like its predecessors.

Other than the minute dimensional variations, the device is rumored to retain the 6.2-inch flat OLED display from the Pixel 4a. It would be fair with a full HD resolution screen and a 90Hz refresh rate, but if Google decides to stick to the 60Hz screen, it would be a huge disappointment.

Camera prowess

Cameras on the Pixel 5a will be the same as the Pixel 4a if we are to believe what the leaks are suggesting. That means a dual camera setup with PDAF or flicker sensor – one 12MP primary sensor and the other 16MP ultra-wide lens. As a Google Pixel fan one would long for a better sensor on the device since it’s a logical successor to the Pixel 4a. That said, Google may improvise that with the image processing upgrades and other features exclusive to the device.

As for the front-facing selfie camera, it is likely that Google will stash in the trusted 8MP camera in the hole-punch cutout aligned to the left top corner of the device. Again, a sensor upgrade will definitely lure in more buyers if Google can make the desired push.

Performance, battery life, and hardware

There is no legit information about the innards of the device yet. When it comes to processing power, however, it would be a safe bet to assume that the device will follow suit with the Snapdragon 765G processor for the 5G model (if there is one) and will feature an upgraded Snapdragon 732 processor in the Pixel 5a standard variant.

The Snapdragon 732G has a slight performance boost compared to the Snapdragon 730G processor. If Google chooses to stick with the Snapdragon 730G – same as Pixel 4a – it would be a bummer. On the other hand, if Google can go for the Snapdragon 690 5G, it will please the buyers without a doubt.

Talking of the battery, this time around we expect Google to better the 3,140 mAh battery on the Pixel 4a and 3,885 mAh battery on the Pixel 4a 5G. The performance of both these phones, when battery life is concerned, was nothing much to brag about with an average backup of 9 odd hours. Google definitely needs to do it better with the Pixel 5a.

It is expected that the Pixel 5a will have a 3.5mm jack (for good), a rear capacitive fingerprint sensor (to keep the price within limit), and stereo speakers for the odd multimedia stint. The volume rocker is expected to remain unchanged, but no complaints there.

Release date and price

Going by Google’s scheme of things, the Pixel 5a could see a spring release, well in time for Google’s annual developer conference – Google I/O. The Pixel 4a release was delayed to August 2020 due to the pandemic last year, however, the Pixel 3a was released in May 2019, following normal release proceedings. Pixel 5a release date is tentative due to the uncertain future in the pandemic, but we have our fingers crossed for a customary release schedule.

Pixel 4a changed the dimensions for Google, taking right on the competition, and it turned out as a hit with buyers. It came with a price tag of $349, undercutting the iPhone SE by $50 and forcing the OnePlus Nord N10 5G to further chop the price in wake of competition to $299. It is expected that Pixel 5a will have a price somewhere around the $400 threshold, while the 5G version could be priced around $550.

What we expect

If Google is going to touch the $400 price point or go slightly higher, as a user, we’d expect the device to have a 90Hz refresh rate and a better processor than its predecessor. An improved camera sensor would be the icing on the cake since Google’s USP is its quality camera setup. A better-designed device than its predecessor with a body made of more refined material would be ideal, but that’s a pipedream better left for the Pixel 6 series.

Google should move finely maintaining a good balance of price and features to stay ahead of the competition. After all, it offers the most proactive software experience. Add to that slightly better hardware than the Pixel 4a, and it would make for a perfect recipe too difficult for mid-range buyers to resist.

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Facebook’s latest experimental app BARS is made for amateur rappers

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NPE Team, Facebook’s internal group for experimental apps, has released a new product called BARS. The social media platform is similar to TikTok, but with a niche userbase: amateur rappers. With BARS, anyone can create rap songs using tools like beats, autotune, and more, then share the content with others.

According to the app’s description, BARS will enable users to create ‘high-quality rap in a fun and easy way.’ The app doesn’t require formal experience in the genre, the NPE Team explains, instead providing the tools users need to create their content and share it with listeners.

The app includes both audio and video effects, enabling users to record themselves performing their content. Users can create their own lyrics and pair them with beats provided by BARS; the app includes a ‘rhyming dictionary’ to help users craft their perfect song.

In addition, BARS features a Challenge Mode for freestyling based on the automatically suggested word cues, adding an element of gamification while giving users a way to showcase their skills. As is the nature of these short-form video services, users are limited to videos up to one minute in length.

The videos can be saved to the user’s camera roll for distribution on other platforms. Whether such a niche product will find a solid userbase in a market packed with TikTok-like apps remains to be seen. BARS is in closed beta at this point; iPhone users can download the app now to reserve their username and get put on the waitlist for access.

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Huawei Mate X2 vs Galaxy Z Fold2: Head-to-head comparison

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You’d have come to realize by now that foldable smartphones come for a premium. They are a luxury not meant for everyone. That said, the market of foldable phones is fiercely poised with Huawei introducing its third-generation handset in the Mate X2 that delivers a different, sleeker form factor than its predecessor. This new device unfolds an expensive rivalry by knocking at the door of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 which, after a head start of five odd months, finally has a competitor.

Galaxy Z Fold2 is not ancient just yet. It is fresh and has the mettle to take on what Mate X2 has to throw at it. Arguably, Samsung’s defining handset – that ironed out every glitch of its younger brother – was one of the finest smartphones of the pandemic year, and it wouldn’t be easy for Huawei to attain that spot. With the new launch, Huawei – if the manufacturer is able to retail Mate X2 outside of the home country – has a slight advantage with its new form factor and flagship processor powering its guts.

Samsung has been the vanguard of foldable phones, and to safeguard that image, it already has plans of introducing new devices in the Fold and Flip series this year. This will again leave Huawei playing catch up. So before the Koreans take lead, how is the Mate X2 pitted against the Galaxy Z Fold2, let’s have a quick look.

Fold and display

Huawei has succumbed to the more appreciated inward folding design. After the outer display design in the previous iterations, the Chinese OEM has now introduced the Mate X2 with a book-like, inward folding mechanism that protects the screen effectively. Though the design is influenced by the Galaxy Z Fold2 you’d say, it is bigger and sleeker in comparison.

The hinge mechanism of both the phones has been meticulously worked, but initial reports suggest that Huawei has minimized the gap between the screens – better than Samsung – with its multi-dimensional hinge. The gap has been reduced in the Galaxy Z Fold2, from its predecessor, but somehow it is noticeable, which the Chinese manufacturer seems to have done better.

On the display front, Huawei Mate X2 features an inward-folding 8-inch OLED panel with 2480 x 2200 pixel resolution and 90Hz screen refresh rate, which is larger than the 7.6-inch flexible AMOLED display – with 2208 x 1768 pixels resolution and 120Hz refresh rate – of the Galaxy Z Fold2. Mate X2 gets a cover display, again similar to its competitor. This is a 6.45-inch OLED screen touting 2700 x 1160 resolution. When folded, the Samsung handset has a 6.2-inch 2260 x 816 pixels cover display.

Despite its larger screen size, Mate X2 is slimmer – weighing only 295 grams; the phone measures 4.4mm at its thinnest point, and 13.6mm when it’s folded. The Samsung device, on the other hand, is a tad lighter at 282 grams but it measures 6.9mm when unfolded, and 16.8 mm when closed.

Processing and power

Huawei Mate X2 is powered by in-house Kirin 9000 SoC. Based on the 5nm manufacturing process, the octa-core chipset is clocked at 3.13GHz and is comparable to the power and performance of Qualcomm and Samsung’s flagship processors – Snapdragon 888 and Exynos 2100 – respectively.

The Mate X2 is a clear winner with its flagship processor; the Galaxy Z Fold2 is only powered by the comparatively older Snapdragon 865 Plus, which nonetheless offers smooth performance despite very occasional software glitches while multitasking.

The Kirin 9000 in Mate X2 is paired to 8 gigs of RAM and 256 or 512 gigabytes of internal storage. Galaxy Z Fold2 on the other hand has mammoth 12GB of RAM which is accompanied by internal storage options akin to Huawei’s smartphone.

You’d expect a robust battery pack to power these interesting devices. Both are powered by the same – 4,500mAh capacity battery – they differ in their quick charging capabilities. The Galaxy Z Fold2 supports 25W fast and 11W wireless charging, the Mate X2 employs SuperCharge adapter to boost its battery with 55W fast charging.

Camera

Samsung has proven its worth in the mobile camera department, Huawei has not been far behind either. The latter has versatile camera setups and the aspect is carried down to the Mate X2 as well. Continuing its Leica partnership, the Chinese smartphone maker has equipped its foldable smartphone with Ultra Vision Leica quad-camera module comprising 50MP primary shooter with OIS and an f/1.9 lens.

Other three cameras in the setup on the back include 16MP ultra-wide camera, 12MP telephoto sensor with 3x optical zoom and OIS, and an 8MP lens capable of 10x optical zoom. Galaxy Z Fold2’s cameras are not as enticing. It has only a triple camera setup on the back that includes 12MP primary camera with an f/1.8 lens, 12MP ultra-wide, and another 12MP telephoto sensor with 2x optical zoom.

The phones differ significantly in their selfie cameras. The inner folding display of Mate X2 lacks a selfie camera, which you can find in its rival in form of a 10MP selfie camera. Both have a front camera on the outside – Mate X2 features 16MP sensor, while the Z Fold2 has a 10MP camera.

Software and global approach

Huawei has the upper hand in the design, camera, and power, but in addition to the hardware, the software will help you make the final decision. Mate X2 here is a slight disappointment out of the box. It runs the EMUI 11 based on Android 10, while the Galaxy Z Fold2 is upgraded to run Android 11-based One UI 3.0.

The bigger factor still is that Huawei’s foldable smartphone cannot use the Google app ecosystem – no Play Store, YouTube etc. It has to rely on Huawei Mobile Services (HMS) for the apps and other features. Galaxy Z Fold2 offers a complete Google ecosystem experience, which would play in its favor, especially in markets outside of China. Mate X2 will allow sideloading of prominent apps but it’s not going to be a full-proof solution to lure in many.

Adding to Huawei Mate X2’s limited future in international markets is the uncertainty of whether it will actually release globally. For now, the smartphone is available in China and there is no information on international reveal. The only hopeful fact is that Huawei sold its Mate Xs (second-gen foldable) in select overseas markets, which it would want to achieve again with the Mate X2.

Pricing

This is what the expensive rivalry actually comes down to. Both Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 and Huawei Mate X2 are very expensive devices, even though there is a stark difference in how much they will set you back. Samsung has priced the Galaxy Z Fold2 at $1,999 and comes in two – Mystic Black and Mystic Bronze – to choose from.

The Mate X2 however starts at a deal-breaking $2,780 (RMB 17,999). If you have the dosh to spend, the phone is available in Crystal Blue, Crystal Pink, White, and Black color options.

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