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India’s Times Internet isn’t ceding ground to US rivals Facebook and Google – TechCrunch

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The aggressive push by Silicon Valley companies and Chinese firms to win India, one of the last great growth markets, has decimated many local businesses in recent years. With each passing day, Amazon is closing in on Walmart-owned Flipkart’s lead on the e-commerce space. Uber is fighting with Ola for the tentpole position of the ride-hailing market; and Google and Facebook dominate the ads business, to name a few. But a handful of companies in India have not only survived the growing competition, but they have built businesses that are positively thriving.

Media conglomerate Times Internet, one such company, says that its properties now reach 110 million users each day and 450 million users each month. To put this in context: Facebook and Google have about 300 million monthly active users in India. Facebook, which is mired in controversy over the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp in India (and other regions), has not revealed its growth in the nation in last two years. But in a marketing pitch, the juggernaut says its family of apps (marquee Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram) reach 350 million users in the nation each month.

In a rare industry move, Satyan Gajwani, vice chairman of Times Internet, shared an overview of the conglomerate’s business on Tuesday, revealing the ever growing tentacles of its ambitions.

If the numbers are so huge, why self-publish? Gajwani declined to comment but his company is in a unique situation. For all its scale, Times Internet remains one of the least talked about conglomerates of its size in the country. Most news organizations in India compete with its media outlets, which may explain why it is under-reported in the press.

The ever-growing portfolio of Times Internet companies

The subsidiary of 181-year-old Bennett Coleman and Company Limited (popularly known as Times Group) operates more than three dozen properties, including newspaper Times of India, online outlet Indiatimes, advertisement business Colombia, venture arm Tventures, and streaming services Gaana and MX Player . And nearly all of these properties are growing, Gajwani said.

For instance, Times Internet’s news outlets have amassed 265 million monthly active users. The Times of India, the country’s most read newspaper and news website, alone has 212 million monthly active users, up by 44% since last year. Times Internet’s regional digital periodicals such as NewsPoint, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Vijay Karnataka now have 122 monthly active users, he said.

Music streaming service Gaana, which raised $115 million from Tencent and others last year, reached 100 monthly active users in March this year, the service announced last week. MX Player, a video playback app that doubles as a streaming service that Times Internet acquired for some $140 million last year, is one of the most popular Android apps in emerging markets.

During the first month of ongoing IPL cricket tournament, one of the hottest events in India, 118 million users tuned into Times Internet’s Cricbuzz, a news and entertainment service dedicated to sports. As the ecosystem of mobile gaming begins to gain major traction in India, Times Internet says it is building a portfolio of apps in this space, too.

Its lifestyle properties such as MenXP, iDiva, and Whats Hot have 40 million monthly active users and its videos clock more than 200 million views each month. These properties are exploring an additional revenue channel by selling products directly to customers, Gajwani told TechCrunch in an interview.

Times Internet vice chairman Satyan Gajwani

Moving beyond ads

Chasing that avenue illustrates Times Internet’s growing push to grow its business beyond ads. Most of Times Internet’s properties are built on top of ads and don’t cost users anything for access. Its own advertising business, called Colombia, now supplements some advertisement on its network and is used by more than a dozen outside brands including Ola, ABP News, and Hotstar.

But online advertising still can’t compete with those of TV and print in India, Satish Meena, an analyst with research firm Forrester told TechCrunch. So in recent years, Times Internet has announced a number of subscription services across many of its properties.

“Especially for premium publishers, an ads-only business model is not likely to last or sustain in the long run,” Gajwani said. Last year, Times Internet announced Times Prime, a subscription bundle that includes access to premium version of Gaana, an ad-free experience on Times of India, and discounts on a number of third-party services such as food delivery Swiggy, retailer BigBasket, and theatre chain PVR Cinemas. Gajwani said Times Internet has hit a million customers across its subscription services.

Part of Times Internet’s push to expand its revenue channels is its growing focus on Tventures, its VC fund that made early investments in a number of startups including edtech startup Byju’s and logistics startup Delhivery, two unicorns. It has also invested in ride-hailing service Shuttl, and cricket fantasy app MPL among others.

Gajwani said Tventures looks at “use cases that can benefit from its growing network.” And that’s one of the big advantages of Times Internet’s scale. The properties they own enjoy great advertisement benefits across its sprawling network. “There are very few companies — with exception of Google and Facebook — that have our level of scale,” Gajwani said.

Times Internet, which employs over 5,000 people, also operates Times Bridge, an investment firm that ties with international brands to help them launch in India. Some of its strategic partners include Uber, Airbnb, and Coursera. It also partnered with a number of news outlets including Business Insider, TechRadar, Huffington Post (which, like TechCrunch, is owned by Verizon Media Group), AdAge, PCMag, and Gizmodo Media properties Lifehacker and Gizmodo to launch them in India.

But it isn’t all success, there have been less successful ventures particularly in the media segment.

The Indian versions of Lifehacker, Gizmodo, TechRadar, and PCMag failed to attract significant audiences in the nation and have already closed shops. Huffington Post ended its partnership with Times Internet in 2017 and it now wholly controls Huffington Post India.

Gajwani admitted that Times Internet realized working with some niche publishers isn’t so sustainable. “We have some partnerships that we maintain that are doing well such as Business Insider,” he added. Today, Times Internet is no longer primarily looking at publishers for future partnerships, and instead focusing on “platforms and technologies.”

A couple of hiccups aside, the biggest challenge for Times Internet going forward is generating sufficient revenue from ads and convincing enough users to become paying customers. Times Internet generated $202 million in fiscal year 2018 at a loss of $23 million, according to regulatory filings. In an interview last week, Gaana CEO Prashan Agarwal said his music streaming service, which dominates the market but is not profitable, will introduce a number of premium plans across a wide range of price tiers to attract users.

Gajwani said he also hopes to build Colombia into one of the biggest ad networks in India and tap 20 million paying subscribers by 2023. He said some properties within Times Network could raise additional cash from outside investors in the coming future.  These are ambitious goals, but Times Internet is one of the few firms in India that realistically has a shot at co-existing with dominant overseas tech platforms.



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Upcoming phones geared to rattle the entry-level market

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Smartphones have become an integral part of our life – no doubt they sell like hotcakes and virtually every other week a new phone is released in the market. While smartphones can be crazy pricey on one end of the spectrum, the options for entry-level buyers are also quite broad. The segment is important for all major manufacturers and the prospects of gaining the trust of buyers who want the bare basics from their device are quite high.

While there have been quite a number of entry-level phones up till now, there are more incoming soon. If you are someone looking for a good package smartphone that’s not obsolete while having the promise of getting through all the usual tasks – consider these upcoming smartphones.

Samsung Galaxy A02s

Samsung has a strong foot in the mid-range and entry-level phone market – knowing what the users actually demand. The South Korean giant is going to bring the phone (along with Galaxy A12) at a price of around $180, which will be a lucrative deal for buyers. Galaxy A02s will sport a 6.5-inch HD+ TFT Infinity V screen with a notched 5MP (f/2.2) front-facing camera. It is going to be powered by the octa-core Snapdragon 450 processor, have 3GB of RAM and 32GB of expandable storage.

The camera setup is also going to be respectable on the rear. The Galaxy A02s will have a triple camera module. It will have a 13MP primary shooter with autofocus, 2MP macro lens, and a 2MP depth sensor – both having f/2.4 value. 3.5mm jack will be on the phone for old school users and the impressive 5,000mAh battery (with 15W charging) will keep the phone juiced for longer durations.

Overall the Samsung’s upcoming entry-level phone in black and white color options is a sweet deal given the price tag and feature combo. Coming from a reliable brand this should be on your list come early 2021, as Galaxy 02s is rumored for a February 2021 release.

OnePlus Clover

OnePlus has made a paradigm shift in its ideology for creating smartphones owing to the dynamic landscape. They evolved as a passionate OEM providing users with the best hardware and software experience; then to foray into the flagship segment and now diversifying into the entry-level market too. The upcoming OnePlus Clover is going to fill the void in the market for a good quality phone with smooth software experience.

The smartphone is slated for a 10 December 2020 release for a rumored price tag of $200, just in time for the buying spree. The device has a 6.52-inch IPS LCD display (1560×720 resolution with 264 ppi density) and will be powered by the 11nm manufacturing process based Snapdragon 460 octa-core chipset. To ensure all the basic processes run smoothly, Clover has 4GB RAM and 64GB internal memory.

On the rear, it will have a triple camera setup including a 13MP primary sensor (f/2.2), 2MP macro lens (f/2.4) and 2MP depth sensor (f/2.4). Clover will come with a massive 6,000mAh battery paired with an 18W charger brick. Overall an impressive entry-level Android 10 phone (upgradable to Android 11) given the superior OxygenOS UI.

Moto e7

After much ado, the Moto e7 was finally announced a couple of days ago and will come to the Latin American market in the next few weeks. US availability is also expected since the e6 was also released for the market, so you can keep an eye on this one. The budget-friendly phone is the best price of the lot with features good enough for a basic user. Android 10 powered Moto e7 carries a price tag of €112 ($135) and obviously you don’t expect top-notch hardware here, but enough to do the normal phone tasks.

The 6.5-inch HD+ (@269ppi) display phone is powered by the MediaTek Helio G25 chipset, has 2GB of RAM and 32GB/ 64GB storage option. 4,000mAh battery (paired to a 10W charger) is going to last a long time given the low-end hardware it has to feed. The dual-camera rear module of the phone comprises 48MP sensor (f/1.7) and a 2MP (f/2.4) macro sensor. On the front there is a 5MP (f/2.2) sensor for selfies, so you’ll have much liberty to click the occasional photographs.

Nokia 6.3

Another smartphone that’s slated for a December 2020 release, and good enough for the budget buyer’s radar is the Nokia 6.3. The phone has an impressive specifications list for a buyer who can go to the stretchable price tag of $250. The phone comes with a 6.2-inch IPS LCD, Full HD+ (403ppi) resolution PureDisplay screen with a notch for an impressive 16MP selfie camera. The rear camera setup (imaging system with ZEISS Optics) is also the best in the lot here – a 24MP primary lens along with the 12MP wide-angle shooter and two 2MP macro and depth sensors.

The Android 10 powered Nokia 6.3 will have a 3GB RAM and 32GB storage option, and most probably the Snapdragon 630 or the Snapdragon 670/675 processor. The battery life is good at 4,000mAh and the user gets the convenience of a power button mounted fingerprint sensor. The speculations regarding some of the specifications should be taken with a grain of salt, however, most of them will be more or less the same. The phone is expected to release next month or by the start of next year. Keep an eye on this entry-level Nokia device for subsistence at a nominal price.

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2021 iPad Pro is worth the wait: Here’s why

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Apple iPad turf is overly saturated. If you are in the market for an iPad this holiday season, there are a few options you can instantly close on. For a certain set of users, there is the A12Z Bionic chip-powered 2020 iPad Pro. Then is the recently introduced iPad Air that dishes out ruthless performance and is high on substance. For the budgeted buyer, the fifth-generation iPad Mini is a suggested option. To add to choices, Apple is already working on the next edition of the iPad Pro with improved display, power, and 5G connectivity, and it is slated for an early 2021 release.

Information of likely improvements is bound to put all those looking for an Apple tablet in a fix – should they upgrade now or wait on. Of course, there are many options already out there and holiday season is a good reason to shop, but if you want the new and fantastic – waiting for a few months sure will be painful but worth it.

The rumors

A new iPad Pro was initially tipped to launch toward the end of this year, reports now have it that the unveiling is pushed back to sometime in spring of next year. Reliable Apple analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo has also validated the delay suggesting, a brand new iPad Pro launch may have been pushed for the first quarter of 2021. Kio had initially predicted that multiple iPads could debut in fall 2020.
Easily referenced as the 2021 iPad Pro, the forthcoming flagship will reportedly share a lot of traits with its siblings, which means we should not be expecting major design changes. LiDAR scanners, dual-lens camera setups are here to stay since nothing is heard about any alterations in this department.

Maybe the storage tiers and RAM options are beefed up. But this is also just an assumption for now. What is more certain is that the new iPad Pro will be 5G enabled (just like the iPhone 12 line-up this year), will feature a powerful processor, and a brighter, energy-efficient mini-LED display. This will send Apple on a new display tech journey – it’ll be for the first time an iPad will roll out with a LED screen.

Several rumors suggest Apple will launch two iPad Pro variants next year. While the higher-end 12.9-inch model with mini-LED screen is very likely – rumors have hinted at a possibility of an 11-inch iPad Pro, with a similar display, but there is no substantial detail to back the early claims.

New display technology

Although Apple is not going to bring about a radical change to the next-generation iPad Pro in terms of design – a new display technology is on the cards. Multiple rumors suggest 12.9-inch 2021 iPad Pro may feature mini-LED display. This type of display basically is a replacement for the cheaper and unfashionable backlight screen (yet an affordable alternative to OLED – used in iPhone 12 series). It can greatly increase color, contrast, and brightness and give the iPad Pro improved local dimming – possibility to brighten or dim lights at specific areas of the display.

Reportedly, these screens in the upcoming iPad Pros will likely be produced and supplied by LG. It may eventually find itself as a replacement for LCDs on almost all products in Cupertino’s lineup – including the MacBook. Mini-LED may not be as bright as OLEDs, but they are by no means slacks – these super bright displays look beautiful and are energy-efficient, thus offering better battery life too.

The iPad is already a brilliant device – a brighter display is only going to do more good to its image as a designer’s/artist’s daily driver. LED display will make everyone awaiting a new iPad Pro anxious as it sets the supposed 2021 iPad Pro apart from the other major siblings in the Apple lineup, which are equally capable. Currently, there is no information on whether Apple will continue selling iPad Pros with LCD displays.

Newer processor

The 2020 iPad Pro comes with A12Z Bionic chip, which in its own right is powerful enough for most set of users. The newer iPad Air however comes with A14 Bionic chipset in the body, which certainly makes it a better option for the power-hungry consumer base.

If you’re still not satisfied, Apple is expected to launch the new iPad Pro in 2021 with an upgraded 5-nanometer-based processor – perhaps called the A14X Bionic chip. If this is true, then undoubtedly the iPad performance is going to shoot through the roof – leaving not only its siblings but the completion high and dry. The new processor will mean more power and better performance, of course, it will also enhance battery life and prove more beneficial for gaming and multitasking.

5G is biggest reason to wait

iPhone 12 lineup announced a few months back, is the first set of Apple devices launched with 5G support, and now this prowess is only going to grow. Apple will be extending 5G connectivity to other devices and 2021 iPad Pro will, most likely, be the first outside of iPhones to get it. Now, it’s one of the biggest reasons to hold back and wait for the new iPad Pro.

According to the latest report, Apple’s next-generation iPad Pro will be 5G enabled with mmWave support. mmWave or millimeter wave is 5G band that promises ultra-fast speeds in short distances – it is available in this year’s iPhone 12 models but supported exclusively in the US for now.

Even more existing are rumors suggesting, the 2021 iPad Pro will be first to test Apple’s own in-house mmWave Antenna in Package (AiP) module. The AiP modules were initially tipped to be included in the next year’s iPhones, but Apple’s self-sufficiency in developing its own 5G mmWave modules has increased likelihood of new high-end iPad Pro being the first to include the antenna in the package. AiP modules will provide the 2021 iPad Pro with support for the mmWave 5G.

Wrap-up

What we have detailed are only rumors and the final product could land with or without the abovementioned features. If you’re still interested in the new iPad Pro, you should wait around for more information to roll out as we inch closer to the supposed launch next year. If reports of the 2021 iPad Pro launching in first quarter next year are believed, we will hear a lot more about the forthcoming device along the way before the imminent official launch.

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This holiday, check your old phone for a fat battery

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I found something in a junk drawer this week that was at first exciting, then alarming. In the drawer was an old smartphone that I’d not powered on for several years, at least. Cool, I’ll just start it up and time travel back to the point at which I last turned it off, right? But wait a moment here… this phone is significantly thicker than it was when I last saw it. This is not good.

Why did this phone get thick?

The thickness came from a chemical failure of the device’s lithium ion battery. I’d never opened this device before – I never had a reason. The only reason a person might open up a device like this would be to fix a component inside, or replace a component inside.

We’ve seen this sort of thing happen in a bunch of phones over the past decade, from all sorts of manufacturers. Most of the time we see this sort of thing happen, it’s because new phone users are working with off-brand plugs and such.

With a phone that’s been left in a drawer for several years, there’s a chance the chemical-based setup within will… fail. If you see this sort of thing happen, you have a few options and at least one NON-OPTION.

What to avoid

One NON-OPTION is charging the device. Do not charge the device. Do not plug your phone in to any sort of wire, nor set your device on any sort of wireless charger. You absolutely do NOT want to agitate the battery package if at all possible.

Can I fix a swollen battery? No, you can not fix a swollen battery. The deed is done. The only thing left to do is isolate the battery and/or the phone with the battery inside before you contact a professional.

Do NOT put your phone in the fridge or make any attempt to “cool it down.” The expansion is not temperature-dependent. The expansion cannot simply be reversed.

Do not do ANYTHING that may result in you piercing the battery’s protective layer. If you do that, the battery may explode and start a fire. See our feature Where to put your old phone batteries to see some explosions, courtesy of batteries that’ve been disposed of incorrectly.

What needs doing

It is not easy to open most smartphones not meant to be opened – especially one like this, held together with glue AND clips, with no easily accessible screws. The manufacturer of this phone, Samsung, did not build this phone with the intent that it be easily opened or its hardware replaced (or even removed) by the average user.

As such, you’ll more than likely want to seek the assistance of a professional. Gadget repair specialists are used to seeing this sort of thing – it happens far more often than you’d think. They’ll know how to safely remove the battery and potentially replace the battery IF that is possible.

There’s a real possibility that your phone will need to be brought to your city’s official landfill. You may want to call ahead, as your city’s waste management specialists will want to take special care of the battery and the phone to avoid an explosion and/or fire.

What if today is a holiday?

If you find an expanded battery in a smartphone and it is a holiday, chances are your local battery-handling professional won’t be available to dispose of your fire hazard of a phone. The LEAST you can do is place the battery (or the phone with the battery inside) in a safe place. Isolate the phone and/or the battery – away from paper, away from anything flammable.

Get the device outside as quick as possible if you can. Put the device in a fireproof container, like a metal bucket with a layer of sand inside. Above all else – get this thing isolated so WHEN it starts on fire, it’ll cause minimal damage.

This advice was as good a decade ago as it is today. New smartphones, tablets, laptops, wearables, etcetera, still use lithium ion batteries, and lithium ion batteries still fail.

Take caution, and don’t take a risk. This one’s full of fire.

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