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Category: shopping guide

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) Review


Samsung has suddenly become a lot more adventurous of late. There’s been a flurry of launches over the past few months, and it looks like the Korean giant is catching on to the fact that it needs to innovate and jump on board with trends as they happen. We usually see new top-end features debut with the flagship Galaxy S and Galaxy Note series, and then trickle down to the mid-tier A-series and youth-focused J-series. For example, Samsung was one of the first to introduce tall, narrow Infinity Display screens, but it took ages for this well-received feature to show up on lower-tier offerings. Competitors caught on much sooner, and began selling low-cost phones that looked much more modern and sleek than Samsung’s own.

Now, with the Galaxy A9 (2018), Samsung is showing that it can anticipate trends — or at least keep up with other companies that do. It’s quite a surprise that Samsung’s first quad-camera phone is an A-series model, which makes current flagships including the very recently launched Galaxy Note 9 (Review) look a bit out of date. We’re eager to see whether Samsung can excite buyers once again with this headline-grabbing new feature. Read our Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) review to find out.

 

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) design

The Galaxy A9 (2018) has a few striking design touches that show that Samsung is now willing to lead with its current models rather than wait for the next Galaxy S flagship to roll around. It comes in three distinct looks, one of which is just plain and simple black, while the other two are uncharacteristically exuberant for Samsung. Multicolour gradients are clearly the latest design trend, with Huawei, Oppo, and most recently OnePlus getting in on the action. Our Galaxy A9 (2018) review unit is the Lemonade Blue version, with a light yellowish green spot at the top fading into a rich, deep blue on the bottom. The last option is Bubblegum Pink, which is a light blush fading into a much deeper pink. Either of these would be sure to grab a lot of attention, so we’re glad that Samsung is offering a plain black option for those who have subtle taste.

It isn’t just the jewel-tone colours that stand out — the finish is very shiny and there’s a faint grainy texture that gives it depth and catches light as the phone moves. The quad-camera module and fingerprint sensor of the Galaxy A9 (2018) are outlined in bright blue. The metal frame of the phone is blue as well, and it matches the bottom of the gradient but stands out sharply against yellowish-green at the top. The contrast is very noticeable because of how the back of this phone curves to meet the sides.

The front of this phone isn’t half as attention-grabbing as its back. Samsung clearly doesn’t think much of current-day notches — we’ll have to wait a while for displays with camera holes to arrive. The Infinity Display screen does not curve at the sides and there are relatively chunky borders above and below it. We don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but the Galaxy A9 (2018) doesn’t look as modern as some of its competition.

The four cameras are arranged in a narrow vertical strip, similar to what we first saw on the triple-camera Galaxy A7 (2018) (Review). Going from the top to the bottom, we have an ultra-wide 8-megapixel camera with a 120-degree field of view; a 10-megapixel telephoto camera with a 2X zoom lens; the 24-megapixel main camera that boasts of an f/1.7 aperture, and a 5-megapixel depth sensor to assist with focusing and portrait shots. Unfortunately, we often had to adjust our grip to avoid covering the ultra-wide lens when holding this phone horizontally.

samsung galaxy a9 2018 camera2 ndtv samsung

 

There’s a dedicated physical button on the left of the Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) for the Bixby voice assistant, and it can’t be reprogrammed — at least not without a third-party app. The power and volume buttons are on the right, and the sheer size of this phone means that they won’t always be within reach. There’s a tray at the top, and thankfully it can accommodate two Nano-SIMs as well as a microSD card. A single speaker, USB Type-C port, and 3.5mm audio socket fill out the bottom of this phone.

With a 6.3-inch screen, there’s no denying that this is a bulky phone. We found it awkward in our pockets, especially with the included plastic case making it even thicker. It weighs 183g* and is unwieldy in day-to-day use. The glossy rear is not too slippery but you’ll definitely need two hands for most tasks.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) specifications and software

Rather than using one of its homegrown Exynos processors, Samsung has gone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 for this phone. In predictable Samsung fashion, it’s a processor usually found on phones that cost a lot less – around half as much as the Galaxy A9 (2018), in fact. It might not be as good as the Snapdragon 845 used by the OnePlus 6T (Review), but we think it could be a reasonable tradeoff if this phone’s cameras are very good. The Snapdragon 660 is no slouch. With eight CPU cores and integrated Adreno 512 graphics, it can deliver a premium experience on par with what flagships of a few years ago felt like.

Samsung has decided to sell two variants of this phone, but curiously, the only difference is that one has 6GB of RAM while the other has 8GB. The price difference between the two is Rs. 3,000, so you can decide whether you want to save a little money or be somewhat more future-ready. Both options feature 128GB of storage. MicroSD capacity support goes up to 512GB. Our review unit is the lower-priced one with 6GB of RAM, and we didn’t find it lacking in any way.

The 6.3-inch Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy A9 (2018) has a resolution of 1080×2220. It’s pretty vibrant, and if you can control reflections it looks great from any angle and under any kind of light. You can not only tweak the colour profiles and temperature, but also individually adjust red, green, and blue levels in the Settings app. This panel supports an always-on mode that shows you the time, date, battery level, and essential notification icons whenever the phone is in standby (or as per your preferences). Always-On Display styles are now a component of Samsung’s UI themes, so you can download many more styles, including full-colour ones.

The Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) packs a 3800mAh battery, which is a surprisingly low capacity considering the bulk of this phone. There’s also Bluetooth 5, dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac, NFC, GPS and GLONASS, and of course 4G LTE on both SIMs. This phone has a geomagnetic sensor that acts as a compass, as well as a gyroscope, Hall sensor, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor, and accelerometer.

Our review unit was running the Samsung Experience UI version 9.0 with Android 8.0 as the underlying base. While those are a bit behind the curve, we did receive an update that included the November 2018 Android security patch within a day of using this phone. There are loads of Samsung apps, several of which duplicate or replace Google’s apps. As usual, you’ll also find Microsoft Office apps and some third-party ones.

samsung galaxy a9 2018 front ndtv samsung

 

Samsung had a brief period of clarity when it ditched most of the bulk of its TouchWiz UI and created the Samsung Experience UI. While the experience isn’t laggy, and a lot of the customisations are helpful, the annoyance has crept back in. This is mostly in the form of spam alerts. We received a constant barrage from Samsung’s own browser, a Device Maintenance app, My Galaxy, My Galaxy Widget, Samsung Cloud, and Samsung Themes. There were regular “offers” and blatant ads for third-party media and services, which we found infuriating.

On the positive side, the UI on the Galaxy A9 (2018) is very visually polished and there’s a seemingly endless list of useful settings. You can flip the order of the on-screen Android navigation buttons, choose whether or not to auto-hide them, or ditch them entirely for swipe gestures. There’s a game mode and a one-handed mode. You can run some apps as floating windows and have two instances of supported messaging apps. One very neat little touch is that if you take a screenshot, the name of the running app is appended to its filename.

There are loads of shortcuts and accessibility options as well. You can even tweak system sounds and audio quality settings on a very granular level. Samsung Pay Mini is available for UPI cash transfers, but not the full Samsung Pay for point-of-sale transactions, which is disappointing on such as premium device. S-Bike Mode and various other Samsung features can be added through the My Galaxy store, but aren’t available by default on the Galaxy A9 (2018).

Bixby requires a Samsung account, but it hasn’t proven to have any killer feature yet. It displaces Google Lens in the camera app. You have to agree to dozens of privacy and terms-of-service agreements from multiple third-parties without ever seeing them, in order to even sign in to your Samsung account. There are even more permissions and disclaimers if you activate Bixby Voice. At least Bixby Home warns you in advance that it can send you marketing spam regardless of your privacy settings elsewhere, and you can opt out, but the Bixby Home screen has some promotional content too.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) cameras

Of course what everyone wants to know about is the quad-camera module on the rear. Samsung claims that the Galaxy A9 (2018) is the world’s first phone to ship with four cameras on the rear and it might seem like a gimmick, but the reasoning for having four cameras is pretty solid. There has never been a standard for dual-camera phones. There’s usually one ordinary primary camera, but the other might have a zoom or wide-angle lens, a specialised low-light sensor, or just a depth sensor. We’ve always had to choose between phones that offer any one of these capabilities, and now Samsung is offering multiple in a single device.

The camera app shows a set of three icons just above the shutter release. Switching between the wide, standard, and zoom cameras takes a second or two. The camera switcher is only available in the Auto and Scene Optimiser modes — we can understand the Live Focus, AR Emoji and Panorama modes having trouble, but to not be able to use Pro mode is disappointing. When shooting video, you can start with any of the three cameras active, but be warned that if the zoom camera is selected and you tap the record button, you’ll actually begin recording through the standard camera with 2X digital zoom applied. This lets you switch between standard and zoomed-in views instantly while recording, but the icons don’t change at all. There is no indication that the actual zoom camera is not being used. On the other hand, you can begin recording with the wide-angle camera, but then you can’t switch to any of the others while recording.

The standard, zoom, and wide-angle cameras are also not evenly matched. The primary one has a 24-megapixel sensor and f/1.7 aperture which is great for low light. The zoom camera has a 10-megapixel f/2.4 sensor, and the ultra-wide camera gets only an 8-megapixel sensor with the same f/2.4 aperture. You shouldn’t think that you finally have the equivalent of interchangeable lenses on a smartphone. In practice, there’s a huge difference in quality in photos that we shot while standing in exactly the same spot, with all three cameras in turn.

Tap to see full-sized Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) photo samples. Top to bottom: wide-angle, standard, zoom.

 

The wide shots are the grainiest, with immediately noticeable barrel distortion. Zoomed-in photos are actually quite good, but some of our samples looked a bit over-sharpened. When you switch to the zoom camera in the dark, the Galaxy A9 will first activate it, but then in a moment switch right back to the standard camera and show you a digitally zoomed frame. You can clearly see a dark frame on screen at first, which then suddenly brightens. This also happened sometimes during the day, under bright sunlight. Just like with video, physically placing a finger over each lens in turn confirms which camera is active.

This obfuscation can be misleading to users. We forced the Galaxy A9 (2018) to take the same shot with its zoom camera and with digital zoom on the primary camera, and the difference in quality was plain to see. Manually checking which camera was active soon became annoying. Ultimately, we didn’t get much use out of the wide-angle or zoom cameras at night, and we felt a little short-changed. We think that there are times when each one might come in handy, and they might be good for novelty value now and then, but users are much better off sticking with the primary camera most of the time.

Other features of the camera app include a Depth mode that works well enough, a Beautification mode, and AR Emoji stickers. For video, there are slow-motion, superslow-motion and hyperlapse options. You don’t get optical image stabilisation, but there is electronic stabilisation except when shooting at 4K, wide HD (2224×1080) or 1:1 (1440×1440). Bixby Vision lets you identify landmarks, food, wine bottle labels, and text. You can run a Web search or try shopping for something you take a photo of.

Tap to see full-sized Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) photo samples. Top to bottom: wide-angle, standard, zoom.

 

The front camera on this phone isn’t to be forgotten. It’s a 24-megapixel, f/2.0 unit with a fixed focus. Shots are decent for a phone at this price, but not exactly spectacular. Full-HD videos looked good, but there was a little bit of focus hunting.

Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) performance and battery life

Given its price, the Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) will be competing with several phones based on the Snapdragon 845 or equivalent flagship-class processors. In particular, the OnePlus 6T (Review), Asus ZenFone 5Z (Review), and LG G7+ ThinQ (Review) come to mind. The good news is that day-to-day performance is completely faultless and you’d be hard pressed to identify any situations in which this phone isn’t as smooth or responsive as its counterparts. Apps load quickly, and multitasking is easy.

Benchmarks of course do reveal differences in the raw power of these two processors. The Galaxy A9 (2018) scored 140,275 points in AnTuTu, and Geekbench’s single-core and multi-core tests gave us 1,608 and 5,779 points respectively. The GFXBench T-rex gaming benchmark scene ran at 47fps and the heavier Manhattan 3.1 scene ran at 14fps.

The screen is very well suited to watching videos and playing games. Everything looks vibrant, and motion is very smooth. The built-in speaker is loud and pretty clear, but we would really have liked proper stereo sound.

We got through a full day, starting at 9am and ending nearly midnight, without needing to reach for a charger. During this time, we played some games for about an hour, streamed a full-length movie, browsed through apps and websites, and kept on checking our messages. When left playing an HD video loop, the phone lasted for 12 hours, 57 minutes.


Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018) in pictures

Verdict
Samsung has certainly made a splash, and is showing a creative new side while beating all its Chinese competitors to market with the next big feature. It found a niche that was just waiting to be tapped, and dove right in. Others aren’t far behind, but we hope that this is the beginning of a strong new phase of innovation. If this is what the mid-range A-series is going to look like, the next S-series flagship is sure to be a force to reckon with.

With that said, we’d say that the Samsung Galaxy A9 (2018)’s four cameras don’t amount to a whole lot just yet — you get a little versatility and they might occasionally come in handy, but we wouldn’t call this an absolute must-have for photographers. Cameras aside, this is a competent phone that delivers strong performance and looks good doing it. If you’re looking for a big, bold style statement, you’ve found one.

What it all comes down to, though, is price. We would be a lot more forgiving of the camera quirks and software headaches if this phone was priced under Rs. 30,000, but Samsung is trying to take on the OnePlus 6T, and that doesn’t quite work out in its favour. If you don’t care about raw performance and really want to show off, you’ll be happy with the Galaxy A9 (2018). Those who prefer an all-rounder have plenty of better choices.

*Editor’s note: The review has been updated to reflect the fact that the Galaxy A9 (2018) weighs 183g and not 210g, as originally published.



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Apple Is Said to Miss Rapid 5G Takeoff, Sitting Out Tech Shift


Apple plans to hold off until at least 2020 before offering an iPhone that can connect to the next generation of high-speed phone services coming next year, according to people familiar with its plans.

The delay may make it easier for rivals like Samsung to win over consumers to phones that connect to 5G networks, which will provide a leap forward in mobile data speeds when they are introduced in 2019.

As with 3G and 4G, the two previous generations of mobile technology, Apple will wait as long as a year after the initial deployment of the new networks before its main product gets the capability to access them, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the company’s plans.

Apple’s previous calculations – proven correct – were that the new networks and the first versions of rival smartphones would come with problems such as spotty coverage, making consumers less compelled to immediately make the jump. This time, 5G boosters argue the switch is a much bigger speed upgrade, making Apple’s decision to wait riskier. The networks will open the floodgates to new types of mobile computing, 5G advocates say.

The decision to sit on the sidelines may be related to the company’s feud with Qualcomm, the leader in 5G-enabled chips, and its alliance instead with Intel, which won’t have chips available in time to support 2019 phones.

Apple didn’t respond to requests for comment.

In the past, it hasn’t been a problem for the Cupertino, California-based company to wait a year after much of its competition to release phones compatible with the latest wireless networks. The original iPhone in 2007 was so far ahead of rivals that its slower connection, known as 2G EDGE, wasn’t a deal breaker for early adopters. Even the iPhone 4S with its flashy features like a stainless steel frame and the promise of Siri were enough for some to ignore its lack of true 4G LTE speeds.

But going into 2019, the stakes have changed: the leap from 4G to 5G is significant enough that it may become a major selling point for new devices. Samsung plans to have 5G phones in its Galaxy range next year. And in China – the largest market for smartphones – major producers Oppo and Huawei also have indicated they plan to offer 5G phones.

“Apple has always been a laggard in cellular technology,” said Mark Hung, an analyst at Gartner. “They weren’t impacted in the past, but 5G is going to be much easier to market. But if they wait beyond 2020, then I think they’ll be impacted.”

Apple also is under more pressure to keep its iPhone customer base. The company has lost a fifth of its value the past two months amid a tech stock rout and reports of suppliers cutting forecasts, signalling the new models introduced in September aren’t selling as well as anticipated. While the global smartphone market has declined for four consecutive quarters, according to industry analyst IDC, the iPhone accounts for almost 60 percent of Apple’s revenue and is the foundation of the company’s push for sales in consumer services such as music, video and cloud storage.

Wireless carriers like Verizon and AT&T are likely to prioritise the marketing of 5G phones in order to get customers to migrate over as soon as possible. The new networks will take advantage of a greater range of radio frequencies and be capable of carrying much higher-speed data. That provides an incentive to move traffic to the speedier networks because it will lower the costs for the wireless carriers. Think of the difference in the number of cars a multi-lane freeway can accommodate versus a single-lane regular road.

To be sure, for some existing Apple customers, the lack of 5G connectivity next year won’t be a deterrent. A portion of consumers upgrade their current iPhones to the new models regardless of the changes to the device. Given that hardware upgrade cycles are slowing overall, a 2020 launch for 5G could create a super cycle of upgrades from iPhone users who would still be using an iPhone X or XS two years from now.

Since 2011, Apple has debuted all major new iPhone models in either September or October. The company, however, has released mid-cycle updates like the Verizon iPhone 4 in February 2011, geared toward specific networks. It also launched a smaller model, the iPhone SE, in March 2016.

Huawei and Samsung can build 5G modems – not just Intel and Qualcomm. But Apple is unlikely to use chips from competitors, and the companies may also struggle to produce enough supply for the iPhone’s huge volumes – more than 200 million a year.

© 2018 Bloomberg LP



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Fortnite Season 7 Release Date Announced, Snow Map Teased


The Fortnite Season 7 release date is December 6. Epic Games confirmed that it would be winter-themed spectacle as well, hinting that the Fortnite map would feature snow and ice. Considering that Fortnite Season 6 ends on December 4, a two day gap before the next set of events is par for the course. Like past Fortnite Seasons, Fortnite Season 7 will bring with it new gear, challenges, and of course, changes to the game’s map. We could also see new mini-games make their way to the battle royale shooter such as playing golf in Fortnite Season 5. With a Fortnite Season 7 release date of December 6, expect the Fortnite Season 7 start time should be 9am BST (1:30pm IST) on December 6.

“A bitter ice spreads… 3 days to Season 7,” reads a tweet from the official Fortnite account confirming when Fortnite Season 7 would begin and hinting at snow and ice featuring heavily too. The included image with the tweet also suggests that snowboarding would be a part of the festivities as well.  It makes sense when you consider that it starts in December which usually is a period of chilly weather in the northern hemisphere.

There are some clues that point to this as well. For one, a snow storm has been seen on the horizon to the south of the Fortnite map and has grown considerably over time and a snowy theme was even hinted at when the Hunting Party skin was introduced.

Furthermore, assets regarding different noises while moving such as the crunching of snow were leaked on Reddit too. Plus, the FNBRLeaks Twitter account had screenshots of sound files for snow footsteps (via VG247) corroborate the same too with a second tweet having audio of exported Fortnite files that aren’t exactly the same as the sound of snow in Viking Village. All of this points at the possibility of snow coming to the Fortnite map very soon.


If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.



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Steam’s New Revenue Split Agreement Gives Game Developers More Money


Valve, the company behind the world’s biggest digital distribution platform for PC games, Steam, has announced that it would be making changes to the revenue split between itself and game developers. Much the like App Store and Google Play, Valve takes 30 percent of all game sales on Steam. Though there have been some exceptions for those within the Steam Direct program. Now, it’s 30 percent for the first $10 million in game sales, 25 percent for sales between $10 million and $50 million, 20 percent for sales above $50 million. It appears to be an attempt to keep big budget AAA game makers like Ubisoft and Bethesda from moving away from Steam entirely. At the same time, it’s far from helpful for indie developers who struggle for discoverability and sales on Steam to begin with.

“The value of a large network like Steam has many benefits that are contributed to and shared by all the participants,” a post from Valve reads. “Finding the right balance to reflect those contributions is a tricky but important factor in a well-functioning network. It’s always been apparent that successful games and their large audiences have a material impact on those network effects so making sure Steam recognises and continues to be an attractive platform for those games is an important goal for all participants in the network.”

There will be changes regarding sales data confidentiality as well which could make for some interesting developments in the months to come.

“We’ve also made a change to the agreement regarding confidentiality of your sales data,” the post continues. “We frequently get questions from partners who want to talk with other developersthird parties or publicly about the sales of their games on Steam. We’ve heard you, and we’re updating the confidentiality provisions to make it clear that the partner can share sales data about their game as they see fit.”

With Discord, GOG, Uplay, and Origin to choose from in addition to the Microsoft Store, do you still use Steam? Let us know in the comments.


If you’re a fan of video games, check out Transition, Gadgets 360’s gaming podcast. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS, or just listen to this week’s episode by hitting the play button below.



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Google Play Releases ‘Best of 2018’ Apps, Books, Games, Music, Movies, TV Shows


Google Play on Monday released its ‘Best of 2018’ list to highlight the best Android apps, games, movies, TV, and books of this year. For the first time, there are also User’s Choice winners that have been selected by fans on Google Play. PUBG Mobile has emerged as the User’s Choice game of 2018, while in the US, the YouTube TV app has surfaced as the fan’s favourite app of the year. The title of fan’s favourite app of the app in India goes to the Google Pay app that recently transformed from the original Google Tez.

Among other movies, Hichki has become the only Bollywood title to join this year’s best movies list on Google Play in India. There are also titles including Black Panther (2018), Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Justice League, Deadpool 2, and Coco. On the part of Best App of 2018, language learning app Drops comes on top. TikTok, on the other hand, has emerged as the Most Entertaining App of the Year in the country. Unfold — Create Stories, Files by Google, How To Draw Comics, Ultimate Guitar: Chords & Tabs, and Playo — Join Sports Activities come as the Best Hidden Gems of the Year in the country. Google has also listed Otter Voice Notes, Asana, Daylio, Recipe book: Recipes & Shopping List, and Uber Eats as the Best Daily Helper apps of the year in India.

While locally-developed Baahubali: The Game was titled the most popular game of 2017, PUBG Mobile has now debuted not just as User’s Choice game of the year in India and the US, it also emerged as the Best Game of the Year. However, in the list of Best Casual games of 2018 in India, Ludo King leads, followed by Candy Crush Friends Saga, Orbia: Tap and Relax, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, and Faraway 3: Arctic Escape. There is also the list of Best Indie games in the country that includes Alto’s Odyssey, Cube Escape: Paradox, Fantasy Story: 2048, Hexologic, and Reigns: Her Majesty.

Just like last year, Indian authors reached the top five list of books on Google Play in India. How to Make Money in Intraday Trading from Ashwani Gujral, Hands on Computer Science & IT by Prof. Neelima, Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka, Will You Still Love Me by Ravinder Singh, and Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling are the top five books in the country.

In the US, the list of top five movies on Google Play in 2018 includes Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War, Thor: Ragnarok, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, and Deadpool 2. The title of User’s Choice movie of 2018, on the other side, has been given to Avengers: Infinity War.

Here, you can check out the complete lists of Google Play’s Best of 2018 for the most popular content in India this year, as well as around the globe.

Best App of 2018
Drops: Learn 31 new languages

Best Game of 2018
PUBG Mobile

User’s Choice App of 2018 in India
Google Pay

User’s Choice Game of 2018 in India and Globally
PUBG Mobile

User’s Choice App of 2018 Globally
YouTube TV

Top five movies of 2018 in India
Black Panther

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Justice League

Deadpool 2

Hichki

Coco

Top five movies of 2018 Globally
Black Panther

Avengers: Infinity War

Thor: Ragnarok

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Deadpool 2

Top five TV shows of 2018 Globally
The Walking Dead

Riverdale

The Big Band Theory

The Flash

PAW Patrol

Top five ebooks of 2018 in India
How to Make Money in Intraday Trading from Ashwani Gujral

Hands on Computer Science & IT by Prof. Neelima

Calling Sehmat by Harinder Sikka

Will You Still Love Me by Ravinder Singh

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About The World – And Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling

Top five ebooks of 2018
Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

The Outsider by Stephen King

Fear by Bob Woodward

12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Top five audiobooks of 2018
12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Fear by Bob Woodward

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The Outsider by Stephen King



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Amazon Prime Video Announces First Tamil Series, Vella Raja, With Trailer, Release Date


Amazon has announced its first Tamil-language series for Prime Video in Vella Raja, along with a trailer and release date: this Friday, December 7. The drug-world drama stars Bobby Simha (Jigarthanda) and Parvatii Nair (Yennai Arindhaal), has been directed by Guhan Senniappan (Sawaari) and produced by Dream Warrior Pictures, founded by brothers S.R. Prabhu and S.R. Prakashbabu. Vella Raja is a ‘Prime Exclusive’ series and not a ‘Prime Original’, which defines whether Amazon acquires or produces a show, respectively.

Here’s the official synopsis for Vella Raja from Amazon Prime Video India:

“Set in the heart of North Chennai in the iconic Bawa Lodge, Vella Raja revolves around the lives of characters who find themselves embroiled in a hostage situation while staying at the lodge. Notorious drug lord Deva, who has used the lodge as a hideout after a cocaine heist, must now escape with his loot while avoiding traps set by the police and his rivals.”

 

Simha is a National Award-winning actor, while Nair is a rising presence in the Tamil film industry with a sizeable social media following. Additionally, Vella Raja also stars Kaali Venkat (Mersal), K. Yuthan Balaji (Nagarvalam), Gayathrie Shankar (Rummy), and Sharath Ravi (Madras Mansion). Vishal Chandrashekar (Jil Jung Juk) has composed the background score for Amazon’s first Tamil series. Vella Raja has also been dubbed in Hindi and Telugu, in addition to the standard subtitling options.

“We are very excited and curious to come forward and present a bold story in Tamil, at a grand scale,” Prahbu said in a prepared statement. “It has always been our effort to provide quality entertainment through all our works. Like always, we have delved deeper into each character, establishing their back-stories and building a complex, grim, dark drug world with undertones of humour in this Prime Exclusive series. With a thrilling story line, credible directors, producers, and with a strong cast, we believe, this venture will be liked by Prime Video audiences.”

“We have seen great response from consumers on Tamil content with our line-up of blockbuster films,” Prime Video’s India content head Vijay Subramaniam added. “We are now excited to collaborate with Dream Warrior Pictures to showcase Vella Raja, our first Tamil Prime Exclusive Series. This reaffirms Amazon Prime Video’s commitment of telling great stories across languages. We will continue to work hard to bring best-in-class content across international, regional and local titles to our customers in India and globally.”

Vella Raja is out December 7 on Amazon Prime Video worldwide.

vella raja poster Vella Raja



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Marriott’s Starwood Data Breach: What You Should Do If You Were Affected


One of the largest hotel chains in the world announced Friday that the personal information of up to 500 million guests may have been stolen after its reservations database was hacked.

Marriott International said that guests who made reservations with its Starwood properties on or before Sept. 10 may have had their information compromised. Among the hotels under the Starwood brand are Sheraton, Westin and St. Regis.

Q: What was stolen?
A: The database included information tied to as many as 500 million guests, Marriott said. For about 327 million of the guests, hackers had access to names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and passport numbers. The hackers could also see loyalty program account information, dates of birth, gender and reservation information.

The hotel said that the database also contained encrypted credit card numbers for some customers and that it can’t rule out that the hackers stole information that could decrypt and reveal those numbers.

For the remaining customers, the information stored in the database included their names and, for some, addresses, email addresses and other information, Marriott said.

Q: What should I do?
A:If you made a reservation with a Starwood hotel on or before September 10, the information you shared may have been stolen, the hotel said.

Starting Friday, Marriott said it will begin sending emails on a rolling basis to affected guests who have shared their email addresses with Starwood. Marriott has cautioned customers to stay vigilant as they look for this email because malicious actors may try to pose as Marriott.

On an FAQ page, Marriott listed the official email address from which it will send the notification. The hotel said:

Marriott has also put up a dedicated website and directed customers to a cell centre to ask questions.

Q: How do I sign up for fraud monitoring?
A: Marriott said it is offering customers a fraud monitoring service at no cost for one year. It said WebWatcher monitors websites where personal data is shared and alerts customers if their information is found. People can enroll in WebWatcher through Marriott’s dedicated website.

Q: What happens next?
A: Marriott has directed customers to monitor their loyalty program, Starwood Preferred Guest, for suspicious activity. Customers should also review their credit card statements and look out for unauthorized purchases, the hotel said.

Marriott said it will not ask customers to provide their password by phone or email and told guests to stay vigilant against phishing attempts in the wake of the data breach.

© The Washington Post 2018



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Huawei Mate 20 Pro Goes on Sale in India for Amazon Prime Members


Huawei Mate 20 Pro Goes on Sale in India for Amazon Prime Members

Huawei Mate 20 Pro price in India is set at Rs. 69,990

Huawei Mate 20 Pro is now available in India exclusively for Amazon Prime members starting 12am IST (Midnight) on December 3, Monday. All other customers will be able to buy the Mate 20 Pro starting 12am IST (Midnight) on December 4, Tuesday. To recall, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro was launched in India at an event held earlier this week. Key highlights of Huawei’s flagship smartphone include the latest 7nm HiSilicon Kirin 980 SoC, an in-display fingerprint sensor, a nano memory card slot, a triple rear camera setup, and Android 9.0 Pie.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro price in India, availability, launch offers

Huawei Mate 20 Pro price in India is set at Rs. 69,990 for the 6GB RAM/ 128GB storage model, which is the only one making its way the Indian market. Colour options for India include Emerald Green and Twilight. The phone will be available exclusively for Amazon India Prime members starting 12am on December 3, Monday, and for all customers starting 12am on December 4. It will be sold exclusively on Amazon.in. As part of an early bird limited period bundle offer, users can purchase the Sennheiser PXC 550 wireless headphones alongwith the smartphone at a combined price tag of Rs. 71,990.

Launch offers include a 20 percent bill rental discount per month for 12 months on Red/ Nirvana Vodafone Idea postpaid rental plans of Rs. 499 and above. Additional data of up to 1.1GB per day can also be availed by Vodafone Idea subscribers for recharges worth Rs. 199.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro specifications

The dual-SIM Huawei Mate 20 Pro runs EMUI 9.0 on top of Android 9.0 Pie, and sports a 6.39-inch QHD+ (1440×3120 pixels) curved OLED panel with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. The handset is powered by a flagship Kirin 980 SoC, coupled with a Mali-G76 MP10 GPU, 6GB/ 8GB of RAM, and 128GB/ 256GB of internal storage. Storage on the handset is expandable via nano memory card (up to 256GB).

Huawei Mate 20, Mate 20 Pro, and Mate 20 X First Impressions

In the camera department, the Mate 20 Pro sports a Leica triple rear camera setup with a primary 40-megapixel wide angle lens with f/1.8 aperture, a 20-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor with f/2.2 aperture, and then a third 8-megapixel 3X telephoto sensor with an aperture of f/2.4. On the front, the handset bears a 24-megapixel RGB selfie camera with 3D facial unlocking. There is a 4,200mAh battery under the hood, with support for 40W SuperCharge technology.

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NASA’s OSIRIS-REx Probe on Course to Reach Asteroid Bennu on December


NASA's OSIRIS-REx Probe on Course to Reach Asteroid Bennu on December

Photo Credit: NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Bennu asteroid

A NASA spacecraft designed to bring a small sample from asteroid Bennu to Earth is on course to arrive at its destination on December 3, the US space agency has said.

Launched in September 2016, the Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) spacecraft has been slowly approaching Bennu, NASA said on Thursday.

The spacecraft will spend almost a year surveying the asteroid with five scientific instruments with the goal of selecting a location that is safe and scientifically interesting to collect the sample.

The spacecraft will briefly touch Bennu’s surface around July 2020 to collect at least 60 grams (equal to about 30 sugar packets) of dirt and rocks.

It might collect as much as 2,000 grams, which would be the largest sample by far gathered from a space object since the Apollo Moon landings.

The spacecraft will then pack the sample into a capsule and travel back to Earth, dropping the capsule into Utah’s west desert in September 2023, where scientists will be waiting to collect it, NASA said.

The mission will help scientists investigate how planets formed and how life began, as well as improve our understanding of asteroids that could impact Earth.

To highlight the arrival of the agency’s first asteroid sample return mission, NASA will air a live event on December 3 from 11.45 am to 12.15 pm EST.

The programme will originate from OSIRIS-REx’s mission control at the Lockheed Martin Space facility in Littleton, Colorado, and will air on NASA Television, Facebook Live, Ustream, YouTube and the agency’s website.



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HP Revenue Tops Estimates on Personal Systems Business


HP’s quarterly revenue beat analysts’ estimates on Thursday, driven by growth in its personal systems business that sells notebooks and desktops and the acquisition of Samsung’s printer business.

Shares of HP, which houses the hardware business of former Hewlett-Packard Co, were marginally up in extended trading.

The personal systems business, which accounts for more than 60 percent of HP’s total revenue, rose 11 percent to $10.06 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $9.78 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

“On the PC side, we are impressed, particularly amidst a backdrop of reported ‘CPU shortages’ that are already well known,” said David Ryzhik, an analyst with Susquehanna Financial Group.

The company had the second position in worldwide PC shipments in the third quarter with a 22.8 percent market share, down from 23.9 percent in the preceding quarter, according to research firm International Data Corp’s data.

HP said revenue from its printing business rose 9.1 percent to $5.30 billion, slightly short of analysts’ estimate of $5.31 billion.

The company completed the acquisition of Samsung Electronics Co’s printer business for $1.05 billion in November 2017 as a part of its efforts to strengthen the sluggish printer and copier business.

HP said, in a post earnings call with analysts, it has not considered any impact from unannounced tariffs or any significant demand changes that may result from an increase in geopolitical uncertainties. The Palo Alto, California-based company said it would consider price increases to respond to tariffs.

“We are working through a variety of mitigation items on the tariffs, pricing included to be one of the ways we mitigate,” said Chief Financial Officer Steve Fieler during the call.

The company forecast current-quarter adjusted profit of 50 cents to 53 cents per share. Analysts expected a profit of 52 cents per share.

Net earnings rose to $1.45 billion, or 91 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Oct. 31, from $660 million, or 39 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, the company earned 54 cents per share, in line with average analyst estimates.

The company said its fourth-quarter adjusted earnings and profit exclude after-tax adjustments of $586 million, or 37 cents per share, related to restructuring and other charges and acquisition-related charges.

Net revenue rose 10.3 percent $15.37 billion. Analysts on an average had expected revenue of $15.1 billion.

© Thomson Reuters 2018



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