Bharat-1 First Impressions: The Jio Phone Rival India Needs?

Bharat-1 First Impressions: The Jio Phone Rival India Needs?

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Micromax has launched Bharat-1 feature phone
  • The Bharat-1 supports 4G VoLTE, and ships with BSNL’s bundled offers
  • We spent some time with the Bharat-1, read our first impressions below

After years of manufacturers scrambling for ways to bring affordable and locally relevant smartphones into the hands of millions, it took a Jio Phone to bring feature phones back into focus. So it’s no surprise that telecom operators and phone manufacturers in India are having a deja vu moment, BSNL and Micromax being the latest with the new Bharat-1, a 4G feature phone with high-speed Internet that was unveiled in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The BSNL Micromax Bharat-1 has an unassuming design – more on this shortly – but what it offers out of the box and signifies in the grand scheme of things is perhaps more appealing. Priced at Rs. 2,200 (roughly $34) and going on sale October 20, it is positioned as a solution to the needs of over half a billion people in India.

The need for affordable connectivity

So what are these needs that the BSNL Micromax Bharat-1 phone can fulfil? Let’s see. Micromax’s Rahul Sharma thinks that people don’t want to pay for the voice calls they make and also surf countless webpages at no charge. For this, his company has partnered with state-run telecom operator BSNL. At a meagre Rs. 97 monthly tariff plan, Sharma says, customers can avail all of this with the Bharat-1.

But let’s be honest. People also want to listen to music, watch videos, and stream live TV occasionally. What about those needs? Micromax says it has partnered with a range of companies including Zenga to bundle in those entertainment offerings with the phone.

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Which brings us to the only question that matters: does the BSNL Micromax Bharat-1 handset live up to the expectations? The short answer is yes. A slightly longer answer is, mostly yes. We spent some time with the handset to figure out what the big deal was.

Does it live up to expectations?

From the looks of it, the Micromax Bharat-1 can be mistaken for a relic of the past. It features the classic numeric keypad and keys make unpleasant noise when you click on them. And you will be clicking them a lot as the tiny (2.4-inch), barely okay-ish display doesn’t support touch input. The plastic body also doesn’t feel premium, though it doesn’t feel cheap either. And that in a nutshell is what the design and other aesthetics of the BSNL Bharat-1 feel like. But everything gets interesting as you long hold and release the * key.

There are several apps that come pre-installed on the new Micromax Bharat-1 handset. For Web browsing, there is a custom build of Opera Mini mobile browser. We typed in a few webpages and they loaded just fine. There is a YouTube app as well, and the display and sound quality are good enough for what a customer would be paying for the device.

The Bharat-1 isn’t running Android, so there is no Google Play app store on the phone. This could be crucial to you if you were planning to download WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in India, or most other popular app that you have been meaning to try on a phone. You will, however, be able to check Wikipedia, update Facebook statuses, read news articles, and do a range of other things using the Opera Mini browser.

There are two camera sensors on the phone as well. The rear camera, a 2-megapixel sensor and a VGA selfie camera on front, take perhaps the best images you can expect from them. Put mildly, you wouldn’t want to take pictures from them unless you don’t have any other phone lying around. The Jio Phone, in comparison, takes better pictures.

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There is an entertainment “Fun” app on the phone as well, which we are told offer a ton of songs, videos, and provides access to over one hundred TV channels. The catalogue felt thin to us, though we admittedly couldn’t browse through all the sections in the limited time we spent with the device. On the plus side, the videos run impressively well on the phone with enough clarity. The BSNL phone also supports Bluetooth, allowing users to quickly share files among themselves.

Bharat-1 supports Wi-Fi, and that’s how the test unit we played with was hooked to the Internet. Combing through the Settings, we also found that this phone is capable of turning into a Wi-Fi hotspot machine. Though, we couldn’t test the feature as there were no SIM cards in the test device. We also couldn’t make any voice calls.

Speaking of which, the BSNL Bharat-1 comes with two SIM card slots. A Micromax representative told Gadgets 360 that users can absolutely swap the BSNL SIM cards with those from other telecom operators. Jio Phone doesn’t let you do that, do note, and has only a single SIM card slot. Those of you who are planning to purchase the Bharat-1, you could want swap in an Airtel or Reliance Jio SIM card into the phone.

Even as Micromax is positioning the device as “India Ka 4G phone”, it’s a little ironic that the launch partner BSNL doesn’t offer 4G just yet. So for the immediate future, if you want to browse the Web at 4G speeds, you would actually need a Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, or Reliance Jio SIM card to avail the facility.

“For us, this is a future acquisition strategy and BSNL has already started 4G tests and currently has a rural network that’s unmatched with any existing operator in the country. Once a feature phone user shifts to 3G and discards his outdated phone, in next few months the migration to 4G becomes easier,” a Micromax spokesperson told Gadgets 360.

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There is a 2000mAh battery in the Jio Phone rival that is a considerably larger from what feature phones typically seem to pack in, and should last you a couple of days of moderate usage on a single charge. We didn’t notice any significant battery drain on the phone even as we hammered the keypad to scan for everything we could find on the phone.

Should you purchase a Bharat-1 phone?

Well, it really depends. If you already own a smartphone, you might not want to purchase one of these Bharat-1 handsets. You will find that it takes worse images, and its display is unlikely to please your eyes. The phone is also very tiny and the keypad might ruin your experience. But that’s alright. Micromax hasn’t necessarily built the phone for you.

The Bharat-1 handset has been designed for the 500 million people in India who cannot afford a smartphone, or the data plans that go along with them to avail much of the services. The phone has been designed for the elderly, kids, and everyone in between who hasn’t had the opportunity to use a smartphone yet. And for those people, the Bharat-1 may just be a great purchase, even on BSNL’s 3G speeds.

Stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for a detailed review of the BSNL Micromax Bharat-1.

For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Micromax Bharat-1

Micromax Bharat-1

  • KEY SPECS
  • NEWS

Display

2.40-inch

Front Camera

0.3-megapixel

Resolution

240×320 pixels

RAM

512MB

Storage

4GB

Rear Camera

2.4-megapixel

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    Rs.792
  • Micromax X072 (Black)
    Rs.830

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

India’s creative economy needs creative solutions

A vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs the creativity of the private television industry in India. Photo: Mint

A vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs the creativity of the private television industry in India. Photo: Mint

Sometimes you don’t need to look under rocks to find the objectionable.

The auction for T20 cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL) broadcast rights, across geographies and media, has amplified the asymmetry in regulatory frameworks operating in the creative economy. The entire issue should also help triangulate a policy conversation between competition law, intellectual property rights and a sectoral regulatory/legislative narrative that has failed to comprehend the dynamics of India’s growing media and entertainment industry.

Star Group’s winning bid for IPL media rights was made via a transparent process. But the voluble protests preceding and following it have their roots in the Indian economy’s enduring legacy of cronyism and government patronage. Even if we move beyond the immediacy of the complaints and try to focus on the larger picture, the state of strife and conflict does underscore the need for regulatory reform in the creative economy. Specifically, it highlights three issues: multiplicity of regulators leading to lack of clarity on regulatory jurisdictions; need to grant supremacy to Indian Copyright Act—which governs creation, broadcasting and monetization of content—over a plethora of other laws and regulations that are stifling legitimate rights of content creators; and, finally, whether the 20th century mode of administered pricing for content produced in the private sector for sale in the open market can still work in the 21st century.

At the heart of the debate is the difference between monopoly over content and content monopoly. Monopoly over content arises when the content creator has the sole right, granted by law, to monetize the intellectual property embedded in the content for a specific period of time. Content monopoly arises when there is only one content producer in the entire industry and can hold distributors and consumers to ransom, which is clearly not the case in the India.

However, the extant regulatory framework seems to be ignoring these nuances and apprehension over content monopoly seems to have engendered systems that grant subordinate status to the Indian Copyright Act for broadcasting organizations, which is in contrast to global norms. Indeed, indications about content’s future were discernible in the IPL auctions: Facebook’s Rs3,900 crore bid for digital rights (for the Indian Subcontinent) trumped Airtel’s Rs3,280 crore and Reliance Jio’s Rs3,075.72 crore bids. Though Facebook eventually lost out to Star’s consolidated bid, the incident demonstrates how digital content is clearly the next battleground and how companies are according supremacy to content. It also brings into sharp relief the question of net neutrality and the role of gatekeepers. This then also begs the question: Is the current regulatory structure, erected to generate societal equity through mandated economic pricing, adequate and symmetrical for content delivered through cable/satellite and through digital pipelines?

The private television industry in India is of fairly recent vintage. Yet, a vice-like grip of regulators and regulations governs its creativity. The key regulatory institutions overseeing the industry are the ministry of information and broadcasting, the ministry of electronics and information technology, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, the Competition Commission of India, the department of industrial policy and promotion in the ministry for commerce and industry, the Intellectual Property Appellate Tribunal and the department of telecommunications in the ministry of communications.

Given the multiplicity of agencies, there is a wide and bewildering assortment of laws, rules and guidelines that govern this sector: Indian Copyright Act, Information Technology Act, Consumer Protection Act, Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, plus a labyrinthine web of regulations from Trai.

Historically, all attempts to establish an appropriate regulatory regime for the broadcasting and cable industry fell victim to political fragility of the 1990s, till the Centre reclassified broadcasting and cable services as telecommunication services in 2004 and appointed Trai as the designated regulator. Occasional attempts to create an independent broadcasting regulatory authority suffered pre-mature deaths due to political uncertainty.

With Trai and so many other agencies, acts, rules and guidelines at play—often at cross-purposes to each other—it is only natural that the playing field gets skewed in favour of those with unequal political bargaining power. In the sector’s infancy, the boundaries were stretched by organizations that employed musclemen and were friendly with political parties. Not all companies were born from this violent crucible, but some of the leading names in media and entertainment rose to prominence from this brutal churning. In addition, as various stakeholders have pointed out, the regulator’s lack of capacity has also led to the current regulatory distortions.

According to the KPMG India-Ficci report on Indian media and entertainment industry, 2017, Trai’s March order on inter-connect and pricing of channels may lead to a decline in revenue for broadcasters and might even result in an increased monthly outlay for many subscribers, thereby defeating the very purpose of the pricing model. Clearly, it is time to either upgrade Trai’s capacity or to even start thinking again of an independent and separate broadcasting regulator.

[“Source-livemint”]

Despite recent setbacks, India needs more private education

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. Photo: HT

In the wake of the tragic murder of a seven-year-old boy at Ryan International School in Gurugram, followed just a few days later by the ghastly molestation of a little girl at a school in the capital, the lens is once again on private schools. In any case, the business of private education has been under fierce scrutiny for a long time now with the Delhi government currently engaged in a battle of wills with private schools over fee hike which it deemed exorbitant. Government schools, by contrast, are seen as catering to the poor and the marginalized.

The manner in which the debate has been framed seems to suggest a different set of expectations from private and government schools. That relates not just to outcomes but also to conduct and staff behaviour besides, of course, physical infrastructure. Given the kind of money they pay, parents of children who attend private schools, expect high standards of safety and security.

Evidence now suggests that’s not been happening. Indeed, private schools, which abound in India and have a long history in the country, haven’t quite delivered the goods.

India’s best colleges in engineering, management, medical and legal education have carved out a name for themselves in global ratings of higher education institution even if their rankings in various lists tend to be low because of a few factors. The same, however, cannot be said of even the elite private schools in the country, none of which have any global standing. That may be because they are forced to adhere to a curriculum and structure that lacks both imagination as well as excellence. But that doesn’t absolve them of their continued mediocrity.

All this suggests that private education isn’t the way to go for India in terms of quality as well as quantity. In developed Western countries with much higher GDP, the bulk of school education is in the public domain with only a few private schools catering to the rich. In the US, for instance, only about 10% of schools are in the private domain.

Yet, in India, even though government schools outnumber private institutions, they have been grossly inadequate in meeting the aspirations of the people. With a few exceptions, Delhi being one of them, most Indian states seem completely incapable of providing a half decent education infrastructure for young Indians.

According to research by Geeta Kingdon Gandhi, professor of education and international development at the Institute of Education, London, and president of City Montessori School, a private institution in Lucknow, as quoted by IndiaSpend, between 2010-11 and 2015-16, the number of private schools in India grew 35% from 220,000 in 2010-11 to 300,000 in 2015-16. By contrast, the number of government schools in the same period grew just 1%, from 1.03 million to 1.04 million. This, despite the fact that the 2009 Right to Education Act as per which all children between the ages of six and fourteen should be provided free and compulsory education, effectively makes it mandatory for state governments to set up more schools.

If the growth in numbers is beyond the capacity of the states, any improvement in quality isn’t even a priority. Indian students fare abysmally in global tests related to early school education.

Admittedly, in a few of the states like Punjab, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, government schools have been seen to outperform private schools in reading skills in local languages, once household and parental characteristics were controlled for, according to a state-wise analysis in Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014.

Part of the reason why private schools have failed to deliver is also because they have little transparency in their working and consequently, no accountability. Currently, private schools can only be run as an educational charitable trust which means any profits the school makes have to be retained and cannot be taken out. In turn, the government often provides land at highly concessional rates to set up these schools. It isn’t a model that can appeal to a company. Those that do have to use a complicated method whereby the school trust hands over its management and operations to a private company against a steep charge.

Instead of the current debate about private versus public schools, the focus should be on enabling the private sector to set up more schools but under direct and close scrutiny of regulatory authorities. Given the limited resources of the states, there is no point heading off private intuitive in education. Instead, it should be encouraged but made much more accountable for quality and conduct.

Sundeep Khanna is a consulting editor at Mint and oversees the newsroom’s corporate coverage. The Corporate Outsider will look at current issues and trends in the corporate sector every week.

[“Source-livemint”]

Why Twitter Needs to Constantly Change to Create a Positive User Experience (Watch)

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With all the 140-character sentiments being shared online these days, there are bound to be a few that cross over the line and become hateful or otherwise inappropriate. But now, Twitter is trying to do something about it. The social platform just announced plans to slow down abusive accounts and hide abusive tweets from public view.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has had to make adjustments to curb harassment or hate speech on the site. Last year, Twitter rolled out changes that allow users to block certain keywords and conversations from their feeds and report hateful conduct from other users.

But while this latest update is likely a step in the right direction, it probably won’t be the last change Twitter will have to make. Anytime a business like Twitter allows for user-created content, it gives those users the ability to have a big impact on the user experience for others.

So Twitter shouldn’t just let all of that content go unchecked. When certain users get abusive, hateful or otherwise inappropriate, it ruins the experience for everyone else using the site. So even if it’s not something that Twitter itself is doing, it can still lead to a poor experience or even to some users closing their accounts altogether.

The End Goal is Always a Positive User Experience

And since public opinions can vary so widely, that means Twitter will likely have to update its policies and processes constantly so that users have more control over what they see and don’t see. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s all in the name of creating a positive user experience.

Twitter Photo via Shutterstock

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