Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday its expanded Azurecloud service to help government clients save data on their own servers would be available by the end of the first quarter of 2019, as it battles with Amazon.com for a $10 billion (roughly Rs. 74,200 crores) Pentagon contract.
The two companies are left in the fray for the lucrative contract after Alphabet’s Google dropped out on Monday, saying the company’s new ethical guidelines do not align with the project.
Pentagon’s JEDI, or Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, cloud computing solution contract is part of the Department of Defense’s efforts to modernise its IT infrastructure.
The expanded Azure Government Secret cloud service will make Microsoft “a strong option for the JEDI contract,” said Julia White, corporate vice president of Microsoft Azure, adding that the company is capable of meeting the highest classification requirement for handling “top secret US classified data”.
The chief executive of South Korea’s LG Display, Han Sang-beom, was determined to deliver a strong message when he appeared before 1,000 employees at the firm’s main manufacturing plant last spring.
So he donned a pair of goggles, picked up a hammer, and smashed a liquid-crystal display screen to bits.
The symbolism was impossible to miss: LCD panels, the company’s mainstay for years, were being relegated to the industrial dustbin. The company’s future would depend on a newer technology, organic light-emitting diode, or OLED.
“I’ve never seen him do such a thing,” said one company official who was present. “His performance showed a grim determination to weather this crisis.”
Yet LG Display’s predicament was in many ways one of its own making. Less than a year earlier, the company had showered employees with perks and bonuses as profits rolled in, driven by the company’s leadership in LCD screens for TVs, computer monitors and smartphones.
But LG Display had misread the market: Chinese competitors were coming on strong, and by early this year prices for LCD screens were plummeting. The fat profits of 2017 turned into big losses in 2018 – and the company abruptly announced in July that it would slash $2.7 billion in capital spending it had planned through 2020.
It did not reveal its total or previous targets but made about $6 billion in capital expenditures in 2017, according to Eikon data.
The company’s troubles stand as a stark example of the risks inherent in hotly competitive technology businesses that require massive capital investment.
“It seems that LG Display made a major miscalculation on its LCD business, not accurately judging the timing to pull away when they could see China’s rapid catch-up,” said Lee Won-sik, an analyst at Shinyoung Securities.
“We knew from last year LCD prices would go down but we did not expect this big and fast fall,” acknowledged one LG Display official, who, like others in this article, declined to be identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media. “Customers had been asking for price cuts, but we didn’t act until it got too late.”
Prices in free fall
LG Display posted five straight years of strong profits after Han took the helm in 2012, riding a tide of LCD screen orders from Apple and strong demand for both phone and TV screens from LG Electronics, which owns more than a third of the display-maker.
LG Display also began to invest in OLED displays, which unlike LCD screens don’t require backlighting and can deliver more natural-looking colours. OLED screens also consume less energy and can be bent and folded.
But the technology is expensive, and LG Display was earning the vast majority of its revenue from LCDs. Until its recent cutbacks, it was running eight LCD production lines in South Korea and another in China.
While LG Display hummed along, Chinese companies, led by BOE Technology Group, were pouring huge sums into LCD production.
By January 2017, BOE had become the No. 1 supplier of LCDs larger than 9 inches, according to market tracker IHS Markit, taking 22.3 percent of unit shipments versus 21.6 percent for LG Display. It was the first time a Chinese display maker had taken the top spot.
By early 2018, prices for many types of LCDs were in free-fall. Prices for 50-inch LCD television panels, for example, slid 32 percent in August versus the same month last year, according to IHS Markit.
LG Display’s big South Korean rival, the display unit of Samsung Electronics, had begun pulling back from LCD years earlier, shutting down older LCD production lines in South Korea beginning in 2010, according to a Samsung Display official. The company now has just two LCD factories in South Korea and one in China.
But LG Display was caught flat-footed and is now furiously slashing LCD capacity. It has closed three LCD production lines since last year and abandoned plans for a new one.
The company in April also rolled out an “emergency management system,” with employees being told to use cheaper flights and cut back on group meals, company sources told Reuters. Cash flow has become a concern: it was negative 838.2 billion won ($743.93 million) in the second quarter, according to Eikon data, and has been negative for three straight quarters.
Three company sources say the company is not planning layoffs for fear of losing talent to China, but some employees are frustrated with cuts in benefits.
“Executives are trying to keep the morale up, telling us media reports about a voluntary redundancy program are false,” a company source with knowledge of the matter said.
OLED a game changer?
LG Display is now betting the house on OLED, and says it can fund $17.6 billion in OLED investments over the next three years. It expects the newer technology to account for 40 percent of revenue by 2020, up from just 10 percent today.
As OLED becomes more prevalent, LG Display’s fortunes could turn, analysts say.
LG Display’s OLED panels have helped its sibling, LG Electronics, take the lead in high-end televisions. Some analysts believe LG Display has been pressured to supply those panels cheaply, hurting its profitability, though the company denies that is the case.
But the OLED market promises to be tough. Samsung boasts that it has been investing in OLED since 2005. BOE is getting into OLED too. There are also still technical challenges in making large-panel OLED TV screens that don’t wear out too quickly, noted Ross Young, CEO of research provider Display Supply Chain Consultants.
Son Young-jun, LG Display’s vice president of public relations, said in a statement that the company is the only producer of large-size OLED displays and had “unmatched technological expertise” in OLED. “The potential and outlook ahead is promising,” he said.
LG Display says its OLED division will turn a profit in the third quarter. It also expects LCD prices to stabilise, enabling it to squeeze profits from the older technology until the newer one matures.
“Given OLED is our answer and solution to the crisis, there’s nothing else we can do other than tightening our belts and pushing for OLED,” a company official said.
Honor showed up at IFA 2018with a surprise this year – Magic 2
Honor Magic 2 to come with a ‘Magic Slide’ camera
The smartphone will be powered by a Kirin 980 SoC
Magic 2 also comes with the 40W Magic Charger
Honor is jumping on the sliding camera bandwagon with its Magic 2 smartphone. During its event at IFA 2018 in Berlin, the Huawei sub-brand teased a smartphone called Honor Magic 2 that is claimed to come with a bezel-free display by leveraging a sliding camera functionality. The handset is a successor to the Honor Magic that was launched back in 2016 with display curves and AI-based features. The Magic 2, meanwhile, comes with a ‘Magic Slide’ feature that enables the phone to have a nearly 100 percent screen-to-body ratio.
At the IFA trade show, Honor only showed the Magic 2 briefly onstage. The successor to Magic phone did not get a proper announcement, but Honor President George Zhao teased some of the key features. However, the company did not provide too much information regarding the price, specifications, and availability of the smartphone. A zoomed-in image from Honor’s event shared by GSMArena, showcases the interesting-looking device that lacks any bezels or notches.
The most interesting feature in the Honor Magic 2 is its FullView display. There are no display notches or any significant chin at the bottom. It resembles the Oppo Find X that was launched earlier this year. Xiaomi has also recently teased a Mi Mix 3 with an “all-screen” display that moves the frontal paraphernalia to the slider behind the screen. Interestingly, as per the images, unlike the Find X, the Honor Magic 2’s camera slider appears to open manually. However, it may also be due to it being just an engineering sample and not a final product.
Additionally, the Honor Magic 2 will be powered by a Kirin 980 processor. At the same event, Huawei had launched the HiSilicon Kirin 980 as the ‘world’s first commercial 7nm SoC’. Compared to the previous generation 10nm process, the 7nm process is said to deliver 20 percent improved SoC performance and 40 percent more efficiency. Also, the Honor Magic 2 will come with a 40W ‘Magic Charge’ fastcharging technology. It is claimed to be very fast and safe. Honor, in a press release, said, “to further ensure safety, 15 layers of protection are also embedded in the smartphone. The phone can automatically identify the battery, cable and charger and only when all of the three parts are identified as safe, the Super Charger will start.”
“The launch of Honor Magic two years ago introduced the concept of the AI smartphone to consumers”, noted Zhao. “The first-generation Honor Magic was an era-defining smartphone that transformed the industry. In addition to AI-features that make the phone truly smart, Honor Magic’s ground-breaking all-curved panel design and powerful 40W charging support have reshaped smartphone design and become a benchmark for all smartphones. The developments of these futuristic flagship devices are closely followed by the smartphone and AI industry, and now the Honor Magic 2 has arrived.”
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is priced in India at Rs. 15,999
It is a part of Google’s Android One programme
Battery life is solid but the cameras are a bit of a mixed bag
2018 will be remembered as the year when screen notches became ubiquitous. The notch is undoubtedly a contentious issue in smartphone design, but it is a necessary evil in order to make today’s narrow-bordered smartphones a reality. HMD Global, the company that brought Nokia back into the smartphone game last year, has now embraced this design trend with the Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 5.1 Plus.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus, which was launched in China back in May as the Nokia X6, is a part of the Android One initiative and runs a stock build of Android 8.1 Oreo. It features a 19:9 display, a dual camera setup at the rear, and a glass and metal design. Priced at Rs. 15,999, it competes head-on with the likes of the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review), Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review), and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review). Is Nokia’s latest budget smartphone worth a buy? Let’s find out.
Nokia 6.1 Plus design
The Nokia 6.1 Plus features glass on the front and back, with an aluminium frame for rigidity. There is a notched display up front with sizeable borders, and the Nokia logo on the chin. Thanks to the tall aspect ratio and curved edges, the smartphone is compact and pocketable. However, one-handed use is quite difficult.
When it goes on sale on August 30, the Nokia 6.1 Plus will be available in three colour options – Gloss White, Gloss Midnight Blue, and the one our review unit came in, Gloss Black. The smooth glass back looks attractive and classy but picks up a lot of smudges and fingerprints. It is also incredibly slippery – a case is recommended to give you a decent grip.
The accents around the rear camera module, fingerprint sensor, power button, and volume buttons add some much-needed flair to what is otherwise an understated design. We had some reservations about the build quality of this phone in our first impressions, on account of its low weight. However, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has stood up to ordinary daily usage quite well over the course of our review period.
The left of the Nokia 6.1 Plus is blank save for the SIM tray, which makes you choose between a second Nano-SIM and a microSD card. The right side has the volume rocker and power button which are chunky, tactile, and well within reach.
The dual-camera setup is placed in a pill-shaped housing, underneath which is a circular fingerprint sensor and a vertically oriented Nokia logo. There’s a single loudspeaker next to the USB Type-C port at the bottom, which delivers loud and clear audio, but is a step down from the stereo speakers of the original Nokia 6 (Review).
Nokia 6.1 Plus specifications and display
HMD Global has equipped the Nokia 6.1 Plus with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor, which is also found in the similarly priced Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro, as well as the Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1, which is priced starting at Rs. 10,999. Additional specifications include a 3,060mAh battery, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of storage that can be expanded using a microSD card (up to 400 GB).
The Nokia 6.1 Plus is a part of the Android One initiative and runs a stock build of Android 8.1 Oreo with a guarantee of regular updates. Connectivity options include dual 4G VoLTE, Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 5, FM radio, GPS/ A-GPS, GLONASS, USB Type-C (USB 2.0), and a 3.5mm headphone jack. This phone supports dual SIMs (Nano) and both can simultaneously latch onto 4G networks.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 5.8-inch full-HD+ display with an aspect ratio of 19:9 and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for protection against scratches. There is a notch up front which is thankfully quite small and does not get in the way of games and videos. Despite the notch, the screen is not borderless, and the chin in particular is pretty thick. The display is bright and punchy, and has good viewing angles. Colours are vivid and outdoor legibility is decent.
Nokia 6.1 Plus performance, software, and battery life
The Nokia 6.1 Plus delivered a smooth and consistent user experience, tackling everything we threw at it — from basic day-to-day tasks such as browsing the Web and using social media applications, to intensive workloads — without any issues. App load times were quick and UI animations were butter smooth. Games like Asphalt 9 also ran quite smoothly, with no stutters or dropped frames.
Benchmark scores were in line with those of other Snapdragon 636-powered smartphones. The Nokia 6.1 Plus managed scores of 116,134 in AnTuTu, 34fps in GFXBench T-Rex, 10fps in GFXBench Manhattan 3.1, and 1328 and 4,936 respectively in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core tests. In our experience, calls were clear and 4G connectivity was consistently solid.
HMD Global has so far focused on clean, fluid software, and timely updates. The Finnish company embraced Android One at the beginning of this year, which means an optimised software experience with stock Android 8.1, two years of Android version updates, and three years of monthly security updates, all guaranteed. HMD Global has promised updates to Android Pie as well as Android Q, as and when they are released.
System update screen, app drawer, and gestures
The software is fluid and very responsive. While there is no third-party bloat, there are a few nifty value additions such as the ‘Ambient Display’ feature that shows notifications for missed calls, alarms, and notifications without waking the phone from sleep. You can also perform a few gestures such as turning the phone over to reject a call, or picking it up to mute the ringtone.
The Nokia 6.1 Plus supports face recognition, using its 16-megapixel front camera. The process is quite slow, even when lighting is favourable. Recognition is quite erratic in low light and also under very bright sunlight. Thankfully, the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor is snappy. It can also be used to show the notification shade with a downward swipe.
In our HD video loop battery test, the Nokia 6.1 Plus lasted 12 hours and 10 minutes. Real-world performance was quite solid, but not spectacular. The smartphone easily got through a 12-hour day with medium to heavy use, with around 20 percent left in the tank. Our usage involved around an hour or two of navigation using Google Maps, frequent use of social media applications, games such as the recently launched Asphalt 9, and taking a couple of photos and selfies.
The phone supports Quick Charge 4.0, but only a standard 10W charger is included in the box, which means that you’ll need more than two and a half hours for a full recharge.
Nokia 6.1 Plus cameras
On the imaging front, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 16-megapixel primary camera with an aperture of f/2.0, alongside a 5-megapixel monochrome secondary camera with an aperture of f/2.4. On the front, the Nokia 6.1 Plus has a 16-megapixel fixed-focus camera with an aperture of f/2.0. There is a dual-LED flash at the back.
There are a number of features in the camera app, such as as a live bokeh mode, AR stickers, dual-sight mode to superimpose shots taken with the front and rear cameras simultaneously, and AI-assisted portrait lighting. Portrait shots were quite impressive with good edge detection and smooth gradients between the subject and the background.
AR stickers are implemented well and can be used with both the front and the rear camera. The AI-assisted portrait lighting feature needs a lot of work at the moment. Edge detection was poor, and most of the options just overexposed the background.
Tap to see full-sized Nokia 6.1 Plus camera samples
During the day, the rear camera performed quite well. Images had a good amount of detail and the the sensor’s dynamic range was above average. Even shots taken in favourable lighting indoors were crisp and detailed. Colours however appeared slightly washed out regardless of lighting conditions.
Low-light performance was a bit of a mixed bag. The level of detail was adequate and is a step up from the Nokia 6.1, but the camera struggled with autofocus at times.
The front camera produces decent shots in favourable lighting but has trouble with exposure metering. In low light, it struggles to pull in enough light. The front camera can also shoot bokeh shots via software algorithms, which came out looking decent. There’s no proper front LED flash, but just a screen flash that lights up the entire display.
Dual-sight, a feature first seen in the Nokia 8 (Review), is present in the Nokia 6.1 Plus as well. You can take photos/ videos with the front and rear cameras at the same time. While this feature is pretty nifty, the quality of both the front and rear cameras takes a dive in this mode.
Video recording maxes out at 1080p for the front camera, while the rear module is capable of 4K video recording. You can livestream video to YouTube and Facebook directly from the camera app, and this feature also works in dual-sight mode. The quality of videos is decent at best.
Nokia 6.1 Plus in pictures
The Nokia 6.1 Plus offers great performance, clean and fluid software, a punchy and vibrant display, and the promise of timely updates. With a sleek glass-backed design, compact dimensions, and a 19:9 display, the Nokia 6.1 Plus addresses most of the shortcomings of the Nokia 6.1, which was launched earlier on in the year. It is also priced much more aggressively.
All is not smooth sailing though. The rear camera setup, while much improved from the Nokia 6.1, still cannot match up to the competition. It performs admirably in favourable light but struggles in low light. The front camera is also underwhelming. That said, the Nokia 6.1 Plus is a capable, well-rounded smartphone that will appeal to fans of stock Android.
Potential buyers should also take a look at the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro (Review) and Asus ZenFone Max Pro M1 (Review), which cost less and offer better cameras, but miss out on the benefits offered by Android One. The Xiaomi Mi A2 (Review) does have a better rear camera as compared to the Nokia 6.1 Plus but has average battery life and lacks a headphone jack and a microSD card slot.
Are Nokia 6.1 Plus and Nokia 5.1 Plus the best Android phones from HMD Global? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.
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