Sanmeet Singh Kochhar, the Vice President for India and MENA at HMD Global, speaks about innovation in the smartphones market and the outlook for the months ahead
You just announced the company’s first 5G smartphone on the market. What sort of outlook does the company have in terms of the technology and will we see more 5G models hitting the market?
We’re extremely excited to announce our first global and future-proofed 5G smartphone – the Nokia 8.3 5G. Indeed 5G will revolutionize the telecommunications sector and other industries with faster speed, reliability and more enhanced network capacity.
Aligned with this, we believe we’ve created a truly unique device that doesn’t only bring true connectivity to fans, but also premiers ZEISS Cinema effects, letting you take full advantage of the creative potential that 5G content sharing can bring. While we can’t comment on future launches, we do encourage you to stay tuned.
The latest phones launched by Nokia were in the mid-range arena. Will we see a new flagship from the company, like the rumoured Preview 9.2?
While we don’t comment on rumours, we can tell you that we don’t aim to be a company defined by a specific segment. At HMD Global, we focus on technology that helps individuals thrive through what it does, and through how people use it. As a brand, we are constantly looking at ways to expand the human possibilities of the connected world.
Tell us about HMD Connect. How does the service work? Have you partnered with any telecom carriers or service providers for this service?
HMD Connect is a hassle-free, secure and affordable data roaming service that keeps users connected in an easier way to the things that matter to them the most. Using HMD Connect is very simple; users just have to plug in their HMD Connect SIM card, purchase their data plan with their credit card and keep tabs on their data consumption right from the HMD Connect app or web portal.
We are currently working together with the local operators to bring even better pricing options and further expand the coverage to more networks and countries.
HMD Global has always promised modern design and guaranteed updates. How has that strategy helped Nokia elevate its brand awareness on the market?
We believe in purposeful innovation and not innovation for the sake of innovating. Additionally, we pride ourselves on how intertwined our designs are. They deliver on what the phone is expected to deliver at the point of purchase and when receiving the software, while our fans are using the phones. Moreover, we’ve made it a point to be one of the fastest adopters of the latest Android operating systems, which we’ve achieved with Android Pie updates and that make our phones get better with time.
In a nutshell, our phones offer best in class materials and craftsmanship across the portfolio, delivering the reliability and durability expected of Nokia phones through purposeful design and engineering. Thus, we are proud that our four brand-new devices – including the Nokia 8.3 5G; the Nokia 5310, the next generation of the Nokia 1; and the new Nokia 5, continue to be fully aligned with our approach.
What sort of market outlook does HMD Global have for the rest of the year?
The mobile device market in the region is driven by technological innovation and increasing smartphone and internet penetration. Indeed, technology is a great enabler – and Nokia phones make technology accessible to all, by providing everyday solutions that help people thrive in what they are doing. There is always a demand for quality phones with security updates – so we foresee the Nokia smartphones playing an important role for our fans in the year ahead.
When it comes to smartphones, many vendors still focus a lot on the megapixels. How does HMD Global see this megapixel war? What makes a perfect camera?
There is still a large focus on megapixels, as people believe that higher the megapixels, better the quality of the image. But this is only a part of what makes a good image. The overall specs of a device are what count. For instance, most of our phones feature PureDisplay screen technology, which takes the viewing experience.
On Nokia 8.3 5G, PureDisplay technology is powered by the Pixelworks visual processor, complemented by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G modular platform’s breakthrough AI-enhanced entertainment capabilities. This technology provides immersive HDR quality and amazing colour reproduction for all of the streaming media, photos, videos or games, even when the content is only available in standard dynamic range (SDR).
This is done by dynamically upscaling the colour depth and detail by a factor of 64, transforming all your entertainment into unforgettable, cinematic experiences.
Scaling Innovation with Trends
In an exclusive interview, Sky Li, the Founder, and CEO of realme, speaks about the USP of his company’s products, the company’s plans for adding new products to its portfolio, and the company’s commitment to the MEA region
What is realme’s long-term commitment to the MEA region?
I recently released a letter on my Twitter account in August 2022, pointing out our recent global strategy in market cultivation, “Simply Better” or “craftsmanship” strategy, and e-commerce strategy, which means more local-oriented events and products. This is a commitment to our existing markets.
These are all aligned with our activities and plans in UAE, we want to commit further to the local market, by listening to the needs of UAE consumers and bringing here the products that fit their needs. For example, we brought our first tablet product here to UAE in August, which we believe meets the lifestyle of consumers studying and working here.
Meanwhile, we are also seeking more in-depth and long-term cooperation with local e-commerce platforms, we are experimenting to bring a few product lines that would be exclusive to only e-commerce platforms, doing so would allow us to provide more attractive prices to the consumers.
With our “craftsmanship” strategy, our R&D investment increased by 58% year-on-year, focusing on improving technology innovation. We are bringing our most premium flagship model ever GT 2 Pro to the UAE market soon. The phone features a top-notch Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, the first 2K AMOLED flat display, and the first 150° ultra-wide camera. The consumers in ME can expect to have a distinctive and smooth experience in photography, game playing, and video streaming, as well as be given a special eco-friendly option with an unprecedented bio-based polymer design.
realme started with smartphones, and accessories and you have now launched a tablet. Do you plan to add more product categories to your portfolio this year?
We announced our “1+5+T” strategy last year to cover major AIoT product types and build a full-fledged AIoT ecosystem, spanning smart TVs, laptops, tablets, smartwatches, wearables, and a vast number of smart gadgets and accessories under our TechLife ecosystem. These are other than the realme 9 Pro series, realme 9i, realme C35, and realme Pad that we have launched this year.
We are also planning to expand our product portfolio further in UAE by launching our most premium flagship GT 2 Pro in the near month. In addition, considering the advanced development of 5G in the Middle East, we are planning to bring a 5G smartphone priced under AED 750 this year as well.
What is the value proposition of realme, compared with its competitors?
At realme, we scale innovation with trends. We are the brand of choice for consumers who seek tech and trends. As a part of our tech-decentralization initiative, we equip our products across price segments with the latest technology, for example, this year we launched our realme 9 Pro in UAE in May, which was the first 5G smartphone with Qualcomm snapdragon processor for sale under AED 1000 in the market.
Not only does it have a powerful processor and equipped with 5G, but it also has an innovative Light Shift Design that can change color depending on lighting conditions, and realme is also the first smartphone brand to debut with the 9 Pro series on this year’s Paris Fashion Show runway by collaborating with Danish designer brand Heliot Emil. Therefore, if you are looking for a powerful smartphone with a trendsetting design, realme is the right brand to go for.
What sort of commitment do you offer regarding OS upgrades and security patches?
realme always keeps its eyes on UI using experience, providing seamless realme UI with the latest android features in terms of new design and privacy protection. For example, realme GT 2 Pro which runs Android 12 with realme UI 3.0 was one of the first phones to get Android 13 beta and will get 3 Android OS updates and 4 years of Android security patches. We will also release a new list of devices that will receive the Android 13 update in the next year.
We saw realme launch special editions through various partnerships. What sort of fan following do you have for the special editions and how are such partnerships chosen?
I recently pointed out our recent global strategy in market cultivation, which means more local-oriented events and products. This also means a closer relationship with local partners and a greater end-to-end product experience. realme aims to provide leap-forward performance and trendsetting design at reasonable prices for young people, so we will provide a more localized marketing approach as well.
We have a deeper understanding of our consumers in different markets, so we launched special editions accordingly. For instance, for young people who love anime, we cooperated with the famous comic IP Naruto, and for those who love gaming, we cooperated with the most popular mobile game, Free Fire. With our market cultivation strategy, more local-oriented products and marketing approaches could be expected.
Sonos Voice Control Aims to Connect Listeners to the Content They Love
In an exclusive interview with Gadget Voize, Jo Dureau, the Vice President for Voice Experience at Sonos, speaks about Sonos Voice Control and key innovations the company has launched into the market
What is Sonos Voice Control? What does it do?
Sonos Voice Control is an entirely new voice experience that delivers fast, accurate hands-free control of your music and your Sonos system with unmatched privacy. Designed to effortlessly connect listeners to the content they love, Sonos Voice Control delivers the Sonos app experience using only your voice.
Using your voice is the simplest, most natural way to control your music, yet many choose not to use voice assistants due to privacy concerns. Sonos Voice Control will fill this gap for those customers, while also giving those using other voice assistants the option to use a focused voice assistant custom-designed for their music and their Sonos system.
Sonos Voice Control provides customers with the reliability and privacy reassurance that they are seeking while allowing them the option to use a focused voice assistant that is custom designed for their music and their Sonos system without compromising any of their personal data. The Sonos voice engine processes your voice and understands your requests entirely on the speaker.
No audio or transcript is sent to the cloud, stored, listened to, or read by anyone, so all your conversations will remain private. Sonos Voice Control is trained on voluntary data from sources like Sonos Beta to continue to improve voice recognition and key features. Sonos Voice Control collects usage data such as IP address and language preference, system data such as product type, grouping settings, and the names of music services.
This data is necessary for the product to be able to request music from your music services and to serve it to the right speaker at the right volume. You can use the new voice experience on Sonos to play music, group speakers, move music around your home, and more. It is also able to control the playback of your home theater system, including play, pause, volume and turning on night mode, and speech enhancement. A full list of Sonos Voice Control actions can be found on our support page, or by saying, “Hey Sonos, what can you do?”.
When will this feature upgrade be rolled out and when will it be available in the MEA region?
Sonos Voice Control is available in US English as of June 1, French will follow later. What’s important to keep in mind is that Sonos Voice Control initially is optimized for US English speakers, who can use the service regardless of their location. We’ll share more on upcoming languages in due course.
How will this feature be available to voice-capable Sonos speakers? Is it through a firmware upgrade?
You can activate Sonos Voice Control on all voice-capable Sonos products and can control all other Sonos products in your system through any of these supported speakers. As with all service and feature updates, we strive to make new updates backward compatible whenever possible. At launch, Sonos Voice Control works with Sonos Radio, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Deezer, and Pandora.
How does Sonos innovate when it comes to key technologies and services?’
Sonos innovation powers better-listening experiences. We invented multiroom wireless audio, made it sound amazing, and changed the way people listen at home. Known for premium sound, ease of use, thoughtful design, and an open platform, we create products and experiences that make listening simpler and more joyful, bringing you closer to the music and audio content you love. Most recently by introducing Sonos Ray, our new compact and most affordable soundbar.
We are committed to delivering new experiences, like Sonos Voice Control, that effortlessly connect listeners to the content they love.
- Sonos holds a growing portfolio of more than 1,700 patents with over 700 pending (May 2020)
- According to IEEE’s 2017 Patent Power Report, Sonos is ranked 2nd in Electronics and 19th overall in the strength of patent portfolios
What are Sonos’ plans for the Middle East and Africa region, both in terms of products and its presence in the region?
Earlier this year in May 2022, Sonos physically arrived in the region with the launch of its first flagship store in Dubai, UAE. We opened doors at the iconic Mall of The Emirates with a new space that offers a multi-sensory experience to fully immerse customers in the easy-to-use Sonos sound system. Sound enthusiasts and tech-savvy are now able to visit the store and find a wide range of trusted and premium products that show how easy it is to discover and connect.
This new store experience in Dubai shows a big opportunity in the Middle East and we believe that we can serve our customers’ audio needs in all the places and spaces they live. We remain committed to launching at least two new products every year and continue to focus on creating great products, innovating on our industry-leading sound experience platform, delivering new experiences for customers, and making it easier than ever for customers to enjoy listening on Sonos.
Making Renting a Car Simple, Safe, and Flexible
Gadget Voize speaks to Soham Shah, the CEO of Selfdrive.ae, an on-demand rent-a-car platform that’s on a mission to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to match users’ profiles with the cars they wish to drive
Tell us about the platform. How did you arrive at the concept behind it?
Selfdrive, is a smart mobility Super App, that allows users to rent a car on demand in a simple, safe and flexible way. The app is designed on a proprietary tech foundation concept known as search–select–pay, which uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to match users’ profiles with the cars they wish to drive. It’s currently available in the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait and we plan to add further new markets in the near future.
The idea to start Selfdrive was spurred when we realised that the car manufacturers and dealerships have a unique problem – they have a lot of unsold inventory standing. This led us to come up with the idea of having a platform that facilitates deals for consumers and gives them direct access to dealership vehicles.
How does the platform differentiate itself from similar platforms on the market?
As compared to other car rental services, Selfdrive is a Super App, which basically means that it is end-to-end integrated. The app offers a 3-step convenient process of SEARCH- SELECT- PAY with the flexibility to subscribe from 1 day to 36 months.
In addition, our AI integration helps us to profile customers based on their specific requirements. For example, if you are a registered customer on our platform and have been driving a certain segment of a vehicle, say BMW – every time you return to the application, the look and feel of the application would typically change based on your client profile. This helps us better understand that this client is within the luxury segment, so he/she doesn’t have to waste his/her time navigating through the entire app.
You are currently operating in the UAE, and you recently expanded into Qatar and Bahrain. What were the factors involved in choosing such markets for your expansion strategy?
Our expansion into Bahrain and Qatar is a testament to our growing popularity and success and an indicator of the changing landscape of the automotive rental market in the region and beyond. We aim to acquire 50-65 per cent of the digital rental market share in these markets with our seamless customer experience and range of product offerings through the app. We plan to add further new markets in the Middle East and are actively looking at other regions globally as business goes from strength to strength.
When it comes to super apps such as Selfdrive in the region, what factors do users consider before trying out such platforms?
Selfdrive is crafted in a way which makes it easy for users to access the platform. Our integrated technology is simple, yet robust making it a seamless process for the users to navigate through the app. The super app car rental platform offers an easy and convenient process of ‘search – select – pay’ ethos, giving customers in the region access to over 5,000 vehicles at 100+ locations across UAE delivered to their doorstep. The super app offers various products for users, express booking (daily and weekly), micro lease (1 month to 12 months) and LeasePro (lease to own) offering brand new “0” KM cars direct from the dealership from 1 year to 3 years.
What sort of outlook do you have for Selfdrive, both in terms of demand and innovation?
Mobile apps are one of the major elements of modern tech and this impacted the automotive sector. They are the future of car rentals because they open a different vertical for customers and users feel it as a convenient, accessible and easy way of renting or leasing vehicles on demand.
From cost-effective to mid-range and premium models, various brands are showcased with the latest car model options, helping them access mobility at their fingertips from any location, be it the airport, residence, hotel or any part of the country. Given the way apps are dominating the automotive space, we are already witnessing a huge demand by users. Going forward, one instrumental feature that will be a part of the super app is the customer who makes a reservation will now be able to track their progress about their reservation.
In simple words, customers will have real-time access to the key stages of delivery. As such, once the car has been reserved, customers will be able to view updates on reservations, incorporation of compliance documents in the system, car details sent to the dealership, the car is prepped and ready at the dealership, and notification on where and when can the vehicle be picked up from or an indication on the current status of the delivery time. All in all, customers will be able to view the car right from stage one to the finale on the car coming to you in a live Google map environment.
As our super app will offer real-time updates on car delivery, customer confidence in our services will also increase. In addition, customers can also view a status bar or the progress tab post the reservation, which is a new feature unique to the industry and will make us another first in the automotive space.
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