So, after a year of relative financial difficulties, when these eased, my wife said “We are going on holiday”. One of the disadvantages of having an Indian wife, is that this inevitably actually means “We are going to see my mom in India”.
As a tech nerd, I have always the massive changes there in tech every time I go i see how the tech and smartphone landscape changing. Last time I went, and wrote about it, was in 2015. Again, things have changed and I think its worth revisiting.
Firstly, a bit about the journey. II thought i’d shop around for the best deal online (as most do). i used a website, makemytrip.com, which was getting me a good deal. Unfortunately though, they cancelled my booking with only a few days to go (due to the flight being cancelled) without any choice. Whilst they gave a full refund promptly. I was quite upset by their approach. Just cancel and refund, rather then giving any options regarding a differnt flight etc.
As for phones, am currently using a OnePlus 6 (which I love) and it has dual SIM capability. So i thought I would get a local SIM when I get there. Therefore I didnt need to take my secondary device (Galaxy Note 5). I still decided to take my laptop because I always do!
Secondly, I bought a Powerbank for the first time. It was a revelation. My battery anxieties (even with my beloved Dash Charge) disappeared. My only problem was it was that it didnt have a USB-C connector, having a traditional micro USB instead.. These do exist on the market, but I needed something quick, and so just went and One-Clicked on Amazon.
State of Smartphones
Ok, thats the journey done. I went to Bangalore, (or Bengalauru as it has recently been named). This is well known as the Indian Silicon-Valley, and the outsourcing capital of the world. We went via Frankfurt, which gave me the advantage of using the Three-At-Home service.
Some things havent changed since 2015. Android blatantly rules the roost here, even the poorest people have smartphone, and Indian local character alphabets (Hindi, Urdu, Tamil etc) have made them even more accessible. I’ve seen hardly any iPhones, though they are increasing over the years I’ve been here. But whilst in the past this would be a mixture of Samsung and local Indian brands. Now its almost completely dominated by the Chinese. Specifically Xiamoi. I lost count of the the number of Xiamoi phones I saw. In fact there were a significant number of “Mi” Stores selling thier phones. OnePlus also have a massive presence with advertising everywhere. Prices were a bit more expensive then last time, but still extremely competeiive (I almost bought a Pocophone for about £200). The local Indian brands like Micromaxx seem to have lost a lot of thier lustre in the face of this Chinese invasion
Speaking of payment. I eschewed the normal credit cards I would use and gone over to the online-only banks (Revolut, Starling etc). Results were mixed. They normally worked, but because most terminals and ATMs are still MST based rather then Chip-and-Pin or contactless, there were a few issues.
In late 2017, the indian government made a big push for “demonetisation”. Overnight 500 and 1000 rupee notes stopped being legal tender (thats about 86% of all circulating currency). This was to cut back on money laundering, but it also promoted a cashless economy, Services like PayTM, BHIM, Google Pay, PhonePe were ubiqitous, and in some of the bigger malls, they wouldnt even accept cash! This also caused some issues with transferring money in and out of the country when we were running low. However money transfer apps (similar to Barclays PingIt in the UK) were a good way of sending money within the country.
Finally, the data connections here and plans are fantastic. India is made up of different states and there are a multitude of networks. These are predominantly GSM, but there are also a few CDMA ones. 4G has rolled out and is actually the preferred way for Wifi in homes. Since most customers go for pay-as-you-go (or pre-paid as its called locally) tariffs are very competitive regularly having more large (more than 2GB) daily allowances for about £5. I ended up going for Airtel as although slower then the 4G-only Jio, was a lot more reliable. I also found that having two SIMs in my device meant my battery ran out more quickly. This, and intermittent electricity outages, are probably why the most popular phones have the biggest batteries here.
For many Indians, it seems their phones are their main and only computing device. So much so, that actually using my laptop was a bit cumbersome. For example, I had to pay someone using PayTM. As proof of payment, they wanted a screenshot of the transaction. PayTM only works on mobile. My laptop was very ill-suited to this task!
In a big city like Bangalore, its completely possible to do everything sat at home with an app. I could order from amazon.in, do taxis with Uber and Ola, order food with Zomato and probably do my local shopping too if I cared to do so. It truly is a connected place.
In this weird kind of way, it is tech paradise!