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Xiaomi Launches ‘Mi Store on Wheels’ Moving Retail Shops in India

Xiaomi has launched its Mi Store on Wheels retail experience in India. Through this, the company says it can reach out to the “heart of India,” with a focus on connecting villages and remote parts of the country. Given the ongoing coronavirus-induced pandemic, several offline retail stores in the country has taken a hit as…

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Xiaomi Launches ‘Mi Store on Wheels’ Moving Retail Shops in India

Xiaomi has launched its Mi Store on Wheels retail experience in India. Through this, the company says it can reach out to the “heart of India,” with a focus on connecting villages and remote parts of the country. Given the ongoing coronavirus-induced pandemic, several offline retail stores in the country has taken a hit as customers are mostly restricted to their homes due to consequent lockdowns. However, with this new retail strategy, Xiaomi’s offline team can now bring the company’s retail experience to customers at home.Manu Kumar Jain, Xiaomi Global Vice President and Managing Director of its India operations, made the announcement today with a tweet. Jain shared several photos of the mobile stores in action. Designed like any regular food van, the Mi Store on Wheels is essentially a moving van with a pop-up store set up on its rear. Apart from selling the company’s latest smartphones, the stores sell other offerings as well, including Mi Smart TVs, Mi Box 4K, Mi TV Stick, Mi CCTV Cameras, Mi Sports Bluetooth Earphones, Mi True Wireless Earphones 2, Redmi Earbuds S, Mi Sunglasses, powerbanks, and chargers.Jain said that the project was completed within 40 days, with an aim to bring Xiaomi products to customers in villages and non-metro cities. The mobile van seen in the photo carries a distinct serial number on its doors, that appears to be the company’s way of tracking its mobile stores. Xiaomi hasn’t revealed the list of cities or states where the stores will be deployed first.Mi India COO Muralikrishnan B said in a prepared statement, “With this new initiative and having the largest exclusive single brand retail network, we are determined to reach the remotest of areas in the country and address the needs of customers, bringing the Mi Store experience to their neighbourhood.” He also said that the moving stores will maintain social distancing among crowds and will follow all necessary hygiene and safety practices.The Mi Stores on Wheels will also take feedback from customers, who can request for any specific product they have in mind for when the store returns back to their city.In other Xiaomi-related news, the company recently hinted at the launch of its first smartwatch in India. The Mi Watch Color that was launched in China in January this year is expected to make its way into the country, rebranded as Mi Watch Revolve. The smartwatch and several more IoT products are expected to be revealed at the company’s Smarter Living 2021 event on September 29.Is Redmi Note 9 the perfect successor to Redmi Note 8? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.

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Amazon Echo review: The best Alexa smart speaker in years – CNET

The new Amazon Echo boasts a striking spheroidal design. Chris Monroe/CNET Amazon’s fourth-gen Echo smart speaker is a ball to use — literally. Alexa’s new countertop speaker is spheroidal, a striking departure from the soft-cylindrical speakers of past generations. And honestly, six years after the first Echo launched 10,000 (or at least a few dozen)…

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Amazon Echo review: The best Alexa smart speaker in years     – CNET

The new Amazon Echo boasts a striking spheroidal design.
Chris Monroe/CNET
Amazon’s fourth-gen Echo smart speaker is a ball to use — literally. Alexa’s new countertop speaker is spheroidal, a striking departure from the soft-cylindrical speakers of past generations. And honestly, six years after the first Echo launched 10,000 (or at least a few dozen) smart speakers, a reimagined design was overdue.The big question of the new Echo is, well, how reimagined is it? Voice assistants are growing and changing all the time, but for the most part, they do what they’ve been doing for years already: answer questions, set timers, control your smart home gadgets, play music and so on. So why buy a new Echo?Amazon has faltered recently with its core smart speaker, as the more budget-friendly Dot has become a better entry point to the market and 2019’s Echo Studio offers higher-end sound for audiophiles. That’s left the $100 Echo as a sort of undefined middle child in the growing family of Alexa-powered speakers. But 2020’s Echo is genuinely different, and it’s not just because of the new spheroidal profile. This Echo has turned up the sound quality and added higher-end smarts than the competition, all for the same $100 price tag, leaving it one of the most forward-looking smart speakers released in years.

LikeImproved sound quality and powerful bassBetter smart home connectivityEasy and quality stereo pairing

Don’t LikeA bulky designNo revolutionary upgrades

Getting the ball rollingAmazon’s 2020 Echo boasts two important upgrades that should inform your decision to buy it or not: improved sound quality and smart home hardware.When it comes to sound, the Echo represents a significant improvement over the third-gen speaker from 2019, likely in part to the fact that the third-gen Echo essentially copped its design almost wholesale from an older device. In addition, the Echo has adaptive sound, so it can adjust to the acoustics of the room in which you use it. I personally didn’t notice dramatic differences in output from room to room, but the speaker sounded good in the various rooms and on the various surfaces I used for testing.The Echo sounds better than the last generation, but how does it sound compared to the direct competition? Google’s $100 Nest Audio, which dropped only a couple of weeks before the Echo, is a solid device. But the Echo simply boasts more power: the Echo’s volume at 85% is about equivalent to the Nest’s max.What’s more, between the Echo’s 3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch tweeters, bass and lower-range mids are richer and stronger. Listening to bass-heavy music, like Lil Wayne’s A Milli or Travis Barker’s recent Run the Jewels collaboration, Forever, the Echo keeps the low end thunderous even at high volumes, whereas the Nest Audio ends up feeling treble-heavy as the bass begins to drop out.

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That said, if you prefer more acoustic music, the Nest Audio provides marginally better performance of complex, midrange-heavy songs. Both speakers, though, really capture the texture of vocal-heavy music. The Echo, with its slightly better low range, sounds slightly better to my ear when playing Johnny Cash’s gravelly baritone in Hurt, whereas the Nest Audio sounds slightly crisper in its treatment of Lianne La Havas’s subtle vibrato in No Room for Doubt.As with Google’s new speaker, a pair of Echoes can be set up to work in stereo format. The effect is great, particularly with songs that take full advantage of stereo panning or asymmetric sound, such as The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army or Pink Floyd’s Money. Unlike the Nest Audio, the Echo has a 3mm line in/out port for connecting to other speakers.Both Amazon’s and Google’s smart speakers offer great sound quality for the $100 price tag, but after side-by-side testing with dozens of songs, the Echo takes the prize by a small but significant margin. It’s more powerful, and if you like hip-hop or trap music, the Echo will treat you well. Otherwise, they’re fairly comparable, with the Nest boasting a slight edge when it comes to some acoustic and classical music.A-round the houseThe Echo’s sound quality is admirable, but Amazon has distinguished its midrange smart speaker even more from Google’s Nest Audio and Apple’s HomePod Mini with its built-in hub, which features a Zigbee receiver and Amazon Sidewalk Bridge. If those things don’t mean anything to you, don’t worry. Essentially, Amazon has built in two new ways for smart home devices to connect to its smart speaker.The Zigbee receiver lets the Echo connect with countless smart home devices, from lightbulbs to flood sensors, without the need for an additional hub — the middleman device that translates various types of radio signals so your low-power sensors can communicate with your WiFi network. This small design decision has seriously broadened the range of gadgets Echo users can install in their house without the extra hassle and expense of a smart home hub.I tried installing a couple of Zigbee devices and found the process to be totally painless. This isn’t revolutionary — in fact, Amazon included Zigbee receivers in their $150 Echo Plus and their $230 second-gen Echo Show — but it is bringing better home connectivity to a broader audience, and that’s a clear win for Amazon customers.Plenty of window, flood and motion sensors rely on low-power communication protocols like Zigbee to extend their battery life.
Chris Monroe/CNET
What’s less clear is how Amazon Sidewalk, which Amazon says will launch later this year, will affect Echo users. According to a recent Amazon blog post explaining it, Sidewalk will allow users to “contribute a small portion of their internet bandwidth, which is pooled together to create a shared network that benefits all Sidewalk-enabled devices in a community.”Practically, that could mean a larger functional network for devices toward the edges of your property — say, outdoor lights or Tile tracking devices — or even beyond. It’s a cool idea, though how much you benefit from it will largely depend on where you live, and how big of a change it will represent for most customers remains to be seen.Home theater in the roundThe other home feature I was excited to try with the new Echo was setting up a home theater group. Connecting a voice assistant to your entertainment system feels like a real improvement, if you haven’t done it before. And the new Echo, using Alexa, works pretty well here.I used a 4K Fire TV Stick to create the group, and it felt great to be able to simply say, “Watch The Boys,” to Alexa, only to have your TV turn on and begin streaming the Prime show. The speakers worked fairly well, though I had one drop out of the group while I was testing it. If you have fast Wi-Fi, then it seems this setup would work well. In a house with multiple people streaming or using bandwidth in other ways, although relying on your Echoes for stereo sound might lead to more frustration than it’s worth.Amazon’s Fire TV Stick can join two Echoes in a home theater group in the app in under a minute.
Sarah Tew/CNET
The other big problem I ran into was streaming music. I expected to be able to stream music as usual from the Echo speakers while the TV was off, then flip it on to stream video when I wanted. Alas, streaming music on the connected Echoes automatically turned on the TV, which scrolled lyrics to the songs. And when I manually turned off the TV, the music also stopped.Using Alexa to control your TV and dual Echoes for stereo sound as you stream is cool — it’s much better than you could do a few years ago. But the kinks still aren’t worked out to the extent I want them to be, so I still wouldn’t recommend picking up new Echoes for your entertainment center unless you have fantastic Wi-Fi and don’t plan to use the speakers for music, too.

CNET Smart Home and Appliances

Get smart home reviews and ratings, video reviews, buying guides, prices and comparisons from CNET.

Ball is lifeThe best changes to the fourth-gen Echo might be sound quality and home smarts, but the most obvious change is its spherical design. Of course, this design isn’t some aesthetic revelation: Most smart speakers look basically interchangeable at this point, with a layer of fabric mesh over soft geometric shapes. Google’s recent Nest Audio is vaguely rectangular, and Apple’s soon-to-launch HomePod Mini is similarly spheroidal.The new Echo has a larger footprint, which isn’t ideal for kitchen countertop usage.
Chris Monroe/CNET
The ball-like profile, according to Amazon, enables the improved sound output, but it also comes with a few practical drawbacks — chiefly a larger footprint. If you’re planning to replace the third-gen Echo or an Echo Dot with this speaker, you’ll probably have to slightly reorganize your shelf. It’s a small complaint, but the kitchen countertop is some of the hottest real estate in many homes, and dedicating more of it to a smart speaker might not feel ideal for those of us with limited space.The Echo comes in three colors: the standard charcoal (black) and glacier white, plus a muted twilight blue. That’s a bit more conservative than Google’s array of pastels, but again, many of these aesthetic distinctions feel like minor quibbles.Those criticisms aside, the 2020 Echo feels like a much more worthwhile gadget than last year’s third-gen Echo. The powerful sound and smarts distinguish it from the competition, and with an ever-improving Alexa, buying a smart speaker hasn’t felt this good in years.

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021. Acer If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits…

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market     – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021.
Acer
If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits on a base lit up by RGB lighting you can customize. The glowing lights can sync with streaming music, too. That music streams from a speaker with DTS sound designed to project in 360 degrees to fill the room.

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On the front of the speaker’s gray fabric cover, an LED light display provides visual information like weather or time. Acer is working on an app that will let you personalize the message or image displayed via LED.An LED display on the front of the speaker displays information.
Acer
The smarts behind this speaker come from Google Assistant. You’ll use the usual “Hey, Google” voice command to request music, podcasts, news and answers to questions. The Acer Halo is equipped with two far-field omnidirectional microphones to detect ambient noise and voice commands. A physical switch is available to mute the microphones.Acer isn’t the first third-party manufacturer to try its hand at a smart speaker. We’ve seen successful models from Bose and Sonos, among others. The Acer Halo Smart Speaker will be available in North America in early 2021 starting at $109. Its European price of 119 euros converts to about £110 or AU$200. 

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look.  Google Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on…

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included     – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look. 
Google
Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on your homeThe overhaul starts with several new screens. The home screen now displays a quick glance at your day. In the morning that section is called “Your Morning” and it progresses throughout the day, displaying information like news, events on your calendar and the weather.

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Other new tabs across the top of the home screen will direct you to specific categories. Those tabs include Home Control, Media, Communicate, and Discover. Each tab holds tappable cards and widgets. On the Media page you’ll find music, videos, shows and recommendations. You’ll also be able to see and control what media is playing on other connected devices in your home. Media widgets will be customized to show content from your preferred streaming service. The Home Control tab displays a dashboard of all the connected devices in your home and tappable cards to adjust any device settings, like dimming lights or viewing the doorbell camera.The Communicate tab houses cards for video and chat settings, and the Discover tab displays ideas for things to do with your smart display like playing a game, hear a joke or find a new recipe. Dark mode and ambience settingsIn addition to organized tabs, Google-enabled smart displays are also several new ways to wind down in the evening and wake up each morning.Relaxing ambient sounds are coming to Google Assistant-enabled smart displays. 
Google
With dark mode on, your smart display’s color scheme changes, reducing light emission. You can set dark and light modes to activate automatically depending on ambient light of the sunrise and sunset. A selection of ambient sounds is also coming to smart displays for added relaxation options. A Sunrise Alarm feature is also making its way to smart displays, gradually increasing the brightness of your screen for 30 minutes before your alarm time. You can manage alarms on your display, set different alarms for weekdays and weekends, as well as choose alarm tones. Meetings and calendarsIn recent months, the team at Google improved Google Meet and Duo on smart displays and announced plans for Zoom to come to the device. Now smart displays will be able to link multiple Google accounts, so you can see personal and professional meetings all in one place. You can also cancel or reschedule meetings on your smart display. If you use Google Meet on the camera-enabled Nest Hub Max display, you’ll be able to move around the room while staying in frame. Google smart displays will support multiple accounts for calendars and meetings. 
Google
These new features and the new interface design will be rolling out in the coming weeks to all Google Assistant-enabled smart displays in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and US.  

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