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Hisense F24 goes to the edge

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Although the Hisense F24 is aimed at the mid-range market, BRYAN TURNER finds that it gets the job done, is well built and even boasts some features found on higher end devices.

In a smartphone space that’s heavily saturated with the iPhone’s latest facial recognition and the Galaxy’s best camera, Hisense carves its own space with the new Infinity F24 smartphone. 

What’s special about it? It gets the job done with the features you’d expect from a high-end smartphone, but at a mid-range price.

The all-metal body feels very premium and not a fingerprint magnet, as many metal-bodied phones have been in the past. The 5.99” screen – call it 6” – is a narrow-bezelled HD+ IPS display with good colour replication. 

Due to the large screen and low bezels, this phone enters the 18:9 resolution space, which is generally held by the higher-end Samsung and Huawei phones. Hisense is known for creating brilliant displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy. 

The 2.5D glass allowed my finger to glide smoothly along the screen with little resistance, while the design didn’t allow my palm to touch the screen accidentally.

The rear of the phone hosts a very quick-to-register fingerprint sensor. The speaker’s placement, slightly lower down, is not optimal and the sound is muffled when I placed the phone face-up on a cloth surface. A headphone jack at the top of the phone is a nice-to-have, since some manufacturers have been removing them from their smartphones. A slightly-outdated micro-USB port is positioned at the bottom of the phone but this doesn’t reduce the capabilities of the fast charging dual-charge chip, which charged the phone from 20% to 80% in around 30 minutes. 

The 3400mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 10 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing Scrabble online every hour) until it reached 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only factor in this good battery life: the Android Nougat operating system comes with power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery and the 2GB of RAM unnecessarily. 

It is surprising is that there is almost no bloatware installed on this device, as many phone manufacturers tend to do. Hisense smartphones are well supported with Android updates, and this phone had an update waiting after the first boot. This, coupled with the MediaTek Quad Core processor, provides a good user experience when I played graphic-intensive games, and made multi-tasking painless.

The F24 has 16GB of on-board storage, but it can be expanded by up to 128GB with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service. The 3-choose-2 SIM tray allows for dual-SIM connectivity if you’re willing to sacrifice the SD card slot; or single SIM connectivity with an SD card if you’re willing to sacrifice an extra SIM connection.

The 13MP rear camera is decent for quick shots, but pictures can be better after figuring out the camera modes available. That being said, the camera app’s settings are confusing, and it takes a while to identify what setting is right for you. 

The 8MP front camera is a different story – I have never seen a selfie so clear. This camera app has beauty face filters, as well as make-up filters. This smartphone even has a hidden front flash for low light conditions, so there are plenty options when you’re snapping a selfie. 

Videos were recorded with a good 1080p 30fps quality, and performed well in good lighting. Low lighting lacks a little in performance, with some grain appearing on flash night shots.

Overall, the F24 is a phone for the everyday user who needs to send messages, watch online content and wants to play a game occasionally.  The camera is very capable, but the camera app could be easier to use and night shots could be better. The form factor is aesthetically stunning with no ergonomic trade-offs.

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Gadget goes to Hollywood

Gadget visited the Netflix studios last week. In the first of a series, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK talks to CEO Reed Hastings.

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Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is no stranger to Africa. He has travelled throughout South Africa, taught maths in Swaziland for two years with the Peace Corps, and visits close family in Maputo. As a result, he is keenly aware of the South African entertainment and connectivity landscape.

In an exclusive interview at the Netflix studios in Hollywood, Los Angeles, last week, he revealed that Netflix had no intentions of challenging MultiChoice’s dominance of live sports broadcasting on the continent.

“Other firms will do sport and news; we are trying to focus on movies and TV shows,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are video that we are not doing: sports, news, video gaming, user-generated content. We don’t have live sport.

Reed Hastings at the Netflix studios in Hollywood last week. Pic: ADAM ROSE

“We’re not replacing MultiChoice at all. Their subscriber growth is steady in South Africa. They serve a need that’s independent of the Internet, via low-price satellite. There is no intention of capturing that audience. If they’re growing, it’s because they serve a need.”

While Reed ruled out any collaboration with MultiChoice on its satellite delivery platform, despite its collaboration with another pay-TV service, Sky TV in the United Kingdom, he did not close the door. He stressed that Netflix saw itself as an Internet-based service, and would pursue the opportunities offered by evolving broadband in Africa.

“If you look in other markets like the USA, how Comcast carries us on set-top boxes with their other services, it could happen with MultiChoice, the same as with all the pay-TV providers.

“We’re really focused on being a service over the Internet and not over satellite. Our service doesn’t work on satellite. Where we work with Sky is on Internet-connected devices. We’re happy to work on Internet-connected devices. We tend to work on smart TVs, but need broadband Internet for that.

“Broadband is getting faster in Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and South Africa – we can see the positive trendlines – so it’s more likely we will work with broadband Internet companies.”

Hastings is a firm believer in the idea that one content provider’s success does not depend on pushing another down.

“HBO has grown at the same time as we have, so can see our success doesn’t determine their success. What matters is amazing content with which the world falls in love.”

Click here to read on about Hastings’ views on international expansion, and how the streaming service selects content for its platform.

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Take these 5 steps to digital

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By MARK WALKER, Associate Vice President for Sub-Saharan Africa at IDC Middle East, Africa and Turkey.

Digital transformation isn’t a buzz word because it sounds nice and looks good on the business CV. It is fundamental to long-term business success. IDC anticipates that 75% of enterprises will be on the path to digital transformation by 2027. 

However, digital transformation is not a process that ticks a box and moves to the next item on the agenda – it is defined by the organisation’s shift towards a digitally empowered infrastructure and employee. It is an evolution across system, infrastructure, process, individual and leadership and should follow clear pathways to ensure sustainable success.

The nature of the enterprise has changed completely with the influence of digital, cloud and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), and success is reliant on strategic change.

There is a lot more ownership and transparency throughout the organisation and there is a responsibility that comes with that – employees want access to information, there has to be speed in knowledge, transactions and engagement. To ensure that the organisation evolves alongside digital and demand, it has to follow five very clear pathways to long-term, achievable success.

The first of these is to evaluate where the enterprise sits right now in terms of its digital journey. This will differ by organisation size and industry, as well as its reliance on technology. A smaller organisation that only needs a basic accounting function or the internet for email will have far different considerations to a small organisation that requires high-end technology to manage hedge funds or drive cloud solutions. The same comparisons apply to the enterprise-level organisation. The mining sector will have a completely different sub-set of technology requirements and infrastructure limitations to the retail or finance sectors.

Ultimately, every organisation, regardless of size or industry, is reliant on technology to grow or deliver customer service, but their digital transformation requirements are different. To ensure that investment into artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, knowledge engines, automation and connectivity are accurately placed within the business and know exactly where the business is going.

The second step is to examine what the business wants to achieve. Again, the goals of the organisation over the long and short term will be entirely sector dependent, but it is essential that it examine what the competitive environment looks like and what influences customer expectations. This understanding will allow for the business to hone its digital requirements accordingly.

The third step is to match expectations to reality. You need to see how you can move your digital transformation strategy forward and what areas require prioritisation, what funding models will support your digital aspirations, and how this tie into what the market wants. Ultimately, every step of the process has to be prioritised to ensure it maps back to where you are and the strategic steps that will take you to where you want to go.

The fourth step is to look at the operational side of the process. This is as critical as any other aspect of the transformation strategy as it maps budget to skills to infrastructure in such a way as to ensure that any project delivers return on investment. Budget and funding are always top of mind when it comes to digital transformation – these are understandably key issues for the business. How will it benefit from the investment? How will it influence the customer experience? What impact will this have on the ongoing bottom line? These questions tie neatly into the fifth step in the process – the feedback loop.

This is often the forgotten step, but it is the most important. The feedback loop is critical to ensuring that the digital transformation process is achieving the right results, that the right metrics are in place, and that the needle is moving in the right direction. It is within this feedback loop that the organisation can consistently refine the process to ensure that it moves to each successive step with the right metrics in place.

There is also one final element that every organisation should have in place throughout its digital evolution. An element that many overlook – engagement. There must be a real desire to change, from the top of the organisation right down to the bottom, and an understanding of what it means to undertake this change and why it is essential. This is why this will be a key discussion at the 2019 IDC South Africa CIO Summit taking place in April this year. With this in place, the five steps to digital transformation will make sense and deliver the right results.

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