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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 A slightly-outdated micro-USB port is positioned at the bottom of the phone but this doesn’t reduce the capabilities of the fast charging dual-charge chip, which charged the phone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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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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