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HiSense launches LTE phones

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Hisense has released a trio of LTE-enabled Android smartphones equipped with dual-SIM slots and compatible with all networks in South Africa.

Hisense provided the following information:

Hisense INFINITY PureShot LTE (L671)

Although designed for selfies, the Hisense INFINITY PureShot LTE can easily be seen as the Jack-of-all-Trades in the line-up, offering a range of features at a very strong price point. This 5-inch (720×1280 resolution) device’s stand out feature is its unique camera setup. With a 13 megapixel camera at the back, the PureShot has the unique distinction of also including an LED flash for the front facing five megapixel camera. This should help when capturing selfies in low-light environments, further enhanced by an 85 degree wide angle lens, coupled with auto-face detection and intelligent white-balance.

The Hisense PureShot is no slouch in the hardware department either, making use of a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8929 (1.36 GHz) octa-core processor and a solid 2GB of RAM. With 16GB of onboard storage available, it includes a microSD card slot to further enhance storage by up to 128GB. Ensuring the resilience of the phone is the 5-inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3 touchscreen, while the smartphone includes a 2200 mAh removable battery.

The Hisense Infinity PureShot (L671), which runs on Android 5.0 (Lollipop), will retail at approximately R3 499.

Hisense INFINITY K8 (H910)

The INFINITY K8 is the apex of the new Hisense LTE line-up, boasting a 5.5-inch Full HD Gorilla Glass 3 screen (1080×1920). Its coffee coloured metal frame and leather finish back lend the unit the merit it deserves as a flagship device, backed by compelling internal specifications.

Doing the hard work is a Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8939 octa-core processor running at 1.5GHz and 2GB of RAM, with 16GB of storage space (with expandable microSD storage) available. Catering to photographers’ needs is a 13 megapixel back facing camera with LED flash, and an eight megapixel front facing unit. To ensure a decent battery life that can power this Android device efficiently, the K8 comes equipped with a 2700 mAh battery.

Apart from robust innards and its Full HD screen, one of the stand-out features of the Hisense INFINITY K8 (H910) is its price, retailing for approximately R4 999.

Hisense INFINITY Pulse LTE (L682)

Rounding off Hisense’s trio of LTE smartphones is the Hisense INFINITY Pulse LTE (L682). Also including a dual SIM slot, this unit features a 5-inch IPS touchscreen (720×1280), an eight megapixel main camera and a five megapixel front facing snapper. The kick in its bonnet is provided by a 1.2GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, with users provided with 16GB of storage.

The Hisense Infinity Pulse LTE (L682) has the honour of breaking through the sub-R3 000 price barrier, offering solid specifications and 4G connectivity in the region of R2 799.

An all LTE affair

According to Mark Zhang, Product Manager at Hisense South Africa, the company’s new line-up is a boost for customers on the hunt for the best value for money. “All three of our new smartphones are LTE enabled, allowing for fast internet access and speedy video downloads. Hisense have also included dual-SIM slots to ensure that users can switch between networks when they want,” Zhang notes.

It is, however, the Hisense Infinity PureShot LTE that stands out for attention, with Zhang believing it provides customers with one of the most full featured front facing cameras on a smartphone ever. “The fact that the PureShot includes not just a flash on the back of the unit, but also on the front makes it a must for those who loves selfies.”

As a final highlight, Zhang points to the smartphones’ costing. “If you look at what is on offer for each phone, and then look at the price, it’s easy to see that, pound-for-pound, the three new Hisense smartphones offer the best value for money in the South African market,” Zhang enthuses. “I can strongly recommend that customers compare our phones to any others before making a choice. They will be pleasantly surprised,” Zhang concludes.

The Hisense LTE enabled smartphones will be available from November 2015 at retail stores nationwide.

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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