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Huawei leads the charge to next generation phones

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At this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, upstart brand Huawei reinforced its claims to the top table of smartphone makers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It would have been unthinkable just four years ago. The brand that no one outside China had heard of, Huawei, has become the flavour of the moment. At this week’s Mobile World Congress, which turns Barcelona into the epicentre of the mobile industry for four days at the end of February every year, the upstart led a mass charge of new phone launches.

Its new Huawei P10 and P10+ handsets drew more than a thousand journalists to a launch event, reminiscent of the jostling crowds at previous Samsung flagship phone launches in the city. Samsung opted for a more low-key tablet launch, having delayed the unveiling of its new Galaxy S8 by a month. That left the field open to the likes of Huawei, LG and Sony to play catch-up or even leapfrog. Even the venerable old names like Nokia, BlackBerry and Motorola – under Lenovo ownership with the Moto brand – were able to make an impact.

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Nokia was Huawei’s biggest challenger for attention, thanks to the hype around the relaunched 3310, the best seller from the year 2000. Targeted back then at teenagers and young adults, it sold 126-million units, and was known for its week-long battery life, exceptional durability and – most significantly – allowing text messages more than double the length of traditional SMS.

That made it a youth favourite, and those youths are now in their 30s and 40s. Aside from having more disposable income, it is also the generation that now dominates the media. It was a stroke of marketing genius, then, to reincarnate that particular phone. Even if the new Nokia licensee, HMD Global, does not sell a single unit of the “reimagined” 3310, it has everyone in the industry talking about the brand, and most old fans will now know that Nokia is back. That gives it the runway from which it hopes a new range of Android smartphones will take off.

Despite the operating system remaining fairly faithful to the old Symbian OS created for Nokia feature phones, the new 3310 in bright plastic casings looks more like a toy than a serious device. On the other hand, the Android insides and quality bodies of the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 should give it some traction among more demanding users.

It will not, however, represent serious competition to Huawei. The latter first gave notice of its intentions to move from copycat to challenger less than four years ago, when it launched the P6 as the thinnest smartphone in the world. By the time it got to the P9 last year, consumers had almost figured out how to pronounce its name.

The premium version of that handset, the P9 Plus, was one of the best phones of 2016. It helped create a halo effect that took the full Huawei range to third place in worldwide smartphone sales. Only Samsung and Apple remained ahead.

Both were absent from the smartphone action at MWC, making Huawei the de facto thought leader of the event. As a result, when the Samsung Galaxy S8 is launched at the end of March, it will probably be the first time in five years that the South Korean company will be playing catch up instead of leading the way.

The P10 and P10+ build on the advanced camera technology of the previous edition. Once again, they feature dual rear cameras co-engineered with Leica. For the first time, their front cameras also offer near-professional quality, thanks to incorporating a Leica lens.

The power lies as much in the software, with a Portrait mode that includes 3D facial detection technology and ”professional studio-like effects”, such as re-lighting and a Hybrid Zoom feature that allows one to focus on specific areas of an image.

That is not necessarily what will turn heads, though. The physical design of the phone reveals an ever-evolving metal craftsmanship, as the company calls it. Rounded curves, a “hyper diamond-cut” finish and a fresh suite of colour options set it apart. Huawei collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute, the global colour specailists, to introduce new colours not seen before on phones.

Pantone Greenery, named the official Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017, is applied to a handset with a sandblast finish, giving it a clean look that reflects the eco-friendly symbolism of green. A new deep blue shade named Dazzling Blue, added to the diamond-cut finish, delivers a subtle glow effect that will probably make it the most popular shade.

It is rare that colour options are stand-out features for phones, but Huawei pulls it off with its refreshed palate. It includes Ceramic White, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Rose Gold and Mystic Silver.

“With consumers increasingly comfortable using colour as a form of expression, we are seeing more experimentation and creative uses of colour,” said Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute, t the launch. “Colour is truly a medium through which individuals can express themselves to the world around them.”

The Huawei P10 and P10+ phones are expected to be available in South Africa in April 2017.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Bring your network with you

At last week’s Critical Communications World, Motorola unveiled the LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. It allows rescue personal to set up dedicated LTE networks for communication in an emergency, writes SEAN BACHER.

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In the event of an emergency, communications are absolutely critical, but the availability of public phone networks are limited due to weather conditions or congestion.

Motorola realised that this caused a problem when trying to get rescue personnel to those in need and so developed its LXN 500 LTE Ultra Portable Network Infrastructure. The product is the smallest and lightest full powered broadband network to date and allows the first person on the scene to set up an LTE network in a matter of minutes, allowing other rescue team members to communicate with each other.

“The LXN 500 weighs six kilograms and comes in a backpack with two batteries. It offers a range of 1km and allows up to 100 connections at the same time. However, in many situations the disaster area may span more than 1km which is why they can be connected to each other in a mesh formation,” says Tunde Williams, Head of Field and Solutions Marketing EMEA, Motorola Solutions.

The LXN 500 solution offers communication through two-way radios, and includes mapping, messaging, push-to-talk, video and imaging features onboard, thus eliminating the need for any additional hardware.

Data collected on the device can then be sent through to a central control room where an operator can deploy additional rescue personnel where needed. Once video is streamed into the control room, realtime analytics and augmented reality can be applied to it to help predict where future problem points may arise. Video images and other multimedia can also be made available for rescuers on the ground.

“Although the LXN 500 was designed for the seamless communications between on ground rescue teams and their respective control rooms, it has made its way into the police force and in places where there is little or no cellular signal such as oil rigs,” says Williams.

He gave a hostage scenario: “In the event of a hostage situation, it is important for the police to relay information in realtime to ensure no one is hurt. However the perpetrators often use their mobile phones to try and foil any rescue attempts. Should the police have the correct partnerships in place they are able to disable cellular towers in the vicinity, preventing any in or outgoing calls on a public network and allowing the police get their job done quickly and more effectively.”

By disabling any public networks in the area, police are also able to eliminate any cellular detonated bombs from going off but still stay in touch with each other he says.

The LXN 500 offers a wide range of mission critical cases and is sure to transform communications and improve safety for first responders and the people they are trying to protect.

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Kaspersky moves to Switzerland

As part of its Global Transparency Initiative, Kaspersky Lab is adapting its infrastructure to move a number of core processes from Russia to Switzerland.

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This includes customer data storage and processing for most regions, as well as software assembly, including threat detection updates. To ensure full transparency and integrity, Kaspersky Lab is arranging for this activity to be supervised by an independent third party, also based in Switzerland.

Global transparency and collaboration for an ultra-connected world

The Global Transparency Initiative, announced in October 2017, reflects Kaspersky Lab’s ongoing commitment to assuring the integrity and trustworthiness of its products. The new measures are the next steps in the development of the initiative, but they also reflect the company’s commitment to working with others to address the growing challenges of industry fragmentation and a breakdown of trust. Trust is essential in cybersecurity, and Kaspersky Lab understands that trust is not a given; it must be repeatedly earned through transparency and accountability.

The new measures comprise the move of data storage and processing for a number of regions, the relocation of software assembly and the opening of the first Transparency Center.

Relocation of customer data storage and processing

By the end of 2019, Kaspersky Lab will have established a data center in Zurich and in this facility, will store and process all information for users in Europe, North America, Singapore, Australia, Japan and South Korea, with more countries to follow. This information is shared voluntarily by users with the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) an advanced, cloud-based system that automatically processes cyberthreat-related data.

Relocation of software assembly

Kaspersky Lab will relocate to Zurich its ‘software build conveyer’ — a set of programming tools used to assemble ready to use software out of source code. Before the end of 2018, Kaspersky Lab products and threat detection rule databases (AV databases) will start to be assembled and signed with a digital signature in Switzerland, before being distributed to the endpoints of customers worldwide. The relocation will ensure that all newly assembled software can be verified by an independent organisation and show that software builds and updates received by customers match the source code provided for audit.

Establishment of the first Transparency Center

The source code of Kaspersky Lab products and software updates will be available for review by responsible stakeholders in a dedicated Transparency Center that will also be hosted in Switzerland and is expected to open this year. This approach will further show that generation after generation of Kaspersky Lab products were built and used for one purpose only: protecting the company’s customers from cyberthreats.

Independent supervision and review

Kaspersky Lab is arranging for the data storage and processing, software assembly, and source code to be independently supervised by a third party qualified to conduct technical software reviews. Since transparency and trust are becoming universal requirements across the cybersecurity industry, Kaspersky Lab supports the creation of a new, non-profit organisation to take on this responsibility, not just for the company, but for other partners and members who wish to join.

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