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IFA 2016: Acer makes Swift move on ultra-thin laptops

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At the IFA 2016 expo in Berlin this week, Acer unveiled its new Swift series of ultra-thin and lightweight notebook PCs.

Comprised of four lines, namely the Swift 7, Swift 5, Swift 3 and Swift 1, the new ultra-thin models feature Windows 10 and cater for a range of budgets and lifestyles.

“We are thrilled to announce the new Swift series, a complete ultra-thin laptop line-up with something for everyone,” said Jerry Hou, General Manager, Consumer Notebooks, IT Products Business, Acer Inc. “Front and centre is the flagship Swift 7 with an all-aluminium chassis that’s less than one centimetre thin, while still packing in performance and stamina for all-day productivity.”

Chris Walker, Vice President of the Client Computing Group and General Manager of Mobility Client Platforms, Intel Corp, said: “The new 7th Generation Intel Core processors set a new bar for performance and efficiency enabling amazingly fast, responsive designs that are also incredibly thin and light. Intel and Acer’s strong collaboration is on full display with the new Swift series which delivers great performance in a beautiful package.”

Acer provided the following information:

Swift 7 – Ultra-Slim with All-Day Battery Life

The Swift 7 weighs in at just 2.48 pounds (1.1 kg) and measures a mere 0.39 inches (9.98 mm) thin, making it the world’s first laptop to measure less than 1 cm thin. Its black-and-gold dual tone design brings a touch of elegance to its durable all-aluminium uni-body, while tough Corning Gorilla Glass adds superior scratch resistance to the 13.3-inch Full HD IPS display with a micro-bezel. With up to 9 hours of battery life, it is the perfect notebook for those on the go.

Small and speedy, top-of-the-line performance is delivered through a 7th Generation Intel Core i5 processor, fast 256GB SSD and up to 8GB of memory.  The latest wireless technology (2×2 802.11ac with MU-MIMO) delivers reliable and up to three times faster connections, while dual USB 3.1 Type-C ports are included for quick data transfer, connection to an external display, and to charge the notebook. An HD webcam with HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging support provides clear, bright and detailed images.

Swift 5 – High-End Features without the Weight

Just 0.57 inches (14.58 mm) in height and weighing 3 pounds (1.36 kg), the Swift 5 manages to fit a 14-inch Full HD IPS display into a 13-inch frame, making it the ultimate in portability and usability. Available in Pearl White with gold trimming or Obsidian Black with silver trimming, it cuts an impressive figure combining brushed metal surfaces and diamond cut accents.

7th Generation Intel Core processors coupled with fast SSDs (256 or 512 SATA or PCIe), up to 8GB of memory and the latest wireless technology deliver big results in a small package. Rounding out this strong feature set is up to 13 hours3 of battery life, a backlit keyboard, a reversible USB 3.1 Type-C port and options for a touch display and fingerprint reader.

Swift 3 – Essential Features at a Compelling Price

Just 0.7 inches (17.95 mm) in height and weighing 3.3 pounds (1.5 kg), the Swift 3’s svelte and lightweight design features a sturdy brushed aluminium chassis. It offers up to 12 hours3 of battery life and a collection of indispensable features for great productivity, mobility and security.

The Swift 3 models pair a 14-inch HD or Full HD IPS anti-glare display with 6th or 7th Generation Intel Core processors, fast 512GB SSDs, up to 8GB memory and 2×2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac wireless technology for fast and reliable internet connectivity.

Additional must-have features include a USB 3.1 Type-C port (for fast data transfers, connection to an external display, and to charge the notebook), and an HD webcam with High Dynamic Range. Lastly, the optional backlit keyboard is paired with a large 72mm touchpad, providing ample room to navigate and manoeuvre.

A built-in fingerprint scanner is located at the upper right-hand corner of the palm rest and works in conjunction with Windows Hello for enhanced security. It takes less than one second from scanning a fingertip to accessing the desktop. It can also recognize specific people, linking actions to approved individuals, deterring inappropriate behaviour and helping to eliminate fraudulent activity.

Swift 1 – Light and Budget-Friendly 

Lightweight and priced right for a student or others on a budget, the Swift 1 is highly portable and includes the essentials, making them a great value. Just 0.7 inches in height (17.9 mm) and weighing 3.5 pounds (1.6 kgs), the cover features a brushed-metal-like finish that minimizes fingerprints and scratches, while the diamond-cut edges around the power button and touchpad provide nice design touches. With up to 12 hours3 of battery life, they will last a student an entire school day, with a few extra hours to spare for late night studying or web-surfing. The Swift 1 features a 14-inch HD display, an Intel Pentium® or Celeron® processor, 4GB of memory and either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of eMMC storage.

Availability

The Acer Swift 7, 5 and 3 will be available in South Africa in Q4 2016.

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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • 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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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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