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MWC: Nokia devices herald new era for brand

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The Nokia brand sealed its comeback to the handset market with three new Android devices and a “reimagined” 3310, launched at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday.

HMD Global, the home of the revived Nokia phone brand, heralded a new era for the handset name at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday, unveiling a new generation of Nokia smartphones.

The highly anticipated global portfolio features three new smartphones: the new Nokia 6, “delivering performance and immersive entertainment in a premium and extremely robust design”; Nokia 5, an “elegant smartphone that fits perfectly in your hand”; and Nokia 3, which delivers “quality at an affordable price point”. The new range of Nokia smartphones all run Android Nougat and offer a secure and up to date experience that features the voice-controlled Google Assistant.

The launch also saw the return of a modern classic – the iconic Nokia 3310, “reborn with a modern twist on design”.

“The family of products announced demonstrate a belief that every consumer should have access to premium quality, not just those with high end flagship devices,” HMD said in a statement. “Combined with a thoughtful design philosophy that focuses on improving the smartphone experience at every level, each technical component has been carefully considered and integrated into the phone design to have the biggest benefit on consumers’ daily lives. Drawing on the hallmarks of the Nokia phone heritage of quality, simplicity and reliability, the range is designed for a new generation of fans.”

HMD provided the following information:

With a commitment to deliver pure Android, users can expect a simple, clean and clutter free experience. Featuring the latest Google services, as well as monthly security updates, Nokia smartphones are safe, secure and up-to-date. The new Nokia smartphones feature Google’s most recent innovation, the Google Assistant, building further on a great Android experience. Our teams have worked together to ensure the Google Assistant is integrated, allowing for conversations with the Google Assistant to take place easily on Nokia smartphones.

It was also announced that the world-renowned game Snake will be snaking its way back into people’s hearts with a new version available to play on Messenger, part of Facebook’s Instant Games cross platform experience. The new free Snake game is designed to be played with groups of friends making it even more playable than the first time around.

The new Nokia range of Android smartphones unveiled ahead of Mobile World Congress includes:

Nokia 6 is going global – combining superior craftsmanship and distinctive design with immersive audio and an impressive bright and colourful 5.5” full HD screen, the Nokia 6 delivers a truly premium smartphone experience. The unibody of the Nokia 6 is crafted from a single block of 6000 series aluminium. The smart audio amplifier with dual speakers allow consumers to experience a deeper bass and unmatched clarity, whilst Dolby Atmos® sound delivers a powerfully moving entertainment experience. Available in four colours – Matte Black, Silver, Tempered Blue and Copper – the Nokia 6 will retail at an average global retail price of €229.

Nokia 6 Arte Black Limited Edition – celebrating the worldwide Nokia 6 portfolio is the Nokia 6 Arte Black Limited Edition. With 64GB storage and 4GB RAM, this special edition combines the best features of the Nokia 6 family in a stunning black high gloss package and will retail at an average global retail price of €299.

Nokia 5 – a sleek and compact smartphone that nestles in your hand. The Nokia 5 has been precision engineered out of a single block of 6000 series aluminium to create a perfect pillowed body that flows seamlessly into the sculpted Corning® Gorilla® Glass laminated 5.2” IPS HD display. Powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 430 mobile platform and the Qualcomm® Adreno™ 505 graphics processor, the Nokia 5 brings robust structural integrity, attention to detail and the quality of a high-end flagship to everyone. Available in four colours – Matte Black, Silver, Tempered Blue and Copper – the Nokia 5 will retail at an average global retail price of €189.

Nokia 3 – a stunning new smartphone designed to deliver an outstanding experience with unprecedented value.  With a precision machined aluminium frame forged out of a single piece of aluminium, a sculpted Corning® Gorilla® Glass laminated 5” display and seamlessly integrated 8MP wide aperture cameras (front and back), the Nokia 3 packs a truly premium quality smartphone experience into its compact and elegant form. Available in four distinctive colours – Silver White, Matte Black, Tempered Blue and Copper White – the Nokia 3 will retail at an average global retail price of €139.

Also announced were:

Nokia 3310 a modern classic reborn. Thin, light and incredibly durable, the Nokia 3310 is a head turning modern twist on one of the best-selling feature phones of all time. Boasting an incredible 22-hour talk-time and month long stand-by, the Nokia 3310’s fresh, colourful, modern design brings it bang up to date. The Nokia 3310 is available in four distinctive colours – Warm Red and Yellow, both with a gloss finish, and Dark Blue and Grey both with a matte finish. The Nokia 3310 will retail at an average global retail price of €49.

Accessories also introduced was a portfolio of Nokia accessories that follows iconic design philosophy. As perfect companions to these smartphones, the full Nokia accessories portfolio includes a range of headsets, portable and Bluetooth speakers, in-car chargers, cases and screen protectors.

The new portfolio of Nokia smartphones and feature phones is on display at Mobile World Congress.  Local availability will be announced in markets in Q2, 2017.

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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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