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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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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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