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Nokia is back in town

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If ever there was an unforgettable name in technology it was Nokia, Now the phone brand is back, and hoping the good memories will restore a proud name. By ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It is rare for a standard Android phone to make headlines. But then, it’s even more rare for a near-abandoned brand to return to worldwide adulation.

When the brand name is Nokia, however, it should be no surprise that its comeback is given the reception of a mythical hero returned from the battlefield. It’s hard to believe that it is only 14 months since Microsoft released the last of the Nokia Lumia phones running the Windows operating system.

The Lumia 650, launched in February 2016, turned out to be the epitaph for Nokia’s Windows era. Just three months later, Microsoft announced it was selling the Nokia feature phone business and the rights to the Nokia brand to Chinese device manufacturer Foxconn and a new Finnish company called HMD Global.

The selling price of $350-million made a mockery of the $7.6-billion Microsoft had paid to acquire Nokia in 2014. However, the Finnish credentials of the brand’s new stewards, and the fact that it was run by Nokia veterans, gave loyal fans hope.

It may not be a Star Wars sage, but the new episode in Nokia’s history could well be termed A New Hope. The series officially opened in South Africa last week, presided over by HMD Global’s CEO, Arto Nummela, and its president, Florian Seiche.

It was an emotional event for former Nokia country manager Shaun Durandt, now HMD general manager for Southern Africa, and former marketing head Patrick Henchie, now HMD product head for Sub-Sahara Africa. The latter spoke passionately about how “Nokia has always been about democratising technology”.

“You trusted that Nokia, that durability,” he said. “It didn’t matter what price you paid for the device, you were proud to walk around with that Nokia.”

HMD announced that the Nokia 5 would be available in South Africa by mid-July, and the Nokia 6 a fortnight later. The entry-level smartphone, the Nokia 3, arrived in the first week of June, while the “reimagined” 3310 feature phone has been available in limited numbers for the past month.

The smartphones all have one massive differentiator over almost any other phone widely available in South Africa: it runs the pure form of Google’s Android operating system (OS), as opposed to most other brands imposing their own “skins” on the OS. These skins usually come with a wide range of apps, widgets and adaptations that combine into what is known as bloatware: arbitrary software that unnecessarily uses up storage space on the phone and slows it down.

“What is common throughout all our devices? They’re made for everyday life,” said Nummela in an interview after the launch. “The phone market has moved on, and you can’t do today what you did then. We are keeping everything as simple as possible.

“When you have such a massive software build on top of what Google has built, it erodes the longer you use it. Then you have severe ageing issues and performance is completely different from day one to nine months later. We are trying to fix that issue with Google and (processor manufacturer) Qualcomm, so that your performance will stay constant.”

Nummela made a startling commitment: that the phone OS would be upgraded every time Android was upgraded, for at least the first two years of any of the new phones’ lives. Until recently, only Apple guaranteed that new OS releases would be compatible with old iPhones. It has now limited that backward compatibility, even as brands like Samsung introduce OS upgrades to current phones.

“We are committing to a promise that every time Google does an update between OS releases, we will provide those to consumers. Google releases security updates whenever there are anti-virus updates – we will do those monthly.

Then there are feature updates, being the OS updates, which occur annually.

“We will also do new releases with any new functionality that is available for the phone. Regardless of the price point, all consumers will get those updates.”

The one limitation is that, when OS updates require hardware changes for some features to work, those features will not be available for previous models. But Nokia guarantees nothing will be left out of current hardware releases.

“When you buy the device, the starting point is the very latest OS. It’s a service promise that your phone will always be fresh.”

He was adamant that this did not make Nokia devices mere Google phones. The Nokia heritage, he said, was a key aspect of the phone.

“We are focusing on those things that make a phone better: battery life, and reliability.”

The point was reiterated by Florian Seiche, who cut his teeth in the industry as co-founder of HTC’s smartphone business: “What consumers are looking for all ties in to the original Nokia brand promise of ease of use and reliability. In the past this meant something, so we try to listen to what Nokia represented to consumers.”

But is customer loyalty enough? There’s more, Seiche pointed out.

“The market has changed a lot and it is a very mature smartphone market, and many brands have had bold plans, investing and then disappearing, because the market is dynamic and changing. The advantage of Nokia over those is that we’ve been in this business for so long, building up relationships with channel partners, that they associate that trust with us. We also don’t have to invest so much in awareness, so we can focus on conversion and highlighting what is new.”

Will we see a sequel in which the likes of the Apple and Samsung empires strike back? As far as die-hard Nokia fans are concerned, it won’t matter. They have already fast-forwarded to the return of the phone world’s Jedi.

Nokia 3310 (2017 edition) Technical Specifications 

•       System: Dual band 900/1800 MHz

•       Available in dual SIM variants (microSIM)

•       Software platform: Nokia Series 30+

•       Dimensions: 115.6 x 51.0 x 12.8mm

•       Weight: 79.6 g (including battery)

•       Display: 2.4’’ curved window colour QVGA (240*320)

•       Connectivity: micro USB, 3.5mm AV connector, Bluetooth 3.0 with SLAM

•       Camera: 2Mpxl camera with LED flash

•       MicroSD card support up to 32GB

•       LED torchlight

•       Standby time: up to 31 days

•       Talk time: up to 22.1 hours

•       MP3 playback up to 51 hours

•       FM radio playback up to 39 hours

•      R699-R749

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Nokia 3 Technical Specifications

•       Available in single SIM variant

•       OS: Android Nougat

•       CPU: MTK 6737, Quad-core 1.3Ghz

•       RAM: 2 GB LPPDDR 3

•       Storage: 16 GB internal user memory[iii] with MicroSD card slot (support up to 128 GB support)

•       Form factor: Touch monoblock with capacitive system keys

•       Display: 5.0” IPS LCD HD (1280 x 720, 16:9), sculpted Corning® Gorilla® Glass, Polariser, 450 nits

•       Camera: Primary camera: 8MP AF, 1.12um, f/2, flash, Front facing camera: 8MP AF, 1.12um, f/2, FOV 84˚ display flash

•       Connectivity & Sensors: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, BT 4.2, GPS/AGPS, FM/RDS, NFC, Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Accelerometer (G-sensor), E-compass, Gyroscope, Micro USB (USB 2.0), OTG, 3.5mm ADJ

•       Battery: Integrated 2630 mAh battery[iv]

•       Audio: Single speaker

•       Dimensions: 143.4 x 71.4 x 8.48 mm (camera bump: 8.68mm)

•       EMEA Networks: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 WCDMA: Band 1, 2, 5, 8 LTE: Band 1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 20, 28, 38, 40

•       Network speed: LTE Cat. 4, 150Mbps DL/50Mbps UL

•       Price: R2,199

nokia3

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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