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These smartphones are the business

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Two new smartphones on the market show that even in the Bring Your Own Device era, there is still life left in phones geared towards the enterprise market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The corporate technology revolution that carries the label “Bring Your Own Device” means individuals in many organisations now choose what phone or computer they bring to work, rather than having a standard imposed by Company Policy.

But that doesn’t mean the end of phones geared towards the enterprise. Quite the opposite: BYOD has resulted in a network nightmare for many organisations, and even a backlash, as companies seek to regain control.

It helps, however, if the phones they want to mandate for company use make sense to both the company and the employee.

Two phones released in South Africa in the past week promise to do just that.

The new BlackBerry Classic harks back to the once wildly popular Bold, boasting a QWERTY keyboard combined with a more generous and interactive display than the old Bold could ever offer. It also brings back the trackpad, which, along with the keyboard, set BlackBerry apart. The return to these near-retro features gave the device the “Classic” label.

The company describes is as a “no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard”.

The other big benefit is a 22-hour battery life, building on the battery management that puts BlackBerry ahead of most of the pack, along with Sony and Huawei. Long life is helped by a smaller touch screen – only 3.5-inch – but which offers excellent HD resolution at 294 dpi. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 means less scratching and potentially more durability.

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The phone offers the usual BlackBerry World app store, as well as Android apps through the Amazon Appstore. The BlackBerry 10 web browser is claimed to be among the top mobile browsers for “web fidelity”, i.e. online content appearing as it was intended. Notifications and messages can be brought to a tablet or computer via BlackBerry Blend, underlining its productivity credentials for the workplace.

The BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and supported by 2GB RAM and 16GB of device storage, expandable by up to 128GB. A 2MP front camera and 8MP rear upgraded imaging sensors.

Finally, it offers an answer to Siri and S-Voice with BlackBerry Assistant, a digital assistant and can be used with voice and text commands to manage email, contacts, and calendar, among other native BlackBerry 10 applications. Most significantly, the feature responds to different contexts, such as responding silently if one types and speaking back if one speaks.

Individually, any one of these features is available elsewhere. As a package, it is a compelling executive option. The price tag of R6000 upward means it is not aimed at the younger generation that made the Curve one of the most popular phones in Africa.

That could well turn out to be a target market for another phone aimed squarely at the enterprise.

The Proline SP4 is the first Windows phone to be branded by a South African computer manufacturer, namely Pinnacle Africa. The Proline range of PCs, notebooks and TVs are well-known across the continent, with 15 000 units rolling off the assembly line every month.

Pinnacle’s decision to emblazon the same brand on a phone had less to do with market share than with a need it encountered among its corporate clients.

“You won’t find it in stores,” says Max Stone, brand executive at Pinnacle Africa. “We’re targeting it at the corporate market as an affordable business tool. It’s also aimed at an entry-level user within the corporate market, so it still has a manual, and we’ve set up a website for support and frequently asked questions.”

The phone offers several differentiators for corporates. The most attractive, apart from price, is the option of branding the cover with the company’s logo, and to preload the device with the company’s app if it has one for staff. That is all made possibly by Pinnacle’s own assembly line, which is geared to customising products belt elsewhere.

The phone is also a dual-SIM handset, meaning that it can carry both a company SIM for business calls, paid by the organisation, and a pay-as-you-go SIM for private use. A Kid’s Corner provides security of company information – and blocking unwanted content and payments – when the phone is used by family members at home.

That’s not the only area where it attempts to emulate BlackBerry’s security reputation. It is designed to boot up in such a way that malicious coding can’t be inserted. As a Windows 8.1 phone, every app is validated in the Windows Store.

At only R999, the specs of the phone will be appealing to both the employer and employee in the target market. A 4-inch screen, 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB internal storage don’t shoot the lights out for high-end users, but those would probably be BYOD troublemakers anyway! The presence of FM radio is probably the dead giveaway, since that is a feature in demand in the mass market, but rare on high-end phones,

“We’re expecting good take-up,” says Stone. “Then we’ll also look at other devices, perhaps a high-spec option like a 5.5-inch or 6-inch phablet. We can go all the way to 8-inch devices and still use the Windows 10 environment.”

That may be significant, but not nearly as significant as the impact such phones could make in the ever-shifting corporate environment.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Password managers don’t protect you from hackers

Using a password manager to protect yourself online? Research reveals serious weaknesses…

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Top password manager products have fundamental flaws that expose the data they are designed to protect, rendering them no more secure than saving passwords in a text file, according to a new study by researchers at Independent Security Evaluators (ISE).

“100 percent of the products that ISE analyzed failed to provide the security to safeguard a user’s passwords as advertised,” says ISE CEO Stephen Bono. “Although password managers provide some utility for storing login/passwords and limit password reuse, these applications are a vulnerable target for the mass collection of this data through malicious hacking campaigns.”

In the new report titled “Under the Hood of Secrets Management,” ISE researchers revealed serious weaknesses with top password managers: 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass and LastPass.  ISE examined the underlying functionality of these products on Windows 10 to understand how users’ secrets are stored even when the password manager is locked. More than 60 million individuals 93,000 businesses worldwide rely on password managers. Click here for a copy of the report.

Password managers are marketed as a solution to eliminate the security risks of storing passwords or secrets for applications and browsers in plain text documents. Having previously examined these and other password managers, ISE researchers expected an improved level of security standards preventing malicious credential extraction. Instead ISE found just the opposite. 

Click here to read the findings from the report.

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MWC: Next generation of inflight connectivity to be unveiled

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Next week at Mobile World Congress, the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal progress on its mission towards enabling the next generation of inflight connectivity. This follows a significant start for the Alliance, which has seen membership increase five-fold since the first meeting in June of last year. The Alliance has a new research laboratory setup and continues progress through its three working groups, writing specifications for the technology, requirements, and operations.

These developments represent a huge leap towards the goal of making connectivity as easy and enjoyable in the skies as it is on the ground. Appearing as part of the Airbus stand (Hall 6, stand 6G34), the Seamless Air Alliance will reveal specification topics that have been completed and published to its membership.

“The passenger experience with inflight connectivity remains one of the great technology challenges. From Day One we have been determined to deliver on our mission to bring industries and technologies together to make the inflight internet experience simple to access and a delight to use,” said the Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, Jack Mandala.

“I have been tremendously encouraged by the enthusiastic and committed response we have seen and the widening areas of expertise we can call upon as more and more companies and organisations continue to join us,” he added.

Announced during MWC 2018, the Seamless Air Alliance has since grown to twenty-three membercompanies with more than one-hundred key personnel from across the membership participating in its three working groups, with numbers continuing to increase.

The Seamless Air Alliance was created by founding members Airbus, Airtel, Delta Air Lines, OneWeb and Sprint, and quickly joined by Air France KLM, Aeromexico, and GOL Linhas Aereas Inteligentes and global technology leaders including Astronics, Collins Aerospace, Comtech, Cyient, iDirect, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Latecoere, Nokia, and Panasonic. 

Today, the Alliance is pleased to announce five additional new members: Adaptive Channel, Etihad Airways, GlobalReach Technology, Safran, and SITAONAIR.

“We are extremely pleased to have these companies join and be a part of the companies driving the next generation of connectivity.” said Mr Mandala.

The Seamless Air Alliance will enable travelers boarding any flight, on any airline, anywhere in the world, to use their own devices to automatically connect to the Internet with no complicated login process nor paywall to scramble over.

The Alliance is also announcing the release of a new research study on the economic benefit of standardization on the inflight connectivity market at Mobile World Congress. This report is available for download at https://www.seamlessalliance.com/publications/

The Alliance is moving rapidly towards an expected demonstration of the technology later in 2019 and anticipates massive interest in Barcelona from the whole communications eco-system.

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