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Big bites from Apple

Apple’s announcement advanced medical features on its new Apple Watch and a more affordable iPhone were the biggest bites from its annual product launch, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Apple’s annual early-September event kicked off with a small advance that could make a big difference: the next iteration of the Apple Watch, Series 4, with the first consumer-facing ECG monitor approved by authorities. While the overall design remains similar to its predecessors, the screen is around 30% larger than the previous version, thanks to a smaller bezel. This resulted in new categories, namely 40mm and 44mm instead of 38mm and 42mm. However, Apple Watch bands from previous generations still work with the new Apple Watch. The screen is also rounded at the corners of the display, instead of being a square display inside rounded glass. Despite all the improvements, it still weighs around 30 grams without the watch band. 

The introduction of the first consumer-facing wrist ECG (electrocardiogram) is revolutionary in the wearable space and reaffirms the Apple Watch as a device for the health conscious. The Apple Watch underwent a full internal and external redesign. Internally, the digital crown has been redesigned to be more “clicky”, with haptic feedback, and features a metal tip for use in an ECG measurement. An ECG can be taken when the user completes a circuit by placing the opposite hand’s finger on the metal tip of the digital crown. This is helpful for those who need to know when they are experiencing atrial fibrillation, an irregular beating of the heart. Fall detection has also been implemented, where a user must tap “I’m fine” after a fall, slip or trip. If the Apple Watch is still for a minute after a fall, emergency contacts are notified with a fall message and location.

Next up, the iPhone line was given an update instead of an upgrade with the iPhone XS. Last year broke the 8-year “major iPhone version followed by an S version” cycle. Apple opted to skip what would have been the iPhone 7S and released the iPhone 8. Apple also released the iPhone X for its tenth anniversary of releasing iPhones. This year, the S cycle is back. The iPhone XS sends the message that Apple is not currently concerned with cosmetic features and would rather focus on making its flagship smartphones better internally. 

The iPhone XS was released in 2 tiers, namely the 5.8″ iPhone XS and the 6.5″ iPhone XS Max. The iPhone XS Max is what we know as the “Plus” range, which features a screen that’s almost an inch bigger diagonally than the iPhone XS and holds the same Super Retina Display specification, around 450 pixels per inch. Internally, the iPhone XS Max is no different from the iPhone XS apart from a larger battery.

Apple’s A12 bionic chip is not the first 7-nanometre chip to be announced in a smartphone (that was Huawei) but will be the first to reach the market. The incredible aspect of the 7nm chip is that it houses 6.9 billion transistors, which allow for 5 trillion operations to be run per second. In addition to this, a Neural Engine allocates all the processes where they fit best, either to the CPU, the GPU or processes quickly itself. This speeds the iPhone XS up by 30% compared to the iPhone X – if you are able to notice such things.

Talking pf which, thanks to the better processor, Face ID performs a lot faster. The neural engine can separate hair from the backgrounds of portrait photos. The XS also has wider stereo sound, thanks to a slight internal speaker readjustment. The screen has been optimised for Dolby Vision and HDR10 which work with the OLED screen to provide vibrant colours and distinct on-screen graphics. 

Apple left a surprise for the end of its keynote when CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPhone XR. This iPhone looks and feels like an iPhone XS at first glance, but has been stripped of some features. 

It’s interesting that Apple is not repeating its iPhone 5C mistakes with this iPhone. It uses the A12 Bionic, the same processor in the XS line, which means that the cheaper iPhone performs exactly the same as the most expensive one. The XR has an edge-to-edge display with Face ID, like the iPhone XS, but has an LCD screen instead of OLED. This would have reduced Apple’s cost per unitsubstantially. On the back, the XR sports a single camera instead of the dual camera setup in the iPhone XS. However, the iPhone XR can still do portrait mode photos, thanks to the A12 Bionic. 

Overall, it may seem as if the Apple Watch stole the show, but Apple no doubt hopes the iPhone XR will convince the market it is an affordable iPhone.

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Get your passwords in shape

New Year’s resolutions should extend to getting password protection sorted out, writes Carey van Vlaanderen, CEO at ESET Southern Africa.

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Many of us have entered the new year with a boat load of New Year’s resolutions.  Doing more exercise, fixing unhealthy eating habits and saving more money are all highly respectable goals, but could it be that they don’t go far enough in an era with countless apps and sites that scream for letting them help you reach your personal goals.

Now, you may want to add a few weightier and yet effortless habits on top of those well-worn choices. Here are a handful of tips for ‘exercises’ that will go good for your cyber-fitness.

I won’t pass up on stubborn passwords

Passwords have a bad rap, and deservedly so: they suffer from weaknesses, both in terms of security and convenience, that make them a less-than-ideal method of authentication.  However, much of what the internet offers is independent on your singing up for this or that online service, and the available form of authentication almost universally happens to the username/password combination.

As the keys that open online accounts (not to speak of many devices), passwords are often rightly thought of as the first – alas, often only – line of defence that protects your virtual and real assets from intruders. However, passwords don’t offer much in the way of protection unless, in the first place, they’re strong and unique to each device and account.

But what constitutes a strong password?  A passphrase! Done right, typical passphrases are generally both more secure and more user-friendly than typical passwords. The longer the passphrase and the more words it packs the better, with seven words providing for a solid start. With each extra character (not to mention words), the number of possible combinations rises exponentially, which makes simple brute-force password-cracking attacks far less likely to succeed, if not well-nigh impossible (assuming, of course, that the service in question does not impose limitations on password input length – something that is, sadly, far too common).

Click here to read about making secure passwords by not using dictionary words, using two-factor authentication, and how biometrics are coming to web browsers.

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Code Week prepares 2.3m young Africans for future

By SUNIL GENESS, Director Government Relations & CSR, Global Digital Government, at SAP Africa.

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On January 6th, 2019, news broke of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plans to announce a new approach to education in his second State of the Nation address, including:

  • A universal roll-out of tablets for all pupils in the country’s 23 700 primary and secondary schools
  • Computer coding and robotics classes for the foundation-phase pupils from grade 1-3 and the
  • Digitisation of the entire curriculum, , including textbooks, workbooks and all teacher support material.

With this, the President has shown South Africa’s response to a global challenge: equipping our youth with the skills they’ll need to survive and thrive in the 21st century digital economy.

Africa’s working-age population will increase to 600 million in 2030 from a base of 370 million in 2010.

In South Africa, unemployment stands at 26.7 percent, but is much more pronounced among youths: 52.2 percent of the country’s 15-24-year-olds are looking for work.

As an organisation deeply invested in South Africa and its future, SAP has developed and implemented a range of initiatives aimed at fostering digital skills development among the country’s youth, including:

AFRICA CODE WEEK

Since its launch in 2015, Africa Code Week has introduced more than 4 million African youth to basic coding.

In 2018, more than 2.3 million youth across 37 countries took part in Africa Code Week.

The digital skills development initiative’s focus on building local capacity for sustainable learning resulted in close to 23 000 teachers being trained in the run-up to the October 2018 events.

Vital to the success of Africa Code Week is the close support it receives from a broad spectrum of public and private sector institutions, including UNESCO YouthMobile, Google, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Cape Town Science Centre, the Camden Education Trust, 28 African governments, over 130 implementing partners and 120 ambassadors across the continent.

SAP’s efforts to drive digital skills development on the African continent forms part of a broader organisational commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, specifically Goal 4 (“Ensure quality and inclusive education for all”)

A core component of Africa Code Week is to encourage female participation in STEM-related skills development activities: in 2018, more than 46% of all Africa Code Week participants were female.

According to Africa Code Week Global Coordinator Sunil Geness, female representation in STEM-related fields among African businesses currently stands at 30%, “requiring powerful public-private partnerships to start turning the tide and creating more equitable opportunities for African youth to contribute to the continent’s economic development and success”.

Click here to read more about the Skills for Africa graduate training programme, and about the LEGO League.

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