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BlackBerry Q10: first impression is key

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Will the new BlackBerry Q10 handset, sporting a physical keyboard, win over diehard users of the old BlackBerry – or even new users? LIRON SEGEV offers his first impressions.

The BlackBerry Q10 is the almost-twin-brother to the BlackBerry Z10, with two exceptions: It has the 10.1 operating system with various updates from the initial version 10 shipped with the Z10: and the obvious QWERTY keyboard.

At first sight, the Q10 looks like the BlackBerry Bold. But it quickly becomes obvious how different it is. The phone is LTE enabled and ready to connect at the fastest speeds available. It has a 3.1″ 720p Super AMOLED display with a pixel density of 330ppi. It measures 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.35mm and weighs 139g.

Having used the device for only a few days, this is a ‚””first impression‚”” review. While this review is focused on the Q10, some Z10 comparisons are made for those looking to compare the two devices.

The Keyboard

I am used to having a keyboard that comes and goes as the need to type arise, so I was concerned that having a physical, fixed keyboard would take away from screen real-estate. However, after just a few minutes on the device, this concern vanished. The traditional BlackBerry keyboard comes alive with every physical tick of the keys. I realised that I actually missed the tactile feel of keys being pressed that no haptic-feedback software keyboard can replace.

The keyboard no longer has the ‚””smiley face‚”” shape of the Bold, but now is straight, and uses distinct metal guitar-like-frets to break up the rows. And, just like on a guitar, these help you find the keys more accurately as you slide your fingers over the keyboard. The keys themselves are thick and superbly spaced, making it so easy to tap the rights keys all the time.

On the Z10 there is the feature that allows you to ‚””flick‚”” up the words you want to use on the soft-keyboard. The same prediction feature applies to the Q10, but without the flick-ability. Instead, the words are shown just above the keyboard. Interestingly, this feature is disabled by default on the Q10. After using the device for a while, I realised why the keyboard is so good that I hardly need to use the predictions. Having said that, I found that the ‚””flick‚”” was faster on the Z10 for frequently used sentences but more accurate on the Q10 for new sentences and words.

In a world where password are a mixture of uppercase, lowercase and numbers, it is really nice having a physical keyboard that has everything in one location verses software keyboards that have letters, symbols and numbers on different screens. This allows for less mistakes to be made when typing those complex ********** passwords.

The keyboard also brings back some of my old favourite shortcuts. While in Twitter or in Email, press T to go to the top and B to go to the bottom. Press N to go to Next Email and P to go to previous email. But there is no need to remember these off by heart since, when you open any menu, you will see a small letter on the side of some menu items, revealing their shortcut keys.

Camera

The Q10 has the same cameras as the Z10: 2 megapixel front-facing camera with 3x digital zoom and 720p HD video recording: 8 megapixel rear camera with Auto Focus, 5x digital zoom, 1080p HD video recording, and LED flash.

New in the 10.1 operating system is the addition of HDR (High-Dynamic-Rang imaging). This features capture a greater dynamic range between the lightest and darkest areas of the image, which results in an enhanced photo. For some reason, I usually preferred the shots I took without the HDR than the ones with HDR.

The camera is quick and I love the ability to tap anywhere on the screen to snap a photo. No more looking for the camera icon and having to refocus and reframe the entire shot. Various camera options are available for experimenting and limited scene selections are enabled or disabled, depending on the shooting mode.

Of course, the Q10 has the same Time Shift feature that the Z10 has so that you can select the people in the picture with their eyes closed and replace it with a frame where their eyes are open. Read more about this and Story Maker here.

The BlackBerry Q10 gives you the best of of both worlds best physical keyboard and the BlackBerry 10.1 smartphone operating system with all its features, such as Hub, Peek View, Apps and Active Frames.

While these are well-known, there are a couple of features that deserve highlighting:

BlackBerry took the view that, if you want to preform an action, just do it. If you want to send an email, no need to open the email app: just type mail, followed by the name of the person you want to mail, and the BlackBerry Q10 will create a mail and address it to that person. Same applies if you want to Tweet. Just type: Tweet this is a cool feature and it will post it to your timeline. Other shortcuts include : li for LinkedIn, Memo and ToDo for Reminder,FB for Facebook status change and msg to SMS. To dial someone, just type dial, followed by their name.

No need to search through the screens to find an app or any info: just begin to type and all related items come up instantly, from emails to text messages to apps to music. Now just select from the list. While this feature was available in the previous BlackBerry devices, the team did a tremendous job from both a speed and an accuracy point of view and I use this feature all the time.

There is now the ability to copy and paste numbers into the phone Dialer. This is a 10.1 update more than a Q10 feature, which we will probably see soon on the Z10, too.

The Q10 has the same elegant web browser as the Z10, which scores a high 485 on html5test.com. While you obviously don’t have the screen size, I found that everything I wanted to do was not just possible but was a pleasure.

A Reader option, which I use often, takes a web page, strips out the unnecessary clutter like advertising and banners, and only loads up the content.

The Q10 has a 2100 mAh, which is even bigger battery than the Z10’s 1800 mAh option. Both the smaller screen and the Q10’s Dark Theme help conserve the battery.

I consistently achieved more than 10 hours of battery life over three days of varying usage. After being out most of the day checking emails, making and receiving calls, and checking Facebook and Twitter, at the time of writing, my battery is at 65%. Very impressive indeed.

In the event you do need extra juice, you can get the Charger Bundle that comes with an additional battery and a built-in microUSB cable, it can be used as an emergency charger if you don’t feel like swapping out the battery.

Over the weekend, I conducted my own field-research. I took the Z10 and the Q10 on a ‚””walk‚”” to see people’s reaction to these devices. I saw three distinct different types of reactions from non-techies:

¬∑Reaction 1: Those people currently using BlackBerry 7 devices unanimously remarked that it was definitely their ‚””next phone when my upgrade is due””:

¬∑Reaction 2: Those people that were using another brand of phone, but were previously BlackBerry owners, loved the phone and ‚””can’t wait to go back:

¬∑Reaction 3: Those who never owned a BlackBerry but used another brand of phone, loved the keyboards and often commented ‚””so this is what the keyboard is all about‚””. However those people still preferred the BlackBerry Z10, as it is more in line with what they used.

Many people have been on standby. They saw the BlackBerry Z10 but also knew that the BlackBerry Q10 was about to be released and so they waited to see which phone they would prefer. While they may still buy the Z10, they wanted to see and feel the Q10 before making their final decision.

Make no mistake though. The Q10 is not just about a great keyboard device.

The BlackBerry Q10 is for those who want a high-end device that is a real hard-core work phone. They want a phone that can handle tough work assignments, yet still play games, download apps and play various media types – all while maintaining a serious battery life.

And yes, it also has a keyboard.

* Liron Segev is also known as The Techie Guy. You can read his blog at http://www.thetechieguy.com or follow him on Twitter on @Liron_Segev

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Prepare for Wi-Fi 6

From traffic to healthcare, the applications of the new Wi-Fi 6 standard are set to transform how we connect.

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20 years ago, with the release of 802.11b, Wi-Fi began its conquest of the world networking scene in earnest. Wi-Fi can easily be called out as one of the most popular technologies of the last two decades. Just as mobile telephony and mobile internet, it has become a part of everyday life. And with the advent of IoT and the introduction of 5G, the time has come for the new standard – Wi-Fi 6.

Beyond being significantly faster than the previous generation, Wi-Fi 6 delivers up to four times greater capacity. Latency is vastly improved, allowing for near real-time use cases. Wi-Fi 6 is also easier on connected devices’ batteries.

So what impact will Wi-Fi 6 have on business in the coming years?

Digitisation, mobility and IoT are driving the need for connectivity. By 2022, more IP traffic will cross global networks than in all prior ‘internet years’ combined up to the end of 2016. In other words, more traffic will be created in 2022 than in the 32 years since the internet started. In 3 years, 28 billion devices will be connected to the Internet, many of which (robots, production lines, medical devices) will communicate over a wireless network. Against this background, it is easy to understand why we need a redesigned wireless standard that is more responsive to present and future challenges.

Wi-Fi 6: The business impact

“In the first phase, we expect the new wireless standard to gain a significant foothold in the B2B field, where it brings important innovations,” said Garsen Naidu, Country Manager, Cisco South Africa. “We will see it, together with other technologies, penetrate significantly into manufacturing, into the logistics industry. The technology is also more effective in high-density settings like large lecture halls, stadiums and conference rooms, so we are likely to see significant penetration in these settings too. And, with its extremely low latency, Wi-Fi 6 also promises to open up new opportunities in AR/VR, healthcare, and self-driving vehicles. ”

Ever since the launch of the Internet, every leap in network speed has had a major impact on technological innovation: 4G has brought along the age of smartphones, whilst 5G and Wi-Fi 6 will transform the business world. According to Cisco experts, these two technologies – 5G and Wi-Fi – will be widely adopted at the same time, complementing each other.

A short history of Wi-Fi

In 1999, half a dozen technology companies, including Aironet, which was later acquired by Cisco, formed the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance. The standard announced that year, 802.11b, which gained significant commercial traction, was the first to emerge under the ‘Wi-Fi’ brand. As such, 1999 marks the year in which Wi-Fi really began.

Solutions that carry the official Wi-Fi logo work consistently with the IEEE 802.11 data transfer standard. These solutions are certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which guarantees compatibility between various wireless devices. In addition, networking manufacturers have done a lot to improve compatibility. Launched as early as 2002, Cisco Compatible eXtensions is a free licensing program that has enabled other vendors’ Wi-Fi products to be securely deployed on Cisco wireless networks.

Subsequent developments in Wi-Fi technology included managing interference and increasing data stability. Cisco is supporting these with the Cisco Flexible Radio Assignment and Cisco CleanAir technologies. The latter is capable of identifying and graphically displaying radio interference, identifying the source of the problem, and directing users to other, less crowded, channels.

Challenges of the present and opportunities for the future

One of the most widespread business applications of wireless technology is office Wi-Fi. Using Wi-Fi, employees can move freely and access the network from anywhere where there is a hotspot. Wi-Fi-based analysis and location services are also becoming increasingly popular. And with the spread of IoT, Wi-Fi is becoming ubiquitous, and is today found everywhere from agricultural fields to production lines.

“We see promising business opportunities and a wide range of new applications. At the same time, with hundreds and thousands of new devices connecting to wireless networks, IT teams are facing increasing complexity. So we need to rethink IT architectures from the ground-up,” added Naidu.

Much of this need to rethink network architectures is driven by the enormous growth in wireless connectivity.

Wi-Fi has driven growth in general IT use, which in turn has led to the need to provide and run bigger and more complex networks with a greater variety of endpoint device types on them. This complexity ‘feedback loop’, driven in no small part by Wi-Fi, requires that new solutions are developed to deal with this complexity.

Cisco has pioneered in this area, using AI, machine learning, and machine reasoning, via products such as Cisco DNA Assurance to eliminate manual troubleshooting and reduce the time spent resolving service issues.

The latest Wi-Fi 6 developments introduced earlier this year make a consistent, efficient and seamless wireless connectivity experience a reality.

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Getting London wired

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Ruckus Wireless has been selected by Telefónica UK, which operates the O2 brand, to supply high-capacity small cell products for high-speed wireless services being deployed throughout London.

Already deployed throughout the busiest, iconic areas in central London, such as Trafalgar Square, Parliament Square, Leicester Square, Regent Street and Oxford Street, Ruckus SmartCell 8800s have initially been deployed to provide free, fast and reliable Wi-Fi to anyone.

Within a single, low-profile design, the SmartCell 8800 is the first carrier-grade, modular multi-radio system to integrate patented adaptive antenna array technology supporting multiple licensed and unlicensed radio technologies including: high-speed dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, small cell 3G/4G radios and 5GHz wireless backhaul. This gives Telefónica UK the flexibility to easily and economically offer high-speed Wi-Fi and cellular services in specific locations when needed.

‚”For O2, it’s all about us providing customers with fast and reliable connectivity where they need it,‚” said Derek McManus, chief operating officer for Telef√≥nica UK. ‚”Our vision is for Wi-Fi to be simply another access layer to our mobile core. Customers don’t really care about the underlying technology: they care about getting connected, fast and reliably. The introduction of small cells helps us to support these requirements and completely complements our mobile strategy by letting us push capacity closer to users in locations where it makes the most sense.‚”

‚”In telecoms there is now a mad race to the lamppost, and the first one there wins,‚” said Selina Lo, president and CEO of Ruckus Wireless. ‚”A big barrier in small cell deployment is simply securing the physical locations with the requisite power and backhaul to support small cells. Once physical assets secured, it becomes important for operators to exploit them with as much technology as they can. This means multi-function, carrier-grade products that are simple deploy, unobtrusive and massively scalable. SmartCell is one of those products and O2 is one of those operators taking a lead in this race.‚”

After extensive evaluations of wireless suppliers, Telef√≥nica UK selected Ruckus and its SmartCell system. ‚”It all really boiled down to who had the best Wi-Fi for carriers and the most forward-thinking strategy to integrate Wi-Fi within existing and future cellular infrastructure,‚” said McManus.

‚”Such partnerships prove that industry players are starting to see the benefits Wi-Fi is bringing to their services,‚” adds Michael Fletcher sales director for Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa. ‚”We are likely to continue to see more industry players embracing this transformation globally, and hopefully locally as well as operators look for solutions to cater for their growing customer base.‚”

Beating the Backhaul Dilemma

‚”A major challenge with small cell deployments is how to reliably backhaul traffic from potentially thousands of small cell nodes without breaking the bank,‚” said Robert Joyce, chief radio engineer at Telef√≥nica UK.‚”

Telefónica UK effectively eliminates this problem by meshing traffic over highly reliable 5GHz Wi-Fi mesh links between nodes using Ruckus Smart Mesh technology. Smart Mesh uses advanced self-organising network (SON) principles with Ruckus-patented adaptive antenna arrays (BeamFlex) and predictive channel management techniques (ChannelFly). Combined these technologies create highly resilient, high-speed Wi-Fi mesh backbone links between nodes that automatically adapt to changes in environmental conditions.

Thought by many to not be possible, Smart Mesh has demonstrated to deliver reliable backhaul for licensed cellular and unlicensed Wi-Fi traffic in both line of sight and non-line of site environments.

‚”Ruckus Smart Mesh technology is proving to offer a cost-effective, reliable and flexible alternative to conventional approaches,‚” said Joyce. ‚”With Smart Mesh, we are running fiber to just one of every five nodes. This has proven to be a huge benefit in reducing capital and operational expense with the added bonus of reducing the time to market.‚”

Big Improvements with Small Cells

Small cells represent a new architectural approach for injecting much needed capacity into service provider networks. Small cells are miniature base stations that combine licensed and unlicensed radio technology with wireless backhaul to deliver lower powered wireless signals much closer to mobile users. This results in better signal coverage, improved voice quality and higher data performance.

Small cells enable operators to provide a premium quality mobile signal where it was never previously economic, such as indoor environments and remote outdoor locations. They also enable operators to meet the burgeoning demand for mobile data, by multiplying the data capacity of the macro network at a fraction of the cost.

With the Ruckus SmartCell system, mobile operators gain a capacity boost from LTE small cells, cutting costs and complexity by co-locating and combining them with Wi-Fi access points, sharing site-lease agreements and backhaul. The integration of Wi-Fi and LTE small cells within the cellular core also helps operators optimize network utilization across the radio access network, providing a further improvement in performance, and creating a seamless experience for subscribers.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @gadgetza

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