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BlackBerry still gets physical

BlackBerry’s new KEY2 begs the question: Does the physical smartphone keyboard have a place in 2018? BRYAN TURNER has a few answers.

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BlackBerry, a name that was once synonymous with smartphones, has made yet another comeback with a refreshed KEY handset. The new device appears aimed at appeasing those who want to use a physical smartphone keyboard again.

The most important enhancement of the KEY2 is dramatically improved ergonomics. Compared to the KEYone, there is a slightly increased space between the bottom of the phone and the bottom row of keys, which makes the space bar more reachable. The overall weight distribution also seems to be improved, with the top half of the smartphone being lighter than the bottom. This makes it feel more balanced when typing, making for a dramatic improvement from the KEYone. 

The iconic BlackBerry keyboard underwent a slight redesign from the KEYone, making it more BlackBerry Bold-like than before. Scrolling through on-screen event using the capacitive touch keyboard is a lot more responsive than one would expect. In fact, users were often impressed with how accurate it was when they tried it out. Flick-typing is still a function of the keyboard, but can be turned off if one accidentally triggers suggested words while typing. The fingerprint sensor remains in the keyboard spacebar, as with the KEYone.

The metal body of the KEY2 in silver is something to admire, giving the smartphone a very premium aesthetic. The back is textured black plastic with the silver BlackBerry logo has remained unchanged since the late 2000s. 

The hardware keys are placed on the right side of the phone, starting with the volume rocker at the top, followed by the lock/wake button, then by a custom “Convenience Key” which can be programmed to quickly access specific apps. The left side features a Micro-SIM and SD card slot; the latter can be expanded up to 256GB. The top holds the 3.5mm headphone jack while the bottom sports a symmetrical speaker/microphone grid and a USB Type C port.

Portrait mode photograph with the BlackBerry KEY2. (Picture: Bryan Turner)

One of the most interesting redesigns is the 12+12MP dual camera setup, which proved to take superb portrait mode photos compared to other options in the mid-to-high-range smartphone market. The video recording proved to be good at shooting 4K videos at 60 frames per second. That being said, a huge disappointment was the lack of ability to deal with low-light, as it consistently delivered grainy, blurry photos in night-time situations.

The screen has not changed much from the KEYone: a 4.5 inch full HD display includes touch navigations keys, placed neatly between the keyboard and screen. The display colours are good but the 3:2 aspect ratio is a little weird, to say the least. This creates little black bars above and below YouTube videos, which wouldn’t happen on a typical 16:9 smartphone screen. Losing screen space is one of the sacrifices of having a physical keyboard.

BlackBerry’s software claims to use one of the most secure flavours of Android on the market. At first glance, BlackBerry has skinned very little, leaving a lot of the aesthetic as vanilla Android as possible. But, when looking deeper, one finds motifs of “professional BlackBerry design”. BlackBerry DTEK, software included with the BlackBerry, routinely scans and keeps the user informed about what apps are doing and what they are accessing. This proved to be quite an eye-opener in terms of how much an app can access on one’s phone.

Overall, the KEY2 is a smartphone for the nostalgic business person who misses a physical keyboard and doesn’t use the device for video media.

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Now download a bank account

Absa has introduced an end-to-end account opening for new customers, through the Absa Banking App, which can be downloaded from the Android and Apple app stores. This follows the launch of the world first ChatBanking on WhatsApp service.

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This “download your account” feature enables new customers to Absa, to open a Cheque account, order their card and start transacting on the Absa Banking App, all within minutes, from anywhere and at any time, by downloading it from the App stores.

“Overall, this new capability is not only expected to enhance the customer’s digital experience, but we expect to leverage this in our branches, bringing digital experiences to the branch environment and making it easier for our customers to join and bank with us regardless of where they may be,” says Aupa Monyatsi, Managing Executive for Virtual Channels at Absa Retail & Business Banking.

“With this innovation comes the need to ensure that the security of our customers is at the heart of our digital experience, this is why the digital onboarding experience for this feature includes a high-quality facial matching check with the Department of Home Affairs to verify the customer’s identity, ensuring that we have the most up to date information of our clients. Security is supremely important for us.”

The new version of the Absa Banking App is now available in the Apple and Android App stores, and anyone with a South African ID can become an Absa customer, by following these simple steps:

  1. Download the Absa App
  2. Choose the account you would like to open
  3. Tell us who you are
  4. To keep you safe, we will verify your cell phone number
  5. Take a selfie, and we will do facial matching with the Department of Home Affairs to confirm you are who you say you are
  6. Tell us where you live
  7. Let us know what you do for a living and your income
  8. Click Apply.

 

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How we use phones to avoid human contact

A recent study by Kaspersky Lab has found that 75% of people pick up their connected device to avoid conversing with another human being.

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Connected devices are becoming essential to keeping people in contact with each other, but for many they are also a much-needed comfort blanket in a variety of social situations when they do not want to interact with others. A recent survey from Kaspersky Lab has confirmed this trend in behaviour after three-quarters of people (75%) admitted they use a device to pretend to be busy when they don’t want to talk to someone else, showing the importance of keeping connected devices protected under all circumstances. 

Imagine you’ve arrived at a bar and you’re waiting for your date. The bar is busy, and people are chatting all around you. What do you do now? Strike up a conversation with someone you don’t know? Grab your phone from your pocket or handbag until your date arrives to keep yourself busy? Why talk to humans or even make eye-contact with someone else when you can stare at your connected device instead?

The truth is, our use of devices is making it much easier to avoid small talk or even be polite to those around us, and new Kaspersky Lab research has found that 72% of people use one when they do not know what to do in a social situation. They are also the ‘go-to’ distraction for people even when they aren’t trying to look busy or avoid someone’s eye. 46% of people admit to using a device just to kill time every day and 44% use it as a daily distraction.

In addition to just being a distraction, devices are also a lifeline to those who would rather not talk directly to another person in day-to-day situations, to complete essential tasks. In fact, nearly a third (31%) of people would prefer to carry out tasks such as ordering a taxi or finding directions to where they need to go via a website and an app, because they find it an easier experience than speaking with another person.

Whether they are helping us avoid direct contact or filling a void in our daily lives, our constant reliance on devices has become a cause for panic when they become unusable. A third (34%) of people worry that they will not be able to entertain themselves if they cannot access a connected device. 12% are even concerned that they won’t be able to pretend to be busy if their device is out of action.

Dmitry Aleshin, VP for Product Marketing, Kaspersky Lab said, “The reliance on connected devices is impacting us in more ways than we could have ever expected. There is no doubt that being connected gives us the freedom to make modern life easier, but devices are also vital to help people get through different and difficult social situations. No matter what your ‘connection crutch’ is, it is essential to make sure your device is online and available when you need it most.”

To ensure your device lifeline is always there and in top health – no matter what the reason or situation – Kaspersky Security Cloud keeps your connection safe and secure:

·         I want to use my device while waiting for a friend – is it secure to access the bar’s Wi-Fi?

With Kaspersky Security Cloud, devices are protected against network threats, even if the user needs to use insecure public Wi-Fi hotspots. This is done through transferring data via an encrypted channel to ensure personal data safety, so users’ devices are protected on any connection.

·         Oh no! I’m bored but my phone’s battery is getting low – what am I going to do?

Users can track their battery level thanks to a countdown of how many minutes are left until their device shuts down in the Kaspersky Security Cloud interface. There is also a wide-range of portable power supplies available to keep device batteries charged while on-the-go.

·         I’ve lost my phone! How will I keep myself entertained now?

Should the unthinkable happen and you lose or have your phone stolen, Kaspersky Security Cloud can track and protect your device from data breaches, for complete peace of mind. Remote lock and locate features ensure your device remains secure until you are reunited.

 

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