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Hisense adds great low-price smartphone option

The Hisense H11 offers an easy-to-use experience at a very reasonable price, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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At first glance, the Hisense H11’s design is reminiscent of the more recent Samsung Galaxy S smartphones, while the home screen layout is strikingly similar to iOS. This design combination makes the Hisense H11 something special for those moving from Samsung or iPhone for budget reasons.

At a retail price of around R4500, that makes it a startlingly appealing phone.

The smoothed, reflective black plastic back with a matte black trim makes it feel like a high-end device. The 6” screen is a narrow-bezelled HD+ IPS display with excellent viewing angles. 

Like the Hisense F24, the large 18:9 screen and low bezels allow for this phone’s display to compete with the higher end Samsung and Huawei phones. Dropping the physical navigation bar in favour of a virtual navigation bar is a huge improvement, and pushes the handset into a premium space and making it appropriate for upgrades to its operating system.

A huge plus is the pre-set screen protector as the phone comes out of the box. Moreover, the phone comes with another glass protector, which reaches the corners of the phone over the existing screen protector, and a flexi-plastic bumper case. This is an extremely impressive combination of protective items, of the kind one usually finds only with the higher-end Huawei smartphones.

The rear of the phone hosts a reasonably fast fingerprint sensor, although a bit slow for a smartphone in 2018. On the top left, a large-sensored camera lens is paired with a flash below it. This placement is perfect, as the fingerprint sensor and the camera lens are so far apart that mistaking the fingerprint sensor for the camera lens would be unlikely. The inclusion of a type-C port is great, considering the benefits of faster cable speeds for data transfer. Type-C fast-charging capabilities charged the smartphone from 20% to 75% in just under 20 minutes. 

The speaker’s placement on the bottom of the smartphone to the right of the type-C port is optimal and is rarely obstructed. The caveat is the average sound quality, which is a bit tinny at higher volumes. A 3.5mm headphone jack at the top of the phone provides many options for wired earphones and external sound systems. Audio delivered over the headphone jack is high-quality and not distorted. 

The 3400mAh non-removable battery is strong, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing Super Mario Run every 2 hours) until it reached 10%. While the battery capacity is large for a mid-range smartphone, the battery saving software that comes preinstalled prevents misbehaving apps from draining the battery in the background, freeing up the 3GB of RAM where it can.

Unfortunately, some bloatware is installed on this device. From time to time a badly translated pop-up message asks for permission to connect to the “network” for “cleaning” the smartphone. While Hisense is good with updates, this phone is not yet running Android Oreo, which is already close to being replaced.  Nevertheless, it will most probably receive updates, as it features the powerful Snapdragon 630 CPU and the Adreno 508 GPU.

The H11 has 32GB of onboard storage, but it can be expanded by up to 128GB with a MicroSD card in the second SIM slot. The LTE connectivity options are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload with good coverage. As with the F24, the 3-choose-2 SIM tray configuration allows for dual-SIM connectivity if you’re willing to sacrifice the SD card slot; or single SIM connectivity with an SD card if you don’t want an extra SIM connection.

The 12MP Sony sensor rear camera is good for quick shots and has decent colour replication. The camera app is improved over the previous versions, making it far more user-friendly than ever before. The 16MP front camera snaps satisfactory selfies, with beauty face features to smooth one’s skin, and a face-chaser focus system.

Videos were recorded in 1080p and the quality was good in brighter situations. It’s a little disappointing to see how the camera underperformed in lower light situations, but the bright flash is a redeeming factor.

Overall, the H11 is a phone for the everyday user who needs to send messages, watch online content and play a game occasionally.  The camera is very capable, but the camera app could be easier to use and night shots could be better. The form factor is aesthetically stunning, with no ergonomic trade-offs.

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Revealing the real cost of ‘free’ online services

A free service by Finnish cybersecurity provider F-Secure reveals the real cost of using “free” services by Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon, among others.

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What do Google, Facebook, and Amazon have in common? Privacy and identity scandals. From Cambridge Analytica to Google’s vulnerability in Google+, the amount of personal data sitting on these platforms is enormous.

Cybersecurity provider F-Secure has released a free online tool that helps expose the true cost of using some of the web’s most popular free services. And that cost is the abundance of data that has been collected about users by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon Alexa, Twitter, and Snapchat. The good news is that you can take back your data “gold”.

F-Secure Data Discovery Portal sends users directly to the often hard-to-locate resources provided by each of these tech giants that allow users to review their data, securely and privately.

“What you do with the data collection is entirely between you and the service,” says Erka Koivunen, F-Secure Chief Information Security Officer. “We don’t see – and don’t want to see – your settings or your data. Our only goal is to help you find out how much of your information is out there.”

More than half of adult Facebook users, 54%, adjusted how they use the site in the wake of the scandal that revealed Cambridge Analytica had collected data without users’ permission.* But the biggest social network in the world continues to grow, reporting 2.3 billion monthly users at the end of 2018.**

“You often hear, ‘if you’re not paying, you’re the product.’ But your data is an asset to any company, whether you’re paying for a product or not,” says Koivunen. “Data enables tech companies to sell billions in ads and products, building some of the biggest businesses in the history of money.”

F-Secure is offering the tool as part of the company’s growing focus on identity protection that secures consumers before, during, and after data breaches. By spreading awareness of the potential costs of these “free” services, the Data Discovery Portal aims to make users aware that securing their data and identity is more important than ever.

A recent F-Secure survey found that 54% of internet users over 25 worry about someone hacking into their social media accounts.*** Data is only as secure as the networks of the companies that collect it, and the passwords and tactics used to protect our accounts. While the settings these sites offer are useful, they cannot eliminate the collection of data.

Koivunen says: “While consumers effectively volunteer this information, they should know the privacy and security implications of building accounts that hold more potential insight about our identities than we could possibly share with our family. All of that information could be available to a hacker through a breach or an account takeover.”

However, there is no silver bullet for users when it comes to permanently locking down security or hiding it from the services they choose to use.

“Default privacy settings are typically quite loose, whether you’re using a social network, apps, browsers or any service,” says Koivunen. “Review your settings now, if you haven’t already, and periodically afterwards. And no matter what you can do, nothing stops these companies from knowing what you’re doing when you’re logged into their services.”

*Source: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/05/americans-are-changing-their-relationship-with-facebook/
**Source: https://www.theverge.com/2019/1/30/18204186/facebook-q4-2018-earnings-user-growth-revenue-increase-privacy-scandals
***Source: F-Secure Identity Protection Consumer (B2C) Survey, May 2019, conducted in cooperation with survey partner Toluna, 9 countries (USA, UK, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Brazil, Finland, Sweden, and Japan), 400 respondents per country = 3600 respondents (+25years)

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WhatsApp comes to KaiOS

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By the end of September, WhatsApp will be pre-installed on all phones running the KaiOS operating system, which turns feature phones into smart phones. The announcement was made yesterday by KaiOS Technologies, maker of the KaiOS mobile operating system for smart feature phones, and Facebook. WhatsApp is also available for download in the KaiStore, on both 512MB and 256MB RAM devices.

“KaiOS has been a critical partner in helping us bring private messaging to smart feature phones around the world,” said Matt Idema, COO of WhatsApp. “Providing WhatsApp on KaiOS helps bridge the digital gap to connect friends and family in a simple, reliable and secure way.”

WhatsApp is a messaging tool used by more than 1.5 billion people worldwide who need a simple, reliable and secure way to communicate with friends and family. Users can use calling and messaging capabilities with end-to-end encryption that keeps correspondence private and secure. 

WhatsApp was first launched on the KaiOS-powered JioPhone in India in September of 2018. Now, with the broad release, the app is expected to reach millions of new users across Africa, Europe, North America, Southeast Asia, and Latin America.

“We’re thrilled to bring WhatsApp to the KaiOS platform and extend such an important means of communication to a brand new demographic,” said Sebastien Codeville, CEO of KaiOS Technologies. “We strive to make the internet and digital services accessible for everyone and offering WhatsApp on affordable smart feature phones is a giant leap towards this goal. We can’t wait to see the next billion users connect in meaningful ways with their loved ones, communities, and others across the globe.”

KaiOS-powered smart feature phones are a new category of mobile devices that combine the affordability of a feature phone with the essential features of a smartphone. They meet a growing demand for affordable devices from people living across Africa – and other emerging markets – who are not currently online. 

WhatsApp is now available for download from KaiStore, an app store specifically designed for KaiOS-powered devices and home to the world’s most popular apps, including the Google Assistant, YouTube, Facebook, Google Maps and Twitter. Apps in the KaiStore are customised to minimise data usage and maximise user experience for smart feature phone users.

In Africa, the KaiOS-powered MTN Smart and Orange Sanza are currently available in 22 countries, offering 256MB RAM and 3G connectivity.

KaiOS currently powers more than 100 million devices shipped worldwide, in over 100 countries. The platform enables a new category of devices that require limited memory, while still offering a rich user experience.

* For more details, visit: Meet The Devices That Are Powered by KaiOS

* Also read Arthur Goldstuck’s story, Smart feature phones spell KaiOS

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