Although the Hisense F24 is aimed at the mid-range market, BRYAN TURNER finds that it gets the job done, is well built and even boasts some features found on higher end devices.
In a smartphone space that’s heavily saturated with the iPhone’s latest facial recognition and the Galaxy’s best camera, Hisense carves its own space with the new Infinity F24 smartphone.
What’s special about it? It gets the job done with the features you’d expect from a high-end smartphone, but at a mid-range price.
The all-metal body feels very premium and not a fingerprint magnet, as many metal-bodied phones have been in the past. The 5.99” screen – call it 6” – is a narrow-bezelled HD+ IPS display with good colour replication.
Due to the large screen and low bezels, this phone enters the 18:9 resolution space, which is generally held by the higher-end Samsung and Huawei phones. Hisense is known for creating brilliant displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy.
The 2.5D glass allowed my finger to glide smoothly along the screen with little resistance, while the design didn’t allow my palm to touch the screen accidentally.
The rear of the phone hosts a very quick-to-register fingerprint sensor. The speaker’s placement, slightly lower down, is not optimal and the sound is muffled when I placed the phone face-up on a cloth surface. A headphone jack at the top of the phone is a nice-to-have, since some manufacturers have been removing them from their smartphones. A slightly-outdated micro-USB port is positioned at the bottom of the phone but this doesn’t reduce the capabilities of the fast charging dual-charge chip, which charged the phone from 20% to 80% in around 30 minutes.
The 3400mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 10 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing Scrabble online every hour) until it reached 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only factor in this good battery life: the Android Nougat operating system comes with power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery and the 2GB of RAM unnecessarily.
It is surprising is that there is almost no bloatware installed on this device, as many phone manufacturers tend to do. Hisense smartphones are well supported with Android updates, and this phone had an update waiting after the first boot. This, coupled with the MediaTek Quad Core processor, provides a good user experience when I played graphic-intensive games, and made multi-tasking painless.
The F24 has 16GB of on-board storage, but it can be expanded by up to 128GB with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service. The 3-choose-2 SIM tray 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’re willing to sacrifice an extra SIM connection.
The 13MP rear camera is decent for quick shots, but pictures can be better after figuring out the camera modes available. That being said, the camera app’s settings are confusing, and it takes a while to identify what setting is right for you.
The 8MP front camera is a different story – I have never seen a selfie so clear. This camera app has beauty face filters, as well as make-up filters. This smartphone even has a hidden front flash for low light conditions, so there are plenty options when you’re snapping a selfie.
Videos were recorded with a good 1080p 30fps quality, and performed well in good lighting. Low lighting lacks a little in performance, with some grain appearing on flash night shots.
Overall, the F24 is a phone for the everyday user who needs to send messages, watch online content and wants to 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.
Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008
Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.
The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.
On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.
Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.
While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.
Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.
Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager.
The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.
A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.
Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery
Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.
“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.
Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”
Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.
Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”
Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.
“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”
* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on firstname.lastname@example.org.