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Huawei leads the charge to next generation phones

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At this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, upstart brand Huawei reinforced its claims to the top table of smartphone makers, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

It would have been unthinkable just four years ago. The brand that no one outside China had heard of, Huawei, has become the flavour of the moment. At this week’s Mobile World Congress, which turns Barcelona into the epicentre of the mobile industry for four days at the end of February every year, the upstart led a mass charge of new phone launches.

Its new Huawei P10 and P10+ handsets drew more than a thousand journalists to a launch event, reminiscent of the jostling crowds at previous Samsung flagship phone launches in the city. Samsung opted for a more low-key tablet launch, having delayed the unveiling of its new Galaxy S8 by a month. That left the field open to the likes of Huawei, LG and Sony to play catch-up or even leapfrog. Even the venerable old names like Nokia, BlackBerry and Motorola – under Lenovo ownership with the Moto brand – were able to make an impact.

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Nokia was Huawei’s biggest challenger for attention, thanks to the hype around the relaunched 3310, the best seller from the year 2000. Targeted back then at teenagers and young adults, it sold 126-million units, and was known for its week-long battery life, exceptional durability and – most significantly – allowing text messages more than double the length of traditional SMS.

That made it a youth favourite, and those youths are now in their 30s and 40s. Aside from having more disposable income, it is also the generation that now dominates the media. It was a stroke of marketing genius, then, to reincarnate that particular phone. Even if the new Nokia licensee, HMD Global, does not sell a single unit of the “reimagined” 3310, it has everyone in the industry talking about the brand, and most old fans will now know that Nokia is back. That gives it the runway from which it hopes a new range of Android smartphones will take off.

Despite the operating system remaining fairly faithful to the old Symbian OS created for Nokia feature phones, the new 3310 in bright plastic casings looks more like a toy than a serious device. On the other hand, the Android insides and quality bodies of the Nokia 3, 5 and 6 should give it some traction among more demanding users.

It will not, however, represent serious competition to Huawei. The latter first gave notice of its intentions to move from copycat to challenger less than four years ago, when it launched the P6 as the thinnest smartphone in the world. By the time it got to the P9 last year, consumers had almost figured out how to pronounce its name.

The premium version of that handset, the P9 Plus, was one of the best phones of 2016. It helped create a halo effect that took the full Huawei range to third place in worldwide smartphone sales. Only Samsung and Apple remained ahead.

Both were absent from the smartphone action at MWC, making Huawei the de facto thought leader of the event. As a result, when the Samsung Galaxy S8 is launched at the end of March, it will probably be the first time in five years that the South Korean company will be playing catch up instead of leading the way.

The P10 and P10+ build on the advanced camera technology of the previous edition. Once again, they feature dual rear cameras co-engineered with Leica. For the first time, their front cameras also offer near-professional quality, thanks to incorporating a Leica lens.

The power lies as much in the software, with a Portrait mode that includes 3D facial detection technology and ”professional studio-like effects”, such as re-lighting and a Hybrid Zoom feature that allows one to focus on specific areas of an image.

That is not necessarily what will turn heads, though. The physical design of the phone reveals an ever-evolving metal craftsmanship, as the company calls it. Rounded curves, a “hyper diamond-cut” finish and a fresh suite of colour options set it apart. Huawei collaborated with the Pantone Color Institute, the global colour specailists, to introduce new colours not seen before on phones.

Pantone Greenery, named the official Pantone Colour of the Year for 2017, is applied to a handset with a sandblast finish, giving it a clean look that reflects the eco-friendly symbolism of green. A new deep blue shade named Dazzling Blue, added to the diamond-cut finish, delivers a subtle glow effect that will probably make it the most popular shade.

It is rare that colour options are stand-out features for phones, but Huawei pulls it off with its refreshed palate. It includes Ceramic White, Dazzling Gold, Prestige Gold, Graphite Black, Rose Gold and Mystic Silver.

“With consumers increasingly comfortable using colour as a form of expression, we are seeing more experimentation and creative uses of colour,” said Laurie Pressman, VP of Pantone Color Institute, t the launch. “Colour is truly a medium through which individuals can express themselves to the world around them.”

The Huawei P10 and P10+ phones are expected to be available in South Africa in April 2017.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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YouTube Music announces Smart Downloads, SA playlists

The service has introduced Smart Downloads which takes allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically.

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The latest updates from YouTube Music, for subscribers of its Music Premium and Premium services, include a new feature that allows users to switch seamlessly between a song and its music video for an uninterrupted experience.

It has also introduced Smart Downloads which takes the work out of downloading music, allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically. YouTube Music has also announced new playlists for South Africa. 

The updates all reflect features that are popular on the global leader in music streaming, Spotify, and that have been key to its growth.

YouTube said in a statement on Friday: “Imagine listening to a new track by your favourite artist in the YouTube Music app and having the ability to seamlessly switch over to watch the music video – no pauses, no interruptions, just a simple tap that keeps the music flowing. This standout new feature from YouTube Music allows YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium subscribers to make a seamless transition between a song and its music video for uninterrupted listening and/or watching. Whether you’re in the mood for listening or watching (or a little of both)… it’s all here – no app switching required.”

With Smart Downloads, YouTube Music automatically saves music at night, when connected to Wi-Fi, helping subscribers to use less mobile data, enjoy a smoother updating experience and save up to 500 songs offline using Liked Songs playlist as well as other playlists and albums. 


Previously, music lovers could use the Offline Mixtape feature to download up to 100 songs, specifically chosen for them based on what they listened to most on the platform. Now, with Smart Downloads, they select the number of songs they would like automatically downloaded by toggling their YouTube Music Settings. This means YouTube Music Premium subscribers with Smart Downloads enabled on their mobile devices can now access hundreds of tracks regardless of connectivity. 

This feature is currently available on Android, with plans to bring it to iOS in the future.

Click here to read more about YouTube Music playlists, and find out what is inside them.

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Make cars, not waste

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Jaguar Land Rover is trialling an innovative recycling process which converts plastic waste into a new premium grade material that could feature on future vehicles. 

It’s estimated that the amount of waste plastic is predicted to exceed 12 million tonnes globally by 2050*. Today, not all of this plastic can be recycled for use in automotive applications – especially in vehicle parts that are required to meet the most exacting safety and quality standards.

Working in conjunction with chemical company, BASF, Jaguar Land Rover is part of a pilot project called ChemCycling that upcycles domestic waste plastic, otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators, into a new high-quality material. 

The waste plastic is transformed to pyrolysis oil using a thermochemical process. This secondary raw material is then fed into BASF’s production chain as a replacement for fossil resources; ultimately producing a new premium grade that replicates the high quality and performance of ‘virgin’ plastics. Importantly, it can be tempered and coloured making it the ideal sustainable solution for designing the next-generation dashboards and exterior-surfaces in Jaguar and Land Rover models.

Jaguar Land Rover and BASF are currently testing the pilot phase material in a Jaguar I-PACE prototype front-end carrier overmoulding to verify it meets the same stringent safety requirements of the existing original part.

Pending the outcome of the trials and progression in taking chemical recycling to market readiness, adoption of the new premium material would mean Jaguar Land Rover could use domestically derived recycled plastic content throughout its cars without any compromise to quality or safety performance**. 

Chris Brown, Senior Sustainability Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Plastics are vital to car manufacturing and have proven benefits during their use phase, however, plastic waste remains a major global challenge. Solving this issue requires innovation and joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers and suppliers.

“At Jaguar Land Rover, we are proactively increasing recycled content in our products, removing single-use plastics across our operations and reducing excess waste across the product lifecycle. The collaboration with BASF is just one way in which we are advancing our commitment to operating in a circular economy.”

This is the latest example of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to addressing the challenge of waste plastic. The company has collaborated with Kvadrat to offer customers alternative seat options that are both luxurious and sustainable. The high-quality material, available initially on the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque, combines a durable wool blend with a technical suedecloth that is made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. 

Jaguar Land Rover has already met its 2020 target for Zero Waste to Landfill for UK operations. This includes the removal of 1.3 million m2 – equal to 187 football pitches – of plastic from its manufacturing lineside and replacing 14 million single use plastic items in business operations. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Jaguar Land Rover’s vision for Destination Zero; an ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner. Delivered through relentless innovation to adapt its products and services to the rapidly-changing world, the company’s focus is on achieving a future of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Editor’s notes:

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full

** All Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles tested have achieved a Euro NCAP 5* rating.

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