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Huawei steps into Samsung gap

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Barely weeks after Samsung buried its latest large-format smartphone, Huawei stepped into the breach with its most serious contender yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

Five years ago, which represents many lifetimes in the smartphone world, Samsung sent shockwaves through the industry when it announced it had sold 10-million units of its Galaxy Note, the device that introduced the world to the “phablet” concept of large-screen phones.

Its wild popularity utterly contradicted all the derision heaped on it by hip online technology media. Engadget, then still enamoured with the iPhone’s miniature screen, harrumphed that it was “obnoxiously large”. No wonder people tend to forget the first Note had a mere 5.3-inch screen.

By the time Apple caught up with a 5.5-inch screen on the iPhone 6 Plus in 2014, the same publication soothingly declared, “The market has changed, and it was high time Apple did the same.”

Today, the phablet market is the most vigorously contested of all smartphone segments. However, the main contenders for the large-screen crown have all but abdicated. Samsung’s beautifully designed Note 7 not only crashed and burned, but also proved to be such a public relations disaster that it became the first device ever banned by model name from all major airlines.

Meanwhile, Apple declared the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus to be “the best iPhone we have ever made”, stating the obvious while launching a truly unexciting phone. Only Samsung’s failings made Apple look good.

Now suddenly, a new contender has stepped into the breach. Chinese-headquartered Huawei, which has slowly clawed its way into third place in global smartphone sales with quality phones at competitive prices, is about to make a big leap.

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At a launch event in Munich last week, it unveiled one of the most ambitious phablets the market has seen, packing no less than 5.9-inches of display into its new Mate 9. But the size is not the main thing going for it. Two other features stand out dramatically.

Almost as a response to the Samsung battery blow-out, Huawei has made “a safe, faster-charging battery” one of the centrepieces of the phone. It houses a massive 4000 mAh high-density battery, using its own technology that it has branded SuperCharge.

It promises more than two days of uninterrupted performance., and early tests bear this out. Using the new USB-C connector type and a proprietary cable, it charges in half the time of previous versions, and a 10 minute quick charge gives half a day of usage. This is on top of the kind of battery management options that have given the Huawei P series an edge since it startled the industry with the P6 in 2013.

To overcome fears that this “super battery” could be another Note 7 debacle in the making, Huawei has provided more details on its battery management tools than ever before, spelling out what it calls “Super Safe 5-gate protection”, and providing the user with “real-time voltage, current and temperature monitoring to eliminate safety hazards”.

The second standout feature of the phone is a dual-lens camera engineered in collaboration with lens pioneers Leica. Their relationship made its debut with the Huawei P9 earlier this year, and has been cemented just eight months later with an even better camera: one that gives the Samsung S7 and S7 Edge a run for their image money.

The optical performance of the camera module is given steroids by the dual-lens format, made up of a 12-megapixel/F2.2 RGB sensor and a 20-megapixel/F2.2 monochrome sensor. Huawei has used what it calls “fusion algorithms” to enable  the two lenses to work in concert.

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“The RGB sensor captures true-to-life colours, while the monochrome sensor captures intricate details and depth, resulting in the iconic Leica Image Style,” ran the launch announcement. “When paired with the leading dual-lens camera Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) solution and the industry’s first dual-camera pixel binning technology, the Huawei Mate 9 has a superior night shot capability.”

At the launch, Huawei Consumer Business Group CEO  Richard Yu said that the phone was also designed to address the “top three pain points of smartphone users: ageing performance, meaning it slows down over time; not enough battery life; and an average camera”.

“You always need a better camera,” he declared. That is taken for granted by most users. But how does one address ageing performance? The longer a phone is in use, the more the battery degrades, the more memory allocation becomes clogged, and the more the software becomes corrupted. Yu believes Huawei has the answer. And it is close to artificial intelligence.

“A machine learning algorithm makes predictive allocation of resources. This enables smart memory allocation, and smart storage optimisation. By learning the user’s behaviour patterns, it makes sure the highest priority applications are given priority in system resources.

“Our new EMUI 5.0 interface for Android learns from users and from apps, and provides spontaneous resource optimisation. So, after eight months of usage, instead of the phone having deteriorated, you will see over 80% performance improvement.”

This potential allowed Yu to deliver one of the most powerful punchlines yet in the brief history of smartphone launches: “Born fast, stays fast.”

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

Featured

Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entires via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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Arts and Entertainment

Deezer to host Hotstix’s Mandela tribute playlist

Deezer is celebrating Nelson Mandela on the centenary of his birthday by hosting a tribute playlist created by music legend Sipho “Hotstix” Mabuse.  

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Mabuse, a legendary figure in African music, first rose to prominence in the 1970s with his band Harari and later developed a name for himself as a solo artist. One of his best known songs was the global hit BurnOut in the 1980s.

The playlist takes the listener on a captivating musical journey through the life of Nelson Mandela.  It was compiled by Mabuse, who consulted with Mandela’s family and friends to ensure that the music would be relevant and accurate. The playlist also features commentary by Mabuse, which was recorded in his Soweto home.  

“I have tried to tell the story of the music that Madiba loved,” says Mabuse. “The Playlist excludes the time in prison obviously, as Madiba would not have had exposure to music in that time.  We have focused on the music we know he loved before and after that period. This recording was really an emotional journey for me, but an incredible opportunity to document these memories.”

The playlist features the music the young Mandela loved, such as The Manhattan Brothers, Solomon Linda, Brenda Fassie and Miriam Makeba.  It includes struggle songs from Chicco, Johnny Clegg, Hugh Masekela and Yvonne Chaka Chaka.  The playlist also includes Mandela by Zahara, one of the younger artists who caught Madiba’s ear.

Mabuse also offers stories of his own songs, such as Shikisha, a song greatly beloved by the former President.

“I was delighted to share my thoughts and hope the listeners enjoyed the musical journey,” says Mabuse. “Madiba did enjoy music immensely and we all have a purpose wherever we are in the world to celebrate culture and to learn from different cultures and music forms and styles.”

This playlist was inspired by the Nelson Mandela 100 campaign, calling on corporates and individuals to act as sources of inspiration and engage in conversation and action.

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