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Huawei vs Apple: A tale of two smartphone worlds

The release of two flagship phones from the world’s number two and three smartphone brands highlighted a new divide, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



Just when it looked as if the smartphone world was converging on a standard template of design, features and functionality, the trade war between China and the USA has created a new divide.

On the one side, Apple two weeks ago unveiled a new series of iPhones that take will full advantage of the latest version of its operating system, iOS, now in its 13th generation. On the other side, Huawei last week launched its new flagship Mate 30 series that has been forcefully cut loose from the Android operating system.

There is much talk of Huawei’s own Harmony operating system having been in development for more than five years. However, the US bar on Huawei accessing American technology still means it loses out on the massive feature benefits of an OS that has evolved over a decade via the efforts of both its owner, Google, and a global industry of Android phone makers.

This raises 2019’s key smartphone question: Can Huawei minus Android still compete with the iPhone 11 series, as well as the Samsung S10 and Note 10 ranges, which operate at the cutting edge of Android evolution?

The answer depends not so much on the technology in the phones, as on the ability of Huawei to convince its relatively new army of users that it is business as usual.

That was the thrust of last week’s launch. The Chinese company’s big unveil was not so much the phone itself, as the new role of HMS, or Huawei Mobile Services. This is a direct replacement of Google Mobile Services (GMS), which essentially represent the Android ecosystem. The Play Store is an integral element of GMS. Ironically, HMS is also available as a Google Play Store download. Huawei is presently not allowed to add GMS to new handsets, which means it also cannot preinstall the Google Play Store on its new phones. 

HMS includes its own advanced features, like App Gallery – a trimmed-down alternative to the Play Store, with 45,000 apps available – Huawei ID, push notifications, payments, Themes, Mobile Cloud, Phone Clone and Huawei Health.

However, the handset remains compatible with Android apps. Its operating systems is a version of Android based on the Android Open Source Project, which is not included in the US ban, as it is a global project, not owned by Google.

That, in turn, means that users will be able to download apps from the Play Store, but will have to go through a few extra steps to do so. The real loss is that of seamless integration with the store.

The individual apps won’t work without something called the Google Services Framework (GSF), which Huawei says it is not currently allowed to install on new devices. However, various websites offer advice on how to “sideload” the framework from unauthorized sources, and therefore run the Play Store. This does mean neither Google nor Android guarantees the services and performance, and it is the user’s responsibility if anything goes wrong. Read here for more details on the installation process.

That said, Huawei has developed its own versions of most key apps. Users who feel locked into Google Maps, the YouTube app and the Gmail app will not be happy moving across, and it is for them that sideloading would make sense.

Why go to all that trouble, and not just buy an Android phone from other brands? The Samsung S10 and Note 10 phones are every bit as good as the new Apple devices, and beat them in many departments.

The answer is simple: the Mate 30 phones are probably the best value for money of the current flagship phones, and the best phone cameras on the market. Huawei took the lead over its rivals in handset photography with the P20 Pro, and is not about to relinquish it.

The main rear camera is a triple-lens unit comprising a 40MP 27mm wide angle lens with f/1.6 aperture, meaning it has a wide image capture view and lets in as much light as other leading edge phone lenses, and 8MP 125mm telephoto lens, and a 20 MP  16mm ultrawide lens. It incorporates a 3D camera, Leica optics, dual-LED dual-tone flash, and HDR

Video with 2160p – that is high-res – shooting 30 frames per second, and ultra slow-motion at 720p shooting at 960 frames per second.

In comparison, the Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max also offers a triple-lens cameras, but with a 12 MP f/1.8, 26mm wide-angle lens, a 12 MP 52mm telephoto lens and a 12 MP 13mm ultrawide lens. This suggests that Apple remains behind Huawei in camera technology, and one must look to the software settings for it to match image quality.

Huawei also outdoes itself with the selfie camera on the Mate 30 Pro, coming in at 30MP compared to the iPhone 11 Pro’s 12MP. The key difference is that Apple incorporates 3D functionality in the selfie lens, along with higher resolution and more options for video speed.

Both devices have around 6.5-inch displays and large batteries – 3696mAh on the iPhone and 4200 mAh on the Mate 30. However, the iPhone starts at 4GB RAM, while the Mate begins at 6GB, suggesting faster performance – all else being equal, which is not necessarily the case. The iPhone’s iOS 13 operating system is almost certain to be better integrated and function more smoothly, especially once the Google software is sideloaded onto the Mate.

The choice is not obvious, but it is highly likely that the cutting edge camera will convince enough of a hardcore of users to stick to Huawei to keep the brand at the forefront of the smartphone market. It may not be enough, though, to prevent Apple from regaining its second place in global market share.

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

Click here to read about the installation process for GMS on Huawei’s new phones.

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Small SA town goes smartphone-only

Vodacom partners with farming business to upgrade all residents of Wakkerstroom from 2G devices to smartphones



All residents of the small town of Wakkerstroom, which straddles Mpumalanga and kwaZulu-Natal provinces, have had their 2G feature phones upgraded to 3G devices.

The initiative is a result of Vodacom partnering with BPG Langfontein, a farming business that employs the majority of the people living in Wakkerstroom. It is now the first smartphone-only town in South Africa. This is a model the network provider says it hopes to replicate across the country as part of its mission to connect people who live in deep rural areas and are still dependent on 2G networks.

Wakkerstroom, is the second oldest town in Mpumalanga province, on the KwaZulu-Natal border, 27 km east of Volksrust and 56 km south-east of Amersfoort.  

“There are growing expectations for big corporates the size of Vodacom to serve a social purpose, and for us to use our resources and core capabilities to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of ordinary people,” says Zakhele Jiyane, Managing Executive for Vodacom Mpumalanga. “We are helping to remove communication barriers, so that citizens in the area can be part of the digital revolution and reap the associated benefits. By moving the more than 1400 farm workers from 2G to 3G devices, this will also free much needed spectrum and this spectrum can be re-farmed to provide for faster networks such as 3G and 4G.

“Crucially, the move opens a new world of connectivity for farm workers in Wakkerstroom. As a result, most people in the area will now be able to use the Vodacom network to connect on the net and access online government services, eHealth services such as Mum&Baby and eCommerce. Learners can now surf the internet for the first time and access Vodacom’s eSchool free of charge and those who are actively looking for jobs can start using their smartphones and tablets to apply for jobs over the internet on Vodacom’s zero-rated career sites. This will be key for driving growth to the benefit of people living in this area.”

Vodacom has already deployed 4G base stations in Wakkestroom as part of this initiative.

For the next phase of this project, says Vodacom, it is going to educate the farm workers about data and the benefits of the Internet. Vodacom will also look at various ways in which it can help empower members of this community in areas of education, gender-based violence and health.

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Facebook fact-checking goes to 10 more African countries



Facebook today announced the expansion of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme to 10 additional African countries, which now join  Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Cameroon and Senegal in the project,

In partnership with Agence France-Presse (AFP), the France 24 Observers, Pesa Check and Dubawa, this programme forms part of its work in helping assess the accuracy and quality of news people find on Facebook, whilst reducing the spread of misinformation on its platform.

Working with a network of fact-checking organizations, certified by the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network, third-party fact-checking will now be available in Ethiopia, Zambia, Somalia and Burkina Faso through AFP, Uganda and Tanzania through both Pesa Check and AFP, Democratic Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire through the France 24 Observers and AFP, Guinea Conakry through the France 24 Observers, and Ghana through Dubawa.

Feedback from the Facebook community is one of many signals Facebook uses to raise potentially false stories to fact-checkers for review. Local articles will be fact-checked alongside the verification of photos and videos. If one of our fact-checking partners identifies a story as false, Facebook will show it lower in News Feed, significantly reducing its distribution.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook Head of Public Policy, Africa, said: “The expansion of third-party fact-checking to now cover 15 countries in a little over a year shows firsthand our commitment and dedication to the continent, alongside our recent local language expansion as part of this programme. Taking steps to help tackle false news on Facebook is a responsibility we take seriously, we know misinformation is a problem, and these are important steps in continuing to address this issue. We know that third-party fact-checking alone is not the solution, it is one of many initiatives and programmes we are investing in to help to improve the quality of information people see on Facebook. While we’ve made great progress, we will keep investing to ensure Facebook remains a place for all ideas, but not for the spread of false news.”

When third-party fact-checkers fact-check a news story, Facebook will show these in Related Articles immediately below the story in News Feed. Page Admins and people on Facebook will also receive notifications if they try to share a story or have shared one in the past that’s been determined to be false, empowering people to decide for themselves what to read, trust, and share.

Providing fact-checking in English and French across eight countries, Phil Chetwynd, AFP Global News Director said: “AFP is delighted to be expanding its fact-checking project with Facebook. We are known for the high quality of our journalism from across Africa and we will be leveraging our unparalleled network of bureaus and journalists on the continent to combat misinformation.”

Eric Mugendi, Managing Editor from Pesa Check who will provide fact-checking services in Swahili and English added: “Social networks like Facebook haven’t just changed how Africans consume the news. Social media is often the primary access to digital content or the ‘Internet’ for many Africans. They shape our perceptions of the world, our public discourse, and how we interact with public figures. This project helps us dramatically expand our fact-checking to debunk claims that could otherwise cause real-world harm. The project helps us respond more quickly and directly. We’re seeing real positive results in our interactions with both publishers and the public itself. The project also helps our fact-checks reach a far larger audience than we would otherwise. This has helped us better understand the information vacuum and other viral dynamics that drive the spread of false information in Africa. Our growing impact is a small but tangible contribution to better informed societies in Africa.”

Caroline Anipah, Programme Officer, Dubawa (Ghana) said: “Dubawa is excited to be in Ghana where the misinformation and disinformation have become widespread as a result of technological advancement and increasing internet penetration. Dubawa intends to raise the quality of information available to the public with the ultimate aim of curbing the spread of misinformation and disinformation and promoting good governance and accountability.”

Derek Thomson, editor-in-chief of the France 24 Observers, said: “Our African users are constantly sending us questionable images and messages they’ve received via social media, asking us ‘Is this true? Can you check it?’ It’s our responsibility as fact-checking journalists to verify the information that’s circulating, and get the truth back out there. Participating in the Facebook programme helps ensure that our fact-checks are reaching the people who shared the false news in the first place.”

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