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iPhone 11 range ramps up cameras

At Apple’s big launch event this week, it reshuffled its iPhone lineup, adding stronger processors and a better camera system, but with one notable feature missing, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Apple announced three new iPhones during its annual September device launch event this week, namely the iPhone 11, the iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. These devices replace the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, respectively.

This year, one more camera has been added to every Apple device: the iPhone 11 has two cameras, upgraded from the single camera in the iPhone XR, while the iPhone 11 Pro has three cameras, upgraded from the dual camera setup on the iPhone XS Max. Apple says this upgrade is not only for better photo quality, but assists in its industry leading video recording, calling it the “highest quality video in a smartphone”.

Each camera in the triple-camera system of the iPhone 11 Pro records 4K video with extended dynamic range and cinematic video stabilisation. Users can also zoom between each of the three cameras, while Apple’s new “Audio Zoom” feature matches the audio to the video framing for more dynamic sound. 

It also upgraded its A-series chipset to the A13 Bionic, which Apple reports is faster than the latest Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10+. In the announcement, the company made clear that its previous generation A12 Bionic chipsets were stronger than the latest flagship devices from Huawei and Samsung. This shows Apple’s focus on computation-intensive tasks, like augmented reality and advanced image processing.

The iPhone 11’s display technology remains LCD, which allows the iPhone to significantly cut the cost of an OLED display. The iPhone 11 Pro, however, uses this OLED technology, and is a factor for its much higher price tag. 

These iPhones are missing something: 5G.

Daniel Ives from Wedbush told The Barron that China is on the verge of another major smartphone upgrade cycle. As a result, the absence of features like 5G will cause many customers to seek smartphones elsewhere. This does not only apply to the Chinese market. Savvier smartphone buyers are looking for 5G devices, in order to have the latest technology for longer and to avoid an unnecessary upgrade later on.

Lynnette Luna, principal analyst at data and analytics firm GlobalData, says: “The question with this new range of iPhones is whether consumers will find enough value to upgrade to a new phone or wait until 2020, when Apple is expected to introduce 5G-enabled smartphones, which will be capable of transmitting faster data speeds.”

While it doesn’t feature 5G, it does feature Wi-Fi 6, which sets it on par with many other flagships on the market that utilise this faster, more reliable form of Wi-Fi connectivity.

The entry price for the iPhone 11 has dropped by $50 compared to its predecessor, while the iPhone 11 Pro’s pricing has remained the same. This shows Apple is returning to being price competitive in the highly competitive smartphone market. The price drop may also signal better sales in more markets and optimism for other Apple products in its ecosystem.

Vaibhav Khera, Director at GlobalData, says: “The optimism for Apple can be attributed to the sales growth in product categories outside of iPhone and, in particular, the strong performance of its services and wearables businesses. The company has strategically invested in these two areas over the last several years and now the two businesses collectively make for the size of a Fortune 50 company.”

The company continues to expand its services and wearable business, with the launch of the Apple TV+ video streaming subscription, the Apple Arcade gaming subscription, and the latest Apple Watch Series 5.

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SA’s Internet goes down again

South Africa is about to experience a small repeat of the lower speeds and loss of Internet connectivity suffered in January, thanks to a new undersea cable break, writes BRYAN TURNER

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Internet service provider Afrihost has notified customers that there are major outages across all South African Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as a result of a break in the WACS undersea cable between Portugal and England 

The cause of the cable break along the cable is unclear. it marks the second major breakage event along the West African Internet sea cables this year, and comes at the worst possible time: as South Africans grow heavily dependent on their Internet connections during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

As a result of the break, the use of international websites and services, which include VPNs (virtual private networks), may result in latency – decreased speeds and response times.  

WACS runs from Yzerfontein in the Western Cape, up the West Coast of Africa, and terminates in the United Kingdom. It makes a stop in Portugal before it reaches the UK, and the breakage is reportedly somewhere between these two countries. 

The cable is owned in portions by several companies, and the portion where the breakage has occurred belongs to Tata Communications. 

The alternate routes are:  

  • SAT3, which runs from Melkbosstrand also in the Western Cape, up the West Coast and terminates in Portugal and Spain. This cable runs nearly parallel to WACS and has less Internet capacity than WACS. 
  • ACE (Africa Coast to Europe), which also runs up the West Coast.  
  • The SEACOM cable runs from South Africa, up the East Coast of Africa, terminating in both London and Dubai.  
  • The EASSy cable also runs from South Africa, up the East Coast, terminating in Sudan, from where it connects to other cables. 

The routes most ISPs in South Africa use are WACS and SAT3, due to cost reasons. 

The impact will not be as severe as in January, though. All international traffic is being redirected via alternative cable routes. This may be a viable method for connecting users to the Internet but might not be suitable for latency-sensitive applications like International video conferencing. 

Read more about the first Internet connectivity breakage which happened on the same cable, earlier this year. 

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SA cellphones to be tracked to fight coronavirus

Several countries are tracking cellphones to understand who may have been exposed to coronavirus-infected people. South Africa is about to follow suit, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From Israel to South Korea, governments and cell networks have been implementing measures to trace the cellphones of coronavirus-infected citizens, and who they’ve been around. The mechanisms countries have used have varied.  

In Iran, citizens were encouraged to download an app that claimed to diagnose COVID-19 with a series of yes or no questions. The app also tracked real-time location with a very high level of accuracy, provided by the GPS sensor. 

In Germany, all cellphones on Deutsche Telekom are being tracked through cell tower connections, providing a much coarser location, but a less invasive method of tracking. The data is being handled by the Robert Koch Institute, the German version of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Taiwan, those quarantined at home are tracked via an “electronic fence”, which determines if users leave their homes.  

In South Africa, preparations have started to track cellphones based on cell tower connections. The choice of this method is understandable, as many South Africans may either feel an app is too intrusive to have installed, or may not have the data to install the app. This method also allows more cellphones, including basic feature phones, to be tracked. 

This means that users can be tracked on a fairly anonymised basis, because these locations can be accurate to about 2 square kilometers. Clearly, this method of tracking is not meant to monitor individual movements, but rather gain a sense of who’s been around which general area.  

This data could be used to find lockdown violators, if one considers that a phone connecting in Hillbrow for the first 11 days of lockdown, and then connecting in Morningside for the next 5, likely indicates a person has moved for an extended period of time. 

The distance between Hillbrow and Morningside is 17km. One would pass through several zones covered by different towers.

Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said that South African network providers have agreed to provide government with location data to help fight COVID-19. 

Details on how the data will be used, and what it will used to determine, are still unclear. 

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