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Nedbank to offer Mara phones to customers

Nedbank has partnered with Mara Phones to offer South African-made smartphones to its clients, along with finance options.

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Nedbank says it has partnered with Mara Phones to offer its South African-made Android smartphones to the bank’s clients, via flexible financing options. Pricing has not yet been announced, but the devices will be preloaded with the Nedbank Money App, suggesting that they will be heavily subsidised in order to drive app usage. Nedbank has apparently purchased several thousand of the handsets.

Mara Phones, a division of the Mara Corporation, recently launched what it claimed to be the first African-based smartphone-manufacturing factory in Kigali. President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the second factory in Durban on 17 October 2019. Each factory has a capacity to produce a few million smartphones units per year.

Ahuti Chug, chair of Mara Phones, said: “Our aim is to increase smartphone penetration on the continent by providing problem-solving, tailored solutions to for our customers and partners. This partnership strengthens our vision to change the narrative by demonstrating that Africans can produce high quality tech products. 

“The importance of quality and affordable smartphones cannot be overstated as they enable connectivity and efficiency.  It is part of Mara Phones vision and strategy to partner with financial institutions to offer solutions to consumers.” 

According to Ciko Thomas, Group Managing Executive for Nedbank Retail and Business Banking, the partnership resulted from Nedbank’s recognition of the close alignment of the Mara Phones philosophy with Nedbank’s purpose to use its financial expertise to do good. 

“Like Nedbank, Mara Phones is committed to leveraging technology to enable financial inclusion and enhanced education, healthcare and agriculture outcomes in South Africa and across Africa,” he says, “Through this transaction, the ability of both organisations to deliver on this vision will be significantly enhanced.”

The full details of Nedbank’s Mara Phones offer are still under wraps, but Thomas said the Nedbank offer would be a pre-packaged, high-value proposition, with the smartphones preloaded with the Nedbank Money App, and delivered via flexible finance options that make it easy for clients to pay for their devices.

Thomas says that Nedbank offer is unlikely to be network-specific. 

“We believe our clients should be able to use the mobile network of their own choosing, so we will be offering some, or all, of our Nedbank-bundled, dual-SIM Mara Phones devices without SIM cards, allowing the new phone owners to use prepaid voice and data packages from any cellular service provider.”

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iPhone 11 Pro Max selfie cam scores in top 10

DxOMark has announced the iPhone 11 Pro Max has scored in the top 10 devices in its selfie scores.

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The iPhone 11 Pro Max is Apple’s most recent top-of-the-line smartphone, featuring a large 6.5-inch “Super Retina” XDR OLED display, Apple’s most powerful A13 Bionic chip for processing, 4GB of RAM, IP68-rated sealing for dust/water protection, and Qi wireless charging.

The front-facing camera benefits from a hardware upgrade over previous models, with a higher-resolution 12MP sensor for sharper shots and wide-angle 23mm-equivalent lens. The lens is still fixed-focus, with the same f/2.2 aperture as the lens on the XS Max, but the wider field of view will certainly help fit more into the frame. Other features include smart HDR, and bokeh shots with Apple’s SL (Structured Light) 3D camera doing the depth sensing.

Front-camera video has been upgraded, too, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max now capable of 4K (2160p) capture at either 24/30/60fps frame rates, as well HD (1080p) capture at 30/60/120fps. The video module also benefits from gyroscope-based electronic image stabilisation (gyro-EIS) for theoretically smoother video capture using the front camera.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 12MP-resolution sensor
  • Fixed-focus, 23mm-equivalent f/2.2-aperture lens
  • SL 3D camera
  • Smart HDR
  • Portrait mode with bokeh and depth control
  • 4K 2160p/60fps video

DxOMark provided the following review:

Achieving a DxOMark Selfie Score of 91, the front camera on the iPhone 11 Pro Max offers a nice improvement in image quality over the XS Max, and ranks just inside the top ten in our database. The addition of a wider lens on the new device is a big plus, helping you fit more into the frame and get better compositions in a range of situations. There are other strengths, too, including a higher score for focus, with both faces and backgrounds boasting good detail at a range of distances, and effective bokeh shots when you want to blur the background. Selfies pack plenty of punch outdoors, too, with accurate exposure on faces, and fairly wide dynamic range ensuring well-controlled highlights and skin tones even in very bright conditions.

Colour rendering has been improved on the iPhone 11 Pro Max, too. White balance is typically a little yellow, but the warmer skin tones can be attractive, and good saturation ensures that colours are pleasant and often vivid in outdoor shots. Details are also well preserved, with well-defined facial features in both single and group selfies at close and medium range; and skin tone rendering usually looks natural.

Bokeh shots are also a key strength for the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s selfie shooter, and the strong background blur looks really striking. Apple’s SL 3D camera generally does a good job with depth estimation and subject isolation. A notable area for further development, however, is noise, which is often very prevalent in both indoor and low-light images. Noise has improved slightly since the XS Max, but front-facing cameras from key competitors continue to offer smoother results in low-light conditions.

Video shows some of the same strengths and weaknesses as stills. The lens’s wider field of view, good focus at most distances, and extended depth of field make the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s front camera a much more suitable solution for vlogging compared to previous iterations. Video exposure is also very good, with the inclusion of HDR processing offering a fairly wide dynamic range in bright outdoor lighting conditions, which is still a little rare for video on front cameras. Colour is pleasant when white balance is accurate, and although slight white balance instabilities are evident, the device generally avoids any offensive colour casts. 4K capture also ensures good detail in videos; fine detail is well preserved, especially in outdoor conditions, and the texture-versus-noise compromise is good. Detail and noise in indoor videos is the main opportunity for improvement, however, with a significant loss of detail and strong noise visible in lower light conditions.

Read more about how the scores are calculated on DxOMark’s website.

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New Acer TravelMate convertible coming

The Acer TravelMate Spin B3, which features a flip-over screen and an 11.6″ screen, will launch in April.

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Acer has announced a convertible TravelMate Spin B3 device, intended for the education market. The 11.6-inch notebook comes with enhanced performance and has a sturdy design to protect it from knocks.

The TravelMate Spin B3 features the latest Intel Pentium and Celeron processors, intended to give students the power they need for classroom work. The laptop also complies with the MIL-STD 810G military standard, meaning that it’s strong enough to survive bumps and accidental spills. A pressure-resistant top cover, shock-absorbent rubber bumper and reinforced corners all add to the durability of the device. The notebook can also get students through the school day (up to 12 hours of battery life) on a single charge.

The TravelMate Spin B3 adapts to the demands of a school day via four usage modes: students can write essays in clamshell mode, watch videos or lectures in display mode, make space on a desk in tent mode when they need to work by hand, and make use of tablet mode when they need to write by hand in maths or art class, for example. An optional world-facing camera above the keyboard allows students to capture photos and videos in tablet mode. It includes Wacom AES technology to provide a natural writing experience, and comes with a dockable stylus.

There is an optional battery indicator light on the front cover which enables teachers to see which students’ laptops are low on battery. The devices have anchored keys that are difficult to remove and an easy-fix keyboard, making it convenient for the school’s IT technician to repair.

The laptop comes with: Ethernet, two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, an HDMI port and on select models, a fully-functional USB Type-C port that allows for charging, 5GB/s data transfer and connection to external displays.
The TravelMate Spin B3 will be available in April, starting at R4000.

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