Finally, foldables. Yes, we saw the first folding smartphone screens in 2019, but those will be remembered mainly for their stop-start production hiccups. Huawei had to delay the Mate X launch by months and still hasn’t got out of the starting blocks outside China. Samsung had to go back to the drawing board when its Fold screen peeled off and dust got into the hinge. And Motorola is doing flip-flops after a test by CNET damaged the hinge, which supposedly would not happen in regular usage.
Last night, Samsung unveiled foldable phone generation 2. Or rather, the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip. While the launch in San Francisco came too late, South African time, to report on the event itself, enough detail was leaked in advance to offer a full unpacking.
The initial unveil in fact came on Sunday night, when Samsung aired a TV ad for the device during the Oscar ceremony. It revealed the phone as a vertical handset that flips closed, much like the new Moto Razr, the competing foldable from Motorola, which drew on a design legacy that goes back to the beginning of the century.
The Z Flip was shown being used with screens at a 90-degree angle, with an adapted user interface that allows users to interact with it in this unusual way. In other words, it can be used as a folded, flat or half-folded device, with buttons shifting accordingly.
Samsung quickly addressed the elephant in the foldable room or, rather, the most visible effect on the screen of being unfolded: the crease.
“You may notice a small crease in the centre of the main screen, which is a natural characteristic of the screen,” ran the ad. Consumers are unlikely to settle for this new “natural”, especially given that Apple has filed a patent in the United States for a foldable screen design that will prevent a crease.
There are no plans from Apple to release a foldable phone though, so, for now, we can expect the crease to be touted as a feature rather than a defect, much as Microsoft did with early, bug-ridden software.
The main benefit of the Z Flip design is that it has a small, secondary “notification” screen on the front, which will show caller ID and other selected notifications before the user has to flip the device open. The front display will also be a touch screen, so one will be able to reject calls without opening the device.
It’s likely the device will be released with the Snapdragon 855+ processor, an older chip first released in late 2018, which means it will add less cost to the foldable than current chips. That tends to be the approach with most foldables, in which the screen itself is the biggest cost, and manufacturers look to other components to shave the price. The Flip will have a 3,300 mAh battery – again, smaller to reduce cost of components – and two primary cameras.
The foldable race may look like a race for novelty, but early indications are that this will be a booming market segment, just as large-screen handsets pioneered by the Samsung Note series defied expectations to become a massive hit category.
Samsung reported last month that it had sold 400,000 units of the Fold, while Huawei has revealed it has sold 200,000 Mate X foldable devices. Given that they cost the equivalent of R40,000 up, those are startling figures.
According to new research from global consulting firm Strategy Analytics, worldwide foldable smartphone shipments will grow from under 1-million units in 2019 to 100-million by 2025, with Samsung, Huawei and others leading the way.
“High pricing, low display-yields and questionable durability are holding back the foldables market today, but those problems will be solved in the long-term,” it reported this week.
Neil Mawston, executive director at Strategy Analytics, offered several reasons for the expected demand: “Foldables pack a big screen into a small design. Consumers can surf rich content, like video, on a large display, and then fold the device away neatly into a pocket or bag.”
Ken Hyers, director at the firm, pointed to a rapidly widening market: “Samsung was the world’s number one foldable smartphone vendor in 2019, followed by Huawei in second place. Samsung is top in Western regions, like the US, while Huawei is focusing on its home market of China. Rival brands, such as Motorola and TCL, will deliver their own new models in 2020 and look to grab a slice of the foldables pie. By 2025, every major player should have a foldables portfolio, including Apple.”
If the Flip performs anything like the Note in the market, it will give Samsung an additional area of leadership. Since Huawei will not be at liberty to use Android, Samsung will solidify its position as Android leader. In foldables specifically, it will have at least a year’s head-start over Apple, giving it another category of dominance over its arch-rival.
The Galaxy Z Flip will be available in South Africa from R29999.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
TikTok takes on COVID-19
The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK
The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.
Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.
Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.
The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.
One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.
“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”
The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf
TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.
If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.
Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.
On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup
It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.
The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.
This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast.
“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”
According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.
“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”
Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure.
“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”
Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.
“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day,
Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is
said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and
companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing
criminals to line their pockets.
“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data. So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals. The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.
“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers. They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.
“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.
“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands. That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”