Samsung has made a startling comeback to the smartphone market, sending the innovation ball soaring back into Apple’s court, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Mere days before last week’s New York launch of the new Samsung S8 smartphone, the rumour mill had “confirmed” the specs of the next Apple iPhone, due out in September. It is ironic, then, that Samsung unveiled a device that featured almost every innovation that Apple is expected to introduce six months from now.
The result is that the Galaxy S8 not only occupies the high ground of smartphone innovation, but places huge pressure on Apple to come up with surprises in the iPhone 8. In recent years, however, the capacity to surprise has tended to elude Apple.
The key elements of the S8 already set it apart from all other handsets on the market. Both the standard S8 and the larger S8+ carry the curve on the edge that made the S6 and S7 Edge phones a huge success. However, they have refined the curves slightly to provide a more comfortable grip.
The standout aspect of the displays now is that they run from one side to the other, with no bezel or edge frame as is found on most other phones. From top to bottom, they also occupy a greater proportion of the front of the phone than almost any other phone on the market. Samsung has achieved this through an old iPhone technique – not having a logo on the front – and a seemingly revolutionary new idea: having the home button hidden invisibly under the surface of the display.
Because the screen is pressure sensitive, when the finger rests on the area where the home button would usually be placed, it activates the functions of that button without taking away from display space.
It is precisely this neat little trick that Apple is expected to announce when it unveils the iPhone 8 in September. In the past, Apple evangelists would have accused rivals of copying Apple. The best they can claim now – unconvincingly – is that Samsung has anticipated Apple’s virtual home button.
Since a flagship smartphone is usually a few years in the making, and the next model is already on the drawing board when the previous one is released, it is clear that the leading manufacturers all have access to similar technology, and twist it in the direction where they believe they can achieve both the best user experience and the best differentiation.
So, for example, Apple is expected to announce later this year that the iPhone 8 will abandon the Lightning connector that caused massive consternation when it replaced the dock connector five years ago. Instead, it will switch to the new standard USB-C connector that is already in use in the new Apple MacBook – and on numerous rival smartphones. It will be near unthinkable for Apple to adopt an industry-standard connector, but it will also mollify users who have to carry a bag full of adapters to make up for the absence of a headphone jack on the last version.
Not at all surprisingly, the new Samsung S8 has introduced the USB-C connector to the Galaxy range for the first time.
The real challenge for Apple will be competing with screen size. It is still a source of wounded pride that Samsung led the market into large-screen formats with the introduction of the Note series six years ago. Apple scoffed at the size of these devices for some years before it succumbed to market pressure and went beyond the 4.5-inch format that Steve Jobs had felt represented the perfect handset display size.
With 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch options for the S7 and S7 Plus, it made up lost ground. However, the S8 and S8+ take the fight to a new level. Due to the ultra-efficient use of the front of the phone, the S8 is now a 5.8-inch phone, despite being slightly narrower than the S7. The S8+ is a 6.2-inch behemoth, and yet remains comfortable in the hand.
It’s unlikely Apple marketing will carry jokes about size this time round. Instead, it is expected to release several size options, ranging from 4.7-inches to 5.8-inches. The new devices are also expected, for the first time, to introduce wireless charging, long a feature of the Samsung flagship phones. Samsung has taken this feature a step further, with charging pods that enable the phone to stand upright and remain viewable and usable while being charged.
The Apple rumour mill also includes a waterproof and dustproof phone, iris and facial recognition, a minimum of 64GB storage, and even a curved display. It ‘s almost as if the Apple clairvoyants were channelling the S8, a few weeks before its launch.
- Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
Available in SA on 5 May
The Samsung S8 and S8+ will be released on South Africa on 5 May 2017, and can be pre-ordered now. For pre-orders, Vodacom is offering a wireless charger and screen protector, while MTN will provide a battery pack and screen protector. Samsung is considering direct deliveries to these customers before the official launch, if it receives stock in time. The Galaxy S8 has a recommended retail price of R15 499, and the Galaxy S8+ a RRP of R17499, similar to current models.
Cape Town not so calm – if you’re a driver
Cape Town drivers lose on average 162 hours a year to traffic jams, so will need some tech and a few tips to stay calm
Cape Town drivers lose, on average, 162 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, and the city is ranked 95th out of around 200 cities, across 38 countries surveyed globally, in terms of congestion issues.
That’s according to the latest INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard, which is an annual analysis of mobility and congestion trends. The study provides a data-rich evaluation of information collected during peak (slowest) travel times, and inter peak (fastest point between morning and afternoon commutes) travel times. Together they provide a holistic account of congestion throughout the day, delivering in-depth insights for vehicle drivers and policy-makers to make better decisions regarding urban travel and traffic health.
Of the further five South African cities surveyed:
- Pretoria drivers lose, on average, 143 hours a year stuck in traffic jams, ranking as the 64thmost congested city
- Johannesburg drivers lose an average of 119 hours annually, ranking 61st
- Durban drivers lose 72 hours, ranking 141st
- Port Elizabeth drivers lose 71 hours, ranking 75th
- And Bloemfontein drivers lose 62 hours, ranking 165th
If these hours sound horrific, spare a thought for the poor drivers in Colombia’s capital city of Bogotá who lose, on average, a whopping 272 hours a year stuck in traffic jams!
On average, drivers’ commutes increase by roughly 30% during peak versus inter-peak hours. And the reality is that congestion issues aren’t going away anytime soon. Not here in SA, or anywhere else in the world. So what can we, as drivers, do to make the situation easier to cope with on our daily commute?
Change of mindset
Stressing about the unavoidable, the inevitable, and all the things that are out of our control – like congestion caused by accidents, faulty street lights, or bad weather – is a waste of energy. We should try finding ways of using that time in our cars more productively, to create a less tense, more positive experience. Learning to change our perspective about this challenging time, and associating it with something enjoyable, can drastically alter our reaction to and engagement with it. Rather than expending all our energy on futile anger and frustration, we can channel our focus on things that relax or energise us instead.
Just one more chapter
Being stuck in traffic usually aggravates us because it feels like a huge waste of valuable time. But like a wise man once said, time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time. Listening to a podcast or audiobook can not only be entertaining, but also educational, which is a brilliant use of your time. Ifyou think of your car as a ‘learning lab’, a mobile university of sorts, and your time spent inside as away to exercise your brain and grow intellectually, you may even find yourself wishing for bad traffic so you have an excuse to carry on listening to your podcast or audiobook.
Tame your inner Hulk
Pulling up a playlist of your favourite, feel-good songs can do wonders to combat stress levels. Downbeat music has been proven to have a mellowing effect on drivers. Making a quick switch to downbeat music shows measurable physiological improvements, with drivers calming down much sooner, and making fewer driving mistakes. So the next time you feel your inner Hulk emerging, crank up the volume on your favourite tunes.
The power of ‘caromatherapy’
There are numerous studies on aromas and their impact on human emotion, behaviour, and performance. Researchers have found that peppermint can enhance mental and athletic performance and cognitive functioning, while cinnamon may improve tasks related to attentional processes and visual-motor response speed. A study from Kyoto University in Japan revealed that participants reported significantly lower hostility and depression scores, and felt more relaxed after awalk through a pine forest. It makes sense then, to incorporate some ‘caromatherapy’ into our lives. There are plenty of off-the-shelf car diffusers available, or you could add a few drops of essential oil to DIY felt air fresheners. Citrus scents like orange or lemon can provide a boost of energy, while rosemary can relieve stress and anxiety. Take care not to hang anything that might obstruct your field of vision though, and always make sure to test out essential oils at home first, in case a scent makes you dizzy or overly relaxed, which could affect driving focus.
Contemplate your navel
The mind is a powerful thing, and simply willing yourself to relax might be the most effective method of all. While we don’t recommend meditating while driving due to safety reasons, breathing exercises can help you stay focused and feeling calm. One useful practice is the one-to-one technique – breathing in and out for the same count with the same intensity. Deep, measured breaths facilitate full oxygen exchange, helping to slow down the rate of your heartbeat and stabilise blood pressure, as opposed to shallow breathing, which doesn’t send enough air to the lowest part of your lungs, causing you to feel anxious and short of breath. Just always keep your eyes on the road, and take care to ensure you’re not so busy counting breaths that your concentration is compromised.
Not all those who wander are lost
Some of our best ideas come in those moments where we’re alone with our own thoughts, able to really reflect on the ideas we have without having something immediate that needs our attention. Allow your mind to wander, and do a little brainstorming. Alternatively, use the time to simply day dream. Remember, downtime is not dead time. It is both necessary, and important for your mental health. Use this time as an opportunity to take care of yourself.
In-built vehicle tech
“As we spend more and more time commuting, cars are being designed to accommodate longer periods behind the wheel,” says Kuda Takura, smart mobility specialist at Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa. “Ford uses human-centric design to deliver vehicles that are inviting, accommodating, and intuitive. For example, our SYNCT infotainment system offers nifty, hands-free functions, like allowing drivers to listen to their texts, change music or climate settings, and make phone calls easily with voice control. Our range of driver-assist technologies, like Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Collision Assist with Pedestrian Detection and Semi-Auto Active Park Assist, are also designed to take some of the stress off city driving. If our lifestyle means that we might be spending more time in our cars than we do on holiday, then we should make sure we make the most of that time.”
Vodacom exits Africa biz services
Vodacom Group has sold Vodacom Business Africa’s operations in Nigeria, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire to Andile Ngcaba’s Synergy Communications. The two entities are in the process of concluding the acquisitions, which are subject to the approval of the regulatory authorities within these markets.
Vodacom says the transaction supports the Group’s enterprise strategy in Africa, which has been refocused to grow and strengthen its core business. It will no longer directly service global enterprise customers in these three markets but will rather continue to operate as a pan African telecommunications networks provider through local relationships, like the one with Synergy Communications.
This acquisition represents a significant milestone in Synergy Communication’s quest to be a leading provider of cloud and digitally based services in key markets across sub-Saharan Africa and provides key additional assets in its build out of a regional footprint. Synergy Communications currently has operations in Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique.
Andile Ngcaba, Chairman of Synergy Communications said: “This is an exciting landmark transaction for Synergy Communications, providing us with additional momentum in the delivery of our strategy as a pan-African enterprise digital Services Provider. Synergy Communications will partner with major global cloud providers and deliver platform-based services to both multi-nationals and local enterprises.”
Shameel Joosub, CEO of Vodacom Group, said: “Vodacom has a clear vision for strengthening our position as a leading pan-African business and will work with local service providers like Synergy Communications to grow in these markets. Crucially, Vodacom is not exiting any of the territories related to this transaction and remains focused on continuing to deliver exceptional service to our global and multinational clients in these markets through long-term commercial agreements.
“To support the sustainable growth of pan African digital economies and building connected societies, Vodacom will, via local service providers, continue to service clients in each market. We seek to leverage the collective strengths of Vodacom and Synergy Communications to meet the changing requirements of clients across each of these markets.”