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Smartphone sales grow in Africa

While 2018 was a tough year for worldwide smartphone shipments, Africa experienced year-on-year growth for first time since 2015, according to the latest figures announced by International Data Corporation (IDC). The global technology research and consulting firm’s newly released Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker shows the African smartphone market grew 2.3% in 2018 to total 88.2 million units, spurred by the strong performance of the continent’s three biggest markets – Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt.

Overall mobile phone shipments were down 1.9% year on year in 2018 to 215.3 million units, with feature phone accounting for 59.0% of shipments versus 41.0% for smartphones. This overall decline mainly comes from the sluggish performance of the feature phone segment in numerous countries across the region.

2018 was the first year since 2015 that Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt have simultaneously experienced growth in mobile phone shipments. The Nigerian and Egyptian markets recovered from declines in 2017, thanks to the relative stability of exchange rates, the stronger presence of feature phones, and the introduction of new affordable smartphones. In South Africa, the growth was driven by local brands such as Mobicel and Stylo pushing feature phones and ultra-low-end smartphones.

Transsion brands (Tecno, Infinix, and Inel) led Africa’s feature phone space in 2018, with a combined unit share of 58.7%. Nokia was next in line with 9.6% share. Transsion, Samsung, and Huawei dominated the smartphone space with respective unit shares of 34.3%, 22.6%, and 9.9%. However, in value terms, Samsung led the smartphone space with 36.9% share, followed by Transsion (20.2%) and Huawei (12.4%).

Local and regional brands accounted for a combined 14.3% share of Africa’s overall mobile phone market in 2018. This is broadly equal to the share of all Chinese brands in the market, excluding Transsion, which is primarily focused on serving Africa and accounted for a significant 48.7% of the total market’s volume in 2018. 

“A new wave of local/regional brands are emerging across the continent,” says Taher Abdel-Hameed, a senior research analyst at IDC. “Some emerged after restrictions were placed on imports in countries like Algeria, while others have emerged to tap into opportunities in the feature phone and entry-level smartphone segments that have been almost vacated by global brands. Despite the success of Transsion brands in both the smartphone and feature phone categories, it is also worth noting the phenomenal growth enjoyed by Huawei and its sub-brand Honor in Africa’s smartphone space. Together, these two brands saw their shipments increase by a combined 47.9% year on year in 2018, spurred by their ambitious expansion plans in emerging markets and strong focus on affordable devices.”

Looking ahead, IDC expects Africa’s overall mobile phone market to decline 0.8% year on year in 2019 to total 213.6 million units. Smartphone shipments are forecast to grow 5.4% over this period, spurred by the introduction of more affordable devices in the African market that will help drive progress in this space over the coming years. However, feature phone shipments are expected to decline 5.1% as the shift to smartphone gathers momentum.

Regarding 5G deployments, while several experiments are already underway in the region, IDC expects the commercialization of 5G services to start in most countries by 2020. However, the arrival of 5G and new designs like foldable devices are not expected to create huge momentum in Africa over the short term due to the high price tag that is attached to these devices.

“There is always the possibility of technological leapfrogging in the innovation accelerators domain when Africa’s 5G markets are considered,” says Ramazan Yavuz, a research manager at IDC. “4G-ready devices constituted only 35% all smartphones in 2016 in Africa. Considering 4G-ready devices are expected to surpass 72% of all smartphones by 2020, 5G smartphone penetration could be expected to roll out faster when the prices become more and more affordable after initial launches.” 

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Time is running out for Microsoft SQL Server 2008

Companies are urged to update from the dated database management software as it reaches the end of its support, writes BRYAN TURNER.

The 11-year-old Microsoft SQL Server 2008 database management software is reaching the end of its support on 9 July. The applications that use databases running on this software will be at risk of security and stability issues.

On self-managed databases, upgrading to the latest database version comes with a lot of risks. Many IT departments within companies go by the motto: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.

Microsoft made it very clear that it would not be updating SQL Server 2005 after its extended support date and even left it vulnerable to Spectre and Meltdown by not releasing patches for the dated version.

Updating SQL Server versions may seem daunting, but the benefits far outweigh the effort it takes for a migration. In the last major version update, SQL Server 2016 introduced simpler backup functionality, database stretching, and always-encrypted communications with the database, to name just three features.

While backing up the database may be the last thing on the typical database administrator’s mind, it’s become increasingly important to do so. In SQL Server 2008, it’s clunky and causes headaches for many admins. However, in SQL Server 2016, one can easily set up an automated backup to Azure storage and let it run on smart backup intervals. Backing up offsite also reduces the need for disaster recovery for onsite damage.

Database stretching allows admins to push less frequently accessed data to an Azure database, automatically decided by SQL Server 2016. This reduces the admin of manually looking through what must be kept and what must be shipped off or deleted. It also reduces the size of the database, which also increases the performance of the applications that access it. The best part of this functionality is it automatically retrieves the less accessed records from Azure when users request it, without the need for manual intervention.

Always-encrypted communications are becoming more and more relevant to many companies, especially those operating in European regions after the introduction of GDPR. Encryption keys were previously managed by the admin, but now encryption is always handled by the client. Furthermore, the keys to encrypt and decrypt data are stored outside of SQL Server altogether. This means data stored in the database is always encrypted, and no longer for the eyes of a curious database manager. 

The built-in reporting tools have also vastly improved with the addition of new reporting metrics and a modern look. It includes support for Excel reports for keeping documentation and Power BI for automated, drag-and-drop personalised reporting. Best of all, it removes the dreaded Active X controls, which made the reporting in a webpage feel very clumsy and bloated in previous versions.

A lot has changed in the past ten years in the world of SQL Server database management, and it’s not worth running into problems before Microsoft ends support for SQL Server 2005.

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Local apps to feature in Huawei’s App Gallery

Huawei’s mobile app store, the HUAWEI AppGallery, will soon feature a multitude of apps and designs by local developers. The company says this is part of its drive to promote South African digital talent and include more useful apps for Huawei smartphone users. HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes are pre-installed on all the latest Huawei and Honor devices.

“South African consumers are increasingly wanting more apps that are relevant to their unique circumstances, addressing issues they experience regularly – such as load shedding or safety concerns – but also apps that celebrate South Africa’s multitude of cultures and this vibrant country,” says Lu Geng, director of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Region.

Akhram Mohamed, chief technology officer of Huawei Consumer Business Group South Africa, says: “Huawei is committed to catering to the needs of South African consumers, but we also know that we do not have all the answers. For this reason, we aim to work closely with South African developers so that we can give our users everything that they need and want from their devices. At the same time, we also hope to create an open ecosystem for local developers by offering a simple and secure environment for them to upload content.”

Huawei Mobile Services was launched in South Africa in June last year. Since then, both the HUAWEI AppGallery and HUAWEI Themes – which features tens of thousands of themes, fonts and wallpapers that personalise user’s handset – have become increasingly popular with the local market. Even though it is a relatively new division of Huawei, there has been a great increase in growth; at the end of 2018 Huawei Mobile Services had 500 million users globally, representing a 117% increase on the previous year.

Explaining what differentiates the HUAWEI AppGallery from other app stores, Mosa Matshediso Hlobelo, business developer for Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa says: “We use the name ‘HUAWEI AppGallery’ because we have a dedicated team that curates all the apps in terms of relevance and ease of use and to ensure that there are no technical issues. Importantly, all apps are also security-checked for malware and privacy leaks before being uploaded on to the HUAWEI AppGallery.”

Huawei recently held a Developers’ Day where Huawei executives met with South African developers to discuss Huawei’s offering. 48 developers registered their apps on the day, and Huawei is currently in discussions with them with the eventual aim of featuring the best apps and designs on HUAWEI AppGallery or HUAWEI Themes. The Consumer Cloud Service Southern Africa Team at Huawei plans on making Developers’ Day a quarterly event and establishing a local providers’ hub, where developers can regularly meet with Huawei for training on updates to programmes and offerings.

“We have a very hands-on approach with our developers, and hope to expand that community so we can become an additional distribution channel for more developers and expose them to both a local and a global audience,” says Geng. “For example, we regularly feature apps and designs from local developers on our Huawei social media pages, and do competitions and promotions. We want to do everything we can to make our Huawei users aware of these local apps and upload them. This will encourage the growth of the developer community in South Africa by giving developers more opportunities to generate revenue from in-app purchases.”

* Developers who would like their apps featured on the HUAWEI App Gallery, or designs featured on HUAWEI Themes, should visit https://developer.huawei.com or email Huawei Mobile Services on sacloud@huawei.com.

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