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Take Note of Samsung

The new Samsung Note 10 smartphone has arrived in South Africa, offering a carnival of new features, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK



The smartphone world often resembled nothing less than a giant carnival, with numerous glitzy attractions that really represent the same old acts with a new layer of paint. That poses a massive challenge to handset manufacturers, who have to convince us that cosmetic changes are in fact revolutionary shifts.

However, when almost every element of a new device has undergone a step-change, a machine still has the power to amaze us.

The new Samsung Note10+, along with its Note10 sibling, is a perfect example. It may not seem to be a major shift from the previous edition, but when all its improvements are taken together, it represents an astonishing array of just how much current technology can be held in one hand.

The big attraction of the10+ is just that: how big it is. At 6.8-inches, it has the largest display of any mainstream flagship phone on the market. At one time, such oversized screens were regarded as an absurdity. Now, as handsets become multimedia devices, used for anything from game controls to movie watching, size is everything.

The smaller Note10 is almost the same size as the previous Note 9, which came in at 6.4-inches, and represents a nod to those who felt that they’d reached the limits of handheld real-estate. The Bigger phone, at R23,000 for a base model, is priced at a similar level to Samsung’s other flagship, the S10+, while the Note 10 is equivalent to the S10 in cost.

However, the cheapest Note10+ comes with a massive half-a-terabyte of storage, compared to 128GB for the S10+. The equivalent storage on the S10+ cost a few thousand rand more than the base Note10+.

These comparisons are deceiving, though: the Note10+ is aimed at a very specific market, namely people who want to use the device for its size, or its productivity benefits. It is in the latter category that both new handsets come into their own.

Justin Hume, director of integrated mobility at Samsung South Africa, puts it succinctly when he says that the new model is for someone “who effortlessly flows between ideas and endeavours at a moment’s notice”.

“Every element of the Galaxy Note10 was designed to help users achieve more,” he says. “Whether they’re finishing a big project for work, capturing and editing a video, or playing their favourite mobile game, the Galaxy Note10 re-imagines this promise.”

The most significant differentiator from almost any other smartphone on the market is the S-Pen, which adds a range of new capabilities to what was once just a stylus that slips into the top of the phone.

Aside from using it to write on the screen in normal handwriting, users can now customise these notes by shrinking, enlarging, or changing text colour. The handwritten text can also be converted into typed text, and exported from Samsung Notes into a range of formats, including Microsoft Word. In other words, handwritten notes quickly become editable documents.

The S Pen itself has evolved. It builds on the Bluetooth Low Energy functionality introduced with the Note9, and adds “Air actions”, which allows some apps to be controlled with the mere wave of the Pen above the screen. The phone detects specific gestures of the pen, and converts these into customised controls.

The S Pen can be used with a new function called AR Doodle, which allows one to personalise photos with drawings, effects, and animations that remain “stuck” to an image or video. 

The camera also introduces a new range of fairground attractions. By now most of us know that the number of megapixels don’t necessarily make for better pics, but the software that comes with the camera sure does. Both devices sport a triple array of lenses, made up of 12MP wide-angle, 16MP ultra wide-angle and 12MP telephoto.  That makes for great close-ups, but the Galaxy Note10+ goes further. It introduces a 3D DepthVision camera that can take a scan of an object, and turn it into a movable 3D image.

The video camera includes Live focus, which adds depth-of-field adjustments on the fly, allowing one to blur the background to focus on the subject, while filming. A zoom-in microphone amplifies the sound within the frame and pushes background noise, to make for higher quality audio with video. The software has also been updated to improve image stabilization and the hyper-lapse mode for time-lapse videos.

The S Pen is integrated with the video editing function to allow users to choose the specific elements they want to trim with a few taps, rather than having to select the segments painstakingly. The phone also comes with the Adobe Rush suite of editing tools.

The Note10 pair of phones are first Android devices to include screen recording, which Apple has had in iPhones for some time. The difference is that the S Pen can be used with the screen recorder to annotate notes, images and videos being recorded on screen.

Samsung has also caught up to Huawei in using artificial intelligence (AI) to optimise phone performance based on how one uses the phone. The company explains it this way: “One of the most innovative examples of this optimisation is the NPU (Neural Processing Unit)-powered Game Booster. When users are enjoying a heavy gaming session, it’s working behind the scenes, collecting and analysing system, user and game data and optimising performance and power consumption accordingly.”

An app-launching technology, Boot up Booster, uses AI to identify the most frequently used apps and saves them in active memory so that they launch instantly. Usage patterns are analysed on a rolling weekly basis, meaning the active memory is updated every day.

Possibly the least obvious breakthrough is the slim form factor of the handsets. Both come in at 7.9mm thick, just a shade bigger than the Note 9, and substantially slimmer than the current Huawei flagship phones. This is partly thanks to a 7-nanometer chipset – the thinnest yet in Samsung phones, and equivalent to those in the current Huawei and Apple handsets.

The chipset is claimed to boost processor performance by up to 33% and graphics performance by up to 42%. That is hardly an incremental improvement, especially for gamers and video makers who keep trying to push the boundaries.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

Click here to read about the updated Note’s S Pen.

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Nokia 7.2: The sweet-spot for mid-range smartphones

Nokia has hit one of the best quality-to-price ratios with the Nokia 7.2. BRYAN TURNER tested the device.



Cameras are often the main factor in selecting a smartphone today. Nokia is no stranger to the high-end camera smartphone market, and its legacy shows with the latest Nokia 7.2.

In many aspects, the device looks and feels like an expensive flagship, yet it carries a mid-range R6000 price tag. From its vivid PureDisplay technology to an ultra-wide camera lens, it’s quite something to experience this device – especially knowing the price.

Before powering it on, one notices the sleek design. The front features a large, 6.3” screen, with a 19.5:9 aspect ratio. Like many phones nowadays, it features a notch, but it is smaller than the usual earpiece-and-camera notch. Instead, it features a small notch for the front camera only. It hides the front earpiece away in a slim cutout, just under the outer frame. While it’s not the highest screen-to-body (STB) ratio, it has a pretty slim bezel with an 83.34% STB ratio. It loses some of this to an elegant chin on the bottom that shows the Nokia logo. This is all protected by a Gorilla glass certification, which makes it a little more difficult to shatter on an impact.

It’s encased by a Polycarbonate composite outer frame, which seems metal-like but will withstand more knocks than an aluminium frame. On the right side, it features a volume rocker and a power button and, on the left side, a Google Assistant button, which starts listening for commands when pressed. Above the button is the SIM and SD card tray. On the top, it houses a very welcome 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom, it has a speaker grille and a USB Type-C port. Overall, the positioning of the buttons takes some getting used to because the Assistant button and power button are similarly sized, and many smartphones place the lock button on the opposite side of the volume rocker.

The back features a frosted Gorilla glass panel, like the front. The frosted design is quite understated and yet another elegant design feature of the device. A fingerprint sensor sits in the middle and, towards the top, the device has a circular camera bump, not too different from the Huawei Mate 30 series. The bump features two lenses, a depth sensor, and a flash. The camera system has been made in partnership with Zeiss optics to produce high-quality photography.

The back of the Nokia 7.2, showing off the 3 camera array

When powering on the device, one is greeted with the Android One logo, which is Nokia’s promise that its users will always be among the first to get the latest Android security and feature updates. This is one of the defining purchase points for users looking to get this device, as it features the purest, unedited version of Android available.

This, in turn, allows the device to run the latest software by Google that enables the device to get better over time. This is done by using Google’s Artificial Intelligence engine, which learns how one uses the device and optimises apps and services accordingly. That translates to the phone’s battery life actually extending over time, instead of deteriorating like other smartphones that are weighed down by battery hungry apps. The concept was pioneered by Huawei in the Mate 9.

The rear camera is excellent for snapping pictures and features a 48MP Sony sensor for accurate colour reproduction. This puts the device in the league of the Google Pixel and Apple iPhone devices, which also use Sony sensors. By default, the device is set to take pictures at 12MP, which is what makes the photos look great, as it blends 4 pixels into one for a high level of sharpness and colour accuracy, but users can bump up the resolution to the full 48MP if they want to zoom in a bit more.

The 8MP wide-angle lens spans 118-degrees, and proves extremely useful for getting everyone in the shot. It also features some great colour accuracy. The 5MP depth-sensing lens is purely for the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo. It features a 20MP selfie camera, which also provides excellent sharpness and a portrait mode.

Picture taken with the Nokia 7.2 in Pro mode

The most impressive part of this system is the Pro camera setting, which can help take photos from excellent to extraordinary. We managed to get some excellent low light photography by adjusting the shutter speed, ISO, and exposure. The setting is pretty easy to use and it’s worth it for users to learn how it works.

The PureDisplay also helps make photos and video look great. The 7.2’s PureDisplay has a 2160 x 1080 resolution, at 401 pixels per inch (ppi). It also makes use of HDR10 and covers 96% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut, which makes the colours very vibrant. Some of these display features are not even found in some high-end phones on the market, so it’s very surprising that this tech is in a mid-range device.

At this price, there is one drawback: the processor. It houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660, which is neither bad nor good. It performs well in many situations, but begins to stutter on heavier graphical applications like Fortnite and PUBG Mobile. That said, all other applications of the device work perfectly, and multi-tasking is very fluid between regular apps.

At a recommended selling price of R6,000, the Nokia 7.2 is one of the most feature rich and aesthetically pleasing devices available in this price range.

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Voice interface moves digital wars to ‘first mile’

By RICHARD MULLINS, Managing Director for EMEA at Acceleration



Anyone who often travels on the London tube will notice people around them – usually students and young professionals – speaking into their smartphones even in sections of the underground without Wi-Fi or cellular coverage. They’re not sweet-talking their mobile devices, but cueing up a series of WhatsApp voice messages to be sent to their friends and colleagues as soon as they walk back into an area with an Internet connection.

This shift away from text-based and visual communication to multi-sensory (voice and visual) is one of the most significant trends to emerge from the next wave of artificial intelligence technologies. Many members of Generations X and Y abandoned voice calls for instant messaging once they got smartphones; now, the next generation are becoming more vocal in how they interact with – and through – machines.

We’re already seeing rising adoption of conversational voice interfaces, as young and imperfect as the technology still is. Research from comScore predicts that half of all searches will be performed via voice by 2020, while a study by indicates that nearly one in five US adults own a smart speaker or have access to one in their homes.

This trend is one reason that we are seeing the battle for the digital customer move away from the ‘last mile’ to the ‘first mile’ at a rapid speed. Now that the giants of ecommerce have largely solved the ‘last mile’ challenge of reliable logistics and rapid delivery, they are looking at ways they can tighten their grip on the first digital mile, where customers engage with and discover content, product and services.

Raising the stakes

This race to own the customer interface is not new, but the stakes are rising. We already live in a world with two major smartphone platforms (Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android), and now a handful of companies (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Amazon) are seeking to own the voice interface with smart devices like speakers, kitchen appliances and home security systems.

Most consumers are today using voice conversation interfaces for simple content requests – Alexa, give me the news headlines; Siri, play my party mix – and the experience can be somewhat clunky. However, technology is improving exponentially, as we saw earlier this year when Google demoed its assistant phoning a hairdresser to make an appointment on behalf of a user.

Such interfaces are likely to become the place where a high proportion of customers are converted and complete transactions in the next few years. In other words, the likes of Apple and Google will have even more power over what consumers see, hear and interact with than they do today. Brands should be thinking about how they will prepare themselves for this future.

One of the first considerations is how they can use voice to engage with customers in an increasingly natural and simple nature. Today, it is usually easy to tell when you are speaking to a virtual assistant or chatbot, but in future, these interfaces will become harder to tell humans and machines apart, unless you are told.

This is an opportunity to offer personalised service in an automated manner—the human touch at machine scale. Brands that offer the best experiences through their conversational interfaces will have a competitive advantage. This will not just be about the AI driving the interaction, but also about how brands use data to personalise interactions and make them more relevant to customers.

How will you reach your customers?

Brands also need to decide how they will reach their customers in the first place – will they create services for platforms like Alexa and focus on mobile apps? Or will they try to take control of more of the digital first mile themselves? This will be a daunting challenge, but the rewards may be significant since the companies in the digital first mile will control the data and own the customer.

For this reason, we can expect to see those companies with the resources to do so focus on owning more of the customer interface and becoming the gateways to service and commerce for their client base. They will partner with other big brands to create platforms, experiences and digital destinations where customers can purchase a variety of goods and services.

Consider examples such as how Discovery’s Vitality weaves together healthcare, lifestyle brands and financial services, then think about how they might evolve in a digital world. Brands have long cooperated through strategies such as white label products, sponsorship agreements and distribution deals, but the next wave of digital change will take it to a new level.

As this shakes out in the years to come, brands will need to focus on building a technical architecture that enables them to rapidly partner with other brands to roll out innovative solutions and services. They will also need to consider how and where they will capture customer data and which touchpoints they can use to own the customer relationship.

The challenges will not be purely technical in nature. There is the human element of blending AI and people into ‘teams’ that deliver the best possible customer experience. Companies will also need to think about their business models and where they fit into the value chain. Those that align AI and data behind a coherent business strategy will be the ones who will win the first digital mile.

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