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The phone that changes lives

It’s not going to take on the smartphone giants, but the new CAT phone is more likely to change lives, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When emergency responders arrived on the scene of a recent car accident along the Garden Route in the southern Cape, they found an unconscious man in the vehicle. But something about the belongings strewn about suggested there must have been more occupants.

A search of the bushes along the road, using flashlights, didn’t produce results. Then a team member used a Cat S60 smartphone, initiating its thermal imaging camera. Almost immediately, they found two “heat signatures”, which led them to two people who had been thrown out of the vehicle. They were in a serious and critical condition, but could be treated while there was still time. 

“The thermal imaging camera is a life saver for us and has become a must have after it helped save lives and property,” says Gee Swart, team leader at EDR International, a disaster risk reduction and response agency.

The team also use their Cat S60s to take emergency calls, dispatching resources through cellular calls and Push-to-talk (PTT), a two-way radio-type calling function. These were all bonuses; the main reason they were using the phone was for its rugged design and durability in harsh environments.

“The ruggedness and durability are like no other device I’ve used before,” says Swart. “I’ve used it on fire lines where it can be 60 degrees plus. I’ve used it in sub-zero temperatures and it performed brilliantly. It’s been dropped more times than I can remember and it has survived direct sprays from fire hoses.” 

It is rare to come across such enthusiasm for a handset. Yet, Cat phones are almost unknown among consumers. They are built by the Bullitt Group, under license from industrial and construction vehicle maker Caterpillar. 

When the first handsets emerged with that brand, it competed with a wide variety of devices in what became known as the rugged phone category. A heavy focus on durability in extreme situations and specialised requirements in those situations eventually set it apart. The thermal camera on the Cat S60 cemented its reputation, and it was regarded as the ultimate rugged phone.

Now, the new Cat S61 takes reputational leadership of the segment further. It arrived in South Africa this month, to the cheers of emergency workers, game rangers, security officers and construction workers. It refines the design of the S60, with a full rubber back, improved thermal camera, air quality sensor, and a laser assisted distance sensor. A ridge used on the S60 to house additional technology is now a design feature, referred to as a sharkfin, further differentiating the phone.

The distance sensor is intended to be an estimation tool, and is ideal for measuring rooms, buildings and spaces for renovation, repairs, furnishing, and alterations. But it may well produce new approaches and even business models once it becomes widely used.

“Two years ago, we didn’t know how people were going to use the thermal camera,” said Pete Cunningham, vice president and senior product head at Bullitt He is also the mind behind the Cat S60 and S61 phones and their features. “We didn’t invent the thermal camera, but we were the first to put it in a smartphone.  We knew the obvious things. But, for example, we didn’t know how and to what extent it would be used in agriculture. 

“We didn’t expect highly specialised uses like roofers checking if beams are rotten because they can detect higher water content. As a result when UK local authorities are called in to repair a leaking roof, instead of going into a property and replacing a whole roof, they only need to replace a segment of roof.”

Speaking during a visit to South Africa last week, Cunningham said one of his favourite examples of unexpected uses was in animal husbandry.

“Earlier this year a farmer in England, Rob Hodgkins, was out delivering lambs, and he was using the thermal camera because the heat map lets you see inflammation in animals, when one area generates more heat than another. In the past, he had used thermal imaging cameras, which cost thousands of pounds, to help find and identify hypothermic lambs.

“The snow had come late this year, and lambs were being born while the snow was thick on the ground. He learned of a lamb that had become separated from its mother at night, due to a dog scaring the sheep, and raced to the scene. Using the thermal camera on his phone, he found the creature in total darkness.”

In South Africa, the Cat S60 brought instant success to policeman Stoffel Holtzhausen, who bought it when he heard about the thermal imaging feature. Within one week of purchasing it, he used it to catch two dangerous criminals who had escaped custody.

He often drops the phone while holding down criminals, and it has fallen out of his pocket while he was riding a police motorcycle. Yet, it remains completely usable. This kind of experience delivers a level of customer satisfaction that marketing can’t buy. 

Word of such successes spreads fast, and South Africa is consistently Cat’s second or third biggest market in the world, with Germany showing the highest sales. The Cat S60 is expected to have sold half-a-million units when it reaches the end of its marketing life.

“We see tremendously high satisfaction rates,” says Cunningham. “No less than 88% of users say they would recommend us to friends and family, and 89% indicate they are very likely to buy a Cat phone again in future. You have to make a conscious decision to buy one of these products. You’re going against the mainstream. We have a community and they’re very engaged with us.”

The result, in recent years, has been rapid growth. In the first five years after its founding in 2009, Bullitt numbered only 25 full-time staff. Since Cunningham joined in 2014, the team has grown almost ten-fold, and will reach 250 by the end of this year.

“We talk intensively to our customers. Over the last two years we surveyed over 50 000 Cat users. Data and feedback from those conversations drive how we shape the portfolio for the future. The S61 came about because of survey data from our users. For example, customers told us they were disappointed in camera performance, so we used that to guide us to improve it. 

“Now you can use cool technology to enhance images. So if a plumber is taking a photo in low light of a part number under the sink, the software in the phone recognizes text in the photo and enhances the image quality for reading text.”

Cunnignham enthuses about the numerous tests done to push the limits of the phone’s durability, from putting it in tumble dryers to using it in the sea. An underwater mode, now standard in Cat phones, allows the power button to be used to switch between video and still images.

From capturing action under the sea to tracking poachers in game reserves, from tracing hot water pipes behind walls to hanging curtains, it is a phone that is changing working lives. Not to mention saving lives.

CAT S61 specs:

Display: 5.2” Full HD (1920 x 1080), IPS, auto switch support and wet-finger / glove-on working technology; Corning Gorilla Glass 5
Storage: 64 GB ROM
Memory: 4 GB RAM (Expandable via microSD card)
Processor: Qualcomm SD630 Octacore 2.2GHz
Operating system: Google Android Oreo (with upgrade to P, the next version of Android)
Audio: FM Radio, Music Player
Video Recording: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps Video Playback: 3840 × 2160 at 30 fps
Maximum Downlink Data Rate: 600Mbps
Maximum Uplink Data Rate: 150Mbps
Side: Power key, volume (up/down), programmable key
Sensors: Thermal camera (FLIR); Indoor Air Quality Sensor (humidity & temperature); E-compass; Proximity Sensor; Ambient Light Sensor; Accelerometer; Gyroscope; Location; Barometer.
Dimensions: 150 x 76 x 13mmRugged features: Ingress Protection (IP68) – sand, dust and dirt resistant, waterproof up to 3m for 60 minutes; Drop Tested up to 1.8m onto concrete ; Military spec 810G; Thermal Shock – handles low to high temperature differences from -30°C to 65°C for up to 24hours; resistant to vibration – category 4; Resistant to humidity and salt mist
Main camera: 16MP autofocus with PDAF, Dual LED flash Thermal: FLIR Lepton
Front camera: 8MP fixed focus
Battery capacity: 4500mAh, Quick charge 4.0
Other: Audio Jack, Bluetooth, NFC, USB Type C, USB-OTG, Nano SIM, GPS

  •    Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube

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News fatigue shifts Google searches in SA

Google search trends in South Africa reveal a startling insight into news appetite, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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The big searches of the year no longer track the biggest news stories of the year, suggesting a strong dose of news fatigue among South Africans.

“People ask, why are the Guptas not on the list of Google’s top searches?, says Mich Atagana, head of communications and public affairs at Google South Africa, “The Guptas are not on the list because South Africans are not actually that interested. South Africans are looking for things they don’t know. From a Gupta point of view, we’ve been exhausted by the news and we know exactly what is going on.”

Google South Africa announced the results of its 2018 Year in Search, offering a unique perspective on the year’s major moments.

“Four years ago, there were almost no South Africans on the personalities list,” says Atagana. “Over the years, South Africans have gotten more interested in South Africa, in searching on Google.”

That isn’t to say that international searches – like Meghan Markle – are not heavily searched by South Africans. But  they feature lower down on the lists.

From the World Cup to listeriosis, Zuma and Global Citizen, South Africans use search to find the things they really need to know.

These are the main trends revealed  by Google this week:

Top trending South African searches

  1. World Cup fixtures
  2. Load shedding
  3. Global Citizen
  4. Zuma
  5. Winnie Mandela
  6. HHP
  7. Listeriosis
  8. Black Panther
  9. Meghan Markle
  10. Mac Miller

Trending personalities

  1.    Jacob Zuma
  2. Cyril Ramaphosa
  3. Sbahle Mpisane
  4. Kevin Anderson
  5. Malusi Gigaba
  6. Ashwin Willemse
  7. Patrice Motsepe
  8. Cheryl Zondi
  9. Shamila Batohi
  10. Mlindo the Vocalist

Top Questions

  1. How did Avicii die?
  2. How old is Pharrell Williams?
  3. What is listeriosis?
  4. What is black data?
  5. How old is Prince Harry?
  6. How much are Global Citizen tickets?
  7. How to get pregnant?
  8. What time is the royal wedding?
  9. What happened to HHP?
  10. How old is Meghan Markle?

Top ‘near me’ searches

  1. Jobs near me
  2. Nandos near me
  3. Dischem near me
  4. McDonalds near me
  5. Guest house near me
  6. Postnet near me
  7. Steers near me
  8. Spar near me
  9. Debonairs near me
  10. Spur near me

Top women

  1. Winnie Mandela
  2. Meghan Markle
  3. Sbahle Mpisane
  4. Aretha Franklin
  5. Khloe Kardashian
  6. Sophie Ndaba
  7. Cheryl Zondi
  8. Demi Lovato
  9. Lerato Sengadi
  10. Siam Lee

The Year In Search 2018 minisite can be found here.

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Smartphones dip in 2018

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, worldwide smartphone shipments are expected to decline by 3% in 2018 before returning to low single-digit growth in 2019 and through 2022.

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While the on-going U.S.-China trade war has the industry on edge, IDC still believes that continued developments from emerging markets, mixed with potential around 5G and new product form factors, will bring the smartphone market back to positive growth.

Smartphone shipments are expected to drop to 1.42 billion units in 2018, down from 1.47 billion in 2017. However, IDC expects year-over-year shipment growth of 2.6% in 2019. Over the long-term, smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.57 billion units in 2022. From a geographic perspective, the China market, which represented 30% of total smartphone shipments in 2017, is finally showing signs of recovery. While the world’s largest market is still forecast to be down 8.8% in 2018 (worse than the 2017 downturn), IDC anticipates a flat 2019, then back to positive territory through 2022. The U.S. is also forecast to return to positive growth in 2019 (up 2.1% year over year) after experiencing a decline in 2018.

The slow revival of China was one of the reasons for low growth in Q3 2018 and this slowdown will persist into Q1 2019 as the market is expected to drop by 3% in Q4 2018. Furthermore, the recently lifted U.S. ban on ZTE had an impact on shipments in Q3 2018 and created a sizable gap that is yet to be filled heading into 2019.

“With many of the large global companies focusing on high-end product launches, hoping to draw in consumers looking to upgrade based on specifications and premium devices, we can expect head-to-head competition within this segment during the holiday quarter and into 2019 to be exceptionally high,” said Sangeetika Srivastava, senior research analyst with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers.

Though 2018 has fallen below expectations so far, the worldwide smartphone market is set to pick up on the shift toward larger screens and ultra-high-end devices. All the big players have further built out their portfolios with bigger screens and higher-end smartphones, including Apple’s new launch in September. In Q3 2018, the 6-inch to less than 7-inch screen size band became the most prominent band for the first time with more than four times year-over-year growth. IDC believes that larger-screen smartphones (5.5 inches and above) will lead the charge with volumes of 947.1 million in 2018, accounting for 66.7% of all smartphones, up from 623.3 million units and 42.5% share in 2017. By 2022, shipments of these larger-screen smartphones will move up to 1.38 billion units or 87.7% of overall shipment volume.

“What we consider a so-called normal size smartphone has shifted dramatically in a few short years and while we are stretching the limits with bezel-less devices, the next big switch to flexible screens will test our imaginations even further,” said Melissa Chau, associate research director with IDC’s Worldwide Mobile Device Trackers. “While this category of device is still nascent and won’t see major adoption in the year ahead, it’s exciting to see changes to the standard monoblock we are all so used to carrying.”

Platform Highlights

Android: Android’s smartphone share will remain stable at 85% throughout the forecast. Volumes are expected to grow at a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7% with shipments approaching 1.36 billion in 2022. Android is still the choice of the masses with no shift expected. Android average selling prices (ASPs) are estimated to grow by 9.6% in 2018 to US$258, up from US$235 in 2017. IDC expects this upward trajectory to continue through the forecast, but at a softened rate from 2019 and beyond. Not only are market players pushing upgraded specs and materials to offset decreasing replacement rates, but they are also serving the evolving consumer needs for better performance.

iOS: iOS smartphones are forecast to drop by 2.5% in 2018 to 210.4 million. The launch of expensive and bigger screen iOS smartphones in Q3 2018 helped Apple to raise its ASP, simultaneously making it somewhat difficult to increase shipments in the current market slump. IDC is forecasting iPhone shipments to grow at a five-year CAGR of 0.1%, reaching volumes of 217.3 million in 2022. Despite the challenges, there is no ambiguity that Apple will continue to lead the global premium market segment.

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