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These smartphones are the business

Two new smartphones on the market show that even in the Bring Your Own Device era, there is still life left in phones geared towards the enterprise market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The corporate technology revolution that carries the label “Bring Your Own Device” means individuals in many organisations now choose what phone or computer they bring to work, rather than having a standard imposed by Company Policy.

But that doesn’t mean the end of phones geared towards the enterprise. Quite the opposite: BYOD has resulted in a network nightmare for many organisations, and even a backlash, as companies seek to regain control.

It helps, however, if the phones they want to mandate for company use make sense to both the company and the employee.

Two phones released in South Africa in the past week promise to do just that.

The new BlackBerry Classic harks back to the once wildly popular Bold, boasting a QWERTY keyboard combined with a more generous and interactive display than the old Bold could ever offer. It also brings back the trackpad, which, along with the keyboard, set BlackBerry apart. The return to these near-retro features gave the device the “Classic” label.

The company describes is as a “no-nonsense smartphone built to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard”.

The other big benefit is a 22-hour battery life, building on the battery management that puts BlackBerry ahead of most of the pack, along with Sony and Huawei. Long life is helped by a smaller touch screen – only 3.5-inch – but which offers excellent HD resolution at 294 dpi. Corning Gorilla Glass 3 means less scratching and potentially more durability.

classic1

The phone offers the usual BlackBerry World app store, as well as Android apps through the Amazon Appstore. The BlackBerry 10 web browser is claimed to be among the top mobile browsers for “web fidelity”, i.e. online content appearing as it was intended. Notifications and messages can be brought to a tablet or computer via BlackBerry Blend, underlining its productivity credentials for the workplace.

The BlackBerry 10.3.1 operating system is powered by a 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and supported by 2GB RAM and 16GB of device storage, expandable by up to 128GB. A 2MP front camera and 8MP rear upgraded imaging sensors.

Finally, it offers an answer to Siri and S-Voice with BlackBerry Assistant, a digital assistant and can be used with voice and text commands to manage email, contacts, and calendar, among other native BlackBerry 10 applications. Most significantly, the feature responds to different contexts, such as responding silently if one types and speaking back if one speaks.

Individually, any one of these features is available elsewhere. As a package, it is a compelling executive option. The price tag of R6000 upward means it is not aimed at the younger generation that made the Curve one of the most popular phones in Africa.

That could well turn out to be a target market for another phone aimed squarely at the enterprise.

The Proline SP4 is the first Windows phone to be branded by a South African computer manufacturer, namely Pinnacle Africa. The Proline range of PCs, notebooks and TVs are well-known across the continent, with 15 000 units rolling off the assembly line every month.

Pinnacle’s decision to emblazon the same brand on a phone had less to do with market share than with a need it encountered among its corporate clients.

“You won’t find it in stores,” says Max Stone, brand executive at Pinnacle Africa. “We’re targeting it at the corporate market as an affordable business tool. It’s also aimed at an entry-level user within the corporate market, so it still has a manual, and we’ve set up a website for support and frequently asked questions.”

The phone offers several differentiators for corporates. The most attractive, apart from price, is the option of branding the cover with the company’s logo, and to preload the device with the company’s app if it has one for staff. That is all made possibly by Pinnacle’s own assembly line, which is geared to customising products belt elsewhere.

The phone is also a dual-SIM handset, meaning that it can carry both a company SIM for business calls, paid by the organisation, and a pay-as-you-go SIM for private use. A Kid’s Corner provides security of company information – and blocking unwanted content and payments – when the phone is used by family members at home.

That’s not the only area where it attempts to emulate BlackBerry’s security reputation. It is designed to boot up in such a way that malicious coding can’t be inserted. As a Windows 8.1 phone, every app is validated in the Windows Store.

At only R999, the specs of the phone will be appealing to both the employer and employee in the target market. A 4-inch screen, 1.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 512MB of RAM and 4GB internal storage don’t shoot the lights out for high-end users, but those would probably be BYOD troublemakers anyway! The presence of FM radio is probably the dead giveaway, since that is a feature in demand in the mass market, but rare on high-end phones,

“We’re expecting good take-up,” says Stone. “Then we’ll also look at other devices, perhaps a high-spec option like a 5.5-inch or 6-inch phablet. We can go all the way to 8-inch devices and still use the Windows 10 environment.”

That may be significant, but not nearly as significant as the impact such phones could make in the ever-shifting corporate environment.

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at http://bit.ly/GGadgets

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Mobile is the new branch

Standard Bank has launched an account for mobile devices that gives back 500MB of data a month

Standard Bank has introducd a R4.95p/m bank account called MyMo that customers can open on their mobile devices, loaded with data and airtime offerings and other benefits such as virtual and Gold physical card.

MyMo account holders will also enjoy the convenience of a cheque account through a Visa and Mastercard gold card. Once the account is open, users can choose to either receive R50 in airtime or 500MB of data a month, if their card is swiped more than four times a month. A further megabyte of data is loaded on the account for every R20 spent.

“MyMo is an account for everyone, whether you just landed your first job or have been around the block. With no documentation required it only takes a few minutes to open the account,” says Funeka Montjane, Chief Executive for Personal and Business Banking, South Africa, at Standard Bank Group. “For just R4.95 a month customer will be able to enjoy free swipes and ATM withdrawals at only R6.50 for amounts under R 1 000.

“Mobile is the new branch. This account is about bringing the mobile branch into customers hands, it is about convenience and security while banking.”

She says mobile offers low cost transactional banking which integrates people and businesses into the new connected economy, making mobile the new branch ecosystem that will drive and connect Africa’s growth. Physical connections to the economy are rapidly changing to digital where banks have to move from being financial institutions to service organisations.

“In the past people congregated in communities and eventually cities to maximise the advantages of connectivity. Today a simple hand-held device has the potential to open infinite doors, transforming individuals’ access to opportunities, regardless of where they are, and like never before in history. 

“Historically, a bank account represented access to economic citizenship. Today, having a simple device enabling digital access to a modern banking platform is a passport to global connectivity and vast human development potential.”

The bank says it is using technology, and mobile phones in particular, to deliver low-cost transactional channels accessible to all our customers. The evolution in mobile can be seen in transaction options like cash back at the retail checkout till rather than the ATM, free digital banking rather than using a branch, and the ability to transact using digital wallets, even without a bank account.

“Developing comprehensive connected ecosystems requires a mind-set change from Africa’s banks,” says Montjane. “Banks will evolve away from traditional financial service organisations, into service ecosystems enabling broad universal access to almost everything like enhanced purchasing experiences of vehicles and homes, online procurement of goods and services and lifestyle elements like rewards and travel. 

“These connectivity drivers will also act to future-proof evolving connectivity ecosystem by allowing us to offer untold future services while deriving income from as yet unrealised revenue streams,.   

From a customer perspective, the kind of ecosystems of knowledge, access and, ultimately, connectivity that banks will come to provide will radically transform the share of life that almost all individuals will be able to access.”

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Two-thirds of SA staff hide social media from bosses

With 90% of people in employment going online several times a day, it can be hard for most workers to keep their private and work-life separate during the working day (and beyond). The recently published Global Privacy Report from Kaspersky Lab reveals that 64% of South African consumers choose to hide social media activity from their boss. This secretive stance at work also extends to their colleagues, with 60% of South Africans also preferring not to reveal online activities to their co-workers.

Globally, the average employee spends an astonishing 13 years and two months at work during their lifetime. Interestingly though, not all this time is directly related to solving work tasks or earning a promotion: almost two thirds (64%) of consumers admit visiting non-work-related websites every day from their desk.

Not surprisingly, 35% of South African employees are against their employer knowing which websites they visit. However, more interestingly, 60% of South African are even against their colleagues knowing about their online activities. This probably means that colleagues constitute an even greater threat to future perspectives of an office slouch or maybe the relationships with colleagues are more informal and therefore, more valuable.

On the contrary, social media activity appears to be a less private domain for many and therefore, more suitable for sharing with colleagues but not the boss. This is probably because workers fear harming the public image of a company or interest in decreased staff productivity motivates companies to monitor employees’ social networks and make career changing decisions based on that. Such policies have led to 64% of South Africans saying that they don’t want to reveal their social media activities to their boss and 53% even don’t want to disclose this information to their colleagues.

A further 29% are against showing the content of their messages and emails to their employer. In addition, 3% even said that their career was irrevocably damaged as a consequence of their personal information being leaked. Thus, people are worried about how to build a favourable internal reputation and how not to destroy existing workplace relationships.

“As going online is an integral part of our life nowadays, lines continue to blur between our digital existence at work and at home. And that’s neither good nor bad. That’s how we live in the digital age. Just keep remembering that as an employee you need to be increasingly cautious of what exactly you post on social media feeds or what websites you prefer using at work. One misconceived action on the internet could have an irrevocable long-term impact on even the most ambitious worker’s ability to climb the career ladder of their choice in the future,” comments Marina Titova, Head of Consumer Product Marketing at Kaspersky Lab.

To ensure workers don’t fall prey of the internet threats at a work, there are some core guidelines to adhere to in the digital age:

  • Don’t post anything that could be considered defamatory, obscene, proprietary or libellous. If in doubt, don’t post.
  • Be aware that system administrators may at least, in theory, be informed about your web browsing patterns.
  • Don’t harass, threaten, discriminate or disparage against any colleague, partner, competitor or customer. Neither on social networks or in messages, emails, nor by any other means.
  • Don’t post photographs of other employees, customers, vendors, suppliers or company products without prior written permission.
  • Start using Kaspersky Password Manager to ensure your social media and other personal accounts are not at risk of unauthorised access by someone else in an office. Install a reliable security solution such as Kaspersky Security Cloud to protect your personal devices.

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