Two-in-one combination tablet/laptops usually come at a price that makes laptops more attractive, but now low-cost options are emerging, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
Tablets that are designed with docking keyboards and better known as 2-in-1 tablets have long been touted as an ideal compromise between the portability of a tablet and the productivity of a keyboard device.
However, the cost of most of the options available in the South African market is often higher than that of a reasonable laptop.
For example, a 15.6-inch HP Celeron notebook with a 500GB hard drive and Windows 10, can be had for as little as R4999. An Asus 2-in-1 Transformer Book with 11.6-inch screen costs more than R6000. Granted, it comes with the versatility of a detachable tablet that can also be flipped round on the keyboard to become an effective display or presentation device.
The tablet portion can be used to continue working in settings that are often too cramped for a fold-up notebook – ranging from buses and taxis to economy class seats on aircraft. Laptops come into their own when the trackpad and keyboard are essential for productivity applications like Word and Excel.
The challenge is to get the best of both worlds at a down-to-earth price. Now, solutions are beginning to emerge.
A local company called Inclusive Solutions has become South African distributor of a new range of low-cost 2-in-1 laptops under the Venturer brand. It is offering a basic 10.1-inch model called the BravoWin, but it is more likely to make inroads with the EliteWin 11K, an 11.6-inch device retailing at under R4 000.
Aside from the regular laptop mode, as the 2-in-1 format implies, it can also be used in tablet mode and display mode – with the tablet section reversed on the keyboard dock. It also offers a presentation mode similar to that of Lenovo’s Yoga devices, in the shape of an open laptop overturned and resting on the edges of the keyboard and tablet.
A multi-touch capacitive touch screen means the tablet screen is fairly responsive. Along with an Intel Atom 1.44GHz processor and 4GB RAM, the system is not too shabby either.
The one drawback is storage space, which comes in at a stingy 32GB. Once the operating system and basic apps are installed, that doesn’t leave much room for a modest collection of music, photos and movies. In North America and Europe, on-device storage is becoming less of an issue as access to cloud storage becomes cheaply and widely available.
However, Inclusive Solutions has come up with its own local solution, bundling the device with a 64GB micro SD card, making for a total 96GB capacity. That is still not massive but, considering the device also has both USB and micro-USB ports, storage on peripheral devices becomes a viable option. The drives are both positioned on the side of the tablet component, making this one of the few tablets on the market with multi-USB functionality.
A Mini HDMI port for connecting to a TV, 2MP front and rear cameras, 1366 x 768 resolution, and 8 hours battery life round out a set of fairly straightforward features. It is a sturdy unit that will appeal to students and those starting out in the working world.
It’s closest competition is likely to be the 2-in-1 Alcatel Plus 10, with almost identical features but a slightly smaller screen, at 10.6-inches. Launched in South Africa late last year, it also has slightly lower screen resolution, of 1280 x 800.
It’s standout feature is a keyboard that doubles as a Wi-Fi hotspot for up to 15 users. This all comes with a recommended retail price of R3600, positioning it as another alternative for students and young users.
Both the Venturer and the Alcatel options are ideal for school use when iPads are either too costly or do not meet productivity needs. But there is one more factor that gives these devices an edge at their price: they provide a laptop format with touch-screen capabilities – a feature that would add almost the cost of these devices to any standard laptop.
Where is the pickup truck emoji?
With billions of emoji sent daily and nearly every mode of transportation including cars, scooters, boats, spaceships and ski lifts among the 3,000 approved icons available to emoji users, truck fans noticed a glaring omission: There is no pickup truck. Ford decided it was time to do something about this and is celebrating World Emoji Day with the debut of the pickup truck emoji.
“When customers started demanding a truck emoji, our drive for continuous innovation meant we knew we had to help make it happen,” said Todd Eckert, Ford truck group marketing manager. “Given F-Series’ status as America’s best-selling truck for 42 consecutive years, there’s no one better than Ford to help bring an all-new pickup truck emoji to hard-working texters around the globe.”
The Ford Ranger is one of the top three best-selling vehicles in South Africa having sold 12 784 units in the country in the first half of 2019.
In 2018, Ford submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium – the organization that reviews and approves proposals for new emoji – to add a truck to emoji keyboards everywhere. Now, the pickup truck emoji has been short-listed as a candidate for inclusion in a future version of Unicode.
The concept emoji’s capable styling has been tuned to meet current trends. “Our team spent a lot of time digging through message boards, texting influencers and watching social media feeds to really understand our customers’ needs,” said Eric Grenier, Ford social media manager. “People want a truck emoji that’s fresh, stylish, carries their ideas, and ‘tows’ the line on what a truck means. The end result is a modern icon that should give all truck fans a smiley face emoji.”
If the pickup truck emoji is approved in early 2020, the design will be customized for all mobile platforms to meet the needs of customers – from skilled tradespeople to active families and emoji lovers alike.
How Africa tech meets Africa demands
By MVELASE PEPPETTA, freelance writer
From Facebook to Google, the world’s largest tech companies are increasingly looking to Africa and other developing economies as key markets where to ensure the continued growth of their businesses. Policy makers in African governments are also making sure their economies are preparing for a tech-focused future.
For instance, in South Africa the government has indicated its goal of ensuring its economy is geared to answering the needs of the “fourth industrial revolution” and Malawi’s Reserve Bank announced a policy to have all local businesses offer at least one method of digital payment. But while much can still be untapped from the African tech ecosystem it is a very active scene. According to the 2018 venture investment report by WeeTracker, African startups raised a record US$725.6 million across 458 deals in 2018.
Imagining what is on the way is on the way is certainly exciting, it is also just as important that we keep an eye out for what already is out there in terms of African tech developed to provide solutions for uniquely African demands.
A South African service, Abalobi Marketplace is a particularly unique service in that it is designed to ensure that small-scale fishers are supported within the fishing industry. The app which currently services 140 restaurants allows chefs to source fish directly from small-scale fisher who load what they have caught onto the app. Chefs can also place requests on the app for a particular catch. Launched in 2017 by Abalobi, a non-profit working to empower small-scale fishers, the app services restaurants primarily in the Cape Town region but has already started working with restaurants in Johannesburg. For chefs, it provides them with the ability to source far fresher fish than can traditionally be provided. But for the 200 odd fishing families who use the app, tackling decades of entrenched inequality in the South African fishing supply-chain, the app allows them to receive fair price for their catch.
Similar to Abalobi, while its most commonly referred to as a “Uber for domestic cleaners” SweepSouth is another service that also touts itself as looking to tackle decades of inequality in South Africa. At its most basic, SweepSouth is a service that allows people looking for domestic workers, whether for home or office, to book them using a mobile app. However, according to SweepSouth’s founder Aisha Pandor the service is also committed to the women finding work opportunities through the app. In that regard, SweepSouth not only provides them with benefits like accidental death and disability cover at no cost to the domestic worker but at a far more basic level, also pays domestic workers who find work through the app at a far higher rate than South Africa’s legislated minimum wage. While currently operating in South Africa only, SweepSouth has mentioned plans to scale their services into the rest of the continent.
Using the internet and cell phone technology to answer the needs of immigrants working in South Africa, Mama Money looks to undercut traditional financial services by allowing its users to send money across borders at far lower rates. Described as Africa’s first completely cashless money transfer system, when answering why they launched the business, Mama Money’s founders Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon have said, “We wanted to get into business to help others and we knew that there were millions of migrant workers in South Africa who send money home to their families, but battle with the transfer fees. We thought this presented a perfect opportunity to disrupt and help people get more money home.”
Established in 2011, Quicket has transformed how event organisers and ticket buyers engage with a range of events – from concerts and sports to yoga and fashion shows. Unlike traditional ticketing companies, Quicket allows organisers to create an event and start selling tickets without needing a website and imposing onerous contracts, or big fees. The company’s offerings have resulted in seven years’ of exponential growth with James Tagg, Quicket co-founder explaining that today the platform has widespread adoption from some of the continent’s largest festivals through to micro gatherings, and everything in between, including fundraising drives and school related events and funds collections.. What sets Quicket apart from its competitors is that it gives event organisers complete control, whether they are planning to host 10 or 10 000 people.