The BlackBerry Z30
The Z30, BlackBerry’s fourth smartphone based around the BB10 operating, was announced last week by the Canadian company, and I’ve spent time this week with the 5 inch touchscreen handset to see what BlackBerry can offer in this ‘second generation’ handset.
Last week also saw a few other announcements from BlackBerry, ranging from extensive job losses to a bid that would take the company back into private ownership. These are all going to have an impact on the Z30, but I’m going to address them in a more detailed article in the near future. Right now I just want to look at the Z30 ahead of its availability in the UK tomorrow.
Out of the box two things struck me. The first is that they’ve got the presentation sorted. A matt black box, with the Z30 proudly on the top tray. Below that a cardboard sleeve for the flip cover, and then the USB cables, AC charger, and in-ear headphones in the lower level. It all feels rather slick, professional, and gives a great first impression.
And then I found the spare battery. Because the Z30 is a sealed unit, this is an external battery pack for recharging the handset through the micro USB port. It’s one way to get around the short battery life that the Z10 suffered. The other way is to put a really big battery cell inside the handset, which they’ve done. With a 2880 mAh battery, the Z30 has a lot of power.
But that power does come with some caveats. The first is that much of the extra capacity is going to be used by the larger 5 inch capacitive touch-screen (now using Super AMOLED, rather than the LCD technology of the Z10), while the second is that the BB10 OS does not seem to be as efficient as other mobile operating systems. I’ll be watching the battery life as I review the handset and cover this more in the main review next week here on Forbes. BlackBerry has stated the Z30 will run for 25 hours with ‘varied use’.
Spec wise the handset is powered by a 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, an Adreno 320 GPU, and 2 GB or RAM, which is a similar load out to the middle-high end Android smartphones this handset will be in direct competition with. BlackBerry is also pushing the ‘natural sound’ capabilities of the device, with stereo speakers and improved audio handling for media playback and video calling.
The BlackBerry Z30 Hub
The other notable change in the Z30 (apart from the general scaling up of the size and specs) is the OS. The Z30 comes with v10.2 of the BB10 operating system. As a point change there’s nothing fundamentally new about the use or operation of the handset from the Z10, Q10, and Q5 that we’ve looked at previously. You still have the fascination with gestures replacing the home keys and status bars of other handsets, you still have the glance functionality to look at incoming messages over a number of social networks, services, and email boxes, you still have access to BBM, and the third party application support is still patchy.
Visible highlights of the 10.2 update can be seen in a number of places, but given the focus on messaging in the handset, the addition of the ‘Priority Hub’ is one to draw attention to. Over time, the Z30 will learn what messages are important to you, and will endeavour to highlight these so you can have quick access to them. With the potential avalanche of messages from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sources, this could prove useful to the busy Z30 user.
You can also reply to incoming messages without going to them through the hub. Receive a message alert across the top of the screen when you are working, and a quick swipe gesture down and you have the option to reply to the message from that screen. A nice touch, and one of many that have been added since the Z10 to help with your workflow around communications.
From this short time, the Z30 takes many lessons from the Z10 and the BlackBerry team has applied these to make the core experience of BB10.2 one that fits better with the connected experience of 2013, although I still think that being limited to a single Twitter account, and a lack of Facebook Pages inclusion in the hub, stops BB10 overall being anything other than a consumer focused OS, which is unfortunate given the focus on the prosumer that BlackBerry is now pushing for.
The BlackBerry Z30 on the Z10
Putting the new handset next to the older Z10, and you can see that the Z30 is a clear improvement. The physical styling of the handset is more welcoming and is a better fit in my hand; the increased screen size blends in to the front of the handset and the extra size takes away the cramped feeling of BB10 that hindered the first all-touchscreen on the Z10 (and show just how poorly suited a physical keyboard is to the new OS).
But being better than the last handset is not enough. The Z30 is going to be placed alongside handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S4, the iPhone 5S, and the Nokia Lumia 925/928. My gut feeling is that while the Z30 handles the basics well, it will struggle when you push the envelope.
So for the next week I’ll be living with the BlackBerry Z30 to see how well you can push the envelope with the handset, both as it stands now, and if all of BlackBerry’s online services were to be switched off. There’s a strong chance that this could be the last new handset from BlackBerry, and if that is the case I hope they can go out with their head held high.
There is a market for the Z30, but I don’t think it’s as large as BlackBerry hope. In an unbiased world many people would happily consider the Z30 in-store, but I don’t see it being an immediate ‘must buy’, more like a handset that needs careful consideration. That means the business issues around BlackBerry are going to come into the decision process, and that will make the Z30 an interesting purchase to justify.
TODAY’S TOP TECH NEWS, NOV 29: EX-LAZADA EXECUTIVES’ STARTUP EASYSHIP RAISES US$4M
Easyship’s platform plugin and integrations enable stores to print labels, automate international paperwork, and display real-time courier rates
Hong Kong-based Easyship raises US$4M Series A [press release]
Easyship, a shipping platform for active SMBs to simplify and automate logistics, announced today it has raised a US$4 million in Series A round of funding from a slew of investors, including Maximilian Bittner, ex-CEO & Founder of Lazada and Senior Advisor of Alibaba Group; and Richard Lepeu, ex-CEO of global luxury giant Richemont and board member of Yoox Net-A-Porter Group.
Existing investors Lamivoie Capital Partners and Richard Lepeu, as well as Rubicon Venture Capital, One Way Ventures, Kima Ventures and Picus Capital, have also co-invested.
The startup was founded in 2015 by Tommaso Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac (both formerly worked at Lazada), and Paul Lugagne Delpon. Easyship’s cloud-based platform helps e-commerce merchants ship worldwide. Its platform plugin and integrations enable stores to print labels, automate international paperwork, display real-time courier rates, and offer their customers dynamic tax and duties at checkout.
The startup has offices in New York, Singapore, Netherlands, Australia, and Hong Kong.
Singapore’s GIC backs EV charging network ChargePoint’s US$240M funding [DealStreetAsia]
Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC has joined a group of investors backing the US$240 million Series H funding in ChargePoint, a California-headquartered electric vehicle charging network, according to an announcement.
ChargePoint claims to have more than 57,000 independently owned public and semi-public charging spots and thousands of customers.
Other investors in the round include American Electric Power, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, Chevron Technology Ventures, Clearvision and Daimler Truck & Buses. Quantum Energy Partners was the lead investor.
Korea’s blockchain casino project MECA Casino raises investment from ICON [press release]
South Korea-based blockchain project ICON has made a strategic investment in MECA Casino, a blockchain casino project.
MECA Casino is a DApp (Decentralised Application) of ICON and it is a reverse ICO project by Crypto Meca. MECA Casino has been developing casino games for more than three years and is ready to launch blackjack and baccarat table games. MECA Casino plans to open ‘the largest decentralised casino platform’ including sports betting solution by Q4 of 2019.
‘Master System’ of MECA Casino enables users to become ‘master’ who is an operator of casinos to be profitable from casino operation. ‘Masters’ can upgrade their casinos to attract more players, gain higher profits, and trade casinos with other potential Masters. Players can exchange MECA Coin (MCA) with MECA Chip (MCC) to play games in MECA Casino or trade casinos.
Revolut is ready to launch in Singapore and Japan [TechCrunch]
Fintech startup Revolut has been teasing Asian market expansions for more than a year, but it sounds like it might finally happen. The company has secured licenses to operate in Singapore and Japan. It now expects to launch its service in Q1 2019.
In Singapore, the company was granted a Remittance License by the Monetary Authority and a Stored Value Facility approval — these two things combined let Revolut users hold money as well as send and spend money. In Japan, the company has been authorised to operate by Japan’s Finance Service Agency. __ yahoo news
MICROSOFT WINS US$480MIL ARMY BATTLEFIELD CONTRACT
Microsoft Corp has won a US$480mil (RM2.01bil) contract to supply prototypes for augmented reality systems to the Army for use on combat missions and in training, the Army said.
The contract, which could eventually lead to the military purchasing over 100,000 headsets, is intended to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy”, according to a government description of the programme.
“Augmented reality technology will provide troops with more and better information to make decisions. This new work extends our longstanding, trusted relationship with the Department of Defence to this new area,” a Microsoft spokesman said in an emailed statement.
The US Army and the Israeli military have already used Microsoft’s HoloLens devices in training, but plans for live combat would be a significant step forward.
HoloLens is one of the leading consumer-grade headsets, but a large consumer market doesn’t yet exist; a video made for the European Patent Office this spring said it had sold about 50,000 devices. That’s about half the number the Army expects to buy through its augmented reality programme, which is called the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
With the contract, the Army immediately becomes one of Microsoft’s most important HoloLens consumers. It expects devices to vary from their consumer-grade counterparts in a handful of key respects. In a document shared with companies bidding on the contract, the Army said it wanted to incorporate night vision and thermal sensing, measure vital signs like breathing and “readiness”, monitor for concussions and offer hearing protection. It said the winning bidder would be expected to deliver 2,500 headsets within two years, and exhibit the capacity for full-scale production.
The contract went though a bidding process designed to encourage the Army to do business with companies who aren’t traditional defence contractors. Magic Leap, which makes the main competitor to HoloLens for the consumer market, also pursued the contract. In early August, the Army held meetings with 25 companies interested in participating in some way, including Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp, and Raytheon Co. The technology industry’s cooperation with the US military and law enforcement has become increasingly tense over the last year, with employees at companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Amazon.com Inc pushing back against government contracts.
Earlier this year, hundreds of Microsoft workers signed a petition criticising a contract with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement that Microsoft had originally said included some of its AI software. In October, a blog post purportedly written by Microsoft employees urged the company not to bid on a multi-billion dollar US military cloud contract.
“Many Microsoft employees don’t believe that what we build should be used for waging war,” they wrote.
Later that month, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer, Brad Smith, said the company would continue to sell software to the US military. Smith wrote that employees with ethical qualms with projects would be allowed to move to other work within the company.
“Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and other technologies are raising new and profoundly important issues, including the ability of weapons to act autonomously. As we have discussed these issues with governments, we’ve appreciated that no military in the world wants to wake up to discover that machines have started a war,” he wrote.
But we can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation.” – Bloomberg
TRUATA WINS PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL PRIVACY INNOVATION AWARD
Truata, the Dublin based data anonymisation and analytics company, has today been awarded the 2018 HPE-IAPP Privacy Innovation Award at the IAPP Europe Data Protection Conference in Brussels.
Truata was founded in early 2018 by Mastercard and IBM to deliver next-generation data protection and analytics to the marketplace. In awarding Truata with this honour, the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) has recognised the service that Truata offers to companies who want to continue to leverage their data to innovate and grow while respecting and safeguarding the privacy of their customers.
The Truata Anonymisation Solution is designed to deliver actionable insights to its customers who operate in multiple industries including financial services, telecommunications, hospitality, retail and travel. Truata independently anonymises a customer’s data, giving that customer the freedom to carry out analysis while protecting people’s personal data. Running on the IBM Cloud, the Truata solution is specifically designed to fully meet the high regulatory thresholds for anonymisation as the original source data and the anonymised data will not at any time co-exist in one organisation. This ensures that analytics can be conducted across a customer’s entire data set while only analysing the fully-anonymised versions of that data.
Based on the principle of privacy by design, and using the latest data privacy technologies developed by IBM Research, the Truata Anonymisation Solution benefits from innovative technological, structural, legal and organisational safeguards. It enables companies to both maximise their data analytics utility and minimise their risk of non-compliance with privacy regulations.
On receiving the award, Aoife Sexton, Truata Chief Privacy Officer said, “The changing regulatory environment is bringing about a real challenge for companies to understand how they can use data to foster innovation but do so in a legally compliant and ethical manner. We have developed a solution that addresses this challenge by allowing companies to continue to use their data for analytics – but in a responsible way that is compliant with the GDPR, respecting both the letter and the spirit of the regulation. We are grateful to the IAPP for recognising this new innovative solution.”
Felix Marx, CEO of Truata, added, “Post GDPR, companies still need to generate value and insights from their data through analytics if they want to innovate and provide their customers the services and products they want. The optimal way to do this, while respecting your customers’ privacy rights, is to have your data anonymised by an independent third party as part of an end-to-end service including world class analytics. Truata is the first to market with this solution.”
“In today’s global digital economy, organisations will play a critical role in furthering innovation and convenience, while handling data responsibly and ethically,” said JoAnn Stonier, chief data officer for Mastercard and Truata board member. “At Mastercard, we saw the GDPR as an opportunity to enhance our data practices and—with Truata —help other businesses do the same. This award from IAPP is a terrific honour and validation of the importance of finding a path that enables both data innovation and stringent privacy protections.”
Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and issued by the IAPP, the world’s largest information privacy community and resource with more than 32,000 members in over 100 countries, the much coveted Innovation Award recognises unique programmes and services in global privacy and data protection across both private and public sectors.
“The 2018 HPE-IAPP Privacy Innovation Award is presented to Truata, an exemplar safeguarding tool built on the principle of privacy by design. This award spotlights unique programs and services in global privacy and data protection; we are honouring Truata for practising fine innovation,” said IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes.