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The Huawei P7: proof that well priced doesn’t mean junk

You could say I have a borderline weird fascination with mid-range Android phones. The Android device I ever owned was a Motorola Milestone and while it promised decent performance at a reasonable price; it was absolutely rubbish. It was so bad that I ended up forking out the cash for an iPhone rather than pull my hair out using it.

 

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My perception didn’t change three years later when I helped a family member with a Samesung S4 Mini. Performance wasn’t bad but you shouldn’t have lag on a phone straight out of the box. I have a simple rule: avoid anything but an Android flagship device like the plague.

Bearing this in mind I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Huawei P7. Firstly, there’s a perception that since it’s a Chinese made device there might be an inferior build quality and secondly, this was a firmly mid range device.

I could waffle on for hours about specs such as processor and memory but in the real world those mean very little. At the end of the day owning a phone comes down to one, simple metric: does this phone make me want to throw it against the wall? Good news on that front, the Huawei was returned to their PR company in one piece.

Day to day the Huawei is a very pleasant device; it turns on quickly and gets does everything you need. There is some lag when installing apps but I’ve found this on almost every Android device I’ve used. As a bonus it has LTE meaning you get super fast data access assuming you find a tower that supports the service. Build quality is also great with the phone looking very much like an iPhone 4 just squashed flat and, as a result, slightly stretched out. It’s light and slips into your pocket easily. So far, so good. Being an Instagram fan I must say the camera is pretty great as well. There was something about a 5-megapixel front facing camera but for me that means I can just take higher resolution pictures up my nostrils.

I had one major frustration with the Huawei in that the company has created their own Android skin that takes a bit of getting used to. It’s essentially a copy of an iPhone in that there are pages of apps rather than an app drawer ala Samesung, HTC, LG and the rest. In addition you can download some truly heinous themes and none of them really ever visually appealed to me. However for under R5,000 I can cope with a bit of visual confusion.

I haven’t fully explored this but I’m pretty sure that the Huawei P7 is the cheapest Android phone with LTE and in my opinion if you want a well built, speedy and attractive device for a great price then you shouldn’t even bother looking at Samesung alternatives.

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An Uber in South Africa update

I’ve written before about Uber and how I thought it was a bad idea in South Africa (read about it here). I’ve used the service in both Joburg and Cape Town and have been suitably impressed by the service. You request a cab on your phone, they call you to confirm and then pick you up. Simple and easy. In Cape Town the pricing was totally different making the service both affordable and easy. In Joburg though the minimum cost per trip was R85, making it quite expensive. Things have changed and these are the new prices:

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My two week #LumiaChallenge

Those who know me will be aware of the fact that I’m a big Nokia fan. The first phone I ever got was a second hand 5110 and I owned six or seven Nokia’s until I got an iPhone in 2007. While supporters had to suffer through the brand insisting on using Symbian for their operating system about two years back they ditched Symbian for Windows Phone and the Lumia range. Since then there’s been a lot of uproar about Windows Phone not having the same level of apps that iPhone and Android and while this is true, the reality is that living with a Lumia isn’t as crippling as one would think. As an experiment I decided to use a Nokia Lumia 925 and use it as my primary phone for two weeks. I’m not going to speak about the phone (despite it being great) but focus specifically on the operating system. Before I go into the phone I’ll quickly describe my general use case.

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A first look at the LG G2

I’ve recently had the pleasure of getting an LG G2 to review and I actually cannot wait to review this bad boy. I’m surprisingly loving an Android phone and more importantly, it’s not junk. I was always skeptical of LG devices but I can safely say that after using the G2 and the LG built Nexus 4 they’re definitely one of the better Android manufacturers.

So here’s the thing: I’ve recently tried the HTC One, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and a Sony Xperia V and I’ve been loving Android lately. It’s very, very good and much more innovative compared to Apple’s iOS 7. At heart I’m still an iPhone guy but that’s because I’ve got a Macbook and iPad so everything connects perfectly together. That said, I am very much in the Google ecosystem (all my business emails go through Google Apps) so this isn’t a tough transition. Lets get on to the device before I get into an ecosystem discussion:

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Why the “iPhone 5C” is genius

I’ve owned a fairly substantial amount of phones. From my first Nokia 5110 to my current iPhone 5 I’ve owned and reviewed more phones than I can even count. However, if you ask me what my favourite phone of all time I’d have to say it was my iPhone 4. For a device to last me the usual two year cellular contract period is highly unusual. I loved that phone and even after two years it was still going relatively strong. In the end though, the contract cycle continues and I got an iPhone 5. Such is the vanity of the iPhone owner. Interestingly you can still buy the iPhone 4 and 4S, a testament to the longevity of these devices. No one is still buying a Samsung Galaxy S2, it’s a thing of the past.

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What’s in a technology name?

Technology names are tough, we’ve become so desensitised to names such as the “Huawei G590″ or the “Lenovo T410″ that we accept arb naming conventions. There’s the classic example of how Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the late nineties and took their range from the likes of the “Quadra 700″ to the infinitely simpler “iBook”, “iMac”, “Powerbook” and “PowerMac”. Even though there were more than one product per range, you knew immediately which product was for you based on your computing requirements.

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Introducing the Wallee

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with the Wallee, a brand of iPad and iPhone accessories that give your phone and tablet some cool abilities. Basically you clip on a case and can hook into cool accessories such as the wall mount, a stand, hand strap and my personal favourite: The Pivot which makes your tablet into a mini iMac. Pair a Bluetooth keyboard and you’ve got a cool workstation.

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Where’s the vertical integration in digital?

Vertical integration is a classic business tactic: Why just own the chicken farm when you can own the trucks that transport the chickens as well as the restaurant that serves the chicken. The benefits are that you can control your entire supply chain so if one business isn’t doing amazingly then you have the opportunity to supplement your income in the other businesses.

Here are some other benefits:

  • Lower costs due to eliminated market transaction costs
  • Improved quality of supplies
  • Critical resources can be acquired through VI
  • Improved coordination in supply chain
  • Greater market share
  • Secured distribution channels
  • Facilitates investment in specialized assets (site, physical-assets and human-assets)
  • New competencies

The downsides are fairly dire: you can spend so much time diversifying your workforce and strategy that all your businesses fall apart. If done wrong, vertical integration could result in multiple failures. Here’s a great diagram on the topic:

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In digital and specifically in South Africa we’ve not seeing much in terms of vertical integration. The only example I can think of in recent history is that of Mr Delivery being bought by Takealot in order to secure their distribution chain. In my mind this was a brilliant move as delivery is the weakest point of e-commerce businesses in South Africa. Again though, I can’t think of much more.

It would be interesting to see an agency in South Africa buying another, smaller agency in order to secure production or buying a media outlet to ensure preferential rates.

Fundamentally we’ve got an industry that’s still finding its feet so it’s going to be tough to start investing up or down your supply chain. The reality is that if I were a large digital business, I’d be jumping on opportunities such as this as it’s still cheap to buy into the digital industry.

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The business of hotel WiFi

I recently went to an event launching WiFi at all Tsogo Sun properties around the country. Press release blurb starts here:

In its ongoing quest to create great experiences, Tsogo Sun has installed high speed quality connectivity Wi-Fi in all its hotels that is free up to a varying data limit per room per day, depending on which grade of hotel the guest is staying in.

 

In Tsogo Sun’s Deluxe hotels, 750MB is free per room per day to in-house guests; in Southern Sun hotels, the cap is 500MB per room per day; in Garden Court hotels, the cap is 350MB per room per day; and in StayEasy hotels, the cap is 250MB per room per day. In all the hotels, these data limits are limited to a maximum of three devices per room. The free high speed, quality connectivity Wi-Fi service was launched in Tsogo Sun hotels at the start of June 2013, setting a new Wi-Fi standard in the hospitality industry in South Africa.

I think it’s a great move by Tsogo and while it might initially be painful it’s a step in the right direction. Tweeting about this led to an interesting debate: surely WiFi in a hotel is akin to having towels? Well the counter argument has two points:

  1. WiFi has always been a profit line item for a hotel. Suddenly you’re looking at tens of thousands of rands lost per month. That’s not insignificant in this economy.
  2. Not everyone uses the WiFi so surely it’s being subsidised for those that use it by those that don’t? Why should there be a small charge on my room for something I’m not using?

In the US WiFi is fairly common in hotels yet in Europe this isn’t always the case. After spending six months selling a hotel product related to marketing I can say that hotels only care about two things: Can you make more money or lower costs. WiFi doesn’t really fit either of those short term but it’s definitely a longer term goal that all hotels should aim towards. People will pick a hotel with free WiFi over another if the price or location isn’t that different.

It’s about time hotels and malls realise that WiFi is a people puller rather than an expense.

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Some thoughts on the launch of WeChat in South Africa

Chat messaging software WeChat is up against some tough competition in Africa. Off the top of my head there is BBM, iMessage, Whatsapp, Facebook Chat, Mxit and 2Go that are ridiculously popular around the content. The service that started in China recently went from 50 million to 70 million users outside China in just six weeks. In China there are over 300 million people using the service. Now, they’re coming to Africa:

Five months after launching in the US, in addition to operations in South America, Europe, Australia and its native Asia, Tencent’s newest focus is Africa, specifically the continent’s biggest economy. With the help of its partner Naspers—which holds a 34% stake in the Chinese firm—Tencent is targeting South Africa’s 50 million people with a marketing campaign to promote WeChat.

WeChat competes directly with other well-known companies like Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and LINE, with a suite of functions geared towards voice, video and text messaging. Its CEO, Pony Ma, has said that “internationalization is Tencent’s dream,” and it scored a major marketing coup this week by launching WeChat commercials featuring the internationally beloved footballer Lionel Messi.

This is fairly exciting considering the potential for smartphone growth in Africa. Internationally smartphone purchases have overtaken feature phones and we’re sure to see this trend expand into Africa around 2016. Considering that WeChat provides voice chat I’d say the network operators should be worried.

They’ve started a global campaign that features football superstar, Lionel Messi. He joins their impressive team of ambassadors, including musicians, artists, fashion icons and VIPs:

If you’re keen on getting videos, voice messages and photos from Messi, you can – by downloading WeChat and adding his official account ID: MessiOfficial. You can also win a copy of Fifa 13 for any platform if you leave a comment below.

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WeChat is free and offers unique features like a “Hold to Talk” feature, video chat, as well as image, video and music sharing. You can also choose to communicate one-on-one, or within closed social networks through the “Moments” feature.

With the might of Tencent and Naspers behind them, WeChat can only be massive.

Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to find out more about what they have to offer.