Aldar sells mega project plots for school, hypermarket, clinic

Aldar Properties has announced it has sold two plots of land in mega project Alghadeer for community services.

The contracts will see British curriculum Alghadeer International School and retail outlets including LuLu supermarket and a community clinic open in the community close to the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border in 2021. 

Talal Al Dhiyebi, CEO, Aldar said: “The addition of Alghadeer International School, retail outlets, LuLu supermarket and clinic will increase the range of convenience-driven amenities and facilities for existing and future residents at Alghadeer, creating more complete neighbourhoods.

“Developing this community shows the momentum in the Alghadeer development and is in line with our strategy to deliver desirable destinations and provide residents with a truly enriched community living experience focused on comfort, accessibility and convenience.”

Alghadeer’s new masterplan comprises of 14,408 home including villas, townhouses, and maisonettes which will be complemented by office space, retail space, hospitality, education and community amenities.

The new Alghadeer masterplan incorporates Aldar’s existing community of the same name which boasts over 2,000 homes and is a thriving destination for many families.

The retail amenities will be spread over more than 30,000 square metres and will include a range of outlets as well as a community clinic. The LuLu supermarket, retail outlets and clinic will be operational in 2021.

Alghadeer International School, which is set to offer places for 1,500 students, is to be operational from September 2020.

Is Silicon Valley Over? Not by a Long Shot

Having lived in Silicon Valley all my life, I’ve seen it transform from an agrarian area dotted by fruit orchards into a technology powerhouse.

When I started my career as a tech industry analyst in 1981, Silicon Valley encompassed San Jose up the peninsula to Palo Alto and Menlo Park; an area known as the Santa Clara Valley. Now it represents cities as far north as San Francisco and as far east as Oakland and Fremont. All told, Silicon Valley hosts over 5,000 tech-related companies, and income from tech companies in San Jose, Santa Clara, and Sunnyvale alone account for $235 billion, according to the American Enterprise Institute.

Until 1995, when the internet kicked off the tech revolution, most people were unfamiliar with Silicon Valley. Until about 2010, when I traveled to much of the Midwest and East Coast, people had no idea where this “Silicon Valley” was in California.

Fast forward to today and Silicon Valley is a household name. For the most part, it’s equated with technology that transforms people’s lives for the better, like PCs, the web, smartphones, and tablets. But thanks to massive data breaches, most recently with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, Silicon Valley’s image is tarnished in ways none of us could have imagined even three years ago. Not to mention sexual harassment issues, a lack of diversity, and pay inequality.

For decades, Silicon Valley execs could fly under the radar of most regulatory bodies. But it is looking more likely now that companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others that deal directly with people’s personal data are about to face serious regulation. The region is rattled.

I’m frequently asked if Silicon Valley can survive the scrutiny and remain the world’s center for tech innovation? As one who has seen Silicon Valley’s many ups and downs over the last 35 years or so, I have no doubt that it will weather even this storm. There’s a lot of brain power in the region, and it’s still at the center of much of the major advancements, from semiconductors to PCs, and is helping drive 5G. Automakers, meanwhile, have beaten a path to the Valley to prep for the autonomous vehicle revolution.

Despite the setbacks, Silicon Valley is doing some of its best work in a decade in areas like AI, machine learning, and robotics. And augmented and virtual reality is at the heart of many of the big Valley-based tech companies’ research today.

Is there anything that should have Silicon Valley worried? China’s tech advancements are clearly a threat, and the cost of living in Silicon Valley makes it difficult for those not earning six figures to live here. But while I think Silicon Valley’s current struggles are far from over, I expect it to continue to be at the center tech advancement that will power every aspect of our future.

Tesla’s Tussle With Feds Over Model X Accident Is a Fool’s Errand

Silicon Valley trailblazers have reshaped our lives with their innovations. But the same irrepressible attitude and disregard for traditional rules that drive idiosyncratic individuals and iconic company founders like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Uber’s Travis Kalanick, Tesla’s Elon Musk, and Apple’s Steve Jobs also often leads to clashes with lawmakers.

Zuckerberg’s testimony last week on Capitol Hill, where he was grilled over user privacy, is evidence of the “beg for forgiveness, not permission” approach. But at least Zuck issued a mea culpa before Congress and took accountability for the Cambridge Analytica fiasco.

Contrast that with Tesla’s tit for tat with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The agency is investigating a fatal Model X crash in California involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot feature, with which it has played fast and loose compared to more conservative automakers. The Model X accident was within days of another death involving an Uber self-driving vehicle.

It’s just the latest example of Silicon Valley’s disdain for following the rules of the road. When Google first revealed in late 2010 that its self-driving cars had logged more than 100,000 miles in California, there were no laws against testing autonomous cars on public roads in the company’s home state. But Google was aware it was pushing the legal limits.

“Keeping the project quiet enabled Google to test under the radar of public opinion and lawmakers,” recalls Seval Oz, who at the time headed business development for the company’s self-driving car project. “We just didn’t want the program to slow down for any reason.”

Silicon Valley has since become the epicenter of self-driving technology, and the area’s “move fast and break things” ethos has extended to autonomous vehicle testing. A large part of Uber’s strategy, first with its ride-sharing business and later with its autonomous technology, involved skirting rules.

War of Words

The war of words between Tesla and the NTSB started after a March 23 crash that killed Walter Huang, who struck the center divider on a Northern California highway while behind the wheel of a Model X.

A week after the accident, Tesla revealed that the vehicle’s Autopilot semi-autonomous feature was turned on, that Huang didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds prior to the crash, and he failed to take evasive action.

The release of this information—and blaming the driver before the investigation was complete, which can take months—violates an agreement to keep accident data confidential until the NTSB is ready to release it. On Wednesday, Tesla withdrew from the investigation “because it requires that we not release information about Autopilot to the public, a requirement which we believe fundamentally affects public safety negatively.”

But following what Bloomberg described as a tense phone call late Wednesday between NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt and Elon Musk, the agency took the unusual step of removing Tesla from the investigation.

In a statement on Thursday, the agency said that “releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash.” Sumwalt added that “it is unfortunate that Tesla, by its actions, did not abide by the party agreement.”

Later the same day, Tesla insisted it severed ties on the investigation with the NTSB, not the other way around. And took a jab at the agency: “It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety,” Tesla said in a statement.

As of press time, the tiff between Tesla and NTSB is still playing out. Tesla will reportedly still provide data to the agency, which investigates accidents and makes safety recommendations but does not set policy, but will not be a formal party to the probe.

Coming on the heels of the Uber autonomous car fatality, the Tesla accident—and the company’s combative approach to the investigation—likely won’t inspire cooperation or help instill confidence in public officials who are growing more circumspect about self-driving technology. It also smacks of Silicon arrogance on Tesla’s part and could not only cost progress on self-driving policy but also lives.

New Trade War Targets China, ZTE But US Firms Caught in Crossfire

The message coming from the US and UK governments and trade organizations today? Fear China.

They’re trying to drum up a 5G trade war, but US companies are getting hit by friendly fire.

First, the US Commerce Department today banned US companies from selling components to ZTE for seven years, according to Phone Scoop, though it didn’t ban ZTE from selling phones in the US.

Meanwhile, in the UK, the government told telecom companies not to buy ZTE infrastructure. Huawei infrastructure is fine across the pond, which is funny because the US government swore off Huawei infrastructure.

But three of ZTE’s US-based optical component suppliers are already getting battered in the stock market. ZTE phones also use processors and modems from San Diego-based Qualcomm, apps from Mountain View-based Google, and Gorilla Glass from New York-based Corning.

At least on the surface, our government is angry because ZTE didn’t sufficiently punish employees who sold gadgets from China to Iran, because those gadgets involved some US-made components.

Zoom out and you see the real reason why both of these things are happening now. It’s similar to why our government prevented Broadcom from dismantling Qualcomm. The UK government’s rationale isn’t about any specific threat Huawei or ZTE poses right now: it’s about not letting “China,” or anything Chinese, have too large a market share or too much influence in the tech industry.

Ironically for a company that government action just saved, Qualcomm, which now earns more than half of its revenues in China, is going to suffer from the sanctions against ZTE. Unlike Huawei, ZTE doesn’t make its own processors and modems, so it relies heavily on Qualcomm for chipsets. So ZTE is likely to shift more of its business to Taiwan-based Mediatek, already its No. 2 supplier, dealing a blow to Qualcomm.

China could also retaliate further against Qualcomm; its takeover of Dutch semiconductor firm NXP is being held up by Chinese regulators, which an analyst likened to a “hostage” situation in an interview with Reuters.

Google could also get hit. Various commentators are pointing out that the ban may prevent ZTE from using Google’s apps, leading the smartphone maker to turn to other alternatives from China or Europe.

But that’s what happens in a trade war. As borders close, you start taking damage from your own side’s actions. Qualcomm seems caught off guard by all of this; it declined to comment, while ZTE has not yet responded to a request for comment.

What’s Good for the Goose …

I don’t like this trade war, but it’s not like we aren’t doing anything the Chinese government hasn’t been doing for years. For a decade now, China’s censors have been slowing or blocking US-based internet companies so as to nurture and protect local Chinese competitors.

China’s Tencent and Sina Weibo benefited hugely from their government blocking Facebook and Twitter, and slowing a lot of Google services to a halt. Facebook’s WhatsApp is banned outright. Local app stores have flourished because Google Play was rendered unreliable.

The Chinese government has strict controls on which Hollywood movies can play in its theaters. It cracks down whenever users on a social network look like they might be forming groups that are too vibrant and aren’t controlled by the government. It’s far from a free-trade regime; it’s far from a free-anything regime.

Until now, the struggle between Chinese and Western technology companies for market share has also been a struggle of philosophies. China’s software, content, media, and social-networking giants have had real trouble extending themselves out of China because they’re so tightly adapted to the peculiar restrictions and culture of their own market. Its industrial and hardware firms have done better globally.

Perhaps that trend informs some of the Trump administration’s policies; it’s been passionate about saying it will protect old industries like coal, oil, steel, and automobiles. The airy-fairy world of Google’s software dominance, created by open minds and free trade, may not strike as viscerally in the Oval Office as the sight of Huawei’s cell towers going up on poles throughout Africa.

Cold War Innovation

Maybe it takes a cold war to get a stuck government to move. After all, it took fear of the Russians to send us to the moon.

The CTIA, our national wireless trade organization, released a report today about the “race to 5G” that’s also full of China fearmongering—in this case, to spur our government to auction more spectrum off for 5G.

The report, by Analysys Mason and Recon Analytics, strokes legislators’ egos while admonishing them that if they don’t release more “mid-band” spectrum soon, China will “win” the “race to 5G.” Looking at Analysys Mason’s chart halfway through the report, it looks like the US, South Korea, and China are all about equally aggressive when it comes to innovating on 5G deployment. But our wireless industry wants more spectrum and the ability to overrule local restrictions on small cell siting. A cold war looks like a good way to push legislators to get those things.

For what it’s worth, the CTIA is getting its money’s worth from the report. I’m watching headlines roll in from Axios and CNET saying that “China is winning the 5G race”—China as a singular, threatening entity, not as a place where many different companies, run by many different people, compete with each other.

The report’s recommendations, broadly, are right. America can create more jobs, more growth and more innovation by flipping more spectrum from old, inefficent uses like UHF television and older forms of radar, into new 5G technologies. I’d add that we also need more unlicensed spectrum bands like the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands, because those create the kind of ferment of startup innovation in which the US specializes.

But driving us there through a cold-war fear that cuts off potential sales markets and damages the open-mindedness that has led to America’s software leadership is one step forward, one step back.

Adonit Ink Pro, First Take: More affordable and more capable than Surface Pen

Lots of Windows tablets and convertibles work with digital pens, but not all of them come with one in the box. The Microsoft Pen Protocol (MPP) is an attempt to get over the confusion between two incompatible pen technologies, from Wacom and N-trig (now owned by Microsoft and used in Surface devices), and it means we’re seeing more third-party pens on the market that work with any MPP device. Adonit is well known for its capacitive/Bluetooth iOS and Android styluses; the Ink Pro is the company’s second active pen, and it has some interesting extras.

Adonit’s £79/$89.99 Ink Pro comes in black or white.


Images: Adonit

Like the £99.99 (inc. VAT, or $99.99) Microsoft Surface Pen, the Ink Pro is an active pen that needs battery power to work as a pen and adds extra features via Bluetooth. Unlike the Surface Pen, it’s rechargeable. It’s also a little longer and sleeker than Microsoft’s stylus, and more comfortable to hold because it doesn’t have the annoying flat side to attach to a tablet.

As soon as it’s charged, the Ink Pro will work as a pen with any MPP device. That means any Surface except Surface Pro 2, and a range of PCs from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP and Sony but not Lenovo — and definitely not an iPad. You use the double button on the side of the pen for right-clicking and erasing in software with suitable support; there’s a third button that turns on a laser pointer.

The pen tip is smooth, so it slides freely over the screen and sounds quite clicky as you touch and tap the screen. The Surface Pen has a little more friction, which actually makes writing on-screen feel a little smoother because the tip doesn’t slide as much. It’s worth trying out both devices to see which style of tip you prefer, but the harder Ink Pro tip may let you write faster.

Ink in the Windows 10 Sketchpad. The Ink Pro produces smooth, flowing strokes, but Microsoft’s Surface Pen shows a wider range of pressure sensitivity: when you press as hard as you can, the Surface Pen strokes are thicker.


Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

The feel of the Ink Pro is very different on-screen from the feel of the Surface Pen, but the ink they produce in OneNote is very similar. The vertical lines at the bottom of the page show the only time palm rejection wasn’t completely accurate while we were trying out Adonit’s pen.


Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

Strokes were smooth and well formed, but the pressure sensitivity isn’t quite as extensive as with the Surface Pen. We could get much thinner and thicker strokes in painting apps using the Surface Pen, as well as more brush-like marks as the pressure tapered off at the end of a stroke. That makes the Ink Pro a better choice for business use cases such as writing and marking up documents than for artwork, where fine pressure control is more important. Palm rejection — where you can lean your hand on the screen without worrying about that showing up as unwanted ink — was generally excellent, although we did see some odd extra lines of ink in OneNote in one writing session.

When you also pair the Ink Pro to your PC via Bluetooth you get extra features, like the ability to double-click to launch an application of your choice (including the Windows Ink Workspace). The pairing instructions are minimal, because all you have to do is tell your PC to look for a Bluetooth pen and it’s immediately discoverable.

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The Surface Pen uses the eraser button on the top as the shortcut button; the Ink Pro doesn’t have a button on the end because that’s where it fits into the charging dock, so the shortcut is a double-click on one end of the double button on the side of the barrel. Pressing either of the double buttons when the pen isn’t touching the screen acts like pressing Page Up or Page Down, so you can sit with your pen in your hand, scrolling through a long web page or Word document — or jumping from page to page in a PowerPoint slide deck — that works both in authoring and presentation mode, so it’s handy for reading and reviewing slides as well as presenting. This is comfortable and convenient; it’s a bit like having a multi-button mouse without having to worry about finding a flat surface to use it on.

Double click the other end of the double button and Cortana starts listening on your PC, so you can ask her to do a web search, create an appointment, set a timer, check the weather, get your diary for the day or do any of the other handy voice-assistant skills like controlling Hue lights or searching for and replying to email. This is a new Cortana skill that lets you see recent unread emails or ask if you have new mail from a specific person and reply to it by dictating a message.

The Ink Pro produces clean, smooth ink in apps (like Paint) that don’t support pressure sensitivity.


Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

Having a physical trigger is a nice way to avoid having Cortana listening all the time, which uses more battery power. You could use the keyboard shortcut for turning Cortana voice input on, as long as you have a keyboard attached and are close enough to tap it — at which point you might as well type in your question. As with the Page Up and Page Down buttons, it’s nice to be able to sit back or even trigger Cortana from across the room. In a London flat with brick walls, we found the range was enough to reach across the room, but not to trigger actions from another room — which wouldn’t be very helpful as you wouldn’t see or hear Cortana’s response, which is displayed on-screen and spoken if you have your sound on.

The microphone in the Ink Pro isn’t quite as high quality as the array microphone in a Surface or Surface Book, but you’re likely to be holding the pen closer to you. We found most words were recognised just as well as with the Surface microphone, although not everything was recognised perfectly. One thing is slightly awkward: the Ink Pro uses the Bluetooth headset profile, which means it’s automatically set up as the default microphone and speaker for communications; if you’re listening to music or watching video on a web page, or just getting system notifications, they’ll play through the PC speaker normally. But you’ll have to switch the speaker and microphone for communications apps like Skype back to something other than the Ink Pro before you can speak and hear in conversations. (That’s not an option for Skype in a web browser, so you’ll have to manually change the settings in control panel each time.)

The charging dock means you won’t lose track of the Ink Pro on your desk (a strong magnet pulls the pen into place for charging); it also means you won’t have to keep a stock of tiny batteries to power your pen. The promised 80-hour battery life from a 15-minute charge (or 24 hours if you’re using it non-stop) is certainly shorter than the promised year before you have to replace the battery in the Surface Pen, but you also don’t have to crack open the pen to replace the battery.

To keep the battery life up, the Ink Pro turns itself off if you don’t use it for 15 minutes — it turns back on instantly when you tap the button on the side, and even carrying it around in a bag for a week didn’t turn the pen back on for long enough to run down the battery. Replaceable versus rechargeable batteries is always a matter of preference, but Adonit has done a great job of making recharging fast and convenient.

Pressure sensitivity controls how paint is laid down on the page in painting apps like Fresh Paint, which simulates oil paint. Surface Pen, on the right, produces a little more texture in the paint and the difference between gentle and firm strokes is much more distinct. The Ink Pro doesn’t have quite the same pressure range, but still lets you achieve a range of effects.


Image: Mary Branscombe/ZDNet

Conclusions

At £79 (inc. VAT, or $89.99), Adonit’s Ink Pro is both cheaper than the Surface Pen and more capable. The laser pointer is a rather twee, old-fashioned feature that burns battery if you press it by accident. We’d rather see a model without the laser pointer and the space used for two distinct buttons (Adonit’s earlier Ink model doesn’t have the laser pointer but it doesn’t have the extra features either). The feel of the stylus point on-screen is also a matter of personal preference. We really like the page navigation and Cortana control buttons, and the charging dock is as well thought-out as the pen itself.

The Ink Pro is well worth considering, especially if you use a Windows tablet without a keyboard attached all the time.

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Read more reviews

Huawei P20 review: A smaller, sleeker Mate 10 Pro with camera enhancements

top picks



The 10 best smartphones of 2018

CES and MWC are over and it’s time to clear the dust and see what smartphones are leading the pack this year.

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ZDNet’s Sandra Vogel recently published her full review of the Huawei P20 Pro, which I also have in hand and am using to test out its imaging prowess. Over the last week and a half I have also been using the Huawei P20 that offers much of the same as the P20 Pro for EUR250 less.

Apple usually perfects features and technology that is first seen in Android smartphones, but last year’s iPhone X launched with a display that extended to all four edges of the front with a notch for sensors, a speaker, and the front-facing camera. In 2018, we are seeing Android manufacturers (and Google with Android P) embrace the notch. Huawei’s new P20 and P20 Pro devices are some of the first to launch with the notch.

The P20 is the successor to the P10 with some design changes, including a glass back, removal of the 3.5mm headset jack and microSD card slot, and an expansive front display with a notch. It retains the lower front oblong fingerprint scanner, dual rear cameras with Leica branding, and more.

Specifications

  • Processor: Huawei Kirin 970 octa-core with NPU
  • Display: 5.8 inch 2244×1080 pixels resolution LCD (428 ppi)
  • Operating system: Android 8.1 Oreo with EMUI 8.1
  • RAM: 4GB
  • Storage: 128GB internal
  • Cameras: Rear dual cameras; one 20 megapixel f/1.6 aperture monochrome cameras and one 12 megapixel RGB f/1.8 camera. Front 24 megapixel f/2.0 aperture
  • Battery: 3400 mAh with SuperCharge fast and safe charging technology
  • Dimensions: 149.1 x 70.8 x 7.65 mm and 165 grams
  • Colors: Black, pink gold, champagne gold, midnight blue, and twilight

The Huawei P20 stacks up rather well with the Mate 10 Pro with both having the Kirin 970 processor and NPU for AI and other advanced functionality. The Mate 10 Pro is larger, has more RAM, and is priced higher than the P20 while the P20 has newer generation rear cameras and a higher resolution front-facing camera. The Mate 10 Pro may be for those who need a phone to easily go a couple of days while the P20 may be more amenable to the masses with its smaller form factor, higher screen-to-body ratio, lower price, and more advanced cameras.

Huawei P20 vs P20 Pro

The Huawei P20 and P20 Pro have a similar full screen display with a notch and metal/glass design, but there are also some key differences. As you look at Sandra’s Huawei P20 Pro review and this review, here are some key differences between the two phones.

Hardware

Huawei is known for its stunning hardware and the Huawei P20 is no exception. Let’s start with the front of the device and the expansion of minimizing bezels from just the sides to the top and bottom. Along the bottom we see a shrinking bezel height, but with the oblong hardware fingerprint scanner there is a limitation as to how far down Huawei can go.

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Unfortunately, the oblong button is just above the curvature of the glass and is not in any sort of natural ergonomic position. Everything about the Huawei P20 screams 2018, except for this oddly positioned fingerprint sensor. One has to make a conscious effort to reposition your hand to hit it with your thumb and this means holding the phone down near the very bottom or holding it in one hand while the other hand uses this fingerprint sensor.

Huawei has some of the fastest responding, perfectly positioned rear fingerprint sensors on many of its other smartphones and should have implemented that on this phone for it to be a true champion. It’s not clear what might have prevented that placement, but hopefully it was a technological challenge and not just a design decision. You can do more than unlock the phone with this sensor, as discussed below in the software section.

At the top of the display, we have the new notch. The P20 notch is about a third the width of the iPhone X notch and contains a round handset speaker, 24 megapixel front-facing camera, sensors, and an indicator LED. I am perfectly fine with the notch on the iPhone X and the notch on the P20 is also acceptable. Huawei even gives you the ability, in the settings, to choose to hide the notch with black on the display or keep it on by default. It’s a handy trick, but I just keep the default enabled.
























The power and volume buttons are found on the upper right side. It’s cool to see a red line in the center of the power button as Huawei adds a bit of color to the phone. A mic opening is on the top and the dual SIM card tray is on the upper left. A USB-C port and one speaker (right side) are found on the bottom. The single speaker is quite loud, but I use a headset the majority of the time so am fine with the single speaker.

It is also interesting to see that Huawei continues to release its flagship Mate and P series devices with 1080p displays. As I’ve stated on the MoTR podcast and written here on ZDNet, 1080p is perfectly acceptable to me for smartphones and going to higher 2K resolutions doesn’t improve my viewing experience while it does have an impact on battery life. The LCD screen on the Huawei P20 looks great.

The review unit I have came in a retail box that is labeled black, but the curved edges are silver and I after looking in various lighing conditions, this is actually the midnight blue model. I see on the Huawei website that the black model has black edges. It is extremely glossy, looks like a mirror on the back, and has a different hue to it as I move it in various lighting conditions. The entire front is black.

The Kirin 970 chipset and EMUI 8.1 help the P20 perform flawlessly. I haven’t seen any stuttering, slowdowns, or app crashes since I started using it. I am also seeing very solid RF reception on T-Mobile, based on watching the Android signal status meter in the settings. The P20 has actually been showing better dBm readings than the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Samsung smartphones usually beat everything else I test out.

The Mate 10 Pro and P20 Pro have also shown me some incredible performance when it comes to RF strength and ability to have functioning internet and make phone calls in areas where other phones lose data and cellular connections. I would not think this possible with these devices that are not necessarily tuned to US wireless carriers, but the P20 does have support for many bands so that T-Mobile performance has been verified as rock solid.

According to Phone Arena the Huawei P20 supports the following bands. FDD bands: 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/12/17/18/19/20/26/28/32 and TDD bands: 34/38/39/40. The P20 does not support the new T-Mobile 600 MHz frequency (Band 71) that is actively rolling out, but it does support the other key T-Mobile and ATT bands. These main bands include 4 and 12 for T-Mobile with band 17 for ATT. Thus, GSM performance in the US should be great. LTE Cat 18 is also supported on the P20.

The Huawei P20 upgrades the Leica dual-lens experience with improved low light performance and stabilization performed through AI. The two cameras are on the upper left of the back in a raised housing with the flash positioned below them. It is interesting to note that Huawei and Leica branding text is oriented for landscape so that the phone looks more like a camera than a phone when in shooting mode.

The 12 megapixel RGB sensor has a 1.55 µm pixel size for improved low light with software that helps you obtain some rather stunning results. Like the Samsung Galaxy S9, you will also find 960 fps super slow motion support on the P20. You can check out this short video of a water feature in super slow motion. Advanced portrait options are also available. The camera software has also been improved significantly, as discussed below.

Software

EMUI has come a long way since it first appeared on Huawei phones and is now one of my preferred user interfaces, in large part for its support of the Google feed as a home screen panel which is something you usually only get with the Google launcher. Most of the EMUI customization on the P20 is present in the settings area where you can fully customize the device to your preferences.

Others who have lamented EMUI are also now writing reviews that do not slam the user interface as it looks more and more like a stock Android experience. There are some Huawei specific elements still present, but these do nothing to slow down the device and I find they improve the experience over vanilla stock Android.

I continue to be pleased with the presence of the Huawei gallery application and image editing tools that help you develop some creative images to share with family and friends. HTC used to have its own custom gallery and editing tools, but switched to Google Photos. Google Photos is fine for backup and photo management, but a custom gallery with high-powered editing tools provides for a much better experience. The color splash option is my personal favorite on the Huawei P20.

Other apps included by Huawei include: a file explorer, flashlight, Huawei Health, Huawei HiCare (service app), Music (media player), Notepad, Themes, Recorder, Email, and Weather. I am using a review device provided by Huawei, but for some reason am unable to get Google Pay working with the phone. That is the only issue I have seen with the software though.

The Huawei P20 also supports knuckle gestures so make sure to try them out in Smart assistanceMotion controlKnuckle gestures. Taking a screenshot with a single knuckle tap to the display is handy and drawing a line for split-screen mode is very efficient.

Enterprise users will also be interested in knowing the P20 supports easy projection so you simply plug in the USB-C to HDMI and out to a monitor to use your phone as your computer.

While I think the fingerprint sensor is placed too low, there are some interesting options for the way you navigate on the P20. There are four system navigation options to choose from: off-screen navigation button, onscreen navigation button, virtual navigation button, and navigation dock. I like the off-screen option that turns the fingerprint sensor, and area to the right of it, into your navigation system with presses and swipes. The onscreen option puts a small bar just on the bottom of the display that you manipulate like you would with the fingerprint sensor. The virtual navigation option is the default Android approach with three buttons on the bottom and on the P20 you can have up to four buttons and in a sequence you choose. I’ve tried the last option, navigation dock, that places a single virtual button on the display that you can move wherever you like, but I kept messing it up and gave up on this option.

The camera software has been given a complete overhaul on the P20 and P20 Pro. When you launch the camera app (try double pressing the volume down with the display off to jump right into the camera app) you are taken into auto photo mode. Like Apple, and Samsung with the S9/S9 Plus, you now switch common modes by swiping left or right with the mode highlighted in orange text at the bottom of the viewfinder. By default, available modes are aperture (let’s you adjust the aperture in software), night, portrait, photo, video, pro (manual), and more. When you select more, then an interface of shortcut icons (similar to the previous camera interface) appears and includes slow-mo, panorama, monochrome, light painting and many more. These include more modes that you can download too. You can change the order of these in the more menu, but you cannot bring these modes to the main navigation bar.

We saw Huawei enhance the auto mode through artifical intelligence and this provided some interesting results. While AI was helpful, you had to switch to pro mode to take photos without the AI applying its influence. On the P20, the master AI can be enabled or disabled in the settings. In addition, if it is enabled, then an item is identified and the AI shows you what it will do in the viewfinder. If you do not like what the AI provides, simply tap the small X next to the AI prompt and normal auto mode will appear.

There were 13 AI items on the Mate 10 Pro. We see 19 on the P20, including cat, food, group, natural colors, close-up, night shot, text, greenery, portrait, dog, fireworks, blue sky, flowers, stage, document, sunset, snow, waterfall, and beach. These can be interesting and helpful, but with the P20 Huawei also gives you full and complete control over the image capture experience so you can spend hours exploring all of its capabilities.

I found it very helpful for switching automatically to portrait mode in auto photo while capturing pictures of people. I was not expecting the P20 to take things this far, but it is nice to let the AI help you out and is something I have been looking for these smartphones to do for us for quite some time. Smartphones are powerful tools and they should be doing some of this heavy lifting for us to move the bar forward.

AI is even built into the pro (manual) mode where the software will offer intelligent layout suggestions to help you improve your photography skills.

The Huawei P20 supports the front fingerprint scanner for security, but also has facial recognition to more quickly unlock your device without having to use the awkwardly positioned sensor. I have been able to get facial recognition to work most of the time to unlock the P20, but like Samsung implementation this is only good for unlocking your phone and not for secure websites or services.

Pricing and competition

The Huawei P20 price is £599 (EUR649) for 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The Huawei P20 Pro, with three rear cameras and a slightly larger OLED screen, is priced at £799 (EUR899).

The iPhone X, 64GB model, is priced at EUR1149 so you get quite a bit more in the P20 at a significantly lower cost than the iPhone X.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus are the primary Android flagships of 2018 and cost EUR849 and EUR949, respectively. Again, the P20 remains the lowest priced option for Android smartphone fans.

Daily usage experiences and conclusions

Unfortunately, people in the US will have to find a reputable importer in order to purchase a Huawei P20 or P20 Pro due to US government concerns over the company and Best Buy’s move to stop selling Huawei phones in its stores. I see that Huawei sells the P20 EML-L29 for $647 (black) and $749 (blue and pink) on Amazon so it is affordable for US customers too. The P20 and P20 Pro may be the best smartphones of 2018 though so you may want to check out more reviews and consider buying at Amazon or through another vendor.

Reception has been fantastic, the camera is a blast to use and results are outstanding, the phone fits well in a pocket and looks stunning, and you can customize the P20 to your preferences. The Kirin 970 flies and the potential for the NPU and AI is there to make the overall experience even better.

The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is a long lasting solid smartphone and the P20 brings all of those experiences in a slightly smaller form factor. However, the Mate 10 Pro has that excellent rear fingerprint sensor and a larger battery so it may be a better choice for the enterprise. In either case, you can pick up an excellent competitor to Samsung for $650 to 750.

Meizu M6 Note hands-on: Good performance and camera from an entry-level smartphone

I have been looking forward to trying the Meizu M6 Note since it was released last autumn.

Its newest M6 device is the entry-level M6 Note. Meizu said that the Note is the first international Meizu phone that features a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core ARM-A53 processor running at up to 2GHz and an Adreno 506 GPU.

Read also: Who’s hurt by the ZTE ban? US consumers and businesses

Meizu carries two smartphone models in its range: The PRO, and M-series. So far, it has released just under 30 smartphone models, which makes it the 11th-largest smartphone manufacturer in the world in terms of unit sales.

This is a nice phone that looks like a top-end model, yet it’s only around $300 for the 64GB version. It comes with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM and has up to 32GB or 64GB of internal storage.

The phone runs Flyme OS version 6.1.4 on Android 7.1.2, and its Wi-Fi supports both 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequency bands.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The Meizu M6 Note comes equipped with Sony IMX362/Samsung 2L7 dual cameras — the first in the M-series to feature two cameras.

The front camera has a 16-megapixel sensor. The rear camera has a 12-megapixel sensor for the primary camera and a resolution of 5-megapixel for the secondary camera and Quad LED flash.

It has an ƒ/1.9 ultra-wide aperture and 0.03 seconds Dual PD focusing mechanism, which is quite an impressive a camera experience for an entry-level smartphone. The camera also shoots panoramas and continuous images.

It has Arcsoft camera algorithms, including a dual camera blur to give a bokeh effect, which is a nice-to-have trick for a low-cost device. Bokeh images look really good on the M6 Note.

For selfie addicts, there is a large range of photo adjustments to give the perfect image. The dual-color temperature, 4-LED flash provides fill-in light and has five Flyme-specific flash effects. It also comes with noise reduction for fairly good images in low light.

The device screen is a 5.5-inch full HD display with a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and a resolution of 1920 x 1080 with 403ppi. Screen real estate is good with edge-to-edge cover.

Meizu has continued its top and bottom bezel — for its fingerprint sensor at the bottom and camera and speaker at the top of the screen. The aspect ratio is good.

For a slim phone, it has packed an impressive 4,000mAh battery into its body, whilst still staying light at 173g. This will give you 10 hours of gaming, or enable you to watch up to 34 full HD TV shows.

Read also: The 10 best smartphones of 2018 (shame about Huawei)

Its dimensions are 154.6 x 75.2 x 8.35mm. The battery uses mCharge fast-charging technology, which can charge with an electric current of up to 18W.

There are no extras or gimmicks inside the box — after all, this is an entry level phonemainly aimed at the consumer market.

It is perfectly adequate for corporate rollouts, too. Device administrators can be added, as can certificates, multiple fingerprint unlocks, and device privacy options.

This is a phone that spans both the consumer and corporate world without problems and sits well in both.






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Exclusive: BlackRock’s biggest stock-picking fund likes Facebook shares

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The biggest stock-picking fund at BlackRock Inc raised its bet on Facebook Inc in March, a source familiar with the matter said, making the social media company a top 10 equity holding and apparently betting that Facebook’s privacy scandal will not weigh on the stock for long.

Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this picture illustration taken March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

A person familiar with the matter said the Global Allocation Fund – run by Dan Chamby, Russ Koesterich, David Clayton and Kent Hogshire – had boosted its Facebook share count. The person, who requested anonymity because BlackRock does not discuss individual stocks, declined to say specifically how many Facebook shares the fund had acquired or when during the month they were purchased.

Facebook and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager with $6.32 trillion under management, declined to comment.

The increases in Facebook holdings were enough to make the social media company the $36.7 billion fund’s sixth largest stock holding at March 30, up 10 spots from where it had been two months earlier, according to the fund’s website and Thomson Reuters data. The March disclosures also do not spell out when shares were acquired or how many were bought.

Facebook had not recently been listed in the top 10 holdings, a list updated monthly. As of Jan. 31, the date of its most recent detailed filings, the Global Allocation Fund held 1.38 million Facebook shares, making it the No. 16 equity holding valued at about $258 million at that time.

Facebook shares are down more than 10 percent after the New York Times and London’s Observer newspaper reported in mid-March that Cambridge Analytica, a political consultancy that worked on U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign, gained inappropriate access to data on tens of millions of the social media company’s users.

Even with the increased stake, which has not been previously reported, Facebook accounts for less than 1 percent of the BlackRock Global Allocation Fund, which holds hundreds of stocks and also invests in bonds as well as gold and other commodities. Apple Inc is listed as the fund’s top stock holding, accounting for 2.24 percent of assets at the end of March.

FILE PHOTO: The BlackRock logo is seen outside of its offices in New York City, NY, U.S., October 17, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Yet the buying represents an endorsement of Facebook by a major outside shareholder at a time when the company faces questions about whether its targeted advertising business can survive stricter regulation and calls for users to “#DeleteFacebook.”

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in testimony to U.S. lawmakers last week that the company’s major investments in security “will significantly impact our profitability going forward.”

Overall, Facebook shares are down more than 6 percent year-to-date. Short-sellers, who warned the market was overvalued and have been raising alarm about social media privacy issues, made $4 billion on paper profits in the last two weeks of March, betting against the “FANG” group. They comprise four closely watched internet stocks: Facebook, Amazon.com Inc, Netflix Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google.

Facebook is the seventh largest U.S. equity short at $5.22 billion with short interest increasing by $447 million in April and $1.11 billion for the year, according to S3 Partners.

Still, for other investors, the Cambridge Analytica news created an opportunity to buy a company with one of fastest-growing revenue lines in the SP 500 at a discount.

The stock is still near its cheapest ever, according to a price-to-earnings ratio based on profits Wall Street analysts expect Facebook to deliver over the coming 12 months.

For BlackRock, scooping up battered shares of Facebook could turn out to be a lucrative bet that could help boost its fund. Relatively low-fee shares of the Global Allocation Fund are down 0.05 percent this year, through Friday, beating most its peers. Overall, the fund is on course the post its fourth straight year of withdrawals, according to Thomson Reuters’ Lipper research unit.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Additional reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco; Editing by Jennifer Ablan, Dan Burns and Lisa Shumaker

NAFTA meeting on tap; Mexico doesn’t want to be used to elude U.S. tariffs

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The ministers leading the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) could meet again on Thursday in Washington as they push for quick progress, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said on Monday.

Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo attends a meeting with the Mexican Iron and Steel Industry Chamber (CANACERO) in Mexico City, Mexico April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Guajardo said he had spoken to Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Monday and would talk to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Tuesday to see about agreeing a trilateral meeting in Washington on Thursday.

Speaking after meeting with steel industry executives, Guajardo also said if that the United States imposed steel tariffs, Mexico might seek to mirror the move against some countries in order to prevent them from using Mexico to elude the duties.

Teams of trade experts from the United States, Mexico and Canada have been meeting for weeks to try to narrow their differences on NAFTA, and Guajardo said a total of 10 chapters of a revised deal were now concluded or virtually settled.

But he did not expect major announcements on Thursday.

“Thursday is about starting to work through the list of issues pending. The truth is the horizon going forward is a horizon of a couple of weeks,” Guajardo told reporters.

“I think you need to be alert that if there’s going to be rabbit for the stew, it’s going to be at the end of April,” he added, without being more specific.

Guajardo and others have said a NAFTA deal could be possible by early May, but significant differences remain on U.S. proposals to revise content rules for the automotive sector, change dispute resolution mechanisms and other issues.

Mexico’s Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo (C) and Maximo Bedolla, president of the Mexican Iron and Steel Industry Chamber (CANACERO), arrive at a meeting in Mexico City, Mexico April 16, 2018. REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Over the past few days, the technical teams had, barring some “tiny details,” finished work on chapters including telecoms, energy and technical barriers to trade, he said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has driven the renegotiation of NAFTA, arguing that the deal has hollowed out American manufacturing to the advantage of lower-cost Mexico.

Trump has threatened to use other measures, such as slapping import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum, to gain leverage over Mexico and Canada in the NAFTA talks. Both countries have been initially exempted from the tariffs.

Guajardo said that if Mexico remained exempt, the government would consider mirroring any U.S. tariffs on countries with which Mexico did not have a free trade agreement.

Otherwise Mexico could become a “back door” for Asian imports the United States wanted to discourage, Guajardo said.

Mexico has a 15 percent tariff on certain steel imports from countries it does not have free trade with, and the government would need to review whether to raise that duty further depending on what the United States did, he added.

The Mexican government is also working to update its free trade accord with the European Union, and Guajardo said his deputy, Juan Carlos Baker, would travel to Brussels on Monday night to meet high-level EU officials for further talks.

Those talks would show whether the negotiating teams could resolve the three thorniest issues this week, he said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Leslie Adler

Netflix programming binge pays off with subscriber surge

(Reuters) – Netflix Inc’s blitz of original programs attracted a surprisingly high 7.4 million new customers from January to March, reassuring investors who are betting the video-streaming pioneer’s massive spending will fuel growth around the world.

New shows like “Altered Carbon” and “O Mecanismo” helped Netflix smash analysts’ subscriber estimates, and its better-than-expected second-quarter outlook soothed concerns about competition from Apple Inc and Amazon.com Inc.

Shares of Netflix jumped more than 7 percent in after-hours trading on Monday to $330.30. The stock is the top performer on the SP 500 this year, gaining more than 60 percent.

“I don’t think this is a one-time thing,” said Chaim Siegel, analyst at Elazar Advisors. “It’s very similar to the results we saw last quarter. It’s getting better.”

Wall Street expected Netflix to add 6.5 million new subscribers, according to FactSet data. Netflix topped that and also said it would bring in 6.2 million more customers from April through June, 1 million more than analyst predictions.

Netflix says it will spend up to $8 billion on global TV shows and movies in 2018. As it has expanded to some 190 countries, investors accepted negative free cash flow in exchange for the potential of outsized growth in future years.

“We have big plans for content growth and you should expect that to continue,” Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on a post-earnings webcast.

In the first three months of the year, Netflix boosted original programing by 85 percent from a year earlier to a record 483 hours, according to Cowen Co analysts.

The slate included science fiction series “Altered Carbon” and Marvel action drama “Jessica Jones.”

Non-English programing also is gaining traction, Netflix said. “O Mecanismo” is on pace to become one of the service’s most-viewed original series in Brazil, and Spanish-language heist thriller “La Casa de Papel” was the most-watched non-English series ever on Netflix, according to the company.

For the just-ended quarter, revenue grew 40 percent year-over-year to $3.7 billion, the fastest pace in the company’s history. The average cost of a Netflix membership rose 14 percent during that time, and customer ranks swelled to 125 million.

“Subscribers are accelerating even at higher pricing,” BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield said. “Content spend is having a direct effect on its subscriber growth.”

In a quarterly letter to shareholders, Netflix said it will “continue to raise debt as needed to fund our increase in original content,” adding that its debt levels were “quite modest as a percentage of our enterprise value.”

The company’s market capitalization stands at $137.2 billion, more than double a year earlier.

But it faces growing competition as technology companies such as Apple and Amazon pour money into premium programing, international rivals jump into streaming and traditional media companies pursue digital customers.

Walt Disney Co will stop supplying new movies to Netflix starting next year and will start its own streaming service for families.

Investors have appeared bullish on the company’s ability to add more members. Netflix recently traded at 93 times expected earnings for the next 12 months, versus Amazon at 133 times earnings and Disney at 17 times earnings, according to Thomson Reuters data.

Net income rose to $290.1 million, or 64 cents per share, in the quarter ended March 31 from $178.2 million, or 40 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue grew 40 percent year-over-year to $3.7 billion, the fastest pace in the company’s history.

The Netflix logo is pictured on a television in this illustration photograph taken in Encinitas, California, U.S., January 18, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Lisa Shumaker