Category Archives: Technology

Telecom Ministry: Higher And Cheaper Internet Speeds Within A Month

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Picture via MayaZankoul

Lebanon’s Telecom Minister Boutros Harb is promising faster and cheaper internet speeds within a month as well as unlimited plans. He’s also talking to the Wall Street Journal about fiber optics and implementing Law 431, which would allow free competition in the telecom market and stop the duopoly led by Alfa and Touch.

These are very ambitious plans to accomplish within few months, but I can only wish him good luck as these are all positive steps that would help make the internet better in Lebanon. I don’t think the government will allow competition as it will cut down its revenues from the Telecom sector but faster and cheaper internet speeds are great news. The first change introduced by Harb on prepaid cards wasn’t relevant to the majority of mobile users in Lebanon, so let’s wait and see if any of these more suitable demands is implemented.

Samsung Galaxy S5 – Sneak Peek

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I got a sneak peek at the Samsung Galaxy S5 yesterday and I will definitely consider buying it once it’s out or at least after a while. The reason I said after a while is because I’ve always had issues with the early Samsung releases and prices usually drop after 2 or 3 months.

The S5 is basically an enhanced version of the S4, featuring:
- A 5.1” FHD Super AMOLED (1920 x 1080) Screen
- Quad Core (Snapdragon?) Processor and 2GB of Rams.
- A 16MP (1/2.6”, Phase Detection AF) Front Camera
- A more performant battery (2800mAh)
- 4G LTE-Enabled Network

To be honest, I’ve been very satisfied with the Samsung S4 I’m carrying since last year, and before that the Note2 and I’ve used the Note3 for a while. However, the two things that bothered me the most were the amount of useless features that we get with the Samsung phones, and the processors. I remember being excited at first about trying out the “Air View” and “Smart Pause” and “Smart Stay” when the S4 came out but they are basically useless and annoying features. As for the processors, the Note2 had a problem with its processors (Sudden Death Chips) which made me sell it, and the S4 was lightening fast when I got it (camera was crashing though), but it has become sluggish with time after I loaded it with apps and data.

There are five special features that caught my attention during the presentation yesterday:
1- The S5 is dust and water resistant. It doesn’t mean that you can swim with it, but it won’t let water inside if you spill your drink by mistake on it.
2- There’s an “Ultra Power Saving Mode” that would let you use 10% of your battery for around 24 hours. It basically shuts down all unnecessary features and changes your screen to black and white. It’s a useful feature but I would prefer if Samsung and other smartphone companies spent their money on a battery that lasts longer.
3- The Download Booster which lets use your LTE and WIFI together for an enhanced network experience. I don’t think I will be using it much in Lebanon as our 3G quotas are ridiculously low.
4- What I also loved in the S5 is the camera shortcut on the lock screen (just like the iPhone).
5- The back cover is much better than the Note3 fake leather one but I don’t know if it’s better than the plastic one. It feels weird to be honest.

A full review will follow when I get to try out the phone properly. I am not sure when the phone will be launched officially and the price will be around 800$ (VAT Included).

S5

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50% Reduction On Local and International Phone Calls For Telecarte and Kalam Prepaid Cards

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Telecom Minister Boutros Harb announced that the prices of phone calls made through prepaid cards will be slashed by 50% for land line calls and 30% for cellular phone calls. International calls were also made cheaper by 50%. Prices will be adjusted starting April 1st which is today.

Here are the old and new rates:
- LL50 instead of LL100 per minute of call from a landline.
- LL100 instead of LL200 per minute of call from a mobile line.
- LL300 instead of LL600 between 7am and 10pm for international calls (LL100 instead of LL200 for the rest of the day).

Of course any reduction in prices is always welcome, even though the above are irrelevant to me and many Lebanese, but what we really need are better internet quotas at the moment at lower prices. Moreover, these unbelievably high subscription fees for postpaid lines should be lowered. Anyway, I think it’s too early to judge Minister Harb as he’s been in office for a couple of weeks now, so let’s just hope he fulfills all his promises which include unlimited internet, deployment of fiber optics, better DSL coverage and an enhanced 3G service.

New Telecom Minister Boutros Harb To Lower Mobile Phone Rates

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Telecom Minister Boutros Harb tweeted yesterday that he asked Alfa and Touch to revise the contracts signed with the state in an attempt to improve the quality of services and reduce the cost of cellular calls. I honestly don’t think Harb has enough time to make drastic changes but as Matt stated, he could suggest new rates for mobile phone users and let the cabinet vote on them.

I hope it works out and I wish Minister Harb would consider increasing these ridiculously low data plans without additional cost.

iPhone To Be Officially Released Soon By Lebanon’s Alfa Telecom

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According to 9to5mac, Apple is signing deals with new carriers worldwide and among them Alfa in Lebanon. Alfa’s CEO Marwan Hayek confirmed it in a tweet that iPhone will be soon officially released in Lebanon.

That’s definitely good news but we still have to see whether Alfa (and maybe Touch later) will offer reasonable prices and plans. I will try to figure out how soon the launch will be for those interested.

Update: I was told the launch will probably take place by end of March.

Thanks Sandro!

Apple Acquires Burstly, A Daher Capital Company

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Apple has acquired Burstly, a software company that helps developers create smartphone and tablet applications. Burstly currently owns TestFlight, an iOS service that allows programmers to release and manage beta software to a limited audience, and an ad management platform called SkyRocket. Burstly is a Daher Capital company, which is a Beirut-based family business founded and led by Michel Daher.

You can read more about the acquisition on [Bloomberg], [Mashable] and [TechCrunch].

For those of you who are not familiar with Michel Daher, he’s the founder and chairman of Daher Capital. He also founded Master Chips and Poppins, two of the largest FMCG companies in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as the very first hedge fund in Lebanon and Master Capital Group, the largest independent non-bank affiliated financial services company. He’s the only Lebanese to ring the Wall Street Opening Bell twice.

Apple Inc. (AAPL), speeding up the pace of acquisitions, bought Burstly Inc., a software company that helps developers create smartphone and tablet applications. The deal, first reported by TechCrunch, was confirmed today by Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Cupertino, California-based Apple. Terms weren’t disclosed.

Apple is sticking with its strategy of acquiring smaller companies, while Internet leaders Google Inc. and Facebook Inc. are doing billion-dollar deals. Burstly’s TestFlight product is used by app makers to test their software with small groups of customers. The Santa Monica, California-based startup also offers a product to help developers make money from advertising.

The underlying technology Apple acquires in deals is often used to enhance existing services or in future products. In 2012, Apple bought fingerprint-security firm AuthenTec Inc., whose technology was recently incorporated into the new iPhone 5s. Purchases of navigation companies have been used to improve its mapping software.

Check Out The EyeEm Market!

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Follow me on EyeEm Najib

For those of you who don’t know about EyeEm yet, it’s a photo sharing app that’s not just focused on photo sharing, but tries to connect like-minded users through the photos they take. It “combines the familiar ‘snapshots and filters’ approach with metadata that collects not just location and time for each photo, but contextual information like what a user was doing at the time”. What I always loved about EyeEm is that it doesn’t require you to crop your pictures and has some really cool filters.

One of the people who founded EyeEm and is still running it is a Lebanese called Ramzi Rizk, whom I had the chance to meet last year. Ramzi told me about EyeEm’s growth and some of the plans they are working on. Speaking of which, the next step for EyeEm at the moment is the EyeEm market which was launched a couple of weeks back. It’s basically a market where you remain the copyright holder of your images and make 50% net revenue from each photo you sell. If you want to know what are the types of pictures clients are usually interested in, check out this [post].

I think this is a smart step as it will encourage professional photographers to submit their photos and amateurs as well. If you want to know more about EyeEm, the best way is to download it and try it out. It is available for iPhone and Android.

PS: For those of you who haven’t joined yet and don’t want to upload all your Instagram images one more time, you can now connect your EyeEm account to the Instagram one and import all the pictures. It’s very easy and fast.

CNN Report On Lebanon’s Slow Internet

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While one cannot deny that Minister Sehnaoui has improved the internet situation in Lebanon as a whole, internet is still relatively slow in Lebanon and the data caps are still ridiculously low. I am currently registered to the 1.5GB 3G plan and always exceed my monthly limit, even though I use WIFI at work and at home.

Let’s hope things will improve with the new minister.

You can watch the full CNN Report by Mohammad Jamjoum [Here].

PayPal Has No Plans To Launch In Lebanon Anymore

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According to Executive-Magazine’s [article], we won’t be having PayPal anytime soon in Lebanon.

The Lebanese launch, however, is not just stuck in the pipeline – it has been taken out of it altogether. Currently, Barel says, there are no specific plans to launch in Lebanon at all. “We are trying to expand to new territories and to other countries, but right now we don’t have specific targets for Lebanon,” he says.