Category Archives: Technology

Top 5 Smartphones released/to be released in September 2013

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Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Vs LG G2 Vs Sony Xperia Z1 Vs Nokia Lumia 1020

I don’t think we’ve ever had that many exciting smartphones being released in the same month as it’s the case this September. Personally speaking, there are 5 smartphones that I am looking forward to try out:

1- Samsung Galaxy Note 3
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I switched to Android back in December 2012 and got the Samsung Note 2, which is more of a phablet than a smartphone but I loved it. The screen was huge, the phone was ridiculously quick, the battery life was amazing but the camera wasn’t as good as the iPhone 4 or 5 and my Note 2 came with an insane chip, so I replaced it with the new Samsung S4 instead until the Note 3 comes out. I just hope it won’t have any software bugs like the S4.

2- HTC One
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The new HTC one is already available in Lebanon at Go Mobile, HTC’s distribution partner in Lebanon. I’ve tried the previous HTC and I liked it but I was always worried that I wouldn’t be able to repair it anywhere in Lebanon, plus I wasn’t very impressed with its camera and pictures. The new HTC wants to rival the Samsung S4 and new iPhone 5s and includes new features like the HTC BlinkFeed™, HTC Zoe™ and HTM BoomSound™.

3- LG G2
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The G2 is the LG’s latest flagship device and is a very powerful smartphone that has some very useful and unique features. I was invited to check it out before it gets released and I am very tempted to try it out. Unlike the S4 which is a great device but has loads of useless options, the LG G2 will have some unique features like the Audio Zoom (Yup Audio Zoom!), a breakthrough optical image stabilization (OIS) for the camera and rear keys. It’s a very powerful smartphone and a major improvement from the older LG models.

4- Nokia Lumia 1020
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Three words sum up this new Lumia model: 41 megapixel camera. The camera has become a very important feature in the smartphone industry and Nokia is introducing a camera that is capable of matching the pictures of a DSLR. The only down side is the OS which I am unable to get used to yet. I was hoping to see this awesome camera on an Android device but Windows acquired Nokia so that’s not gonna happen anytime soon. The Nokia Lumia 1020 is set to be released on September 25.

5- iPhone 5s
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I’ve been reading a lot about the new iPhone ever since it was announced, and it’s being portrayed like the greatest iPhone ever made and the best smartphone out there in the market. The fact is though that the 5S looks exactly like the 5 as most of the change was done on the inside. The new iPhone is much faster and comes with the latest iOS7, has a revolutionary and highly praised fingerprint sensor and a better camera among other things.

I was an iPhone user for 3 years but I like Android OS better now and I am not planning to switch back anytime. The only thing that interests me is the iPhone camera as Apple has always been ahead of others (At least till the S4 came out) in that field. Apple’s new iPhone 5s is set to go on sale today.

PS: The smartphones were listed randomly, not by order of preference

EyeEm

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When we mention photo sharing apps, the first name that comes to mind is Instagram. In fact, many apps have been trying to rival Facebook’s latest acquisition but only few have been able to cope with it or at least draw online users’ attention by bringing different approaches to photo sharing. One of them is EyeEm and the reason I am talking about it is because EyeEm’s Chief Technology Officer, Developer and Founder is a Lebanese called Ramzi Rizk.

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Photo Hack Day – Berlin

I had the chance to meet Ramzi’s brother Hany during my visit to Berlin back in June and I attended a photo hack day organized by EyeEm where I got to talk to Ramzi. I had a lot of questions in mind and wanted to know how different EyeEM is from Instagram and what are their plans for the future?

To sum it up, EyeEm is not just focused on photo sharing, but tries to connect like-minded users through the photos they take. As mentioned in this article, “EyeEm’s app 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.”

So basically it’s a smarter app that focuses on the user’s experience after uploading the picture by analyzing the photos and their related data. Of course the importance of a photo sharing app is to produce cool photos with the various filters and for that EyeEm provides 17 unique filters, and more importantly and that’s the best part, allows you to upload the whole picture and not crop it into a square.

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Some of my pictures on EyeEm – User: Najib

I don’t think it’s fair to compare EyeEm to Instagram because both work differently. For example if you want to look at photos of Beirut you will have to follow some hashtagh on Instagram while EyeEm will automatically show you photos of Beirut if you had just uploaded a picture of the city yourself. If you’ve been uploading a lot of pictures of Beirut or Byblos, EyeEm will notify you of any future picture of that city assuming they are relevant to you. Last but not least, EyeEm intuitively suggests relevant tags based on your location.

In terms of numbers, EyeEm reached 1 million downloads in October 2012, and has since been growing by an impressive one million users per month. They are growing steadily and managed to raise $6 million dollars a couple of months back.

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EyeEm featured on the Reuters screen smack dab in Times Square New York

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.

I hope that by the time you’ve finished reading this post, you would have downloaded EyeEm and started uploading awesome pictures of Lebanon!

Why we love photography from EyeEm

Lebanon’s Falafel Games

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Lebanese Vincent Ghossoub and Syrian Radwan Kasmiya co-founded Falafel Games and their game, Knights of Glory, is apparently one of the most popular online games in Arabic with around half a million members.

Does anyone play this game? I’ve never heard of it to be honest.

Falafel Games is behind one of the most popular online games in Arabic, Knights of Glory, with around half a million members. On its website, the firm states its aim is to “design and produce the best games of the Middle East, from the Middle East, for the Middle East.” Yet while its core market is the Middle East and North Africa, the management is from Lebanon and Syria, and its strategic partners are Beirut-based venture capital firm Middle East Venture Partners and the Dubai-based MBC Group. Falafel Games is based in Hangzhou, a city of 4 million people some 40 minutes west of Shanghai by train. [Source]

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Lebanese Army – LAF Shield App

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[YouTube]

I suggested in a post last week that the Lebanese Security Forces should set up few useful apps for citizens to submit reports almost instantly and the Lebanese Army has launched today an app that does exactly that and more!

LAF Shield allows you to report any suspicious activity or crime committed and you have the option to swipe and initiate a stress call. It also indicates the danger zones using Google Maps as well as display the list of suspects and wanted people.

This is a great initiative from the Lebanese Army and I urge Lebanese to use the app responsibly. We are in desperate needs of improving the communication between the Lebanese people and such apps are a great way to do so.

PS: The lists of wanted and kidnapped people are still empty.

The app is available on PlayStore and iTunes.

Touch Mobile TV

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Touch Lebanon introduced a new service today which is called Mobile TV. It basically allows you to watch live local and worldwide channels on your mobile, as well as watch Videos on Demand. All you need is 3G enabled device (or a tablet/PC with an internet connection) to subscribe to the service.

This service is charged separately and has nothing to do with the regular data plans, which I believe are still not that great whether coming from Alfa or Touch as they need to increase the quotas ASAP (I’ve upgraded to 1.5Gb and it’s still not enough).

The Mobile TV tariffs are as you can see below. The Data Usage Limits are not very encouraging but I don’t think that’s something the operator companies control. I mean 17$ to watch videos and series for only 5 hours over 3G or 10 hours Wifi?? That’s like a couple of long movies only on 3G. As far as Live TV Categories is concerned, we already have some local TVs (MTV, Al Jadeed for example) and I am sure International TVs who have apps that allow us to stream live news and for free so I wonder what this service has more to offer. I am guessing the streaming should be faster and better.

tariffs [High-Res]

Personally, I like the fact that we have that service now but I wouldn’t subscribe to it unless the usage limits are drastically increased. What I am interested in though is seeing how quick and consistent the live streaming of news or videos is because they take forever to load on the 3G.

Speaking of new services, Touch also launched a useful feature back in June, an in-app billing service with Anghami (Popular mobile music application) whereas touch users don’t need to pay separately for the app services, but instead the fees will be added to their monthly bill (For Postpaid lines) or deducted from the available balance (For Prepaid lines). I gave Anghami a try for a couple of months and it’s a pretty useful app to have if you want to stay posted and download (Only playable on Anghami though) the latest songs, specially the Arabic ones.

How Lebanese Hind Hobeika Created The Google Glass Of Swim Goggles

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[YouTube]

Hind is an AUB graduate and the inventor of Instabeat®, a revolutionary swimming device that can seamlessly and instantaneously track an athlete’s workout. Instabeat was named one of the 17 Most Intriguing Gadgets and is due to launch in the fall.

What she’s achieved so far is quite amazing and we can only wish her the best of luck for the launch and after it!

Little surprise that her target goal of raising $35,000 was more than twice surpassed in the first days of her campaign. Contributors came from the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

What might be surprising is where she is from. Silicon Valley? San Diego? New York? How about Beirut, Lebanon.

In the midst of the political instability we most often see in the headlines, Hobeika is leading one of tens of thousands of new, tech-centric startups from across the Middle East. The daughter of academics, herself an engineering grad from the American University of Beirut, she once presumed she would become an executive in a larger global company in the region like Procter & Gamble. But she was also a fiercely and passionately competitive swimmer in college, and she saw a market for an unmet need. [Full Article]

Lebanon Has The Arab World’s LEAST competitive cellular market for 2013

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This ranking is not surprising at all as two companies (Touch & Alfa) designated by the government are monopolizing the market in Lebanon.

The Cellular Competition Intensity Index results for 2013 revealed that Saudi Arabia tops the score -as the most competitive Arab market- with a 76.58% mark. This is followed by Jordan (75.83%), Palestine (71.55%), Egypt (67.89%), Iraq (66.03%), Oman (64.28%), Morocco (64.20%), Bahrain (64.18%), Tunisia (63.03%), Sudan (59.01%), Mauritania (58.28%), Algeria (57.99%), Yemen (56.38%), Kuwait (54.32%), UAE (48.68%), Qatar (47.67%), Libya (41.58%), Syria (40.74%) and Lebanon (40.71%).

The Cellular Competition Intensity Index is relative in nature as it compares the state of every market relative to other markets. As such, even if a market’s absolute level of competition improved, its score in this relative index will also depend on how other markets developed. The 2013 index results revealed that five countries ranked higher than their 2012 index ranks, these are: Iraq, Bahrain, Sudan, Mauritania and Libya. Moreover, a total of six countries ranked lower compared to the 2012 index, namely: Oman, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Syria and Lebanon. The remaining eight countries of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Yemen, Kuwait, UAE and Qatar maintained their 2012 ranks. [Source]

Sehnaoui: Fiber-optics network will cover all of Lebanon by year-end

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Picture from TheBeirutReport

We’ve been waiting for the fiber-optics network to be completed for 3 years now as it was promised by the previous Telecom Ministers. I hope this time things will work out and people will finally be able to enjoy more than 1 lousy Mb connection but if you read Habib’s report on this matter, it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen anytime soon.

Let’s not forget the ongoing feud between the Telecom Ministry and Ogero.

Lebanon recently dropped 6 spots in the Download Index Report and now ranks 158th out of 182 countries.

Telecom Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui said Thursday that more than half of Lebanon’s telephone substations were linked to a long-awaited fiber-optics network, and vowed to extend coverage to the remaining areas within the next six months. “After two years of work, the fiber optics network is ready in 170 telephone areas, and we sent a letter to [state-run telephone land line operator] OGERO to detail their financial and technical requirements to expand it to the remaining areas, which do not yet have DSL,” he said.

“The project is a part of balanced development … and no Lebanese will be without fast Internet by the end of the year,” Sehnaoui said. [DailyStar]

Nokia’s Lumia 1020 has a 41 megapixel camera

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Nokia released its latest smartphone yesterday, the new Lumia 1020 with an impressive 41 megapixels camera and the possibility of zooming up to 6 times without losing any image quality. The last Nokia model that featured a similar camera was the Pureview 808 model but it was running on Symbian which sucked.

To be honest, I love the Lumia phone for its camera (The Lumia 920 not the 900 camera though), design and hardware but my only problem is with the OS which is not as good as Android or iOS or is not evolving the way I thought it would. Nevertheless, the camera is becoming a crucial factor for any smartphone user so a six-lens 41-megapixel PureView camera paired with a Xenon flash could help Nokia gain few Android and iOS users, specially if the device is priced reasonably and if users can send their pictures to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc ..

Personally speaking, I might consider buying the Nokia Lumia 1020 if it’s not too expensive.

PS: I wouldn’t have hesitated one second in buying it if it was running on Android (which will probably never happen).

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Blocking SMS Spam

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We all hate getting annoying SMS messages and local providers aren’t doing anything to stop them. The ones I hate most, and which I reported on several occasions to Alfa, Touch and the Telecom Ministry, are those I get from 1085 or other four digit spamming numbers. I’ve always wondered if there’s a way to block or filter them, and I tried a couple of Android apps in the past but the one [SMS Spam Blocker - Postman] Abir posted about today is the best I’ve used so far.

Check it out and download it [Here].