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MEET THE IPHONE X, APPLE’S NEW HIGH-END HANDSET

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THE NEW IPHONE X packs more new stuff into any device since the original iPhone. It’s the most complete redesign of the product ever and even offers a glimpse at what the iPhone might become when the world no longer wants smartphones. Of course, you probably won’t buy one. Even if you can afford the super high price, getting your hands on an iPhone X in the next few months will be like hunting for the holy grail. Except in this case, the fancy one is the right answer.

Today, at an event in Cupertino that doubled as a grand opening of its new spaceship of a campus, Apple launched three new iPhones. Yes, three. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus upgrade the existing models without completely changing them. (More on those in a second.) The third model, the iPhone X, is another thing entirely.

Meet the X

First of all, the X looks like no other phone. It doesn’t even look like an iPhone. On the front, it’s screen head to foot, save for a small trapezoidal notch taken out of the top where Apple put selfie cameras and sensors. Otherwise, the bezel around the edge of the phone has been whittled to near-nonexistence and the home button disappeared—all screen and nothing else. The case is made of glass and stainless steel, like the much-loved iPhone 4. The notched screen might take some getting used to, but the phone’s a stunner. It goes on sale starting at $999 on October 27, and it ships November 3.

The screen itself, called a Super Retina Display, is a 1125×2436 OLED display reportedly made by Samsung. It’s the first time Apple’s used OLED tech in an iPhone, and it offers some big advantages. On a normal LCD screen, even black pixels are lit up a bit, which means you’re never seeing true black—just really dark gray. OLED, on the other hand, can light some pixels but not others, which means black pixels just stay off. Your dark colors will seem much darker, other colors even richer, and even text becomes more pleasant to read. Apple’s also incorporated its TrueTone technology for white-balancing the screen in different conditions, which should make everything look even better.

Since there’s no room for the home button on the front, a bunch of the feature’s functions have been moved to the power button, which Apple’s apparently calling the “side button” now. Long-press it for Siri, double click for Apple Pay. There’s still a little tactility in this phone, even as it becomes little more than a pane of glass.

Even with the huge screen, the iPhone X more closely resembles the iPhone 7. The iPhone’s screen-to-size ratio was always one of the smallest in the industry, thanks to the home button and Apple’s undying love for design symmetry. Getting rid of the home button allowed Jony Ive’s design team to get rid of so much more—just imagine your iPhone 7, but everywhere there’s metal, imagine screen. That’s the iPhone X.

Like the other two phones, the iPhone X runs Apple’s latest processor, the A11 Bionic, along with 3 gigs of RAM. It’s been years since the iPhone wanted for processing power, but the iPhone X might need all it can get. It has to power all that screen, for one thing, but Apple also seems to have created the iPhone X as a foray deeper into both artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Both require serious horsepower.

The iPhone X’s stated battery life has improved—Apple says it lasts two hours longer than the iPhone 7—and so has its charger. After years of observing the Android ecosystem’s messy and multi-standard embrace of wireless charging, Apple’s finally in the game. You won’t have to plug your X into the wall to charge it; you’ll just lay it down on the inductive pad. Apple is adopting the Qi standard, so it will work with current Qi pads by companies like Mophie and Belkin. Apple is also releasing its own charging accessory called AirPower that has room for your iPhone and your Apple Watch.

The camera, of course, has always been one of the iPhone’s standout features. rolling out a series of upgrades to the experience: You’ll be able to capture slow-motion film in higher definition or shoot film-style 4K. With the new Portrait Lighting mode, you’ll be able to tweak the flash on the back of the iPhone to fill a little more naturally—or make it look like your subject’s lit by a spotlight on stage. Up to you.

The back-facing camera array has been rotated 90 degrees so the bump runs vertically. Inside are dual 12-megapixel cameras, just like in iPhone 8 Plus, with f/1.8 and f/2.4 apertures. Dual optical image stabilization mitigates shakes in both cameras. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has this too, and it looks amazing. The iPhone X’s camera array also has a quad-LED True Tone Flash.

Turn and Face the Strange

In terms of how you actually use your iPhone, the new Face ID may be the most important new feature of the iPhone X. When you first start using an iPhone X, you’ll go through a short setup, the face version of registering your thumbprint—you’ll peer into the front-facing camera, framing your face just right, then turn your head left and right so the iPhone’s sensors can get a good look.

Once you set up Face ID, the feature essentially replaces your fingerprint. You’ll unlock your phone by holding it up to your face, pay for things by holding it up to your face, and log in to apps … by holding it up to your face. It requires your attention to unlock the phone, and Apple says it has done extensive work to make sure masks and photos can’t fool it. Apple appears to see the feature as a way to help you use the phone while you’re using it. The iPhone X can double-check whether you’re using the phone before shutting off the screen, and if it sees you’re looking it won’t play loud alert sounds. There are a lot of things Apple could do when it knows you’re looking at the phone, many of them cool and some of them very creepy. (Be sure to read Andy Greenberg’s initial dive into the security of Face ID.)

All of these facial-recognition features are made possible by an array of cameras and sensors packed into that notch at the top of the screen. The TrueDepth array, as Apple calls it, projects infrared dots onto your face to map it, captures that image, then uses a dedicated processor to interpret the face data. The promise is that it can always be sure it’s really you looking at the phone, even if you’re wearing glasses or you change your hair or grow a beard. The same tech that powers Face ID also comes to life inside the new Animoji, which are iMessage emoji that map to your face, so you can put your voice into the mouth of a unicorn or a dog. Not creepy!

Apple touted Face ID as both more secure and more convenient than a fingerprint, and the onstage demos certainly made it look that way. It’s very fast; about as snappy as Touch ID. But Samsung and others have already tried to make the feature work, and it’s been neither secure nor convenient.

Lucky Number 8

If you can’t get your hands on an iPhone X in the near future, Apple still has two new models for you. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus both look like the iPhone 7—with home buttons!—but offer a few big upgrades to match the iPhone X. Both new models support wireless charging, run the latest A11 Bionic processor, and have 2 gigs of RAM. They also have glass backs, which gives them a glossy new look. They don’t have OLED screens, but they’re getting the same TrueTone tech as the X, and they can shoot video in 4K.

In most years, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus would be the “S” phones, a mid-generation upgrade. But this year, partly as a show of strength and partly to keep up with the Note and Galaxy numberings, they’re the iPhones 8. You can buy them in black, silver, and a newly retooled gold finish for $699 and up for the regular one, $799 for the big one. You can preorder the 8 and 8 Plus on September 15, and the phones arrive in stores on September 22.

If you’ve been obsessively following rumors and firmware leaks, little about the iPhone announcements came as a surprise. After Tim Cook promised to “double down on secrecy,” the secrets spilled faster than ever. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported many of the device’s details, as did developer Steve Troughton Smith. But the biggest leakcame last weekend, just a few days before the announcement, when the final build of iOS 11 leaked to 9to5Mac. The firmware was absolutely loaded with details, from Animoji images to Face ID setup videos to the names of the new devices. This was Apple’s biggest announcement in years, and possibly its least surprising.

Still, the iPhone X should excite you. Not just because it’s cool-looking and futuristic, one giant step closer to the “just a screen in your hand” device so many science fiction lovers imagined. This iPhone moves a number of important ideas forward. Apple has the unique power to make, say, wireless charging work—and between the three new models, Apple instantly makes relevant whatever standard it chooses.

Most of all, the iPhone X makes a powerful statement that augmented reality is coming. It might be here already. When Apple launched the iPhone 10 years ago, the device was three things: a phone, an internet communicator, and an iPod. It’s so many more now, to so many more people, but the iPhone X may be the first to be redesigned around a specific new purpose. The more dynamic screen, the vertically stacked cameras, the tiny bezels, the faster processor—all those things work together to make the iPhone X primarily about what’s on the other side. You’re not supposed to look at this device, but through it.

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Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot can now do unbelievably good backflips

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THE VERGE — It’s been a while since we’ve seen any updates to the Atlas robot after Alphabet sold Boston Dynamics to SoftBank in June. After unveiling a teaser of its SpotMini robot just a few days ago, the company is now back with a new video of Atlas just casually performing gymnastics moves like it’s Tokyo 2020. Most of the video highlights the Atlas’ ability to hop up straight and stabilize itself on a platform, and jump while turning 180 degrees. Its movements are more fluid than ever, and Atlas appears to maintain great form.

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Tech

A Tech Hub in Mogadishu Aspires to Link Investors and Innovators

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Joblessness among young Somali adults is a chronic issue confronting Somalia.

Their unemployment rate is at staggering 67%. And the issue of youth joblessness is exacerbated by the large number of Somali students who graduate—from secondary schools and from tertiary organizations—with skills that are neither appropriate for Somalia nor competitive elsewhere.

Nonetheless, this aside, after almost three decades of turmoil—and of protracted conflict, terrorism, and piracy—Somalia is making huge entrepreneurial, socioeconomic, and political strides. This progress is encapsulated in a famous hashtag, popularized in 2017 and known as “#SomaliaRising.” In keeping with the spirit and momentum of this, we turned “Rising” into “iRise”—to demonstrate both how Somalis can improve narrative, and bring our innovative and entrepreneurship ingenuity into play.

Our brand name is a catalyst for this hashtag and aims to popularize the movement.

The iRise Hub is the first co-working space for technologists, innovators, and members of the business fraternity, giving them a place to collaborate and build local solutions to local problems. Based in Mogadishu, iRise offers incubation services and the best mentoring for local start-ups.

Our goal is not to just offer space and services but also create a large community of stakeholders committed to diversifying a war-torn economy. Social networks are often a powerful tool used by tech hubs to build these stakeholder communities. By using social media and blog posts, we engage our community members in various topics, and convey information on the technology and affordable solutions that are available to them.

iRise provides an environment where innovators and investors can collaborate in all walks of job-creating. It is widely known that the amount of capital injected into Somalia through remittances is higher than that brought in by development aid. We try to tap into this available capital by placing young digital innovators in the same room as those who are willing to invest. And iRise employees also hold one-on-one meetings with the community members to advise and help them with all their technical and business needs.

iRise facilitates equitable access to information for a tech-savvy youth population. We invite the top talent in all industries to give talks and fireside chats in our space, and make it open to all members of the community and public who show an interest in it. This will help young people receive market information that can make their brand or product competitive in Somalia and beyond.

iRise also collaborates with Devcon organizers to bring internationally recognise lecturers to Mogadishu. In the digital age, access to information is the most important currency for innovative growth and job creation.

We offer training and mentorship to youth on entrepreneurship and innovation, using technology to connect them to potential investors. iRise will collaborate with institutions of higher learning, corporations, and government institutions to increase the chances of young Somalis with tech talent being mentored and employed.

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Somali News

Somalia’s ‘touch and feel’ e-commerce hit

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When Saed Mohamed, a young entrepreneur from Somalia, pitched his online shopping business Muraadso as part of an East African start-up competition in 2015, he was prepared for rejection.

And rejection is what he got.

Abdigani Diriye, head of the Somalia-based accelerator, Innovate Ventures, which oversaw the competition, was not impressed.

“We had a few applications from e-commerce start-ups and they just weren’t really doing it for me,” he told the BBC.

But Mr Mohamed and his team were not about to give up.

“We have had a lot of rejections and we have learned to be persistent. We wouldn’t take no for an answer,” he says.

They did eventually get on the programme and ended up winning it.

“The irony is they went on to become the most successful start-up we took on,” joked Mr Diriye.

But the business they were pitching – a online store selling mainly electronics – “failed miserably” at first, admits Mr Mohamed.

It seemed Somalia wasn’t ready yet for online only. Perhaps this isn’t surprising given that less than a third of its 14 million people are able to access the internet and few have bank accounts. It’s an uphill struggle to get any online business off the ground.

So he looked to how Western retailers were combining offline and online sales to revive the flagging brand.

“The hybrid model is the thing right now. Amazon has opened a physical store and Walmart and other traditional retailers are acquiring e-commerce sites,” he told the BBC.

Muraadso did the same and “sales sky-rocketed,” he said.

Opening bricks and mortar stores in three different cities meant that potential buyers could go and touch the goods first before committing to buying them.

The site offers traditional home deliveries and flexible ways to pay, including cash on delivery.

Many purchase are made via mobile money transfer service, Zaad, which operates in a similar way to Kenya’s famous M-Pesa platform.

Zaad has an 80% market share in Somalia, charging no fees to send or withdraw money, but making its money instead from offering extra services and mobile airtime.

“The hybrid model wasn’t a concept that I was familiar with, but Muraadso started implementing it late last year and they have been growing ever since, going from a three-man team to employing dozens and looking to raise another round of funding,” says Mr Diriye.

E-commerce in Somalia is nascent, and across Africa generally, online shopping remains niche, says Matthew Reed, a consultant at research firm Ovum.

“Many people are still living on desperately low incomes, so e-commerce is really just for the middle classes. And there are other big challenges for e-commerce firms, not just in Somalia,” he says.

Chief among them is lack of infrastructure – both decent roads that enable quick and efficient deliveries, and the telecoms infrastructure that allows people to access the platforms in the first place.

But things are changing.

Millions in Africa have bypassed traditional telephone landlines and leapt straight to mobile – the oft-quoted “leapfrog” effect. According to mobile body the GSMA, there will be 725 million unique mobile subscribers on the continent by 2020.

And Somalia is benefiting from this improved connectivity.

In 2013, fibre optic firm Liquid Telecom connected the East African country to its 17,000km (10,500 mile) network of cables that already crosses 11 other African countries.

“There is increasing connectivity, mobile is increasingly widely available, and more of that is data-enabled with the increase of 3G and 4G networks,” says Mr Reed.

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