May 19, 2020

Top 10: Christmas Smartphones

Top 10
Sergio Burns
5 min
Top 10: Christmas Smartphones

Smart technology is set to be one of the most invested in gift ideas across the world this Christmas as the latest phones, wearables and connected devices make their way onto wish lists of millions.

Business Review Europe looks at ten of the hottest smartphones that can be bought for yourself or loved ones.

10. One Plus One

One Plus was founded on December 17, 2013 by Chinese entrepreneur Pete Lau. As handsets go One Plus One is THE budget model with oomph.  Smart design, smooth performance and feels expensive-ish. It runs on an Android 4.4 (KitKat) OS and has a 13 megapixel rear camera with autofocus. The 16GB model comes in at £229 (€289, $360) expect to pay a little extra for the 64GB.  A first generation product with a 5.5 inch display, though the quality is not quite as good as say the Galaxy S5.

9. Nexus 6

Announced in October 2014, the Google Nexus 6 looks like being the must have phone for late 2014.  Using the Android 5 Lollipop OS and put together by Motorola, the Nexus 6 has a sizeable 6 inch HD display, as well as a 13megapixel camera with Optical Image Stabilisation.  The 6 inch display is a decent size for watching videos.  Coming in at around £500 (€630, $787) the company was taking pre-orders for Christmas from November 18.

8. Amazon New Fire Phone

Keeping the theme from its Tablet brand, Amazon has entered the smartphone market with its new Fire phone.  Driven by a Fire OS 3.5 (compatible with Android 4.2 Jellybean) and incorporating Firefly technologies, newcomer Fire arrives with a 13megapixel camera and 3D display experience courtesy of Fire Phone's four front cameras – called Dynamic Perspective. With many of the features of the tablet, the 4.7 inch display is nothing to write home about, but at £127 (€160, $199) economical in austere times.

7. Huawei Ascend Mate 2

Huawei has made enough significant progress the year to make people sit up.  The handset is 6.1 inches big, the Asians do like big, and the display screen is impressively large.  In fact the Chinese company claims that 79 per cent of the front of the handset is taken up by display.   Using the Android 4.3 OS coded Jellybean, the camera has 13 mp and comes with a small portrait window in the top right hand corner which allows you to compose the shot before snapping.  Price tag is £283 (€356, $445).

6. Nokia Lumia 930

The Nokia Lumia 930 may well, sadly, represent the end of the 'Nokia' brand. The Lumia carries the famous Nokia PureView imaging technology (a Finnish innovation) and runs on the Windows Phone 8.1 OS, though plans are underway to upgrade the series to Windows 10. The camera spec includes a 20 megapixel rear camera with Carl Zeiss optics, and Optical Image Stabilisation. The Lumia 930 carries office 365 for business users. Will cost around £399 (€503, $627) sim-free.

5. Sony Xperia Z3

Six months from the launch of the successful Z2, Japanese company Sony introduced its latest update in October 2014. Why the rush? Using an Android 4.4 KitKat OS, and a neat 5.2 inch display, the performance of the Xperia has definitely improved. Longer life battery, a new design and the smoother rounded edging give the Z3 a more upmarket feel.  The camera on manual has 20.7 megapixels (8mp on auto). You will have to fork out £440 (€555, $692), and for those with a Z2 you will feel, understandably aggrieved.

4. HTC One (M8)

It's the design of the HTC One (M8) that makes you sit up. A cool smartphone with a 5 inch display and a much improved sound system. Sporting a duo camera system, which allows you to refocus even after a shot has been taken, it can also calculate the distance of objects to be shot and filter out unwanted foreground clutter. The HTC One (M8) runs on an Android 4.4 (KitKat) operating system and costs around £450 (€567, $708).

3. Apple iPhone 6 Plus 

Paying attention to the Asian market, Apple have reversed policy and brought the sizeable 5.5inch iPhone 6 Plus to the market.  With an excellent keyboard, it is big in the hand, and some worry about its flexibility - a bit overplayed in the media.  There is, however, no disputing the versatility of the iOS.  In true 'tablet' style turn this 'phablet' sideways, to landscape orientation setting, and the display turns too. One of the 6 Plus bonuses is the superior image stabilisation on the camera, which means sharper photos in lower light.  Price is a hefty £620 (€782, $975).

2. LG G3

LG released, probably, the leading smartphone of 2013. So this year their new upgrade, the G3, had a great deal to live up to.  A 5.5 inch screen with HD display gives the handset a phablet feel to it.  The camera is 13megapixel with Optical Image Stabilisation and a Laser Autofocus snapper in the rear.  The handset uses the Android 4.4 OS (KitKat).  Could set you back £330 (€416, $519), but has to be up there with the best.

1. Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is surely a superphone for modern times.  It boasts a fingerprint scanner and robust Knox security services to prevent muggers benefiting from your purchase.  It also features a waterproof and dustproof certificate.  With a 16megapixel rear camera, and working on an Android 4.4 KitKat OS, this is a credible upgrade on the S4. 

There is also the useful powersave mode for those times when you are travelling and forget to pack your charger!  For those who like to exercise there is a nifty heart rate monitor. Great performance, of course, costs, and the Galaxy S5 comes in at around £580 (€731, $912).

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May 28, 2021

Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work

Kate Birch
4 min
As a new report reveals most office workers are crushed by repetitive tasks, we talk the value of automation with UiPath’s MD of Northern Europe, Gavin Mee

Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.

Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.

Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.

When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”

And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.

Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work

By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.

“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”

These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.

Repetitive tasks that can be automated

Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”

These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.

“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”

Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.

Five business areas that can be automated

Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.

  1. Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
  2. Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
  3. Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
  4. IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
  5. Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.

“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”


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