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HMD Global launches new Nokia smartphones with 5G, budget prices

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HMD Global’s new Nokia X20 smartphone.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

LONDON — The company behind the Nokia mobile brand refreshed its smartphone lineup on Thursday with a slew of new budget models, as it struggles to compete with established players like Samsung and Apple.

Finnish start-up HMD Global has held the license to design and sell Nokia handsets since it bought the telecom group’s mobile phone division from Microsoft in 2016. The firm has since released several smartphones and “dumb phones” — including revamped versions of nostalgic devices like the 8110 “banana phone” and 2720 flip phone.

On Thursday, the company announced six new smartphones. They’re divided into three different series: X, which is at the top of the range in terms of pricing and specs; G, which is slightly more affordable than X; and C, which is the cheapest of the bunch. Prices start at 75 euros ($89) for the Nokia C10, while the Nokia X20 is the standout device of all six, retailing at 349 euros, or about $415.

For that price, you get a 6.67-inch screen, four cameras on the back with a 64-megapixel main lens, and the ability to connect to superfast 5G internet. The X20 and less expensive X10, priced at 309 euros, are both powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 480 5G chipset, run on Google’s Android operating system and come with three years of security updates, as well as a three-year warranty — one year more than that offered by the G and C series.

The X20 also has a “dual sight” feature that lets you use two of the phone’s cameras at the same time to capture different angles from a shot.

Using the dual sight camera feature on the Nokia X20.

Ryan Browne | CNBC

It won’t include a charger in the box for sustainability reasons, arriving with a fully compostable case instead. The phone will ship in Europe next month, while U.S. availability is yet to be revealed.

Fierce competition

Nokia has struggled to gain significant traction in the smartphone market, due to fierce competition from Apple, Samsung and Chinese players like Huawei and Xiaomi. This is an issue that’s dogged manufacturers like Sony and LG. The latter, once a top Android brand, said it would quit the smartphone market earlier this week.

“I think it will continue to be very hard for (Nokia) to be able to compete in the highest portfolios on the market — that’s why they are now targeting lower price bands,” Francisco Jeronimo, associate vice president for European devices at market research firm IDC, told CNBC.

“On the other hand, they have been working quite hard to penetrate the B2B (business-to-business) market, which is a very good opportunity for them because there are not many players that offer an appealing portfolio.”

Nokia-branded smartphones accounted for just 0.6% of the market last year, according to IDC data, shipping less handsets than LG and China’s Honor. HMD has, however, performed well in feature phones — also known as “dumb phones” — commanding a 16% share of that market in 2020.

HMD is hoping to branch out into enterprise sales and new services to find other sources of income. The company, which is financially backed by Nokia, Google and other big investors, launched a SIM card with global data roaming called HMD Connect last year. It managed to break even after prioritizing online sales in the coronavirus pandemic.

HMD is also launching a new mobile network in the U.K. called HMD Mobile. It will operate as a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, meaning it has to rely on another telecom firm’s network infrastructure. Bundles will start from £6.50 ($9) per month. It won’t launch with 5G right off the bat but the firm said it’s working on making the service “5G ready.”

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Uber and Just Eat Takeaway CEOs spar as European food delivery battle heats up

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Uber Eats delivery

Jonathan Raa | NurPhoto via Getty Images

LONDON — The CEOs of Uber and Just Eat Takeaway on Wednesday became engaged in a public spat after Uber announced it is planning to launch in Germany — a market that is currently dominated by Just Eat Takeaway.

Uber Eats will launch in Berlin in the next few weeks and potentially expand into other German cities in the coming months. The news was first reported by The Financial Times and confirmed to CNBC.

Just Eat Takeaway CEO Jitse Groen accused Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi of trying to “depress” his firm’s share price on Twitter on Wednesday. Shares of Just Eat Takeaway closed down almost 3%.

Khosrowshahi responded: “Advice: pay a little less attention to your short term stock price and more attention to your Tech and Ops.”

Shortly thereafter, Groen replied: “If I may … start paying taxes, minimum wage and social security premiums before giving a founder advice on how he should run his business.”

Uber operates its ride-hailing service in 13 cities across Germany but the company has never launched Uber Eats in what it views as a strategically important market. 

A spokesperson for Uber told CNBC: “As part of our ongoing investment in Germany, we’re excited to be launching Uber Eats to unlock the full potential of Uber’s mobility and delivery platform.”

“Based on feedback from restaurants and communities, we believe there is strong demand for more food delivery services and a more competitive market. We look forward to helping consumers, restaurants and workers access the benefits of the Uber Eats marketplace very soon.”

In Europe, Uber Eats is currently available in the U.K., France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Ireland. Approximately 24 million people used the app to order food from around 126,000 restaurants in Europe last year, as lockdowns resulted in more people ordering takeaways.

“Europe in particular has been a bright spot for (Eats), both in terms of some of the growth we’ve seen, but also, frankly, in terms of the strengthening of our market position,” Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Uber’s senior vice president of delivery, reportedly told The Financial Times.

He added that Just Eat Takeaway is effectively “dominating” the German market despite its “extraordinarily high” commission rates, according to the report. “That translates into consumers and merchants actually being quite desperate for additional options,” he said.

Uber Eats takes a commission of up to 30% on each order, depending on the services that it provides.

Uber Eats hasn’t gone down well everywhere it’s been launched. The service was pulled from India last year and South Korea in 2019. Operations have also shut down or sold in parts of eastern Europe, South America and Africa.

Uber, which is hoping to reach profitability for the first time this year, said its food delivery couriers in Germany will be employed by fleet management companies that are contracted to Uber.

The company will pay the fleet management firms for each order they carry out and it’s up to them to decide how they pay their employees.

Competition in food delivery

Britain’s Just Eat and the Netherland’s Takeaway.com announced they were planning to merge in July 2019 as part of a £9 billion (dollar conversion) deal.

Others have tried and failed to go up against Just Eat Takeaway in Germany including U.K.-headquartered Deliveroo, which pulled out of Germany in 2019 to focus on other markets.

Last June, Just Eat Takeaway, one of the largest food delivery businesses in the world, announced plans to merge with Grubhub in the U.S. after Grubhub’s talks with Uber fell through.

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U.N. experts say life in danger, call for medical evacuation

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Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, accused of flouting the terms of a suspended sentence for embezzlement, attends a court hearing in Moscow, Russia February 2, 2021.

Moscow City Court | Reuters

WASHINGTON – United Nations human rights experts called for the immediate medical evacuation of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny from Russia, citing concerns over his deteriorating health and prison conditions that they say may amount to torture.

“We believe Mr. Navalny’s life is in serious danger,” the group wrote in a statement Wednesday. “We are deeply troubled that Mr. Navalny is being kept in conditions that could amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in a facility that reportedly does not meet international standards,” the statement added.

“We urge the Russian authorities to ensure Mr. Navalny has access to his own doctors and to allow him to be evacuated for urgent medical treatment abroad, as they did in August 2020. We reiterate that the Russian Government is accountable for Mr. Navalny’s life and health while he is in detention,” the group added.

A Russian court in February sentenced Navalny to more than two years in jail for parole violations, charges he said were politically motivated. His detention came after spending nearly half a year in Germany recovering from a nerve agent poisoning that took place last August.

The Kremlin has denied any role in Navalny’s poisoning. On the heels of his arrest and subsequent detention, the West called on the Kremlin for Navalny’s immediate release.

Navalny, one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s most vocal critics in recent years, was transferred to a prison hospital on April 19, three weeks into a hunger strike protesting against his treatment in prison and denial of urgent medical treatment.

Russian authorities had previously said that they offered Navalny medical care but that he continued to refuse it. The prison had declined to allow a doctor of Navalny’s choice from outside of the facility to administer his treatment.

On Sunday, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration warned the Russian government to not let Navalny die in custody.

“We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny in their custody is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community,” Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

“We have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies,” he added.

Confrontation over Navanly’s imprisonment and worsening health condition is the latest drumbeat in the already tense relations between Moscow and the West.

In an annual address on Wednesday, Putin warned countries of crossing Russia’s “red lines” as international pressure mounts over a massive military buildup on the border with Ukraine.

In March, the United States sanctioned seven members of the Russian government for the alleged poisoning and subsequent detention of Navalny. The sanctions were the first to target Moscow under U.S. President Joe Biden’s leadership. The Trump administration did not take action against Russia over the Navalny situation.

Last week, the Biden administration slapped Russia with another round of U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, sweeping cyberattacks and attempts to influence U.S. elections.

In an address announcing the new measures, Biden said he was prepared to take further actions against Moscow.

“If Russia continues to interfere with our democracy, I’m prepared to take further actions to respond. It is my responsibility as president of the United States to do so,” Biden said from the White House.

Washington also expelled 10 officials from Russia’s diplomatic mission in the United States.

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HSBC manager vows to change work-life balance following heart attack

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HSBC tower at Canary Wharf financial district in London, England

Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

After suffering a heart attack, a HSBC manager in the U.K. vowed to change his work-life balance in a post on LinkedIn, which has gone viral. 

Jonathan Frostick, a regulatory programme manager at HSBC, described in a LinkedIn post last week how he suffered a heart attack on a Sunday afternoon, when he sat down to prepare some work for the week ahead. 

But instead of seeing his life flash before his eyes, Frostick said that one of his first thoughts was that “I needed to meet with my manager tomorrow, this isn’t convenient.” 

Frostick said he had decided he wouldn’t spend “all day on Zoom anymore” and that he planned to restructure his approach to work. 

“I’m really not going to be putting up with any s— at work ever again — life literally is too short,” he said, alongside a picture from his hospital bed following the heart attack. 

Frostick also said he wanted “every day to count for something at work,” or he would change his role. 

The post has attracted more than 200,000 reactions on LinkedIn. 

Responding to some of the more than 10,500 comments on the post, Frostick said that he didn’t expect the message to “hit home” as it much as it did — “but I’m pleased as it has seemingly helped a lot of people.” 

A spokesperson for HSBC said: “We all wish Jonathan a full and speedy recovery.” 

They said the firm recognized the importance of personal health, wellbeing and a good work-life balance and had redoubled its efforts in these areas over the last year. 

“The response to this topic shows how much this is on people’s minds and we are encouraging everyone to make their health and wellbeing a top priority,” they added.

Check out: A 4-day work week might be edging closer — here’s why

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