Fintech – disruptive technology

Businesses are embracing it by coming up with their innovations and startups

A BUZZWORD growing in popularity in the financial world today is “fintech”, short for financial technology, which in a nutshell refers to the use of technology to deliver faster and cheaper financial services.

Going by some predications, fintech could take a big chunk of business away from traditional banks as it is being run by smaller more nimble start-ups. But the debate is still out there as to how much that chunk will be. In Malaysia in particular, fintech’s presence is still nascent and small. Fintech transactions totalled a mere US$6.37mil this year compared with a global figure of US$769.3bil, according to Statista, an online statistics provider.

It however predicts that fintech transaction values to grow to US$14.4bil by 2020. A significant number of fintech companies, especially those in the digital payments space, actually work alongside local banks.

Still, fintech is not to be taken lightly. Top bankers themselves are speaking of its imminent threat to their business. Former Barclays CEO Anthony Jenkins referred to it as banking’s “Uber moment” to describe technological advances that could see bank branches close down and people laid off.

Last April, Jamie Dimon the CEO of the US’ largest bank JP Morgan in his letter to shareholders warned that “Silicon Valley is coming.” “There are hundreds of start-ups with a lot of brains and money working on various alternatives to traditional banking,” Dimon wrote.

On the home front, just last month prominent banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak echoed such views. Speaking at the Star Media Group’s PowerTalk: Business Series held at Menara Star, Nazir opined that fintech companies are disrupting banking.

“Bankers must respond to this Uber moment. People actually dislike banks today, since the global financial crisis. Recent data suggests that in the US, the cost of banking intermediation has not changed for 100 years in real terms. This simply means banks have not gotten more efficient over the years, so its right that banks get attacked by ‘Silicon Valley’, which has identified banking as an industry that is very ‘ripe’ or juicy to disrupt.”

Even the central bank is echoing these views.

In his maiden keynote address at an Islamic finance conference in Kuala Lumpur last week, Malaysia’s newly-appointed Bank Negara governor Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim gave a grim reminder to banks of the threats posed by fintech. In particular, Muhammad quoted from a report by McKinsey that 10% to 40% of banking revenue is possibly at risk by 2025 due to innovations outside banking institutions that are able to offer a significant pricing advantage and that technologically-driven applications had spread to nearly every segment of the financial sector, with the number of fintech start-ups having doubled in the last year. “Fintech is challenging the status quo of the financial industry,” he said.

To be fair, Malaysian banks are quick to point out that while fintech does represent a disruption to business, they are embracing the movement, by coming up with their own fintech innovations or by working with fintech startups.

So what is fintech?

In a nutshell, fintech is an economy of companies using technology to improve efficiencies and effectiveness in the financial services industry. To illustrate the offerings of fintech companies, consider the business model of homegrown start-up MoneyMatch, which is modelled after UK-based TransferWise which began in 2011 and today moves US$10bil a year through its platform.

MoneyMatch has created a platform to match individual buyers and sellers of currencies, with the attraction of both sides enjoying better exchange rates than what banks and even money changers offer. The rate used by the MoneyMatch site is the middle rate of the currency exchange spread. So an individual for example, willing to buy US$100 for his travels will be matched with someone wanting to change his US$100 into ringgit. The parties will be matched on this application and then proceed to make their exchange in an agreed location. MoneyMatch is also entering the area of cross border fund transfers.

“For example, someone in Singapore wishing to transfer money to Malaysia can be matched with someone here wishing to send an equal amount of money across the Causeway. Hence the parties can make the respective transfers to local accounts of their choice after an exchange of information. This means the transfer is done minus any cross-border transfer fees,” explains MoneyMatch co-founder Naysan Munusamy, who had spent many years as a forex trader with a number of banks before venturing out to start MoneyMatch.

Peer lending

One key growth area in fintech is peer to peer or P2P lending, online platforms that match borrowers with lenders, bypassing the traditional financial institutions. The business had even attracted big names such as Goldman Sachs. The most notable name in this space is Lending Club, which had launched its service as far back as 2007 and became the US’ largest technology IPO in 2014, raising around US$1bil.

Lending Club claims that its platform – which enables borrowers to get unsecured loans of US$1,000 to US$35,000 – has now helped originate close to US$16bil in loans.

Locally, last month the Securities Commission (SC) launched a regulatory framework for P2P lending, paving the way for small and medium-sized companies to access this new avenue of debt funding. Under SC’s rules though, individuals are not allowed to raise money on the local P2P platforms. Rather it is meant to only fund projects and businesses and a number of safeguards are in place. For example, those behind the operator of the P2P platform need to pass the “fit and proper” test; the rate of financing cannot be more than 18% (as that would be deemed predatory lending) and that the P2P operator has to disclose information related to the issuer and the risk assessment and credit scoring parameters adopted by the operator. There is no authorized P2P platform in Malaysia yet as parties wishing to run such platforms have to submit their application to the SC soon.

In China, P2P lending has virtually exploded. As a recent report by Citibank highlights, “China is past the tipping point”, with fintech companies having similar number of clients as the major banks. The report notes that China is the largest P2P lender in the world, with transactions topping US$66bil, compared with the US with only US$16.6bil.

Regulating fintech

But there are problems. Some unregulated P2P platforms in China had run scams. Others helped fuel an equity roller-coaster by offering funding for stock investments. This led to the Chinese benchmark index rallying more than 150% in the 12 months to last June before abruptly crashing. The Chinese authorities are now cleaning up the P2P sector.

So what are the risks of fintech regulation in Malaysia? And do companies like MoneyMatch need be regulated and licensed?

In an emailed reply to StarBizWeek, Bank Negara says: “Fintech start-ups that engage in activities under the purview of the central bank must comply with existing laws”. Bank Negara explains that regulated businesses include banking, insurance or takaful, money changing, remittance, operating a payment system or issuing payment instruments.

“A fintech company that engages in any activity that falls within the definition of a regulated business must be properly authorised to do so under the relevant laws.

“As an example, collecting deposits via a fintech platform would require approval from Bank Negara.

“A fintech company that is authorised to conduct a regulated business under the laws that Bank Negara administers will be subject to the oversight of Bank Negara pursuant to those laws.”

What this indicates is that Bank Negara is going to regulate fintechs the same way it does banks. But exactly how, it still isn’t clear.

But the good news is this: Bank Negara says it is engaging with firms in this space (and presumably that includes the likes of MoneyMatch), “to understand and where appropriate facilitate their business and provide guidance on aspects on regulation that would be applicable to them.”

Bank Negara adds that it is in the process of formulating a framework that “encourages innovation without undermining financial stability, the integrity of the financial system or the adequate protection for financial consumers.”

The SC has also been pushing for fintech innovation to develop in Malaysia. Last year, Malaysia became the first country in the region to introduce the regulatory framework for equity crowd funding. (While P2P is about companies raising debt, crowd funding is for entrepreneurs to sell equity to investors.)

The SC has also launched aFINity@SC, a fintech community aimed at industry engagement and more recently launched the P2P financing framework, which is aimed at addressing the funding needs of small businesses.

Chin Wei Min, the SC’s new head of innovation and digital strategy, says: “We think fintech can provide solutions to some of the unserved and underserved needs in the capital market.”

Chin adds: “We are also mindful of the risk, fraud and all the pitfalls. We continue to enhance our engagement model. We want to remain very close to the industry.”

Fintech’s hiccups

Some recent developments in the fintech space, however, point to weaknesses in fintech companies. LendingClub, the poster boy company for P2P lending has seen its shares tumble, wiping out about a third of its market value.

This came as it faces scrutiny after its founder and CEO resigned following an investigation into improper loan sales.

The US Treasury has released a report criticising the P2P lending business, recommending it to be more tightly regulated. Some commentators are liking P2P lending to the early days of the subprime mortgage bubble of 2006-07.

It is more likely though that the experiences of fintech in mature markets like China and the US will serve as good guides as to how this business will grow in this part of the world, with the requisite regulations put in place.

And the jury is still out as to whether traditional banks here will lose significant parts of their businesses to fintech start-ups.

Or as one industry observer puts it, fintech is more likely to usurp the business of the shadow banking market here, as some unserved borrowers now have the option to move away from loan sharks or “Ah Longs” and into the crowd funding or P2P platforms. But after that, banks could be next.

By Risen Jayaseelan, Wong Wei-Shen, a Zunaira Saieed The Star

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Zafrul: ‘We want to anticipate and capitalise on opportunities.’Banking on fintech


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Apr 16, 2016 WHO dominates the phone dominates the Internet. The whole world of information is now available in your hand, replacing your own mind as a …


Smartphone handset: build it yourselves

Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Barcelona (AFP) – With a smartphone that slots together piece by piece like Lego, US Internet giant Google is trying to reinvent the mobile as most phone makers are honing sleeker handsets.

The company aims to challenge its rival Apple’s thin iPhones with the Google Ara project, giving smartphone aficionados the option to build their phone themselves.

Analysts say tech boffins will love it but remain cautious about how popular it may be compared to polished conventional smartphones that sit snugly in the palm.

Google says the Ara phone is part of its bid to widen Internet access to users in developing countries and could create a new industry for assembly-ready handset parts.

Google’s associate, US firm Yezz, presented a prototype of the build-your-own device this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the world’s biggest wireless telecom trade fair.

The phone consists of a base structure on which various square, magnetic modular parts can be attached: screen, battery, camera, speakers and more. Google plans to release it in three sizes.

Build-your-own Google handset reconstructs smartphone

Ara would allow users to replace individual components rather than throwing the whole thing away and buying a new handset. It says the base unit will last at least five or six years.

“That is good for the environment,” said Annette Zimmermann, a telecom specialist at German consultancy Gartner.

– Emerging markets –

Ara “could reshape the mobile landscape,” said Paul Eremenko, director of the Ara Project, in a presentation to experts in January.

He said it aimed to gain six billion potential clients — the current billion people who currently use smartphones “and five billion future users”, most of them in emerging markets.

Google says a mid-range Ara phone could cost between $50 and $100 to produce, but has not given details of the likely sales price, leaving questions marks over how sustainable such a product would be.

“Google is not looking to make money directly with Ara,” said Jerome Colin, a telecom expert at French consultancy group Roland Berger.

“It is basically looking to spread smartphones in countries with low purchasing power, and to unify the telecom world around its Android system.”

– ‘Paradox of choice’ –

Tech fans and bloggers queued up to see the prototype presented in Barcelona, but analysts were sceptical.

“The trend in mobile phones is to have small, thin, really integrated products. If you make a product modular it immediately means that you’re going to have to make compromises on that,” said Ben Wood, head researcher at consultancy CCS Insight.

“The other question mark I have is: beyond geeks, who really knows” about components? he added.

“If I said to you, which processor do you want in your smartphone, I think you could stop people in the street and they’d just look at you like you’d landed from Mars.”

Eremenko acknowledged that consumers risked being overwhelmed by too many technical options when it comes to choosing components.

“We need to resolve the paradox of choice,” he said in January.

Google plans a test launch of the device in Puerto Rico by the end of this year.

“We will have to see if the public takes to it,” said Zimmerman.

Google dominates the world of Internet searches and its Android operating system can be used on 80 percent of the world’s smartphones. It also holds a large market share in wireless tablet devices.

Its senior vice-president Sundar Pichai said in Barcelona on Monday that it was in talks with telecom companies about possibly using their networks to operate its own mobile phone services in the United States.


Smartwatch trademarks for Samsung “Galaxy Gear”?

Samsung-galaxy-gear-smartwatch-conceptSamsung Electronics has applied for US and South Korean trademarks for a watch that connects to the Internet in the latest sign that consumer technology companies see wearable devices as the future of their business.

Samsung described “Samsung Galaxy Gear” as a wearable digital electronic device in the form of a wristwatch, wrist band or bangle in its July 29 application with US Patent and Trademark Office. A month earlier, it applied for a “Samsung Gear” trademark in South Korea.

The trademark applications did not show the shape of the products. But drawings from a Samsung design patent approved in May show a watch-like design with a flexible screen that curves around the wrist.

The US trademark application said the device will be “capable of providing access to the Internet, for sending and receiving phone calls, electronic mails and messages” as well as “for keeping track of or managing personal information.”

The trademark filings in the US and in South Korea show that Samsung is deep in preparations for what tech industry experts expect will be a new generation of mobile technology that dramatically expands the utility of single-function objects such as watches and glasses. The South Korean consumer electronics giant was caught flatfooted by Apple’s invention of the smartphone but through what turned out to be a legally risky strategy of imitation was able to capture a dominant share of the global smartphone market within a few years.

Apple applied June 3 for a trademark in Japan for “iWatch.” Industry watchers have long speculated that Apple is working on a smart watch that uses a version of the operating system that powers the iPhone and iPad. The company has not confirmed those rumors but CEO Tim Cook has hinted it may be developing a wearable computing device.

Google is testing an early version of Internet-connected spectacles called Glass. It uses a small screen above the right eye that displays information and imagery retrieved from the Internet.

The South Korean patent office said the Gear trademark will not be approved this year as it takes seven to eight months to start reviewing applications due to a waiting list. Samsung applied for the South Korean trademark on June 21.

It was not clear if Samsung would use the “Samsung Gear” trademark for a Smart Watch. The trademark application covers 38 possible products including mobile telephones, bracelets, glasses and software interfaces that monitor human vital signs.

South Korea’s patent office said in June that Samsung had patented watch designs in which more than three quarters of the device is covered by a flexible display that curves around the wrist. Illustrations showed ‘back’ and ‘home’ buttons at the bottom of the screen. Another illustration shows a rectangular screen with an edge that tapers toward the top.

The product is made of metal, synthetic and glass materials, Samsung’s patent document said.

Samsung executive vice president Lee Young Hee said in March interview with Bloomberg that the company’s mobile division has been working on a smart watch. Samsung declined to confirm the report then.

Company spokeswoman Chenny Kim declined to comment on the patent applications. – AP

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Huawei develops 5G technology

Huawei Technology SHANGHAI: As people across the world get used to the fourth generation (4G) mobile technology, Chinese equipment maker Huawei Technologies has said it is working on the fifth generation (5G), which is likely to be available for use by 2020.

The company said presently 200 people are working on the project and it has earmarked a specified amount for the research and development of the technology. It, however, refused to share details about the amount to be spent for the development of the technology.

Huawei Technologies official Wen Tong said that by 2020, there will be billions of connections and 5G can provide massive connectivity. The technology will enable people to have a fibre network like user experience on a wireless connection.

It can provide speed of 10 GBps, which is 100 times faster than the mobile technology used these days, Tong added.

South Korean giant Samsung has also announced that it has successfully tested 5G technology and it will be ready for commercial roll-out by 2020.

Mobile operators across the world have started moving towards the high-speed long term evolution (LTE) or 4G networks and Huawei provides equipment to 85 such networks.

The company is also undertaking a trial run to test the speed on its 4G technology on high speed MagLev train in Shanghai.

Huawei has deployed an LTE network to support wireless connectivity on the train, which runs between the centre of the Shanghai district to the International Airport. The total length of the track is 31 km and the train achieves a speed of up to 431 km per hour.

The company said on that speed, its 4G technology can provide a download speed of up to 50 MBps.


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Samsung’s Galaxy S4 is going to get even faster with LTE-Advanced

Samsung galaxy S4 LTE-Advance

After announcing smaller and tougher versions of its flagship smartphone, Samsung is now gearing up to launch a new version of the S4 with support for LTE-Advanced networks, Reuters reports.

The phone could hit South Korea as soon as this month, Samsung co-chief executive officer J.K. Shin told Reuters. LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) is a major upgrade over the current LTE standard, and it could end up being the driving technology behind future “5G” networks. For now, though, it looks like carriers are approaching LTE-A as a way to speed up existing 4G LTE networks. T-Mobile, for example, claims it’ll be the first to offer LTE-A in the U.S. because it has newer LTE equipment than other carriers.

LTE-Advanced will potentially offer speeds up to 300 megabits per second (three times faster than LTE’s theoretical bandwidth), so you can be sure that carriers will want to market the heck out of that upgrade. Samsung claims its LTE-A Galaxy S4 will be about twice as fast as the current LTE models.

For the most part, the LTE-A Galaxy S4 seems like a show horse for Samsung. It gets to claim that it’s the first in the LTE-A handset market, but most consumers won’t be able to take advantage of the faster speeds for some time. The phone will also serve as a way to push Samsung’s 4G networking-equipment business. (After all, it’ll only be able to convince carriers to adopt its LTE-A equipment if there’s a phone that supports the faster network.)

By Devindra Hardawar/  VentureBeat

Samsung GALAXY S4 LTE 32GB – White/Black Mist SAM-GT-I9505ZKEXME

Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
GT-I9505 (quad core Snapdragon 600, LTE)
5.0″ inch Full HD Super AMOLED
32GB internal memory
13MP camera
2MP Front Camera

RRP: RM2,499

Maxi 4G LTE Network


WARRANTY Extra 1 year peace of mind with Senheng extended year warranty on top of the 1 year original Samsung Malaysia (SME) manufacturer warranty when you shop from Senheng Online Store.

Life companion

Make your life richer, simpler, and more fun.

Make your life richer, simpler, and more fun. As a real life companion, the new Samsung GALAXY S4 helps bring us closer and captures those fun moments when we are together. Each feature was designed to simplify our daily lives. Furthermore, it cares enough to monitor our health and well-being. To put it simply, the Samsung GALAXY S4 is there for you.

Dual Shot

See both sides of the story

Two cameras, one extraordinary photo. Capture the ‘I was there’ moments of your life by simultaneously shooting with the front and rear cameras. Get the shot you want with more variety of styles to choose from. With Dual Shot, friends and family can experience everything with you, no matter how far they may be.

Sound & Shot

Listen to your photos

Every picture you take on the Samsung GALAXY S4 can come with sound. So now you can remember what was said, played, and heard, not just what it looked like. It adds another layer of excitement to help you relive and share every moment of each picture much more vividly.

Capture every action in one photo

Get a sequence of photos in one frame to create a collage that tells the story better than a single photo could. Drama Shot lets you take a series of pictures of any moving subject and puts them together – so you can see the detailed action that’s seamlessly merged into one very dynamic photo.

Group Play – Share Music

Share the enjoyment with friends

Get your friends together and let them enjoy your music simultaneously. Wirelessly connect multiple Samsung GALAXY S4 phones to play games and share photos and documents. Get all Samsung GALAXY S4 phones together and create a powerful sound system that enhances the sound quality and keeps the party going.

Story Album

An album for every occasion

Have the Samsung GALAXY S4 organise your photos and create albums based on specific events or customise them the way you want. You can even apply themes and choose various layouts. Then print the photos and hold the memories in your hand.

Samsung Hub

One stop shop for any content you want

With the Samsung GALAXY S4 you can browse and shop through any content available from every Samsung Hub in one place. Videos, games, books, learning – it’s all in one integrated store. It has what you’re looking for in an easy to use and stylish magazine layout.

S Translator

No more language barriers

Say or text what you need translated into your new Samsung GALAXY S4 and it’ll read or text back the translation. The Samsung GALAXY S4 is a handy companion while traveling abroad, allowing you to easily communicate with locals, discover exotic foreign dishes, and explore hidden hangouts around the world.
Support: English, German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Japanese and Korean.
* S Translator relies on a data connection and available languages are limited. Additional terms and/or data charges may apply. Results will vary by circumstance.


More ways to communicate

Share what’s on your screen with one of your friends, even if you’re both in two entirely different places. Now with voice and video data call support, instead of just hearing what they’re up to now, actually see everything that friends and family are doing with Dual Camera. Connect with two of your friends or family on a more intimate level.

Air View

A simple and new approach from the ordinary touch

– Save time by having a quick preview without having to open up the entire content.
– Air View makes it, easier, and super-convenient to enlarge content and photos, preview emails, and speed dial all with your finger barely hovering over the screen.
– Supported features: Information Preview, Progress Preview, Speed dial Preview, Webpage magnifier.

Air Gesture

A simple and new approach from the ordinary touch.

– Control your phone by just waving your hand over the screen without actually touching the screen.
– Just wave over the screen to go through contents for a quick glance Respond quicker to your calls by answering with Air Gesture.
– Supported features: Quick Glance, Air Jump, Air browse, Air move, Air call-accept .

Samsung Smart Pause

A phone that follows your every move

Building off of the Galaxy S3’s Smart Stay, the Samsung GALAXY S4 knows what you’re doing and intuitively moves along with you – automatically scrolling up or down emails or websites when you tilt the phone from one side to another. Whenever you look away, the Samsung GALAXY S4 makes sure to pause whatever you’re watching, so you don’t miss anything. Amazingly, Smart Pause resumes where you left off when you look back at the screen again.

Samsung Home Sync

Enjoy your personal cloud

– Samsung HomeSync is the optimum personal cloud device for family entertainment. With 1 TB of storage capacity, Samsung HomeSync stores tons of pictures and videos once it’s taken wherever you and your family members are.
– Bring Android games, movies, TV shows and streaming content directly into your living room on a large and vivid TV. Mirror Mouse, the specialised navigating feature of the Samsung GALAXY S4, is a much simpler and easier way to enjoy all the features of Samsung HomeSync!

Samsung WatchON

The ultimate TV remote

Connect your Samsung GALAXY S4 with your home entertainment system and let it be your TV expert. It suggests different programmes based on your preferences, provides programme schedules, and does the channel surfing for you.
The Samsung GALAXY S4 even allows you to remotely control the TV or set top boxes. So sit back, relax and let the Samsung GALAXY S4 take the work and hassle out of TV for you.
* Subject to information from local service provider.

S Health

Achieve more for your health

Stay active and fit with the Samsung GALAXY S4. It will track your workouts, daily intake, and weight levels. Get the current status of your surroundings for your activities with the Samsung GALAXY S4’s Comfort Level. It shows your comfort level based on temperature and humidity. Monitor your progress with both Health Board and various charts. Together with the Samsung GALAXY S4, being motivated for better health has never been so easy.

Adapt Display

Optimised display settings that fit you

Give your eyes a rest and let the Samsung GALAXY S4 adjust your view.
With 7 automatic modes and 4 manual modes, the Samsung GALAXY S4 provides the optimal viewing experience. See your favourite videos, games, books and emails displayed with amazing colour quality. Get the perfect and optimised view with the Samsung GALAXY S4.

Adapt Sound

Sound, the way it was meant to be heard

Hear everything with the right balance and perfect volume customised for you. The Samsung GALAXY S4 dials music up and down and balances left and right audio based on your hearing, the sound source and your preferences. The Samsung GALAXY S4 provides an optimal sound experience tailored to you.

Live in a world of infinite possibilities

He design of the Samsung GALAXY S4 defies what’s possible.

The incredibly – wide FULL HD Super AMOLED screen fits perfectly within an extraordinarily slim bezel that’s encased in a special polycarbonate body, making this the lightest and most sophisticated GALAXY yet.

Samsung S4 new heir to Galaxy smartphone throne

The S4 lives up to all the buzz to take over the torch for Samsung’s outstanding range
Samsung GALAXY S4_1
WITH over 10 million units sold worldwide since its launch last month, an introduction to the Samsung Galaxy S4 seems somewhat redundant.

So we are going to head straight into discussing whether the latest addition to Samsung’s arsenal of Galaxy devices lives up to all the buzz.

There are two variants of Samsung Galaxy S4, one powered by the 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor, and the other by Samsung’s Exynos 5 1.6 GHz Octa-core processor (which we find on our shelves here).

Octa-core, on paper, sounds astounding but, in reality, it is somewhat disappointing.

Make no mistake, it is fast: Multi Window and multi-tasking run much better here. But for that much processing power, it is fair to expect the device to run as smooth as butter all the time.

When you fire up the five-inch full HD display, the awe factor goes up.

The Super AMOLED display is stunning and you will soon forget about the cheap-looking and prone-to-grime polycarbonate back plate that covers the removable 2,600mAh battery, microSD slot and micro SIM slot.

We found the new features the Galaxy S4 came with to be rather useful, especially Air Gesture which lets you scroll up and down a web page, change music track, or even answer a call by waving your hand.

You can even wake the device up enough to show you the time and notifications that way.

With Samsung Smart Scroll, we can easily scroll up and down web pages by tilting the device. The only catch is that you can only use both Air Gesture and Samsung Smart Scroll on web pages opened with Internet Browser.

Other features include the S Translator which provides instant translation and Optical Reader which automatically recognises text, a business card or QR code information.

There is also the WatchON which transforms the device into an infra-red remote control for your home entertainment system including your television, set-top box, DVD player and air-conditioner.

Dubbed as the Life Companion, the Galaxy S4 also has an excellent snapper.

One of the best things about the Galaxy S4’s camera is its user-friendliness.

Owing to the camera software borrowed from the Galaxy Camera, swapping in-between the 12 modes onboard is a breeze.

The camera does extraordinarily well in an environment with good lighting, producing pictures with vibrant colours and details.

Otherwise, you’ll get some noisy pictures. However, the HDR mode manages to work very well in managing the tricky lighting scenarios.

Other Ingenious modes like Animated Photo which lets you create animated GIFs without leaving the camera app, and the Dual Camera function which allows simultaneous use of both front and rear cameras, also help make immortalising memories more delightful.

The battery in the Galaxy S4 holds up pretty well especially with the brightness turned down.

A full charge lasts a full day of heavy text messaging, web-browsing, taking pictures and multi-tasking between apps. It can easily last longer with Power Saving Mode turned on.

All in, the Galaxy S4 is an outstanding device despite its shortcomings and occasional stutters. It is undeniably deserving of taking over the S III in carrying the torch for the Galaxy line-up.

By Yeevon Ong

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Tap your phone’s potential with NFC technology

Make your Android device smarter using a little-known technology called NFC.

NFC car 
HANDY: If you have an NFC tag in your car, you can quickly turn on or off functions (like Bluetooth) on your smartphone.

 NFC stands for near-field communication, a short-range wireless communication technology that enables the exchange of data between devices over about a 10cm distance.

In certain countries, NFC has already been used to turn smartphones with embedded NFC chips, into mobile wallets.

Instead of using cash or credit/debit cards, the part of the smartphone where the NFC chip is located (usually on the back cover or in the battery) is tapped on the scanner for the transaction to be charged to the user’s account.

Some countries have trialled the usage of NFC as a means of payment for public transportation too. Think of NFC as using your smartphone as a Touch ‘n Go card and you’ll get the picture.

Tag it

There are more and more NFC-enabled Android smartphones landing on our shores. While the use of it here hasn’t reached the same level as some other countries, it is not without its usefulness.

The most publicised use of NFC is the ability to transfer files at breakneck speed by just bumping two smartphones against each other.

While it’s impressive, the true potential of this technology lies in an external accessory known as an NFC tag.

NFC tags are basically stickers that are able to store information inside them. With the aid of any NFC app, which can be found in abundance in the Google Play Store, users can design a set of actions for their device to execute and then save the commands on the tags.

Whenever an NFC-enabled device is tapped on the tag, it will execute the commands.

The good news is that the tags don’t cost a bomb. Even better news is that as long as you don’t select to permanently lock the tag, you can always rewrite the tags, so they’re pretty good value for money.

A popular app for customising tags is NFC Task Launcher by Tagstand ( Available for free in the Play Store, the app allows users to include two different sets of actions in one tag. For example, tapping it the first time will enable a feature, and tapping it again will disable it.

There are many practical uses for NFC tags. We most commonly use it in our cars. Previously, we used to have to go through the hassle of manually switching on our smartphone’s Bluetooth each time we entered our car. Now, it can be done easily just by tapping our gadget on an NFC sticker that we have pasted on the dashboard.

Besides Bluetooth, we have also set it to switch off WiFi, make the ringtone louder, and screen brighter. Tapping it again once we have reached the destination will reverse all the actions that were enabled earlier.

Sleep on it

While it is not advisable to have a mobile phone by your bedside due to the radiation it is said to emit, most people will still stubbornly insist on having it around as it doubles as an alarm clock.

We are guilty of this unhealthy practice, but have an NFC tag pasted beside our beds to hopefully mitigate the adverse effects. The tag is set to switch the phone to flight mode, as well as to dim the screen to the lowest brightness level. When it’s time to rise and shine, the tag will re-enable cellular data and increase the screen brightness.

REMINDERS: You can set timers for tasks you do often like washing your clothes. 
REMINDERS: You can set timers for tasks you do often like washing your clothes.

An interesting way to utilise the tag is by placing one on home appliances which require a specified amount of time to complete, such as a washing machine. If you’re as absent-minded as us, once you start the machine, you can tap your Android on the tag to automatically start the timer so that you won’t forget about collecting your laundry.

Sharing WiFi

Another use for NFC, which will be more practical once more smartphones have it, is the marketing possibilities it opens up. Instead of using QR codes, businesses can require their customers to just tap on an NFC tag to get more information about a promotion or their business.

Notice how most eateries offer free WiFi, but require a password to be entered? NFC tags have the capability to store wireless network settings, so all the consumers need to do is tap their devices on the tag and it will automatically connect to a wireless network, despite requiring a password.

This benefits the shop owners because customers will have to be physically present to connect to the WiFi, thus preventing non-customers from “stealing” their wireless connection.

This can also be used at home or the office when you want to allow guests to use the WiFi but don’t want them to know the password. The tags can do more than just changing settings.

Users can prepare a text message and write it on the tag. Whenever your phone taps the tag, it will automatically send the text message direct to your desired recipient.

Very useful for those of you who usually report to your other half, or parents whenever leaving from work or school.

For those who aren’t willing to spend or have no means of acquiring NFC tags, head to the Play Store and download AnyTAG NFC launcher by XtraSEC ( Developed by Malaysians, this app enables NFC smartphones to detect any cards or devices that have NFC chips in them and associates an action with that device.

This means that us users won’t have to specifically use NFC tags. We can make use of everyday cards around us, such as our MyKad and Touch ‘n Go.

The good thing is that it only remembers the chip’s ID and associates the desired actions with it, so it doesn’t overwrite anything on the chip.

So don’t worry about the card’s chip getting messed up.

For those who are keen to make use of the NFC technology for the first time, do take note that it does not work when your Android’s screen is locked.

That means that you will have to first unlock your device’s screen before attempting to connect with another NFC device or tag.

 Hidden in plain sight

INSTANT GRATIFICATION: You can mirror content from your smartphone to your HDTV. 
INSTANT GRATIFICATION: You can mirror content from your smartphone to your HDTV.

NFC technology is most prevalent in smartphones but it is also being implemented in an increasing number of products, from toys to HDTVs.

Here’s a list of products with built-in NFC which you may already have in your home.

HDTVs and cameras

Most new HDTVs come with the chip but it’s not always in the TV itself. Sony is one of the companies that has integrated it into the remote control of selected Bravia HDTVs.

Just tapping the remote with your smartphone will allow you to mirror the smartphone’s display on the big screen. This will allow you to browse the Web, share pictures and watch videos together with those around you.

If your Bravia doesn’t come with one, you can still purchase the remote separately.

USEFUL: Sony Bravia 2013 LED TV has an NFC chip in the remote control. 
USEFUL: Sony Bravia 2013 LED TV has an NFC chip in the remote control.

Sony also makes speakers with NFC. One such model is the SRS-BTV5 wireless speaker. The compact model can double up as a speakerphone and has a rated battery life of up to five hours. Meanwhile, on the camera front, Samsung’s NX300 allows photographers to easily transfer images to a smartphone or tablet via NFC.

Panasonic’s DMC-GF6 camera also uses NFC for sharing images with a smartphone or tablet by touching them together. As soon as a photo is shot, the camera will send the image to the paired device. NFC also allows the camera to be remotely controlled.

Consoles and toys

One of the most popular toys on the market today is Activision’s Skylanders. They are essentially figurines that are released in conjunction with the Skylanders games available for most consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

NFC TOYS: Skylanders fingurine with the Portal of Power. 
NFC TOYS: Skylanders fingurine with the Portal of Power.

The game comes with an NFC device called the Portal of Power which is plugged into the game console. When a figurine, which also comes with built-in NFC, is placed on the Portal, a virtual version of the character appears in the game.

The interesting thing about the NFC in Skylanders is that it actually can store a limited amount of information, specifically the character’s bio. When the figurine is taken to a friend’s house to play, it will have all the levelled-up powers and customisation.

Of the popular videogame consoles, only one features NFC.

The chip is currently integrated into the Wii U’s GamePad controller, and while it holds a lot of promise for future games, none actually make use of it.

PROMISING: The NFC chip is integrated into the Wii U's GamePad controller and holds a lot of potential for future games. 
PROMISING: The NFC chip is integrated into the Wii U’s GamePad controller and holds a lot of potential for future games.

However, this is likely to change as game developers will inevitably find a use for it.


Lenovo has launched its ThinkPad Helix, a 11.6in Ultrabook powered by Windows 8.
It allows users to transfer data from compatible devices by just placing them close to it.

Lenovo ThinkPad Helix
Lenovo ThinkPad Helix

The company plans to add more features such as allowing customers to make online purchases by tapping a credit card on its notebooks.

Sony, on the other hand, has announced that its latest Vaio Fit Ultrabook will also use this technology for sharing website URLs and other information with NFC-enabled devices

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