Apple Pay expansion and integrations in Qatar

Apple Pay is already being embraced widely across Qatar by more banks. In addition, the popular food delivery app Talabat also adds it as an additional payment option.

It’s already been a few months since Apple Pay rolled out to consumers in Qatar, making it the third country in the Middle East after UAE and Saudi Arabia.

While the rollout in Qatar began with two banks, more have recently joined and even a popular food ordering app has integrated it as a payment option.

Apple Pay your orders on Talabat

If you’re already enjoying the convenience of ordering your food or grocery items on Talabat, the app has now integrated it as another safer payment option. Who better to announce it than the MD of Talabat Qatar?

Of course, this is for all the iOS users and you need to make sure you’re using the latest version of the app. The option showed up as a default payment option while placing my talabat order.

Promo codes that would be linked to either MasterCard or Visa credit cards will still work, depending on which of your cards are linked to Apple Pay.

Image credit: Talabat

Fintech is really starting to grow in Qatar, and Talabat is looking to be setting the benchmark in embracing more convenient payment options for their users.

More banks, more users

The number of banks embracing Apple Pay has now doubled from the initial set. Account holders in CBQ (Commercial Bank of Qatar) or QIB (Qatar Islamic Bank) can now add their credit or debit cards to Apple Pay.

Credit and Debit cards from Visa/Mastercard from both banks can be added to your Apple ID. For once, I’m actually glad to see that CBQ has chosen not to reinvent the wheel since they also have their own contactless paymetn option known as CB Pay (which I hope will be retired).

If you’re wondering where to start, both CBQ and QIB allow users to add their bank cards either using their mobile app or via the Wallet app. While the official Support page on the Apple website still doesn’t show two of the new banks, expect it to be updated in the coming days.


Header image credit: Apple Newsroom

Review: UGREEN Digital AV Adapter

Want to wirelessly share something to a bigger screen but don’t have an AirPlay nor Chromecast compatible device? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is your device-agnostic solution.

Overall: it’s quite a nifty accessory to have if you don’t have a new TV nor don’t want to be tethered to one wireless standard.

While new and upcoming TVs have been adding native support for either Apple AirPlay or Google Chromecast, what about those who don’t have a new TV? How else can you wirelessly mirror your mobile device or laptop’s display? That’s where UGREEN tackles this problem with their Digital AV Adapter (a.k.a Wireless Display Dongle).

Does that mean I decided to put it through its paces

Easy setup out of the box

The dongle/adapter is quite small that it fits into the palm of your hand. It’s also quite portable and you can easily hide it away from view to declutter your work area.

Packaging comes with the essentials: the actual dongle w/ HDMI output cable (0.5m), micro USB power cable (1m), and the brief manual. Initial setup requires you to connect to the dongle via Wi-Fi to configure it (it even shows you the instructions on TV when connecting it via HDMI). The process is meant to have it connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network (also lets you upgrade its firmware).

As with any product, you would definitely want to know the specs of this accessory.

Wireless frequency2.4 GHz / 5GHz
Wireless protocols802.11a/b/g/n/ac
CPUARM Cortex-A7 dual core 1.2 GHz
Resolution4K @ 30Hz
FullHD (1920x1080) @ 60Hz
HD (1280x720px) @ 60Hz
Video format support.mp4, .avi, .wmv, .mkv, .mov, .rm and .rmvb
Operating current300-400mA
Weight300g

However, the instructions could use better wording to explain the steps (English may not be the strongest point for a Chinese company, but things can be lost in translation). Any average person who’s familiar with doing software/hardware setups should easily be up and running.

Setup instructions shown when connecting the dongle

Both AirPlay and Chromecast

Most TVs in the market integrate either AirPlay or Chromecast exclusively, which means you’d need either an Apple or Android-powered device to use it.

What about someone who visits your home and wants to mirror something but uses a standard that’s not compatible (e.g. you use iOS for AirPlay but the guest has an Android device that works using Chromecast)? The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter helps to solve that issue.

Note that it does require using one of your HDMI ports, so that’s a minor trade-off if you don’t have plenty of HDMI ports on your TV. Also, it needs power via the micro USB port; accompanying long cable should help you connect it either using a USB power adapter, or even to your console (which would require you to keep it powered).

Putting the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter in action

Since I had linked the UGREEN Digital AV Adapter to my home Wi-Fi network, it immediately showed up across my devices. I decided to put it to use on the following: iPad Pro (2020), iPhone 11 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 FE, and 15-inch MacBook Pro.

Connecting either my iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S20 FE devices proved to be easy. The UGREEN dongle showed up within seconds and then a tap to select it. Within few seconds, my smartphone display was mirrored onto the TV.

Watching videos from streaming apps and even playing music worked without issues. When it comes to gaming, it can be a mixed bag cause it depends on the amount of visual fidelity of the game itself.

  • Playing Need For Speed: No Limits worked like a charm but there was random lag/frame skips on the TV (not on the smartphone itself).
  • Playing Angry Birds had no issues.
  • Music playback via Spotify was clear with no interruptions.
  • YouTube playback was smooth

Best part is that your mobile device’s orientation easily mirrors itself on the TV, so it’s best you use your smartphone/tablet in landscape mode to fill up the entire TV display area.

If you have any MacBook, it connects in the same way just like the iPhone/iPad. You can choose to mirror or have your TV serve as an extended display.

Verdict

After putting it through its paces (playing videos, games, and even mirroring the display), a dongle like this definitely helps to eliminate cable clutter regardless of your setup. Whether it’s at a business meeting or even at home, you can rest assured that

Pros

Small and portable

Easy to plugin and setup

Works with multitude of devices using either AirPlay or Chromecast

Easily switch between wireless bands with a simple button press based on your device

Cons

Instructions could use better wording in English, especially for first-time users

Display unit needs to have extra HDMI port

Verdict: Recommended

The UGREEN Digital AV Adapter is officially available at Store974 (Qatar) and Sharaf DG (UAE).

QFZA is setting up first laptop production facility in Qatar

Did you ever think you’d see electronics produced in the Middle East? The Qatar Free Zones Authority looks to make it possible with the first electronics production facility in the country.

The Qatar Free Zones Authority (QFZA) is looking to double down on the technology sector. After announcing the first Google Cloud region in the Middle East, QFZA is setting up a state-of-the-art production facility to manufacture electronics in Qatar.

The facility will use 2,500 sqm in the Umm Alhoul Free Zone. The factory is possible from a partnership between iLife Digital (intelligent robotics and electronics company based in Florida, USA) and Prime Technologies (a subsidiary of Ali Bin Ali Holding). It’s where foreign expertise and a local conglomerate partner up to nurture domestic industries.

Produce Local and Export Regional

iLife and Prime Technologies will use the factory to create iLife-branded electronic devices: laptops, PCs, smartwatches, mobile phones, and likely more. The factory will support logistics and R&D activities, along with a customer solution center.

According to QFZA, production at the new factory is expected to begin in August 2021 with the expectation to produce up to 350,000 electronics a year. It will also be an employment boost by creating 160 new jobs (including 144 skilled opportunities). Customers across the MENA region will benefit from a local technology powerhouse.

Pairing such a production facility with the presence of the Qatar Science and Technological Park and the branch campuses of US universities in Qatar Foundation creates the exciting potential for technology manufacturing in Qatar. Young scientists in Qatar will have the opportunity to perform research, innovate and develop new technologies with commercial implications.

Qatar Free Zones’ technology ecosystem gives the entity the opportunity to create cutting-edge yet affordable products for Qatar and the MENA region. It also offers consumers a valuable local alternative to products made further afield.

Given the strategic location of Umm Alhoul Free Zone, it’ll be convenient to facilitate the trade integration of these manufactured products across the MENA region – whether it’s by air or sea freight.


Image Credit: QFZA

The Apple iPhone SE (2020), Powerful and Affordable

If you’ve been looking to join the iPhone ecosystem without breaking your pocket, Apple has surprised everyone with the latest version of the iPhone SE.

For many looking to buy a new and powerful smartphone, the price would definitely put it out of reach. The current economic climate due to the COVID-19 pandemic has really affected consumer purchasing power. Apple really timed its announcement to the new version of the iPhone SE (2020).

It is the most affordable iPhone on the market, giving it better performance compared to other smartphones in the same pricing segment. First released in 2016 (with only storage refreshes in 2017), this is a piece of welcome news for those contemplating a purchase.

Take the look and size of the iPhone 8, and marries it with the internal specs of the iPhone 11/iPhone 11 Pro. That is the end result for this updated model.

Reengineered inside out

You’ll notice that the iPhone SE features a 4.7-inch Retina HD display with True Tone. This is slightly larger than the previous model and adds support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 playback. Yet, it still keeps a compact profile for people to use it with one hand paired. The iPhone SE retains the familiar Home button with Touch ID.

The new iPhone SE is powered by the Apple-designed A13 Bionic, the very same custom SoC that powers the high-end flagship iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro. With that much power, the built-in RAM has also increased to 3GB (50% more than the previous model). Expect this model to last for many years in the future with compatible iOS updates.

The same chip also enables great battery life for iPhone SE, and supports wireless-charging with Qi-certified chargers and fast-charging. Combine this with the battery capacity of the iPhone 8, this will definitely give it more longevity in your pocket during medium-to-heavy usage.

Wireless connectivity gets a big upgrade as well to bring it to the forefront, supporting both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0. Cellular connectivity is there with Gigabit-class LTE supporting a spectrum of bands that should make it a near-universal phone for existing 4G networks.

Dual SIM makes its debut on this entry-level iPhone, so you can use both a physical nano-SIM and an eSIM to have two separate phone numbers on a single device.

Optic leap in single-camera system

The single-camera system is powered by a 12 MP f/1.8 aperture Wide camera lens. Using the image signal processor and Neural Engine of the A13 Bionic to powering its computational photography prowess, you’ll gain access to Portrait mode (with all six Portrait Lighting effects) and Depth Control. Using machine learning and monocular depth estimation, iPhone SE also takes stunning Portraits with the front camera. Next-generation Smart HDR comes to iPhone SE, intelligently re-lighting recognized subjects in a frame for more natural-looking images with stunning highlight and shadow details.

Videos are even more immersive with stereo audio recording and cinematic video stabilization on the front and rear cameras. The rear camera supports high-quality video recording at 4K up to 60fps, slow-motion 1080p at 120fps and 240fps, and extended dynamic range comes to iPhone SE for more highlight details up to 30fps.

How can I get one?

The all-new iPhone SE (2020) comes with three colour options: black, white and (PRODUCT)RED. It will be available pre-order beginning Friday April 17 starting at just AED/QAR/SAR 1,699 (64GB).

If you’re feeling noble and planning to buy the (PRODUCT)RED one, note that a portion of proceeds will go directly to Global Fund’s newly established COVID-19 Response Fund (providing funding to countries in need of PPE, diagnostics treatment, lab equipment, public safety communications, supply chain support and more).

This is in addition to the existing HIV/AIDS grants that provide testing, counseling, treatment and prevention programs with a specific focus on eliminating transmission of the virus from mothers to their babies.

Every new purchase gives you a FREE one-year subscription to Apple TV+ (you’ll need to redeem it within 3 months after activating it). Pre-orders for the Middle East region should begin soon via your local mobile carrier.

Summer surprise for MacBook Air & 13-inch MacBook Pro

Summer is a quiet period, and Apple used the opportunity to refresh the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro family before the back-to-school rush.

Apple gave the MacBook Air a near-complete revamp in October 2018; it came with significant changes that included more RAM/SSD storage options and a retina display. As for the MacBook Pro, they kept base model with the Escape/Function keys, which picked up the nickname “MacBook Pro Escape”.

With a surprise during the summer holidays before Back to School season, Apple has updated both the MacBook Air family and the 13-inch MacBook Pro.

True Tone on the Air

True Tone has been added to the Retina display for a more natural viewing experience, bringing it on par with the Pro. It automatically adjusts the color temperature of the display for a more comfortable viewing experience. You also have the benefit of a lower starting price.

All other features have remained unchanged:

With this new update, the non-Retina MacBook Air ceases to exist. When it comes to built-to-order storage, the option now maxes out to 1TB (previously, you could add up to 1.5TB).

RIP: Escape button on the Pro

The non-Touch Bar 13-inch model has been the entry-level MacBook Pro model for a few years. It still packed powerful processors, super-fast SSDs, two (2) Thunderbolt 3 ports, and more packed into a portable 3-pound design since its 2017 refresh.

The new entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro packs even more power for the same starting price as before, along with some hardware changes. The Touch Bar now replaces the Escape/Function key rows, adding Touch ID and the Apple T2 Security Chip to the entry-level model. True Tone is also added to the Retina display. Thunderbolt 3 is a standard across the MacBook family, and the base model still comes with the standard 2 ports.

This means that the Touch Bar is now a standard feature across the entire Pro family. Most of the other specifications including the storage and RAM options (max up to 16GB LPDDR3) for the entry model remain unchanged. The entry-level model starts off with the following specs:

Other stuff you may not know

The newly updated MacBook Air and 13-inch entry-level MacBook Pro models will be able to use the upcoming macOS Catalina releasing this fall. For those doing build-to-order configurations, Apple has also dropped the pricing for the storage upgrades.

Both models are available today through Apple.com, the Apple Store app and in select Apple Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers later this week. With “Back to School” season just a month away, it’s the perfect time to consider one of these laptops for your productive work.

Another Middle East unicorn: Careem and Uber get hitched

Months of speculation and closed-door discussions have now bore fruit for Careem – Uber has officially acquired their Middle East competitor. In a reversal of their exits from other markets, Uber is looking to double down on the Middle East and North Africa region.

Uber has underestimated some of their international markets, and they’ve slowly sold-off their investments to local competitors. With the Middle East, they’ve taken the other path which looks to fuel their future growth in the lead up to their IPO. Uber has done what many have speculated – they are acquiring Careem for a total sum of $3.1 billion.

Future of Careem in the Middle East

Will be completely absorbed into Uber’s main app? Turns out that won’t be happening at all, and independence would have been a core condition for this deal happen. Careem will continue to operate independently under the leadership of co-founder and CEO Mudassir Sheikha. It will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Uber; there will be a board of directors consisting of a mix of Uber and Careem representatives to oversee them.

The deal gives Uber access to markets where it lacks a presence, hence leveraging their new acquisition’s head-start presence. Uber and Careem will gradually integrate parts of their networks in a bid to lower wait times. The entire deal will see Uber acquire all of Careem’s mobility, delivery, and payments businesses across the Middle East region.

Amazon scooped up Souq almost two years ago close to $600 million, and this acquisition easily eclipses the previous amount. This makes it the second tech unicorn from Dubai to have seen successfully acquired by an international name. Once they clear the regulatory hurdles in several countries, the deal is expected to close in 2020. Although they compete against Careem in select countries across the Middle East, this deal will give them the opportunity to not only expand but also test out new improvements in the region.


Image credit: Uber Newsroom

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