All posts in Business News

28 Sep 2018

Problem Solver: Do I really need to take a startup course to go out on my own after 15 years?

Q Having worked for 15 years for an employer, I am now starting my own business. I am being encouraged to do a startup course, which I feel is unnecessary after my years in business. What do you think?

A You are being given good advice. Most of these courses are run by your Local Enterprise Office and the general feedback I get from anyone who has completed them is very strong.

The fact that you have worked for a long period in industry will assist your business in a very big way and has probably allowed you to develop the business model you are planning to come to market with. You will, however, be dealing with lots of new areas which you have never encountered in the past, like tax, Vat, payroll, and doing your own book-keeping.

Many people who were formerly in industry don’t pay enough attention to these headings and really struggle with them when their business goes live.

Don’t underestimate the practical aspects of running a business which can sometimes be every bit as critical as generating sales and developing marketing programmes.

You will also find as you complete this course, you will be involved with a mix of 10 or 15 other businesses and the networking and knowledge-sharing through these groups can also be phenomenal. I wish you well and would really encourage you to do this course.

Q I am finding it increasingly difficult for my business to stand out in what has become a mature sector that I am trading in. My competitors have caught up with me and I am not sure what to do now

A If you read many of the textbooks about how businesses and sectors evolve, what you are describing happens in most business sectors. The sector starts off with a small number of players who compete and create a competitive advantage over each other. As the decades progress, they improve their offers, copy each other and generally try to capture as much market share as they can. A point is eventually reached where there is very little difference between each of the operators.

While the above is true, I still subscribe to the idea that any business can continue to differentiate itself from its competitors for an unlimited period, but you have to look very closely at the business.

One of the things the team in Superquinn were very good at was identifying changes that could be made that would really benefit the consumer – like recognising that customers really wanted their vegetables to be ultra-fresh. We developed a scheme to cut and sell sensitive fresh products within 24 hours, so consumers buying lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, etc, could be guaranteed their product was at maximum freshness. While our competitors could all have done this, none of them spotted the opportunity until after we succeeded in attracting attention with the scheme. By the time they copied us, we had moved on to the next innovation.

Another simple example was when we guaranteed all of our steaks to be 100pc tender and offered to refund any customer that felt otherwise. We caught the market completely off guard and while our competitors could have put the same schemes into place, they didn’t see the opportunity. We over-traded in beef for many decades while our competitors tried to catch up.

There are dozens of innovations to the operating model that you can make and I don’t subscribe to the idea that this process ever stops. It is always possible to keep ahead of your competitors. Keep your team energised and focused and listen to your customers

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

28 Sep 2018

Small firms fear Brexit tariffs and CAP budget cuts

Tariffs, currency fluctuations and corporation tax were among the concerns raised by more than 230 small business owners and interest group representatives at a Brexit event yesterday.

The event held in Loughrea, Co Galway, and organised by Supermac’s, was addressed by RTE Europe editor Tony Connelly, and Farmers Association president Joe Healy. Among the concerns aired by those present were the implications for small businesses in the event of a hard Brexit.

One such business owner was Mícheál Quinn, owner of Quinn RV SIP, a vehicle manufacturing company employing just over 100 people in Athenry, Co Galway.

Quinn RV SIP exports as much as 70pc of its products to the UK. Mr Quinn said he feels SMEs are largely being ignored by the Government and Enterprise Ireland.

By attending the event, he hoped to get “some form of clarity” around Brexit, but added that he didn’t think he would. “It is becoming difficult to get straight answers,” he said.

The company has projects scheduled for the UK market next spring, and he told the Irish Independent that a number of key customers in the UK have contacted him for assurance that he will still take on UK-based work “which is comfort to us”. However he remains concerned about the impact of possible tariffs and currency fluctuations on this business.

Another SME owner said that while what Brexit will look like remains unknown, it was “reassuring” to be in a room full of businesses with similar concerns.

Worries were also raised around Ireland’s corporation tax rate. The 12.5pc rate has long been a point of contention among some other European nations.

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A member of the audience asked if the rate would now come under pressure at European level, given that Ireland was losing a “huge ally” in Europe once the UK leaves the EU.

“There is always pressure on Ireland to adjust our tax regime and that pressure is always resisted,” Mr Connelly said.

However, Mr Connelly added that for any change to the rate to take place, there would need to be unanimity from EU member states on the matter, and Ireland has a veto on any changes to tax rules.

Mr Healy said that some people questioned whether Ireland had allowed itself to become too dependent on the UK as an export market for food.

However he pointed to fact that when Ireland first joined what was then the EEC in 1973, 70pc of agri-exports were going to the UK. Today this figure is around 40pc.

Nonetheless, the agri-food sector is set to be disproportionately impacted by Brexit. Mr Connelly noted that within weeks of the Brexit vote taking place, five mushroom businesses in Ireland went to the wall, due in part to the impact of the fall in the value of sterling.

Ann Mitchell, a member of Galway IFA, asked whether the budget for Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) would by affected under a no-deal scenario between the UK and the EU.

“The EU budget would be impacted and CAP would come under attack,” Mr Connelly said, adding though, that he was of the view that the Commission didn’t want a radically cut CAP budget because of Brexit – but that was under the scenario that there would be a withdrawal agreement. “I think everything will be hit if there is a hard Brexit,” he added.

Mr Healy went on to say that a fear for the IFA is that the UK, post-Brexit, pursue a “cheap food policy… importing food from places like South America”.

Mr McDonagh, CEO of Supermac’s, said that he was hosting the event because Brexit is something “we are all still learning about”.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

25 Sep 2018

Eight things to know about the pay-rise plan for public sector workers

Public sector workers will benefit from changes to austerity-era cost-cutting measures as pay rises are on the way.

Pay hikes worth €3,300 are on the way for more than 60,000 workers – but it may not be enough to avoid strikes.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the problem with recruits’ pay?
The Government brought in a so-called ‘yellow pack’ two-tier pay system during the recession in a bid to cut costs when the Exchequer finances were in crisis. Former finance minister Brian Lenihan announced the cuts to new recruits’ pay in 2010, and they went on rates 10pc lower than their longer-serving colleagues.

Did this improve for workers since the recession ended?
The 10pc cut was replaced with two lower starting points at the bottom of the pay scales under the Haddington Road agreement in 2013.

This meant the new entrants went on the same scale as colleagues, but it took them two years longer to reach the maximum point.

What are increments and payscales?
Public servants are on incremental pay scales that mean pay rates might start, say, at €23,000, which is called the first point in the scale, and rise annually by €5,000 increments until they reach the top of the scale, which could be €50,000. The length of pay scales vary and some grades of staff may have 12 points and others 27.

How many new entrants are there?
There are 60,513, or roughly one in five of the public service workforce.

What kind of pay rise can the new recruits expect?
The average public servant will get a €3,300 increase, as outlined in an Expenditure Department report last March.

What about nurses, teachers, gardaí and soldiers?
The average payment to education workers is €3,771. Teachers make up 16,054 or 68pc of these new entrants;
The average payment to health workers is €3,318. Nurses are 38.5pc of this;
The average civil servant will get €2,548;
The average local authority worker will get €1,875;
The average member of the Defence Forces will get €1,603;
The average garda will get €1,500.
Aren’t public servants getting pay rises already?
They are already on course to get pay rises worth more than 7pc over the course of the current pay deal.

What does the deal mean?
The new entrants will bypass point four and point eight of their pay scales. They will get these benefits from March next year.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

25 Sep 2018

Tax advisers demand urgent SME action

Tax advisers have written to Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe claiming tax law is in need of “urgent reform” in order to support the SME sector through Brexit.

Umbrella group the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies – Ireland (CCAB-I) highlighted how changes to the Employment Investment and Incentive (EII) scheme have had “a substantially negative impact on funding for startups and established SMEs”.

A public consultation was conducted on the topic in May.

“Our members wish to emphasise the urgent need for reform or replacement of the EII scheme to get much needed funds into startups and SMEs, who cannot otherwise access the necessary finance,” said the accountancy body.

The letter also raised concerns about the impact of transfer pricing rules. “In our view, extending transfer pricing rules to SMEs would merely increase the burden of paperwork without significantly enhancing the integrity of the system.”

CCAB-I suggested a postponed method of accounting for Vat should be introduced in the Finance Act 2018 so Irish businesses importing goods from the UK will not incur “a potentially crippling upfront Vat cost”.

The letter was also sent to Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA, and Julie Sinnamon, CEO of Enterprise Ireland.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

25 Sep 2018

Central Bank’s arrears figure ‘overstated by a huge amount’

The Central Bank has been producing data that “grossly” overstates mortgage arrears, calling into question a raft of home repossessions.

Statisticians in the bank have admitted there is a problem, and are set to change how they calculate missed payments.

They have been accused of producing “grossly exaggerated” mortgage arrears figures.

It means that the official figures overstate the amounts of money people actually owe.

The issue stems from the way vulture funds treat arrears data.

Experts say the revelation could have huge implications for people facing repossession of their homes.

People may lose their homes if a judge is told their arrears are higher than they actually are, experts warned.

Inflating of the figures does not appear to have an impact on the numbers of homeowners behind on payments, but does exaggerate the amount they owe.

Founder of the Askaboutmoney.com website Brendan Burgess discovered the problem, which he said throws the entire system for measuring arrears into doubt.

Earlier this month, the Central Bank produced figures showing almost 5,000 residential mortgages owed to vultures were in arrears for more than two years. The arrears owed total some €834m.

But the Central Bank has now admitted that its quarterly publications on arrears are “not providing the full picture of the underlying arrears on the loan”.

“They are admitting their figures are overstated. In fact, they are grossly exaggerated,” Mr Burgess said.

The problem stems from the fact the Central Bank is following controversial calculations of arrears used by vulture funds.

This involves counting an entire loan as being in arrears if it is called in by the lender.

Mr Burgess gave an example of someone who has a mortgage of €100,000, but they are €10,000 in arrears.

If the vulture fund decides to call in the loan, it treats the entire loan as being arrears.

This means the amount of arrears effectively balloons overnight from €10,000 to €110,000.

“This is not what the ordinary woman in the street understands by arrears,” he said.

Mr Burgess added: “The Central Bank figures show that the total arrears for customers over two years in arrears amounted to €1.9bn. It’s hard to know the correct figure, but I would say it’s overstated by about €500m – a huge amount.”

The revelations come after Start Mortgages and vulture fund Tanager were recently forced to admit they were making mistakes in how they calculate arrears owed by mortgage holders.

The Central Bank admitted there is a problem.

It said it would be changing its calculation methods used for arrears of unregulated loan owners, or vulture funds.

It now believes “that recording loans fully in arrears due to full loan demand is not providing a full picture of the underlying arrears on the loan”.

“The consistent treatment recording of arrears across all loan owners is a priority and we will be clarifying the treatment and requesting revision where appropriate,” a spokeswoman said.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

21 Sep 2018

Credit unions to pay refunds after miscalculating interest on loans

More than 150 credit unions have to carry out an expensive trawl of their loan books after it emerged thousands of members have been overcharged on loans.

The overcharging amounts are small, but the Central Bank has ordered credit unions to provide information on how they deal with accrued interest on top-up loans.

Average overcharged amounts are only €12 per loan, but the revelation is set to be an embarrassment to the movement – and cost them a fortune to investigate.

It is one of the first times credit unions have been caught up in an overcharging issue. Banks are repeatedly having to repay consumers for miscalculating what they charge.

It comes after credit unions, which always emerge from polls as having a high standing with the public, have been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons.

These include the largest credit union in the State facing legal action from the representative body for the sector, money going missing at the Citybus credit union in Dublin, prize draws being won by large numbers of directors, fraud charges at some credit unions, and a record money- laundering fine for a credit union.

The latest controversy involves credit unions that use a financial software package from one IT firm. The software package appears to have miscalculated interest due on top-up loans. It is understood the mistake is of a highly technical nature.

This is similar to what happened at AIB in the summer. Around 85,000 AIB phone and internet banking customers were refunded, having been affected by a bank error in their loan top-up calculation.

It is not known how many credit union members are involved, but one source said the issue could affect thousands of people.

Refunds will be sent to them, but the credit unions affected by the miscalculation are likely to have to spend a multiple of the total refund costs investigating the issue.

A spokesman for the Central Bank said: “We are currently engaged in an investigation of potential interest over- collection in relation to top-up loans at a number of credit unions.”

It added that where there is an over-collection of interest from members due to operational issues, it expected credit unions to pay refunds promptly, and to implement robust systems and controls to ensure the issue did not reoccur.

The Irish League of Credit Unions said it was aware that Central Bank had contacted credit unions to seek information on how individual credit unions dealt with accrued interest on top-up loans.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

21 Sep 2018

More females required to meet construction demand – CIF

Increasing numbers of female construction workers is key to solving Ireland’s housing and infrastructure crises.

This is according to the Construction Industry Federation (CIF).

Ahead of the launch of its first ‘Diversity and Inclusion Guidance’ document for the construction sector, aimed at addressing gender imbalance in the industry, key construction leaders said that more female workers are key to meeting the current demand for skills, and to deliver Ireland’s urgent housing and infrastructure needs.

“Increasing diversity and gender equality is not just the right thing to do, it is critical for our industry,” Jean Winters, director of industrial relations and employment services with CIF, said.

“A disengagement with construction is unconsciously driven by the education system at a very young age for girls. We have to tackle misconceptions about the industry at this level and this will form part of a national awareness campaign the CIF is undertaking to promote the diverse careers in the industry

The document is due for release at the CIF’s ‘Building Equality’ event this morning, the second event this year as part of the representative body’s year-long #BuildingEquality campaign to increase the number of women in the industry and the visibility of those already working in construction.

Speakers at this morning’s event include Phil Kane, country manager, Eaton Corporation Ireland, Minister of State David Stanton, Department of Justice and Equality, and Anne Heraty, founder and CEO of CPL Resources.

Earlier this year the CIF commissioned a survey to discover exactly how many women are working in the Irish construction industry, in what roles, and at what levels.
The survey also investigated the views of female workers currently working in the industry, as well as the views of employers regarding diversity and inclusion in construction.

The results found that over 70pc of construction companies recognise the need for more women in the industry. However, on average approximately only one in 10 construction workers are female.

The survey also found that on construction sites, 99pc of workers are male, whilst in offsite roles, 54pc are male and 46pc are female. Of those women working in construction roles considered ‘offsite’ the majority work in administration, finance, HR and marketing.

“There are major opportunities in the industry,” Ms Winters continued.

“The #BuildingEquality campaign asks male and female leaders in the industry to set the example and put equality of opportunity at the top of their agenda.”

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

21 Sep 2018

UK warns there will be no Brexit deal unless EU softens on Irish border

Britain will leave the European Union without a deal unless the bloc’s leaders soften their position on the Irish border, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling told the BBC.

EU leaders abruptly cautioned May on Thursday that unless she gave ground on trade and the Irish border by November they are ready to cope with Britain crashing out.

“At the moment what the European Union is asking in and around Northern Ireland is simply impossible for any UK government to accept. And actually if they stick with that position, there will be no deal,” Grayling said.

“There’s tough language and actually a deal is done at the last. And I’m still confident that we will reach agreement,” he added.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29, yet little is clear: There is, so far, no divorce deal, rivals to May are circling and some rebels have vowed to vote against a possible Brexit deal.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

19 Sep 2018

WATCH: Is this the most powerful iPhone ever? A review of the Xs and Xs Max

Apple says that it’s the most powerful iPhone ever. But with its new 6.5-inch display, it looks like nothing can stop the iPhone Xs Max from becoming even more of a substitute for your television and your camera.

There are three main takeaways I’m left with after my first week with the iPhone Xs and iPhone Xs Max.

The first is raw power. The second is that transformative screen. And the third is a resurgent camera system.

The 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max, in particular, is a landmark device. It feels that just about every other smartphone advance has been leading up to this iteration.

It is astonishingly powerful, has an unmatched camera system and now has a large Oled screen that genuinely threatens your television, laptop and tablet.

With its steel frame and glass rear, it also looks and feels beautiful.

So it has leapfrogged Huawei’s P20 Pro and Samsung’s S9 Plus into top spot of the smartphone pile.

t’s not completely perfect: while battery life is improved, I found that it’s not quite on par with some of its rivals. This is especially so given the extra attraction of using that gorgeous screen more for video, games and photography.

That niggle aside, if you’re due an upgrade and feel that this is within your budget, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some of other findings from my review of the new iPhones so far.

2. THE CAMERA IS PRETTY AMAZING

The Xs and Xs Max have a couple of showstoppers in the upgraded ‘portrait’ mode and the application of high dynamic range (HDR) to illuminate low light photos better.

I’ll start with portrait mode, which is the feature I would choose to show off to friends. I’ve tested this at length and it is far superior to the version initially shipped with last year’s iPhone X.

In portrait mode, you can now edit the depth of field (or ‘bokeh’, as photographers call it) after the photo has been taken.

In plain English, ’bokeh’ is the pleasing blurriness behind the sharp main subject of a photo. It is a common, beloved feature of portrait photographers because it separates the subject from a background (or foreground) very sharply. But it can only usually be achieved with expensive, large lenses on thousand-euro camera bodies.

Normally, there’s no way that a sensor as small as the iPhone’s should be able to do this. But Apple’s application of ‘computational photography’, backed up by its powerhouse of a new A12 Bionic chip, gives it the ability to create a very decent bokeh effect in instantaneous post-processing.

In true Apple fashion, this is done with a user-friendly slider that goes from f1.4 (very shallow and blurry behind the subject) to f16 (a relatively sharp background). You simply move your finger along the screen to decide how much (or how little) bokeh blur you want.

Over the week, I found myself taking hundreds of bokehlicious photos. Pleasingly, it works not only with human subjects but with pets and inanimate objects, too (such as flowers). Crucially, it also works for the front-facing ‘selfie’ camera.

Make no mistake: this is a ‘wow’ feature.

I even went so far as to test it against a €2,300 professional camera system, Fujifilm’s X-Pro 2, with a 50mm equivalent f1.4 lens.

Unsurprisingly, the Fujifilm shots were mostly marginally sharper with the depth of field available at any level of light.

Indeed, the iPhone Xs requires certain conditions for this feature to work, such as a minimum level of light and a minimum distance of a couple of feet. And sometimes in low light you’ll see slight blurring where you may not think it’s right.

But for the iPhone to be even close — which it usually was — to a professional camera system on some of the shots is a sign of where photography is going. To have this level of photographic flexibility on a phone is groundbreaking.

The other huge advance to come from the new A12 Bionic chip is HDR. HDR allows the camera to take several frames at once, choosing the best features from each to present the clearest, most vivid picture of what the camera is aiming at. But to do it right takes a lot of horsepower. Huawei and Samsung have both had some success in boosting their low light photos in this way, thanks to their own chip advances. The iPhone Xs matches these standards, giving very clear, balanced photos where there are strong shades of light and dark.

It’s not just ‘computational’ photography updates under the Xs’s hood.

There are some physical improvements to the actual camera system. Both the Xs and Xs Max have two rear 12-megapixel cameras (at 28mm f1.8 and 52mm f2.4) and a 7-megapixel front ‘selfie’ camera. Apple has slightly increased the size of its sensor, leading to a 30pc increase in the its ‘microns’, from 1.22 to 1.4. Generally speaking, this makes it more capable in low light than iPhones of two or three years ago.

And Apple says that it now has “deeper” pixels of 3.5 microns, compared to 3.1 microns for the last model, leading to a better accommodation of light and dark shades in the same photo.

3. THAT BIG, BIG SCREEN

I found that both the 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max have compelling cases as the ‘right’ screen size. The regular Xs, as a direct successor in form factor to last year’s iPhone X, feels ergonomically perfect in my hand (which is medium to small for a man). I also found that it is big enough to be comfortable in viewing a Netflix episode while compact enough to fit in any pocket and to be used one-handed.

On the other hand, the larger iPhone Xs Max is the ultimate media consumption phone, with that gorgeous Oled screen shining when used for movies, television shows or YouTube. It’s utterly droolworthy. And yet there is a little extra effort in using it one-handed for messaging or navigation. So my guess is that it will come down to personal taste.

However, it’s worth dispelling one myth floating around: the iPhone Xs Max is not bulkier than the large iPhones of last year or the year before. Indeed, the 2017 iPhone 8 Plus is slightly bigger than the iPhone Xs Max in terms of its overall size.

Somehow, there is a narrative about the place that the iPhone Xs Max is a behemoth that can’t fit in your pocket or bag. This is blatantly untrue. I suspect that the confusion arose simply because the all-screen device’s display (6.5-inches) was mistaken as a metric against the older model’s 5.5-inch display without taking into account that one handset’s front end has bezels while the other has none.

The larger display does have one negative knock-on effect. It’s now harder than ever to reach for the control panel. The iPhone X introduced the concept of getting to this through swiping in from the top right corner. That was tricky enough. But the bigger screen makes it considerably harder to reach up there with one’s thumb.

4. BATTERY LIFE IS A BIT BETTER

The iPhone Xs’s battery is a tale of two metrics. On one hand, Apple says that it performs between 30 and 90 minutes longer than the iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus. This felt about right during my testing of the two phones. So if you’re looking for longer battery life than your current iPhone, you’ll get it here.

On the other hand, we’re now in an era of 4,000mAh batteries in some of the iPhone Xs’s rivals. That equates to at least 20pc better battery in those phone systems.

And one ironic twist to putting in such an incredibly beautiful Oled screen is that you’ll want to use it more. That, certainly, was my experience. I often couldn’t take my eyes off it. The result was that I certainly didn’t feel I was making it to a longer point in the day before needing to seek some extra battery power: In a normal full day (starting at 7am), I usually required a top-up around 5pm to feel I would safely make it home with running dry.

5. IOS 12 BRINGS SOME INTERESTING IMPROVEMENTS

Baked into the new iPhone Xs (and which will be available for most current iPhones) is iOS 12. I’ve been using two of its new features regularly: Screen Time and the new Apple TV remote control feature from the control panel.

(Group FaceTime messaging is another anticipated iOS 12 feature but won’t now be rolled out until later in the Autumn.)

Screen Time is a fascinating concept and one that, I suspect, will be the central focus of iOS 12. This is because, as well as allowing us to moderate our own app usage with limits and downtime sessions, it provides new controls for parents to limit what their kids can do and see.

For example, its ‘content restrictions’ sub-setting allows a parent to control whether a child has unrestricted access to the internet or not. The content restrictions also allow the main user to limit content from the Apple Store, including podcasts, music, books and TV shows, according to measurements such as their national censor rating or whether they contain explicit language. Similar restrictions can now also be placed on Siri voice searches.

Another sub-setting allows a parent to control whether a child can engage in multiplayer games, add friends within games or engage in screen recording.

The new feature can be set up for family devices while there’s also a Screen Time passcode that stops others from turning the feature off, or modifying some of the rules set, if they get access to a parent’s phone.

A general ‘downtime’ setting with Screen Time limits availability on the phone only to pre-chosen apps (such as iMessage) and phone calls. A reminder appears five minutes before the downtime period begins. The setting can be applied across all of a user’s iCloud devices.

6. OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES

(i) Better water resistance: This year’s iPhone Xs has an upgraded water and dust resistance certification, reaching IP68. This means that it can now survive in most kinds of common liquids for up to 30 minutes at a depth of two metres. The only condition is that you need to let it dry off for a few hours before trying to get it to work again. I haven’t tested this element of it yet. (Though I did test the iPhone 7 in a pint of Guinness two years ago, the video for which you’ll find elsewhere on this website: it survived just fine at the lower water resistance grade.) However, I have had it out taking photos in the rain. As you’d expect, this was no problem whatsoever to it.

(ii) Loads and loads of storage: The new iPhone Xs goes all the way up to 512GB, the most on the market. This is good if you plan to hold on to the phone for a couple of years and use it a lot for photos and video. It’s also good if you use video services such as Netflix, Sky Go or YouTube Premium, all of which now allow you to download full movies or television episodes for offline viewing. This requires a lot of free storage, although maybe not quite as much as 512GB. The other storage options are 64GB and 256GB (which will probably be the sweet spot for most Xs Max users).

(iii) Louder speakers: Another hardware upgrade to compliment the TV-friendly nature of the new phones is more volume in the speakers. These are now genuinely quite loud, easily capable of holding a section of a room.

(iv) Dual sim / eSim: The iPhone Xs has incorporated a ‘dual sim’ status, meaning you can choose between two operators on one phone. But unlike other phones which have had this for years, Apple’s dual sim feature is an ‘eSim’. That means it’s built in to the phone — you can buy a monthly prepaid plan on the phone without ever having to get the small plastic sim card from the operator to stick into it. A number of operators are already on board, including T-Mobile in the US and EE in the UK.

It won’t be switched on until later in the Autumn, Apple says. But when it is, this could be a huge bonus for regular travellers, especially to countries such as the US.

When looking for a local US sim card, it’s very hard to get something adequate (of around 10GB) that’s much cheaper than $75.

The option I usually use is actually on my iPad Pro via its built-in Apple sim card. In ‘settings’, I can just switch this on and then choose an operator from the list of those offering to connect the iPad. My current choice is TMobile at $10 for 5GB, usable any time over six months. I’m sincerely hoping that the iPhone’s new Xs ‘eSim’ feature offers something similar.

7. CONCLUSION – IT’S A HIT

In some ways, the iPhone Xs is a classic ‘S’ upgrade to last year’s iPhone X.

In other ways, it’s utterly transformational. Apple has set out its stall to completely replace front-facing Touch ID buttons as a control mechanism. And it now goes toe to toe with the biggest screens on the market.

Physically, the two handsets are pretty gorgeous. They have beautiful steel frames and toughened glass rear casing.

They both come with a beast of an engine under the hood, one that’s strong enough to allow the new handsets perform some extraordinary things, especially in the all-important camera department.

Having also handled the iPhone Xr at the Cupertino launch, I think that there’s stiff competition coming to the Xs models when that cheaper device is launched in October.

But for now, the iPhone has done more than enough to earn its stripes. It is the top smartphone on the market.

8. PRICING & AVAILABILITY

The iPhone Xs costs from €1,179 for the 5.8-inch model (64GB) and from €1,279 for the 6.5-inch model (64GB). 256GB and 512GB storage versions are available for both models at increments of €170 and €230, respectively. They’re available in silver, space grey and gold

t’s not completely perfect: while battery life is improved, I found that it’s not quite on par with some of its rivals. This is especially so given the extra attraction of using that gorgeous screen more for video, games and photography.

That niggle aside, if you’re due an upgrade and feel that this is within your budget, you won’t be disappointed.

Here are some of other findings from my review of the new iPhones so far.

2. THE CAMERA IS PRETTY AMAZING

The Xs and Xs Max have a couple of showstoppers in the upgraded ‘portrait’ mode and the application of high dynamic range (HDR) to illuminate low light photos better.

I’ll start with portrait mode, which is the feature I would choose to show off to friends. I’ve tested this at length and it is far superior to the version initially shipped with last year’s iPhone X.

In portrait mode, you can now edit the depth of field (or ‘bokeh’, as photographers call it) after the photo has been taken.

In plain English, ’bokeh’ is the pleasing blurriness behind the sharp main subject of a photo. It is a common, beloved feature of portrait photographers because it separates the subject from a background (or foreground) very sharply. But it can only usually be achieved with expensive, large lenses on thousand-euro camera bodies.

Normally, there’s no way that a sensor as small as the iPhone’s should be able to do this. But Apple’s application of ‘computational photography’, backed up by its powerhouse of a new A12 Bionic chip, gives it the ability to create a very decent bokeh effect in instantaneous post-processing.

In true Apple fashion, this is done with a user-friendly slider that goes from f1.4 (very shallow and blurry behind the subject) to f16 (a relatively sharp background). You simply move your finger along the screen to decide how much (or how little) bokeh blur you want.

Over the week, I found myself taking hundreds of bokehlicious photos. Pleasingly, it works not only with human subjects but with pets and inanimate objects, too (such as flowers). Crucially, it also works for the front-facing ‘selfie’ camera.

Make no mistake: this is a ‘wow’ feature.

I even went so far as to test it against a €2,300 professional camera system, Fujifilm’s X-Pro 2, with a 50mm equivalent f1.4 lens.

Unsurprisingly, the Fujifilm shots were mostly marginally sharper with the depth of field available at any level of light.

Indeed, the iPhone Xs requires certain conditions for this feature to work, such as a minimum level of light and a minimum distance of a couple of feet. And sometimes in low light you’ll see slight blurring where you may not think it’s right.

But for the iPhone to be even close — which it usually was — to a professional camera system on some of the shots is a sign of where photography is going. To have this level of photographic flexibility on a phone is groundbreaking.

The other huge advance to come from the new A12 Bionic chip is HDR. HDR allows the camera to take several frames at once, choosing the best features from each to present the clearest, most vivid picture of what the camera is aiming at. But to do it right takes a lot of horsepower. Huawei and Samsung have both had some success in boosting their low light photos in this way, thanks to their own chip advances. The iPhone Xs matches these standards, giving very clear, balanced photos where there are strong shades of light and dark.

It’s not just ‘computational’ photography updates under the Xs’s hood.

There are some physical improvements to the actual camera system. Both the Xs and Xs Max have two rear 12-megapixel cameras (at 28mm f1.8 and 52mm f2.4) and a 7-megapixel front ‘selfie’ camera. Apple has slightly increased the size of its sensor, leading to a 30pc increase in the its ‘microns’, from 1.22 to 1.4. Generally speaking, this makes it more capable in low light than iPhones of two or three years ago.

And Apple says that it now has “deeper” pixels of 3.5 microns, compared to 3.1 microns for the last model, leading to a better accommodation of light and dark shades in the same photo.

3. THAT BIG, BIG SCREEN

I found that both the 5.8-inch iPhone Xs and 6.5-inch iPhone Xs Max have compelling cases as the ‘right’ screen size. The regular Xs, as a direct successor in form factor to last year’s iPhone X, feels ergonomically perfect in my hand (which is medium to small for a man). I also found that it is big enough to be comfortable in viewing a Netflix episode while compact enough to fit in any pocket and to be used one-handed.

On the other hand, the larger iPhone Xs Max is the ultimate media consumption phone, with that gorgeous Oled screen shining when used for movies, television shows or YouTube. It’s utterly droolworthy. And yet there is a little extra effort in using it one-handed for messaging or navigation. So my guess is that it will come down to personal taste.

However, it’s worth dispelling one myth floating around: the iPhone Xs Max is not bulkier than the large iPhones of last year or the year before. Indeed, the 2017 iPhone 8 Plus is slightly bigger than the iPhone Xs Max in terms of its overall size.

Somehow, there is a narrative about the place that the iPhone Xs Max is a behemoth that can’t fit in your pocket or bag. This is blatantly untrue. I suspect that the confusion arose simply because the all-screen device’s display (6.5-inches) was mistaken as a metric against the older model’s 5.5-inch display without taking into account that one handset’s front end has bezels while the other has none.

The larger display does have one negative knock-on effect. It’s now harder than ever to reach for the control panel. The iPhone X introduced the concept of getting to this through swiping in from the top right corner. That was tricky enough. But the bigger screen makes it considerably harder to reach up there with one’s thumb.

4. BATTERY LIFE IS A BIT BETTER

The iPhone Xs’s battery is a tale of two metrics. On one hand, Apple says that it performs between 30 and 90 minutes longer than the iPhone X or iPhone 8 Plus. This felt about right during my testing of the two phones. So if you’re looking for longer battery life than your current iPhone, you’ll get it here.

On the other hand, we’re now in an era of 4,000mAh batteries in some of the iPhone Xs’s rivals. That equates to at least 20pc better battery in those phone systems.

And one ironic twist to putting in such an incredibly beautiful Oled screen is that you’ll want to use it more. That, certainly, was my experience. I often couldn’t take my eyes off it. The result was that I certainly didn’t feel I was making it to a longer point in the day before needing to seek some extra battery power: In a normal full day (starting at 7am), I usually required a top-up around 5pm to feel I would safely make it home with running dry.

5. IOS 12 BRINGS SOME INTERESTING IMPROVEMENTS

Baked into the new iPhone Xs (and which will be available for most current iPhones) is iOS 12. I’ve been using two of its new features regularly: Screen Time and the new Apple TV remote control feature from the control panel.

(Group FaceTime messaging is another anticipated iOS 12 feature but won’t now be rolled out until later in the Autumn.)

Screen Time is a fascinating concept and one that, I suspect, will be the central focus of iOS 12. This is because, as well as allowing us to moderate our own app usage with limits and downtime sessions, it provides new controls for parents to limit what their kids can do and see.

For example, its ‘content restrictions’ sub-setting allows a parent to control whether a child has unrestricted access to the internet or not. The content restrictions also allow the main user to limit content from the Apple Store, including podcasts, music, books and TV shows, according to measurements such as their national censor rating or whether they contain explicit language. Similar restrictions can now also be placed on Siri voice searches.

Another sub-setting allows a parent to control whether a child can engage in multiplayer games, add friends within games or engage in screen recording.

The new feature can be set up for family devices while there’s also a Screen Time passcode that stops others from turning the feature off, or modifying some of the rules set, if they get access to a parent’s phone.

A general ‘downtime’ setting with Screen Time limits availability on the phone only to pre-chosen apps (such as iMessage) and phone calls. A reminder appears five minutes before the downtime period begins. The setting can be applied across all of a user’s iCloud devices.

6. OTHER NOTABLE FEATURES

(i) Better water resistance: This year’s iPhone Xs has an upgraded water and dust resistance certification, reaching IP68. This means that it can now survive in most kinds of common liquids for up to 30 minutes at a depth of two metres. The only condition is that you need to let it dry off for a few hours before trying to get it to work again. I haven’t tested this element of it yet. (Though I did test the iPhone 7 in a pint of Guinness two years ago, the video for which you’ll find elsewhere on this website: it survived just fine at the lower water resistance grade.) However, I have had it out taking photos in the rain. As you’d expect, this was no problem whatsoever to it.

(ii) Loads and loads of storage: The new iPhone Xs goes all the way up to 512GB, the most on the market. This is good if you plan to hold on to the phone for a couple of years and use it a lot for photos and video. It’s also good if you use video services such as Netflix, Sky Go or YouTube Premium, all of which now allow you to download full movies or television episodes for offline viewing. This requires a lot of free storage, although maybe not quite as much as 512GB. The other storage options are 64GB and 256GB (which will probably be the sweet spot for most Xs Max users).

(iii) Louder speakers: Another hardware upgrade to compliment the TV-friendly nature of the new phones is more volume in the speakers. These are now genuinely quite loud, easily capable of holding a section of a room.

(iv) Dual sim / eSim: The iPhone Xs has incorporated a ‘dual sim’ status, meaning you can choose between two operators on one phone. But unlike other phones which have had this for years, Apple’s dual sim feature is an ‘eSim’. That means it’s built in to the phone — you can buy a monthly prepaid plan on the phone without ever having to get the small plastic sim card from the operator to stick into it. A number of operators are already on board, including T-Mobile in the US and EE in the UK.

It won’t be switched on until later in the Autumn, Apple says. But when it is, this could be a huge bonus for regular travellers, especially to countries such as the US.

When looking for a local US sim card, it’s very hard to get something adequate (of around 10GB) that’s much cheaper than $75.

The option I usually use is actually on my iPad Pro via its built-in Apple sim card. In ‘settings’, I can just switch this on and then choose an operator from the list of those offering to connect the iPad. My current choice is TMobile at $10 for 5GB, usable any time over six months. I’m sincerely hoping that the iPhone’s new Xs ‘eSim’ feature offers something similar.

7. CONCLUSION – IT’S A HIT

In some ways, the iPhone Xs is a classic ‘S’ upgrade to last year’s iPhone X.

In other ways, it’s utterly transformational. Apple has set out its stall to completely replace front-facing Touch ID buttons as a control mechanism. And it now goes toe to toe with the biggest screens on the market.

Physically, the two handsets are pretty gorgeous. They have beautiful steel frames and toughened glass rear casing.

They both come with a beast of an engine under the hood, one that’s strong enough to allow the new handsets perform some extraordinary things, especially in the all-important camera department.

Having also handled the iPhone Xr at the Cupertino launch, I think that there’s stiff competition coming to the Xs models when that cheaper device is launched in October.

But for now, the iPhone has done more than enough to earn its stripes. It is the top smartphone on the market.

8. PRICING & AVAILABILITY

The iPhone Xs costs from €1,179 for the 5.8-inch model (64GB) and from €1,279 for the 6.5-inch model (64GB). 256GB and 512GB storage versions are available for both models at increments of €170 and €230, respectively. They’re available in silver, space grey and gold

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42

19 Sep 2018

Dublin Airport on course for 30 million passengers

Dublin Airport was the 14th-busiest in Europe during July, handling more than 3.3 million passengers.

In the year to July, Dublin Airport was also the 14-busiest, with 18 million people passing through the gateway. London Heathrow was the busiest, with 45.9 million passengers, according to new data from Airports Council International (ACI).

In the year to August, Dublin Airport saw 21.2 million passengers using the facility – 6pc more than in the corresponding period in 2017.

The Dublin Airport performance so far this year puts it firmly on track to handle more than 30 million passengers during 2018, having just missed that figure last year.

The airport said last week that it also handled 3.2 million passengers in August, which made it its busiest August ever.

The airport has benefited from new services to destinations such as Beijing, Hong Kong and Seattle, while services on a number of existing routes have expanded.

Next year, new routes to Minneapolis and Dallas will commence.

Dublin Airport has experienced significant expansion of passenger numbers in recent years, putting pressure on state-owned DAA, which controls the airport, to keep pace with major infrastructure requirements.

Construction of a €320m runway and associated taxiways and other infrastructure is expected to begin later this year, while the DAA is also spending hundreds of millions on other projects such as the development of new aircraft stands.

It has also just recently unveiled plans to revamp one of its immigration areas.

New figures from the European arm of Airports Council International yesterday showed that in the seven months to the end of July, Dublin was slightly busier than Zurich, which handled 17.6 million passengers in the period, and behind Paris Orly, which handled 19.2 million passengers.

The amount of freight passing through Dublin Airport has also risen, climbing 7.5pc in the year to the end of July to 86,002 tonnes.

But the freight figure is significantly below that of Zurich Airport, which handled almost 209,000 tonnes in the period.

Article Source: http://tinyurl.com/kbwqb42