Thursday, October 31, 2013

Google unveils Nexus 5 with Android Kit Kat

Google has officially unveiled the much anticipated Nexus 5 smartphone.

The new device, made by LG, comes after many months of rumours and speculation. It replaces the Nexus 4 which was discontinued some weeks ago.

The Nexus 5 is smaller, slimmer and lighter than its predecessor though its screen is larger coming in at 4.96 inches or 126mm.

It is the first device to feature Google's much talked about Android Kit Kat and specifications for the new phone were widely leaked before it was announced on the official Google blog.

The new phone has record and playback HD video at the full 1080p resolution. Its camera also has a rapid burst system that captures several photographs at the same time allowing for a better chance to grab that special moment! so owners can pick the best shot.

The handset is due to go on sale on 1 November in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea.

In the UK the device is advertised at £299 for the 16Gb model, $349 in the US, or £339 for the 32Gb model, or $399 in the US. The phone is also available in either black or white.

tvnewswatch, London, UK

217 long days in China

After more than two hundred and seventeen days in China I am more than tired. I'm absolutely exhausted.

Far from being a holiday it's been more like an expedition. From Beijing to Yunnan, treks to Laos and Vietnam, in temperatures exceeding 30°C, and a nearly a month in Shanghai, one feels like having been on a campaign. Indeed it has been like the Long March!

No time to relax

There's been little time to relax. And travelling with Chinese is more tiring in that they seem not to know how to relax.

Every trip is like a disorganized army manoeuvre.

Take a trip to Laos for example. The guy who offered to drive wanted to head off at 7 am, which is fair, but he turned up at eight. Then by they time we were loaded it was nearly 11 am. Even then it was necessary for everyone to find a mixian restaurant.

So by the time one actually hit the road it was midday. Then it was a very long and hot drive to Pu'er with a couple of stops on the way.

The first stop was at a road side café. The only time the Chinese appear to take time-out is when their stomachs rumble. But there's no time for after dinner mints or conversation. As soon as everyone's eaten it's "Let's go!" and one is obliged to leave.

The next stop was to drop by some friends of the driver, a 30 minute pit-stop where everyone rushed to use the lavatory. Again, the only other unscheduled stops were for a call of nature.

We arrived in Pu'er at around 7 pm and tried to find a hotel. Of course, no one had the foresight to check Google maps, a travel site or equivalent, in order to secure reasonably priced accommodation. So it was nearly 9 before hitting the streets to find a restaurant. And in China, just like Faulty Towers, the chef stops at nine. In some places there will be late night restaurants or 24 hour McDonald's burger joints, but that is more the exception than the rule.

We eventually find a fish restaurant where they boil the fish in a large pot at the table and the patrons eat it with various condiments such as chopped coriander leaves, spring onions and chili.

After eating there's again no suggestion of going for a drink. Instead there's merely an exclamation that we should all be in reception at 8 am before going for breakfast. And in China it's always mixian. No milk and Rice Krispies here. In China it's rice noodles for breakfast, a bowl of rice with lunch and also with dinner.

Rice, rice and rice

And after six months of boiled rice, fried rice and rice noodles, one dreams of potatoes. Chipped, fried, boiled, roasted, in their jackets or sauté.

In fact one desires Western food all the more after a constant diet of Chinese cuisine.

Don't get me wrong, I like Chinese food. But NOT everyday for six months. Song Shu Yu [松鼠鱖魚], Yu Xiang Qiezi [魚香茄子] and Suan La Tudou Si [酸辣土豆丝] are all great, but one soon gets tired of lots of separate dishes.

One longs for a 'square meal' on a round plate which one can eat with a knife and fork. Such things are a rarity in China, and where such choices exist it can often be expensive or a pale imitation of the real McCoy.

Escape to McDonalds!

The only escape is a trip to McDonald's, a KFC or Pizza Hut, though don't expect to find one except in a large city, and even then don't expect the Chinese to join you, and the older they are the less likely they'll be interested.

In fact, while they might accommodate you in dropping by a MacDee's, they'll expect you to grab it and go so you're forced to struggle eating a burger and fries in a moving vehicle while somehow managing not to spill your strawberry milkshake or Coca Cola.

So you arrive in Pu'er, a town famous for its tea, and you eventually settle into your hotel room. Even if it's clean, and believe me there are many hotels you wouldn't wish to house your cat, few have WiFi, so unless you have your PC with you checking out local tourist hotspots is virtually impossible for those armed with smart phones or tablets.

And even when you do have Internet access, it's certainly not what most westerners are used to. This is Communist China and only sites deemed appropriate by authorities are accessible. Thus, without a VPN, there is no Foursquare, Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. Even Google Maps is creaky with slow refreshing times.

As regards the WiFi issue, there is a solution in that one can buy a relatively cheap portable router such as a TP-Link TL-WL700N which can be simply plugged into the hotel Ethernet cable and give WiFi 

On the road again

After a good sleep, the journey continues. There's no time, apparently, for sight seeing. No checking out a tea shop and drinking some Pu'er tea in Pu'er. The only delay is to grab a large bowl of mixian before once again hitting the road. Not being a great fan of mixian, and given there was not McDonald's within 100 kilometres, I myself request a bowl of wheat noodles, commandeer a bunch of ingredients and knock together a decent bowl of Yi Bin Ran Mian. Basically it consists of a thick sauce containing dark and light soy, dark vinegar, sugar, garlic, sesame paste, chili oil and sesame oil to which the noodles are added and topped with chopped coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds.

After breakfast there's another long journey before stopping for lunch at a road side café. The only other stops are for calls of nature. Stopping for a toilet in China is not always the most pleasant of experiences, but on the road in rural China it's even more unpleasant. While squat toilets are difficult to escape, hygiene is extremely difficult to come across, and paper is entirely absent. Privacy may also be absent as one is expected to squat alongside other patrons. As such it is advisable to make sure one has made all necessary visits to the rest room prior to leaving the comfort of one's hotel!

On the Laos border

Eventually we arrive at Mohan on the Chinese border with Laos. For the driver, there appears to be some disappointment in that the border shut at 5 pm and won't be open until 8 am the next day. So no quick getaway for him and the other passengers not wishing to venture into Laos and thus we need to stay overnight.

So it's back to vehicle and back to the main town to find a hotel. Here again another debate ensues concerning price and quality. The average westerner of course wants comfort and cleanliness for a reasonable price. However many Chinese are driven only by price.

It may have squat toilets, no air conditioning, no lifts, no Internet or WiFi, but if the price was 150 RMB instead of 300 RMB for all the above, most would take the former.

And so an argument concerning where to stay begins. Eventually, the Chinese give in to the laowai's demands, but there's no such concession with dinner.

Despite being close to the Laos border and the suggestion one might try to find a restaurant specialising in Lao cuisine there is no interest to even inquire and ask the locals if such a place exists.

While the meal was good, it was, once again typical Chinese food.

Breakfast was mixian, though it was at the hotel so no need to traipse all over town. Despite the slightly more upmarket accommodation there was no western alternative except for some cake like bread and warm milk. And there lies another culture shock for westerners who like their bread. In China decent bread is very hard to come by. In Beijing one could pop into Jenny Lou's and grab a nice loaf, but the price is extortionate. In other large towns it is possible to get sugar free bread, but it can often be dry and stale. Occasionally supermarkets might sell sliced bread, but for often than not one is only left with the choice of brioche style 'bread'. 

Coffee is rarely on the menu unless at a top class hotel so one is now quite accustomed now to carrying a cafetiere, ground coffee and sugar in one's luggage. Even if near to a Costa or Starbucks the cost is ridiculously expensive.

Time now to head to the border, a task in itself since despite only three people going into Laos, the whole troop want to go.

There's no practical reason behind such decisions. There was no luggage to carry or a need to see us off. After all we were merely popping across the border and returning within a couple of hours. Again by travelling with the Chinese one is often led by the most dominant member of the group and what they want to do.

While one may have wanted to head into Laos proper, perhaps even grabbing a coach or taxi to the nearest big town and even sampling the local cuisine, such choices were not on the table.

We were stuck with individuals who either had no interest in going and did not even possess a passport. This was seen as merely as an exercise to comply with China visa restrictions requiring us to exit China every 90 days.

Even though it was only a couple of hours away from the main group, it was two hours of fresh air.

My wife is Chinese, but she has become far more westernised, willing to relax a little, go exploring on a whim and not rush everywhere as though there were no tomorrow.

And despite time restrictions we walk a kilometre or so into Boten, though it was very much a ghost town, and then we relax for a couple of Lao beers before taking a leisurely stroll back to China.

On returning to the main group the army manoeuvres begin once again. First another, you guessed it, Chinese meal washed down with cheap, weak Chinese beer. Having discovered the nice strong BeerLao, the taste of Chinese beer was far less palatable. For some reason most Chinese beer is only around 3% and has no real body, so the discovery of a decent beer made one long all the more for a foreign lagers, beers or cider.

After grabbing a crate of LaoBeer we were on the road again. We head north and stop near to a small town not too far from some botanical gardens. That was the adventure for the following day, but first we had to check into a hotel before grabbing dinner at yet another Chinese restaurant.

By the time we'd arrived in Xishuangbanna everyone was pretty tired, but none so tired as myself of Chinese food.

Despite the south west of Yunnan province being the home to a vast number of different ethnic minority groups, each with their own individual style of cuisine, the rest of the party had little interest in trying anything different.

When insisting upon stopping with the wife at a little Dai restaurant near our hotel, everyone else declined and instead went to eat at an eatery where we'd already eaten twice before.

Our travelling companions might be excused by the fact they were old. Stuck in their ways, they could be forgiven for not wanting to try different flavours or unusual cuisine.

Vietnam adventure

But travelling with younger Chinese people is often no different. A trip to Vietnam proved to be an adventure which was just as uninteresting in terms of discovering new culinary delights.

Once again it was mixian for breakfast, mixian and smelly tofu for lunch and on arrival in Hekou, on the Chinese-Vietnam border, a typical selection of Chinese dishes, which either due to their chili content or the lack of hygiene, played havoc with one's guts the following day.

Breakfast was thus avoided!

Our intended trip into Vietnam was delayed due to the fact that one member of the party did not have a visa and had to acquire a temporary permit.

In one sense it was a blessing in that it prompted a discussion at the travel agency sorting out the paperwork as to how long we might spend in Vietnam. It was suggested we might pay the tour company to drive us to Sa Pa. It was one of those all inclusive deals which provides food, a hotel room and travel arrangements.

The drawbacks given such a late decision to spend two nights in Vietnam were two fold. The first was we had now wasted more than half a day hanging around in Hekou sorting out documents. Thus it was nearly 2 pm before arriving in Sa Pa, which is only a few kilometres from the border.

The next drawback was the food laid on by the tour company which was poor by anyone's standards and more like Chinese food than it was Vietnamese.

The excellent beer did however make up for it and on heading into town one soon found an array of restaurants offering very decent food.

Sorry to say that by this time I was myself not in the mood for further experimentation and thus opted for dropping into an Italian restaurant called Romano's. The margherita pizza was however excellent and the Vietnamese coffee was also very good.

Just as the brief visit to Laos created a longing for decent beer, the excursion to Vietnam also reminded one of things back home. Dispite being a Communist country, Vietnam's Internet is far more open that that of China. After months of frustration accessing the Internet in the Middle Kingdom, trying to find an Internet connection and jumping through hoops and using VPNs to access Twitter or Facebook, being in Vietnam was a sudden breath of fresh air. 

Even in Sa Pa a rural mountain top village, WiFi was everywhere. Certainly these networks were much to do with catering for the many tourists but nonetheless to be able to easily use western social media, Google Maps and other websites was fantastic.

Return to China

Such luxuries were short lived as we soon had to return to China. Back to more Chinese food, and an Internet that gives one a migraine. Now based in Kunming, rather than a rural town in Yunnan province, there was certainly a few more choices concerning food and entertainment. However the weather was beginning to cool and summer was becoming a distant memory.

There had not been many chances to relax or swim and excursions to places such as the Fuxian Lake are perhaps best avoided. The lake is a pleasant enough loaction, however the few places where one can park up and swim attracts hoards of tourists from near and far making the experience feel more like the Tokyo subway at rush hour rather than a relaxing day at the beach.

Parks are very much the same with little chance of an afternoon of solitude. In short everywhere is crowded.

Final stop, Shanghai

After months, mostly in Yunnan province, Shanghai was the last stop on the agenda. Things had certainly changed in the 6 years since last visited. Pollution levels seemed much better, but more striking was how much more modern the city had become. While still restricted by censorship, WiFi Internet access points were everywhere. Telephone kiosks were WiFi equipped and a WiFi network called i-Shanghai provided decent coverage across much of the metropolis. The major drawback for foreign visitors was the need to have a phone with a local SIM in order to get a password to sign-in. However there were nonetheless many bars and restaurants providing WiFi without such requirements.

The city, much like Beijing, attracts many expats, and that was another breath of fresh air in that after months of stunted conversations in Chinese to Chinese people one could finally have a conversation in English with people from all over the world. In one bar there was an eclectic mix of Chinese, British, Algerians, Jordanians, Australians and Spanish. The drawback was the price of beer at around 35 RMB for half a litre, though happy hour was a salvation.

Sadly all good things come to an end and within a few short weeks in Shanghai it was time to leave the Middle Kingdom for the United Kingdom. Back to the damp and cold, but back to a larder full of decent food and a 30 Mb unrestricted Internet.

China certainly has some good points, but for those who like their mod cons, western food and a decent Internet 7 months is too long. 

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Lao plane crash leaves all 49 dead

All 49 people aboard a Lao Airlines ATR 72 which crashed into the Mekong River on Wednesday are believed to have perished with no sign of survivors despite extensive searches in the area where the aircraft went down. Pictures on Thai TV showed the plane partly submerged in shallow water, its tail severed, next to a group of rescuers in small boats.

Flight QV301 from the Laotian capital Vientiane came down about 8km from Pakse airport at around 16:00 local time [09:00 GMT]. Foreigners from some 10 countries including seven from France and a family from Australia were among the dead, as well as Laotian nationals [Sky News Australia]. Others on board included five Thai nationals, three South Koreans and citizens from Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the USA and Vietnam.

The plane belonging to state-run Lao Airlines crashed in bad weather just before it was due to land at Pakse airport. The cause of the crash has yet to be established but it has been reported that the ATR 72-600 twin-engine turboprop aircraft had not undergone a safety audit [Sky News Australia]. However Lao Airlines, a small company with just 14 aircraft in its fleet, has until now had a good safety record.

[BBC / TelegraphCNN / Wikipedia]

tvnewswatch, Shanghai, China

Monday, October 14, 2013

UK ignores human rights to increase China trade deals

The British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and the Mayor of London Boris Johnson have both touched down in China to negotiate trade deals with the fast growing economy. They are set to announce a raft of deals during their separate trade visits to China, including a partnership to develop Manchester Airport.


However their visits do not come without some criticism and controversy with some media commentators questioning the double standards Britain plays especially concerning China's appalling human rights' record and lack of freedom.

In one grilling interview Sky's Dermot Murnaghan continued to push the London Mayor over why Britain was happy to ignore China's questionable attitude towards individual freedom and human rights yet lambaste smaller countries over their human rights' policies.

Johnson continually side stepped the questions saying he was merely in China to drum up trade and not debate the ethics of how another country was governed.

"My job as Mayor is not to have a foreign policy but to get on and promote the interests of the greatest city on earth which is what we're doing," he said. "There are many interesting foreign policy problems around the world I could get involved in, whether or not that would improve global hopes for a resolution, I have my reservations." [Sky News / Huffington Post / BBC].


Britain is one of the top ten nations to attract Chinese investment, more than double the investment of any other nation in Europe. However,in the long term there could be dire repercussions as such investment effectively becomes a takeover of British industry.

Chinese investment is concentrated in the UK energy sector, although Barclays Bank, BP, Diageo and Thames Water also have Chinese backing.

Some UK companies are already controlled by Chinese groups. Bright Foods owns a 60% stake in Weetabix, the Wanda conglomerate owns 92% of Sunseeker boats and Geely Automobile owns Manganese Bronze, the company that makes London taxis.

Speaking soon after an announcement that the Chinese would invest £800 million in Manchester Airport and surrounding businesses, George Osborne said he saw "China as a great opportunity" and "not a threat".

The development surrounding Britain's third busiest airport will include offices, hotels, manufacturing firms, logistics and warehouses. It is hoped that by attracting international businesses some 16,000 jobs could be created.

"I think it shows that our economic plan of doing more business with China, and also making sure more economic activity in Britain happens outside the City of London, is working," Osborne insisted [BBC].

Cyber risks

There have also been questions raised over security as tech firms such as Huawei incorporate more of their technology into Britain's telecommunications infrastructure.

The Chancellor is set to lead his delegation to the Shenzhen-based headquarters of Huawei, the world's largest telecommunications manufacturer, and TenCent, the world's third largest gaming and social media firm.

Huawei's growing footprint in Europe and America has caused controversy, with some suggesting that Chinese involvement in Western telecoms firms poses a security risk.

Despite that, Huawei has already pledged to invest £1.3 billion in the UK's broadband network over the next four years.

In 2012 a US congressional report was released suggesting that American firms should avoid doing business with two Chinese telecoms companies citing national security grounds. Huawei, and another company ZTE, were said to have close links with the Chinese government and its military and the congressional panel said they were not satisfied by statements from the companies concerned.

However, despite US concerns and some raised eyebrows in Britain within intelligence circles, the UK government has allowed the Chinese firm Huawei to build a large portfolio of customers in Britain, amongst them the Internet company Talk Talk [tvnewswatch: Mixed response to Huawei & ZTE 'security threat' - Oct 2012]

Uneven playing field

Britain has also been lucrative for Chinese exports. However Britain's exports to China are tiny in comparison, though there are indeed some success stories. Chinese imports into Britain has soared from £13.2 billion in 2005 to around £30 billion in 2012.  Britain's exports in comparison have only risen from £2.8 billion to £10 billion in the same period.

Such figures are an indicator as to how difficult a market place China is to enter. There are issues of bureaucracy, consumer taste as well as other cultural issues. More importantly there is the lack of competitive advantage due to manufacturing costs and currency fluctuations.

China has been a hard nut to crack not only for British businesses but other foreign enterprises.

Earlier this year Tesco, which saw its profits sink by some 23.5% in the first half of this financial year, announced it would combine its Tesco China business, which includes 134 stores, with the 2,986 stores held by China Resources Enterprise's Vanguard business [BBC].

Bryan Roberts, lnsights director at Kantar Retail, believes that the Chinese market is incredibly tough for any international brand to do business in.

Talking to BBC Radio 5 Live's "Wake Up to Money" in August, he said, "It's an incredibly difficult market and Tesco is just the latest in a long list of international retailers who've come away... with their tail between their legs".

Roberts cites the huge levels of bureaucracy encountered by foreign businesses trying to enter the Chinese market place as being one of the major obstacles to doing business in China. Corruption was also another issue where "palms need to be greased" in order to clinch deals.

Tesco is not the only firm that has struggled in China. While fast food outlets, such as McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks and Costa Coffee, have managed to firmly establish themselves in China there are many brands which have fallen by the wayside and withdrawn from the Middle Kingdom.

IP theft

Even where firms have managed to establish themselves there is a high risk of intellectual property theft. Shanzai [山寨] products, a term refering to Chinese imitation and pirated brands and goods, particularly electronics, are everywhere in China.

Often it is clear what is on offer, as far as the consumer is concerned, indeed some retailers will openly ask if the customer wants the real or fake product in some cases. The saving could be as much as 50% on a branded electronic item such as an iPhone or tablet PC. But the cost to the manufacturers can be very costly indeed.

Stolen technology can be and often is incorporated into China's growing infrastructure, be it transport networks, telecommunications systems or other vital systems. Having possession of valuable IP can save China a fortune since local firms can be given the contracts rather than foreign companies. Again foreign companies lose out and many years of research can be wasted.

Such IP theft has even forced companies into bankruptcy, even for some that never directly established a physical presence in China. Telecoms firm Nortel, for example, was systematically hacked over a period of years and the data gathered cost the company its research, technology and clients.

The Canadian firm Nortel was once a market leader in the telecommunications industry. But a simple security breach cost the company everything. Nortel went bust by 2009 after years of hacking which was traced to China. There were certainly mistakes within the company in that it failed to protect itself or take the advice of its own security team [CNET]. However such threats can be very sophisticated and smaller companies can be especially vulnerable [WSJ / Register / CBC / Naked Security / Financial Post / Washington Post / CBC].

China in the frame

GCHQ officials, talking to the BBC earlier this year, revealed that the know who is doing the hacking, but refused to reveal which nation state was behind the most prolific attacks.

BBC Security Correspondent Gordon Corera, who presented a series of programmes about the ongoing cyberwar, painted a dark picture of how Britain and other countries could well be losing out economically because of cyberattacks and IP theft.

Western companies face the wholesale plundering of their economic life-blood. Indeed some of the world's largest companies stand to lose millions from the theft of their intellectual property. "Britain is under attack," says Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague. "Most countries are under attack and certainly many industries and businesses are under attack." But the Foreign Secretary remains tight lipped  as to who is responsible.

All fingers point to China, and there is certainly much evidence to show this to be the case despite official denials. Yet while China steals foreign intellectual property, buys up the cream of foreign industry, ignores WTO rules, and capitalises on its new economic strength, western companies and governments are queuing up to negotiate business deals.

Western countries certainly need an economic boost following the 2008 recession. But doing business with a country which has questionable business ethics, mountains of red tape, rampant IP theft and an uneven business playing field could prove to be just as costly in the long term.

Unnerving future

With China's growing economic status few seem to acknowledge such risks. However China's economic strength will heavily alter the political and cultural landscape of the world in the future.

In his thesis When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order, Martin Jacques debates China's future influence on the world [Foreign Policy blogs].

His appraisal is far softer than the potential outcome could be. China, after all it a totalitarian one party dictatorship with strict controls on the flow of information through its state run media, monitoring of its citizens and censorship of the Internet.

The future could be far bleaker than predicted.

tvnewswatch, Shanghai, China

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Google eyes Blackberry as Nexus 5 plans leak

Google may be discussing a potential bid to buy some or all of Blackberry, the floundering mobile phone business, according to reports this last week. The news comes in the wake of other leaks suggesting that the search giant maybe soon to release the Nexus 5 after a purported service manual was posted on the document sharing service Scribd.

Blackberry bids

According to Reuters, which first reported the news, several companies may be looking at offering bids for Blackberry Ltd. formerly known as RIM. Other potential bidders include Cisco and SAP. The company, based in Waterloo, Ontario, has asked for preliminary expressions of interest from other strategic buyers, which are also said to include Intel Corp and Asian companies LG and Samsung. Cerberus, a private equity firm which specialises in buying up distressed companies, is also expected to table a rival offer for the entire company [CNN / Telegraph].

Blackberry woes

However none of the companies have confirmed or denied the reports and any bids for the company are likely to be be treated cautiously given BlackBerry's financial concerns. Last month they reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion after taking a writedown on unsold Z10 Blackberry smartphones. The company also recently announced it was cutting its workforce, shedding more than 4,500 jobs [T3].

The Z10 was presented at the BlackBerry 10 event on January 30, 2013 but sales have been sluggish. The company had launched the touchscreen device, a shift away from its built-in physical keyboard design, in order to compete with the growing number of similar devices using iOS, Android or Windows Mobile.

News of a potential buyout of the mobile phone company has boosted the company's stock which rose some 4% on Monday closing at around $8 [IBN / Google Finance].

Google could certainly capitalise on the purchase of Blackberry. It already has a small but loyal customer base, and to draw in these users into Google's nest would be a coup. Should Google acquire the entire company it is possible, even likely, that future Blackberry devices will be Android powered. This could boost sales, but could anger current Blackberry users.

But the tech giant will have some stiff competition from the likes of Samsung and Cisco who will certainly be interested in the host of patents under Blackberry's belt.

Nexus 5 leaks

This week also saw further leaks concerning Google's next much anticipated mobile phone offering, the Nexus 5. Android Police were the first to reveal details about the upcoming device gleaned from a leaked service manual that was posted to Scribd, a document sharing service over the weekend.

The 281-page booklet included images, detailed diagrams and information about the phone. According to the document the new handset will feature an 8-megapixel rear camera, an LTE radio and improved battery life, and will be available in 16GB or 32GB sizes.

It will have 4.95-inch 1080p IPS screen and a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 with 2GB of RAM, making it more powerful than the previous Nexus 4 model.

The leak comes amid speculation that LG are due to launch a new handset in their Nexus series in the coming weeks, with the Nexus 4 having been revealed around this time last year [Telegraph / ZDNet].

LG force removal of docs & pics

Android Police were forced to remove the images and links to the original document by LG, though not before details and the manual itself had been seen, downloaded and commented on by millions of web users. Scribd also removed the document citing copyright issues. Other websites including Phandroid and Droid-Life were also obliged to remove links to the manual.

Speculation of Nexus 5 launch

There has been much speculation about when Google and a partner manufacturer might launch another device with stock Android, especially after the Nexus 4 was first reduced in price on its Play Store before becoming unavailable completely.

When launched it is likely to be released with Android KitKat 4.4, the first Android variant with commercial sponsorship. As for the timing of such a launch, the latest speculation is that the device will release at the end of this month [T3].

tvnewswatch, Shanghai, China

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

UK police catch shaving drivers. In China it's a free for all

This last week in Britain saw police waging war on motorists, snapping evidence of nearly 200 drivers using mobile phones, shaving, reading and even brushing their teeth at the wheel. But such behaviour is commonplace in other parts of the world and often leads to disastrous results.

Operation Tramline

The five-day operation across Hampshire and the Thames Valley in the south of Britain resulted in 198 motorists being prosecuted using footage filmed from an unmarked lorry.

The most observed offence was people's use of a cell phone with some 126 motorists caught making calls.

However police also recorded evidence of others using iPads, reading newspapers and even shaving at the wheel. One lorry driver was spotted brushing his teeth, with a water bottle in one hand and razor in the other. Meanwhile a  woman was seen doing her make-up, using her rear view mirror as she drove on the motorway at 70 mph [110 km/h]. Another female driver was caught accessing Facebook on her mobile phone whilst driving on the M27.

Other offences caught on camera were drivers failing to use their seatbelts, driving with undue care and attention and of parking on the motorway without a proper reason [BBC / Portsmouth News].

Proven danger

Such behaviour is certainly inappropriate, and even dangerous. Sergeant Paul Dimond, who co-ordinated Op Tramline, said, "Distracted driving is proven to be a significant factor in many of the collisions on our roads."

"These offences are being committed by otherwise law abiding and hardworking people. Unfortunately it is that same group of people that are being hurt as a result of the accidents."

Whilst the operation highlights that the message concerning safety has not reached everyone driving on Britain's roads, Sgt Dimond said that the vast majority of the motorists observed during the week were driving safely and in compliance with the law.

Indeed Britain has some of the safest roads in the world.

The same cannot be said in other developing countries where the offences observed by Hampshire and Thames Valley police are commonplace.

China's road dangers

If police in China were to enforce British driving rules they would not only bring in large amounts of revenue, a great many motorists would likely find themselves banned from driving.

Use of handheld mobile phones is commonplace with few drivers even considering the dangers involved. Indeed it is not uncommon to see people texting or using the popular social network WeChat on their phones.

The rules of the road in China are entirely different and lane discipline is almost unheard of. Drivers often fail to indicate their intentions and cut into traffic lines, dangerously overtake or undertake and continually use their horns.

Children at risk

While the use of seatbelts is increasing many people in China do not consider safety to be a priority. Few motorists use a car seat for their children or babies and parents are often seen simply holding their child in their arms as the car speeds along the highway [China Daily].

And whilst car ownership is rising, mopeds are a more common form of transport. As such entire families can be seen packed onto the two wheeled conveyance, none of them wearing any form of head protection. British police officers would likely be astounded should they see some of the sights seen on China's streets.

Xinhua News Agency reported that about 18,500 children under age 14 die in traffic accidents in China every year, though the figure could be much higher.

A child who weighs 10 kg and is travelling at 50 km/h in a car has a force impact of 300 kg in a crash, according the China Automotive Technology and Research Center. "At this speed, it's impossible to protect a child," Liang Mei,executive vice-president of the China Toy and Juvenile Products Association, says. "In some tragedies, children are even thrown through the windshield."

Ignoring risks

But despite the risks, many parents ignore the dangers or give up due to their child's protestations. "I understand the importance, but it was hard to get into the habit of using it, both for her and me," says one 41-year-old Beijing resident. "The seat took up too much room in my little car. Plus, my daughter felt uncomfortable and kept crying. … So I finally gave up."

Indeed space is certainly an issue for many drivers. Entire families might pack themselves into a single saloon car before setting off on a trip. Even if two cars are available, families will rather squeeze everyone in one car in order to save on fuel. So there might be the driver, along with a front seat passenger holding a child, despite the additional risk of an airbag activation. Meanwhile in the back might sit another mother with child plus three other adults, all packed into a seat designed for three!

City driving is fraught with dangers as buses, cars, mopeds and bicycles vie for space, and while motorways are considerably safer, dangers still exist with many ignoring rules and common sense. It is certainly not unusual, for example, to see a driver stop at the apex of a junction in order to check a map or make a phone call.

The result of such behaviour translates into unnerving statistics with China having one of the worst accident records in the world.

Deadly statistics

Whilst a 2009 report published suggested that road accidents might have fallen due the worldwide economic downturn, the same was not true of China [tvnewswatch: Road deaths drop due to recession except in China / / Xinhua].

In 2008 the number of deaths on Britain's roads dropped some 13.5% to 2,645, 414 less than in 2007. But it wasn't just Britain which saw a decline. In the United States the number of deaths fell 9.7% while Australia saw an 8.5% drop in fatalities. In statistical terms Britain has one of the lowest death rates in the world with 4.3 persons per 100,000 dying on the road each year. In Japan that rises to 4.7 while in Germany and Ireland that figure rises to 5.5 and 6.3 respectively.

But in China, where the number of cars on the roads is soaring, road deaths are also climbing. China is the world's most populous country with over 1.3 billion people, about a fifth of the earth's total population. And according to official studies there are about 450,000 car accidents on Chinese roads each year which cause approximately 470,000 injuries and 100,000 deaths. 

The total cost of these crashes is put at more than 2.4 billion US dollars. More than 90% of these accidents are considered to be caused by bad driving skills. But deaths and injuries would also likely be much reduced if drivers were to wear seat belts, parents used car seats and motorcyclist's adorned crash helmets.


Aside of such obvious safety factors there needs to be a better understanding of how distractions at the wheel, whether it be mobile phones or other electronic devices, can increase the risk of having an accident.

It has been an uphill struggle to educate British drivers concerning the use of seatbelts and not using mobile phones. China has a long way to go in this regard.

tvnewswatch, Shanghai, China