Wednesday. 5/6/2019

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / David Phelan

Bear fruit?

How do you keep people interested when you’re launching almost identical products year after year? At the Apple conference this week, the tech behemoth provided another masterclass in showmanship with a marathon two-hour-and-20-minute keynote session where it touted all manner of beguiling updates. Its new iPhone and iPad keyboards (where you swipe, rather than tap, to type) were particular crowd-pleasers as was its Apple Maps update, which will provide a more polished alternative to street views in Google Maps. The only misstep came with the unveiling of its new super-powerful $6,000 (€5,300) computer where it was revealed that the monitor, itself costing another $5,000 (€4,400), then required a stand that could cost up to an extra $1,000 (€890). Finally, the HomePod smart speaker will have access to live radio stations including Monocle 24 (about time too).

But beyond the headline-catching innovations, Apple has its work cut out. Other handset-makers are rushing to market with 5G phones this year. The rumour is that the first Apple iPhone capable of supporting the new network won’t launch until autumn 2020. While the public may not be that bothered about a faster phone network, all it will take is one killer 5G app to capture the public’s imagination and Apple will look like it’s falling behind.

Defence / Turkey

Friends in all the wrong places

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is determined to go through with his deal to buy Russia’s S-400 Triumf missile defence system, even if it means upsetting the US. The strongman leader has affirmed his intention to buy from Moscow rather than opting for the US-made Patriot system hawked by the Pentagon. Defence chiefs in Washington are incandescent, claiming that the Russian system poses threats to Nato’s F-35 fighter-jet programme and that the S-400 is incompatible with the alliance’s other weaponry. Putting American noses out of joint might impress Erdogan’s allies in the Kremlin but it’s ill advised. The Turkish economy is still reeling from sanctions imposed by the US last summer; current trajectories suggest more might be landing soon.

Society / Hong Kong

Law of the (main)land

Candle-holding crowds filled Hong Kong’s Victoria Park yesterday evening to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. The 30th anniversary of the killings – when the Chinese army opened fire on student protesters – has revived Hong Kongers’ appetite for dissent. This Sunday 300,000 people are expected to descend upon the city to protest a new law that, if passed, would permit the extradition of citizens to the mainland. The high turnout underlines the self-governed city’s rising concerns about China’s more recent crackdowns on Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms. Chief executive Carrie Lam appears intent on bending to Beijing’s wishes but perhaps a unanimous voice shouting from the street will embolden her to resist the proposed law.

Business / Japan

Brought to heel

Japanese women are kicking back against misogyny in the workplace. A 19,000-signature petition opposing stringent dress codes, which insist that women wear high heels to work, was presented to officials at the labour ministry this week. Actress and writer Yumi Ishikawa’s #KuToo movement is a play on the Japanese words for pain (kutsuu) and shoe (kutsu). As well as citing an array of health concerns attributed to wearing high heels on a daily basis, the movement speaks to a broader concern about working culture in Japan. While some companies are guilty of marginalising female employees, encouraging more women into work is a cornerstone of prime minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for the economy; his government should get in step.

Transport / Canada

On the charge

The rental e-scooter epidemic is sweeping across Canada; they are expected to roll into Montréal this month, Edmonton soon after and potentially Ottawa after that. Keen to swerve chaotic scenes of e-scooters dumped in rivers, parks and anywhere that poses a nuisance, policy-makers are struggling to come up with a way to regulate this latest public-transport fad. The biggest problem is the speed at which they are trialled: while city officials pontificate, companies such as US-based firm Lime are putting wheels on the street. Modes of unofficial, spontaneous transport can enliven cities but a surfeit of e-scooter riders careering around on roads and pavements – often without helmets – will make life worse for everyone else.

M24 / The Menu: Food Neighbourhoods

Bangkok, Chinatown

Thai-American food writer Chawadee Nualkhair reveals her favourite street-food vendors in the Thai capital’s Chinatown.

Monocle Films / Greece

The secret to designing outdoor space

Monocle Films sits down to talk to architect Iliana Kerestetzi and see how she goes about designing courtyards in rural Greece.

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