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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

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

Families face being nearly €200 worse off after Budget in spite of income tax cut

Households face being up to €190 worse off after the Budget as income tax cuts could be wiped out by increases in other charges and levies.

The Budget is likely to see an increase in the amount of money people can earn before they hit the top rate of income tax, but this could be cancelled out by a rise in PRSI and higher carbon taxes.

Householders could be between €120 and €190 worse off overall after the Budget, according to analysis by the Irish Tax Institute.

It said Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe has various options for next month’s Budget but he is likely to increase the entry point to the top income tax rate.

Allowing workers to earn another €1,000 before they hit the 40pc income tax rate would be worth about €200 a year to someone on €40,000, according to calculations by the Tax Institute.

Such a move would allow people to earn €35,550 before being hit with the higher tax rate.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has indicated that there is likely to be an increase in the higher rate entry point to stop so much of people’s incomes being taxed at higher rates.

The tax body said Mr Donohoe was also considering increasing the PRSI rate from 4pc to 4.5pc for employees. This would cost someone on €50,000 around €250 a year, according to a report prepared for Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty by officials.

There could also be more tax on carbon emissions, which would hit petrol, diesel, coal, briquettes and gas. Higher carbon tax would cost the average household an extra €69 a year if just €5 is added to the charge per tonne of carbon emissions, the Tax Institute said, quoting Economic and Social Research Institute data. Adding €10 to the carbon charge would cost families €138 a year.

Olivia Buckley of the Tax Institute said it was not sure which of the options would be chosen by Mr Donohoe, as they were political decisions.

She added that Ireland was unusual in terms of how early earnings hit the higher tax rate. At the moment, workers pay the 40pc income tax rate on earnings over €34,550.

“We can see why the Taoiseach is talking about this. That needs to addressed in terms of the squeezed middle,” said Ms Buckley.

She added that the State tax-raising system is skewed towards income tax. Income tax and the universal social charge represent 40pc of all taxes raised, with only 16pc coming from corporate tax.

The majority of income tax is paid by those earning more than €55,000. Some 85pc of income tax is paid by those earning middle and higher income.

Almost a third of workers pay no income tax at all.

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

Technology giants face payouts to media firms in EU copyright battle

Technology firms such as Facebook would have to share more of their revenue with the publishers of content used online under a shake-up of copyright rules.

The European Parliament has backed a law that would help media, video, music and other rights holders seek compensation for use of their content online.

It was hailed as a win for the media industry which has suffered a dramatic loss of revenue to technology giants, who often piggyback on work paid for by publishers.

The European Commission, which began the debate two years ago, says the overhaul is necessary to protect Europe’s cultural heritage and create a level playing field between big online platforms and publishers, broadcasters and artists.

It will have to be backed by the European Commission and national governments before it can take effect.

Ed McCann, the Group Managing Editor at Independent News & Media, which publishes the Irish Independent and other leading Irish titles, said: “This is an important first step. The European Parliament has recognised the crucial role of journalism as a force for good in society.

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

Unfair workload after four-day week shift

Query: I recently moved to a four-day week as I found the juggle of a full-time job and the rearing of two children too difficult. However, although my pay has been cut by a fifth to reflect the fact that I’m no longer working five days, I’m finding that I’m still expected to produce the same amount of work in four days as I did in five days. This seems very unfair and is putting me under enormous pressure. What can I do? Grace, Co Dublin

Answer: This is something we hear a lot – that is, when a person is offered a four-day week but is expected to do the work of a full week in that time. My first advice is to talk to your boss or human resources (HR) manager and explain to them that this is unsustainable and that as you say, is very unfair and putting you under enormous pressure.

In approaching your boss or the HR department, it is always best to put everything in writing. Also, go to your hiring manager with a solution to the issue you have.

For example you could identify tasks that can be taken off your desk or a new account which someone else could take over easily.

By providing a well-thought-out solution that suits your needs and also does not affect the bottom line for the company, you have a much better chance of getting a positive response from your employer.

Another question to address is whether or not you have a new contract since you have changed from full-time to part-time – and if your duties are laid out clearly in this regard.

You will need to go through this with your employer and highlight that you cannot possibly do a full-time job in part-time hours.

The Work Relations Commission (WRC) has some very clear guidelines for employers when an employee moves from full-time to part-time work. One of the considerations is how the applicant’s proposed revised hours will fit with the tasks of his or her job and how these tasks will be performed during the period of part-time work.

I would be querying my boss as to what considerations he or she has taken to allow for the fact that the role has changed from full-time to part-time.

If your boss does not make allowances for the fact that the role is now part-time, I would contact the WRC for advice on how to proceed. The information line for the WRC is 059-9178990. You can also visit the WRC’s website on workplacerelations.ie.

Overlooked for promotion

Query: I have worked with the same company for the last 10 years. Over the last four years, I have had three children – and taken six months maternity leave for each child. I don’t think this has gone down too well with my employer – I feel I have been an inconvenience to my employer since I started having children. My partner and I are not planning to have any more children. While I was away on maternity leave for my third child, a promotion came up in work which I would have been interested in applying for and for which I would also have had the necessary skills and experience. However, I was never informed of the promotion or given the opportunity to apply for it when on maternity leave. The job went to a colleague. I feel very aggrieved about this. Can I dispute this promotion? Eimear, Dublin 5

Answer: My first advice is to get as much information as possible in writing about this situation so that you have a paper trail and there is no dispute afterwards about who said what to whom. You say you felt that you have been an inconvenience to your employer – if you have any evidence to this effect, I would be collating this at this point.

If you feel that you had the necessary skills, experience and competencies to be considered for this particular role, I would inform the company in writing that you feel you have been discriminated against and would have liked the opportunity to have been considered for this position.

If you are not happy with the response from your human resources department, you could consider taking a case to the Workplace Relations Commission.

If it finds that you were discriminated against on the grounds of your gender by reason of your maternity leave – and contrary to Sections 6(2A) and Section 8(1) of the Employment Equality Acts, you could be due compensation.

Remote working issues

Query: My husband and I have four children. We will soon be moving from Dublin to the west of Ireland following a promotion he has been offered. I have worked as an accountant for a Dublin accountancy firm and my boss wants to keep me on in some shape or form. Much of the work I do can be produced from home, so I am considering working remotely. My boss is suggesting that I set myself up as a self-employed accountant – and that I could then work for the firm under an annual contract which would be renewed each year. I’m concerned though about the loss of my employment benefits such as pension, sick leave, holiday pay and private health insurance. Surely as I’m producing the same work for my employer (albeit remotely), he could continue to employ me as an employee? If not, is there any way I could protect the current employment benefits I have (such as sick leave and holiday leave and pension) if I set myself up as a self-employed accountant? My boss says that the pension scheme is only available to employees. Laura, Co Dublin

Answer: There are quite stringent laws as to whether you can be set up as self-employed or not in this instance.

The following are the rules to determine whether you are self employed or not:

A worker is normally an employee if they are directed by someone on how, when and where to work; have set working hours; have no personal financial risk relating to the work; receive a fixed wage; supply labour only; cannot subcontract the work; are covered under the employer’s insurance; and work for only one person or business.

A worker is normally self-employed if they control how, when and where the work is done; control their working hours; are exposed to financial risk; control costs and pricing; can hire other people to complete the job; provide their insurance cover; own their business; and can provide the same services to more than one person or business at the same time.

In your instance, it sounds like your employer is going to have to keep you on their books and maintain your employment contract.

It is pertinent to point out here that there is a talent shortage at the moment and there is a particular shortage of accountants in practice.

I would imagine that your employer will not want to lose you if you have the knowledge and experience to continue to do the job.

Accountancy is definitely one of those roles which can be done remotely and can be managed easily with good communication.

Employmum finds Slack is a great tool for managing and communicating with remote teams and this is something you could discuss with your employer.

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

House price rises now at lowest level in 15 months

The rate at which property prices are increasing continues to ease off.

This is being put down to buyers reaching the limit of what they can borrow due to Central Bank lending restrictions.

Figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show residential property prices at national level increased by 10.4pc in the year to July.

This compares with an increase of 12pc in the year to June, and an increase of 11.6pc in the 12 months to July 2017.

July’s pace of increase was the slowest since April 2017.

Prices are still rising strongly, but the July figures represented the slowest growth in 15 months.

Dublin prices were up 7.2pc in the past year, the CSO said.

But the surge outside the capital continues.

When Dublin is excluded, prices were up almost 14pc.

The mid-west region showed the greatest price growth, with house prices increasing 24pc.

The Border region showed the least price growth, with house prices increasing 6pc, as potential buyers worry about the impact of Brexit.

The median, or middle price, of a property nationally is €240,000. This is the same as it was in June, but up €13,000 from the price in May.

In the last year the median price is up €27,500.

The Dublin region had the highest median price at €360,000 in the year to July.

Of the four administrative areas of Dublin, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown had the highest median price at €527,000, while Dublin City had the second highest at €360,000.

The county with the lowest median price in the State was Longford, with prices there at €92,250.

Overall, the national index is 19pc lower than its highest level in 2007.

Dublin residential property prices are 22pc lower than their February 2007 peak.

From the trough in early 2013, prices nationally have increased by 81pc. Dublin residential property prices have increased 94pc from their February 2012 low.

Economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, Alan McQuaid, said prices will continue to rise as the wait goes on for more houses to be built.

But the anecdotal evidence suggests house price growth may have started to ease.

Affordability is a big issue in Dublin, experts said. Prices outside the capital are rising much faster as they have recovered at a later point than urban areas and are coming from a much lower base.

Davy Stockbrokers economist Conall MacCoille said buyers were hitting the limits of what they can afford, prompting many to step back from buying.

“Irish house price inflation is clearly slowing because stretched affordability and the Central Bank loan-to-income rules are preventing home buyers from taking on too much leverage.”

Mr MacCoille expects property price inflation to slow to 8pc nationally by the end of the year, with rises of between 5pc and 6pc in Dublin.

John McCartney, the chief economist with estate agency Savills, said Dublin house price inflation has slowed from 13pc a year to 7.2pc a year over the last three months.

He said increased supply was now contributing to more moderate and sustainable price growth.

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

Asia shares worn out by trade tension, yen a safe harbour

Asian shares carved out a 14-month trough on Friday as investors feared a new salvo of Sino-US tariffs could come at any moment, while a slump in US chip stocks rippled through the tech-heavy region.

Spreadbetters pointed to a firm start for European markets with futures for Eurostoxx 50, Germany’s Dax and London’s FTSE reversing early losses to be last up 0.1-0.3pc. EMini futures for the S&P were a tad higher too.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 0.3pc, having earlier reached its lowest since mid-July last year.

The Nikkei shed 0.8pc, undermined by a rising yen and reports US President Donald Trump could be contemplating taking on Japan over trade.

Chinese blue chips managed a 0.5pc bounce as beaten-down health care stocks found buyers after taking a savaging in recent months amid vaccine scandals.

Emerging markets in the region were struggling to steady after a punishing week, with Indonesia and the Philippines still badly scarred by fears of capital flight following crises in Argentina and Turkey.

Nerves were set to be frayed further as the public comment period for proposed tariffs on an additional $200bn worth of Chinese imports ended at 0400 GMT. The tariffs could now go into effect at any moment, though there was no clear timetable.

China has warned of retaliation if Washington launches any new measures.

It seems unlikely the tariffs are not implemented as the US administration believes that they are winning the trade war and will be in a stronger position to negotiate if they put more pressure on China,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note.

“The tech sector was also very weak overnight, with a slide in Micron of almost 10pc and further weakness in the Chinese Internet ADRs.”

Eyes were now turned to the US payrolls report for August which is expected to show a robust rise of 191,000, in part as July was temporarily depressed by the closure of the Toys R Us chain that month.

Still, analysts at NatWest Markets cautioned that: “Despite employment indicators pointing to another strong report, it is worth noting that there is a tendency for August payrolls to initially disappoint and then be revised up noticeably later.”

Just as important will be figures on US wages where a rise above the 0.2pc forecasted would likely boost the dollar and pressure Treasury prices.

The dollar could do with the lift, having lost out to the safe-haven yen and Swiss franc. It was changing hands at 110.62 yen after falling 0.7pc on Thursday, the sharpest one-day loss in seven weeks.

Part of the decline came after a Wall Street Journal columnist reported Trump had mused about starting a trade fight with Japan.

The dollar also hit a four-month low on the franc around $0.9645. Against a basket of currencies, the dollar index nudged lower to 94.939 and off the week’s top of 95.737.

The euro was a shade higher at $1.1636, while sterling idled at $1.2939 amid ongoing uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.

In commodity markets, the dip in the dollar left gold a sliver higher at $1,200.67 an ounce.

Crude oil was slighty higher after falling more than 1pc on Thursday when US data showed gasoline inventories rose unexpectedly last week.

Brent was 4 cents higher at $76.54 a barrel, while US crude edged up 13 cents to $67.90.

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

Irish fintechs target growth in digital-savvy Nordic nations

Irish fintechs have been active in the Nordics for years, with an increasing number targeting growth in the region. Success has been built on shared attitudes to innovation and the potential of both markets to develop as globally significant fintech hubs.

“Similar to the Irish approach, the Nordic financial services industry is quite innovative. They are willing to both leverage and embrace new technologies to drive revenue and reduce cost,” says Stephen Florence, Account Director at Fenergo.

Both benefit from thriving tech scenes. Sweden is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of the number of unicorns – multi-billion-dollar tech companies – produced per capita. OECD data shows Sweden has 20 startups per 1,000 employees, compared to five in the US. Companies like Spotify, King and Skype are household names.

In recent years, the Irish fintech sector has grown impressively. Since 2014, Enterprise Ireland has invested in more than 80 fintech startups. That portfolio generated more than €1bn in revenue in 2016.

In the Nordics’ rapidly-growing sector, Sweden stands out. According to Nordic Tech List, Swedish companies attracted over 75pc of total fintech capital invested in the region in 2017. Well-known fintechs include Klarna, iZettle, Trustly and Tink.

Established Irish players, including Fenergo, Monex, Rockall Technologies and Corvil are known to many in the Nordics. Meanwhile, a new breed of companies is emerging, which includes Ammeon, Boxever, Cambrist, Leveris, AQMetrics and Know Your Customer.

Innovative fintechs have focused on solving problems across the global financial services industry. The mix of companies blending finance and tech has supported disruption with new ways to understand, test and prove adherence to regulations.

Solutions span a range of applications across regulatory reporting, risk management, Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance, anti-money laundering, secure messaging and transaction monitoring. The biggest opportunities stem from banking and finance regulations.

Fenergo’s ability to solve challenges for global banks is proving an advantage in the Nordics, said Florence.

“The Nordic region has multiple regulatory jurisdictions, languages and currencies. Some form part of the European Union – Finland adopted the euro, Denmark and Sweden did not and neither Norway nor Iceland are members of the EU.

“This poses complex compliance challenges for financial institutions that are operating across the region. As we have a rules-based engine, we can support multiple regulatory demands with one instance of the solution. If we look at our current client base, most are global institutions who have experienced and solved the same challenges that financial institutions in the Nordics are currently facing,” he added.

Beyond regtech, developments in big data, payments and cyber-security are compelling. Banking faces the opportunity and challenge of leveraging real-time data and becoming more customer centric. Analysing large volumes of data will enable banks to better predict and tailor solutions for individual customers.

Payments regulations are also creating challenges, putting banks’ revenue under pressure and removing barriers to entry, as changes in customer behaviour and increasing digitalisation opens the field to new local and international players. Innovative fintech solutions are driving banks to offer customers more engaging and interactive services.

The importance of cyber-security continues to rise, as threats become more sophisticated. Providers must strike a balance between ease of use and security. Innovative products are emerging in biometric security, customer identification tools, malware detection and pattern recognition.

Enterprise Ireland recently published a regtech white paper, which shows how regtech enables transformation across business functions by better utilising data and insights.

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

No-deal Brexit threat to our food firms

Bord Bia, Greencore, and the Revenue Commissioners were among a batch of parties to issue stark warnings to the Irish food industry on its looming tariff-laden future last week.

Talk of rotten produce and intensified border checks painted a bleak picture during a British and Irish Chamber of Commerce event. The agri-food industry exports around €11.15bn a year, 37pc of which ends up in the UK.

Those exports face an uncertain future with it now likely that numerous changes will be made to the way they enter the UK. Revenue has already said that it is preparing for a no-deal Brexit, which will result in the development of a 54-box customs declaration.

The CEO of Greencore, one of Britain’s largest sandwich-makers, Patrick Coveney described Brexit as a “profoundly depressing topic” and said that the final deal will ultimately be a “fudge”.

“Many of us wrestled with this tension of Brexit emotion versus Brexit logic,” he said.

“There’s a certain part of all of us that wants Britain to get their comeuppance. This is a self-inflicted wound on a massive scale and they almost deserve to be punished for it.”

The brother of foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney also issued a stern warning around the net effect increased border checks, or a divergence between the UK and the EU on food standards could have on the supply chain.

“We at Greencore are not really concerned about tariffs at all, our issue is the logistics and administration of getting fresh food in and out of the UK,” he said.

“If you end up with 50-mile tailbacks in Calais and corresponding tailbacks in Dover, it won’t really matter whether there is a 15pc or 20pc surcharge on lettuce and fruit and vegetables coming from southern Europe. It will all rot in containers, and there is no good answer to that at the moment.”

In relation to his company, Coveney outlined a specific set of challenges around staffing that have already come into effect as a result of the June 2016 vote. The company employs around 12,000 people in the UK, around 4,000 of which are EU nationals.

The food chief said that a “huge amount” of work had gone into the retention of staff after floods of people emigrated from the UK as they no longer “felt welcome”.

A heightened cost base around staffing will be one of the issues assessed by analysts in evaluating the food giant, according to Goodbody analyst Jason Molins.

“There are a number of players and companies that have found themselves in the same position as Greencore,” he said. “They have flagged that you either need to replace, or you need to put structures in place to get permits for a number of these workers and have them bypassed by the new stipulations that could be implemented.”

Coveney’s grim scenario of trucks bumper-to-bumper in France and the UK while the goods inside perish, was backed up by details of the new reality from Carol-Ann O’Keeffe, Revenue’s assistant principal officer in the corporate affairs and customs division.

She has warned that the inspection of goods as they are coming in and out of the country will now need to be conducted at the Border.

O’Keefe said that Revenue was preparing for the worst, and that it was ultimately putting in place precautions for a no-deal Brexit where the UK will plummet out of the Customs Union.

The looming changes have left Irish exporters facing significant challenges, but many of them have made progress in bringing forward plans to prepare for Brexit. Around 85pc of agrifood businesses here are actively moving to break into new markets, according to the most recent Brexit barometer from Bord Bia. The outlook among Irish firms has improved too, with just a quarter viewing Britain’s exit from the EU with pessimism.

Bord Bia has been telling its clients repeatedly to speak to their customers. Speaking to the Sunday Independent, chief executive Tara McCarthy said that companies have been told not to get “distracted” by the drama of Brexit.

“The companies that we have found in our research that haven’t been talking to their customers, they’re the guys that we’re really, really trying to get in contact with,” she said. “They have to engage with their journey or they will lose if they’re not prepared.”

McCarthy said that while larger companies such as Greencore may be able to absorb the cost of increased tariffs, smaller companies will need to build their financial resilience against the prospect of World Trade Organisation charges.

“The challenge for smaller companies is how to negotiate that, and that’s why financial resilience is absolutely core. Every retailer in the UK is becoming more and more aware of the tariffs that they will be exposed to but everyone who exports to the UK will be hit by those exact same tariffs,” she said.

“The big challenge is the time that will take to work itself through the system. Some companies from a working capital perspective were very, very close to the edge because of the volatility and that resilience wasn’t in there.”

Another risk posed to Irish businesses is the suspension of food controls in the UK after Brexit. Head of policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health Tony Lewis warned that the British government was aware such a scenario could come into fruition. He said it would likely leave it open to “food fraud and criminality”.

In July, a report by UK think tank Food Research Collaboration warned that Britain would be forced to open its borders to food imports in the event of any delay in a Brexit deal. The same study also outlined potential plans by the EU to block exports from the UK due to its “cavalier” approach to safety standards in food and drink. The think tank said that it had been informed by a senior UK government adviser that the border controls needed to be suspended to prevent produce from going off at the nation’s ports.

McCarthy said that it was hard to see a situation where there were no food controls in the UK. She said that retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s will only buy produce from food producers that they trust.

“It is in nobody’s interest to undermine confidence in the supply chain by implying or by allowing there to be no checks,” she said.

“Big retailers in the UK that export Irish goods have their produce checked in Ireland and clearly we won’t be reducing our standards.”

McCarthy warned that it was “positively dangerous” to discuss a landscape with no controls as it could undermine the supply chain.

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

Majority of Irish IT professionals do not trust social media

The majority of Irish IT professionals do not trust social media providers to manage their personal data carefully.

In addition, the survey of 111 IT decision makers found that 87pc of retailers, two thirds of Government bodies, 63pc of utility providers, and just over half of banks are all not to be trusted to protect their personal data.

The only group that is trusted by the majority (53pc) of professionals is their own employers.

“It is clear from the findings that when it comes to managing personal data, trust in most organisations is at an extremely low ebb and considerable work needs to be done to rebuild trust with users,” Dave Keating, security specialist, DataSolutions, said.

“With the frequency and volume of data breaches over the past several years, it is not difficult to explain the trust issues.”

The survey found that trust and reputation are important factors for both users and providers when it comes to the security of personal data.

Meanwhile reputational risk facing businesses was cited as the biggest motivating factor for investment in new cybersecurity infrastructure. Other motivating factors included the risk of an attack occurring, cited by one in four as a factor, and financial risk, which was cited by one in five.

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