Samsung Note 7: Why it’s important to control the message

From a PR perspective, it was disheartening that Samsung let a few isolated incidents destroy the good buzz surrounding the Galaxy Note 7.

There’s no denying it is a good phone and some reviewers have even gone so far to say it’s the best phone of 2017. What went wrong with Samsung’s damage control? How could they have done better?
(Just so you know where I’m coming from: I’ve been writing about tech for over a decade, with a few stints in tech PR here and there)
1. Samsung took too long
From the start when reports started circulating about Note 7 issues (software bricking, batteries going boom), Samsung should have at the very least put out a quick statement. Nothing fancy. Just ‘we acknowledge the reports, are looking into it and are taking it very seriously’.
Instead Samsung chose to remain silent, leaving the press to continue reporting on the negative incidents. This is the age of the Internet: there is no breathing time, no saving grace before a publication goes to print
2. Samsung’s customers needed a better explanation
A cursory look at the company’s social media pages show the company could have done a better job explaining the source of the problem. Instead it’s been left to the media and experts to explain to the public what went wrong in the manufacturing process.
That’s not the media’s job; that’s Samsung’s.
3. The absence of positive messaging
Here’s the reality: not all of the Note 7s are affected. Only some units, using a specific battery cell. What should have also gone out is the message that most customers have nothing to worry about but if they have concerns, Samsung will allay them. The negative messaging however has taken over to the point even airlines are wholesale banning all Note 7s, whether or not they are affected. This is terribly unfair to Samsung but the airlines, in the absence of correct information, are doing what is expedient.
4. It should have been about the customers from the very start
One of the biggest failings of the public relations industry is its stubborn approach in always making it about the client first. Sometimes, you have to think a little beyond covering your client’s behind.
Instead of asking ‘how do we control the damage?’, the most important question should have been about the people who keep Samsung alive: the customers. How do we reassure them? How do we let them know we have their best interests at heart?
The good news is that Samsung still has a strong, loyal user base who are loathe to give up their Note 7s. The challenge the company will have in the future is now having to spend additional resources on reassuring their customers that their products are safe. It’s a cautionary tale that in a world where information moves so much faster than we can produce it, you need to work harder than ever to keep your messaging in line…or end up having it blow up in your face.

How not to be an asshole on Twitter

The problem with Twitter is that it is far too easy for people to misunderstand you. And overreact.

Like when a bunch of ‘bros’ decided to gang up on me for this Tweet.

DudeWithAutisticKid: (Paraphrase) “So you’re saying autistic kids should stay at homelah? Never go out?”

That was only a bit of the nastiness I got over just 140 characters. Basically I was accused of singling out autistic kids, like the bitch I am.

First...where the heck did I say anything against autistic kids? Where in the 140 characters did I mention that? Please underline it in bold Sharpie and send me a copy in triplicate.

Second...autism has a whole spectrum. Personally I think it’s unfair to assume that ALL autistic kids act out and that the rowdy kid who can’t or won’t sit still is autistic.

Here’s the backstory – DudeWithAutisticKid has an autistic kid. His ‘bros’ are all protective about his kid so when DudeWithAutisticKid got offended by my Tweet, they all decided to be SuperMachoHeroBros and collectively diss me.

Now here’s my next offending Tweet:

Note that while both Tweets are about kids running around, they’re not really about the same thing. In the second Tweet, it’s about when kids are RUNNING IN DANGEROUS PLACES. Like where there are TABLECLOTHS.

A tablecloth with a hot teapot on it can be easily tugged by a kid and in 3 seconds, teapot is on kid’s head.

It’s serious enough that the NHS even advises parents to use non-slip table mats instead of table cloths.

Children are forces of nature. Forces of nature that require parents to keep their eyes on when in non-controlled environments.

Autistic kids’ parents have it rough – they have to be careful about triggers, sensitivities kids may have. While some high-functioning autistic kids get on well in public, autistic kids who can’t communicate well or are oversensitised or overreact to stimuli might need an extra pair of eyes.

Just last week I was in a lift with an autistic child. If you know how to look, you can tell – this little boy was pressing all the buttons in the lift while the dad ignored what the kid was doing.

If you’ve been around severely autistic kids like I have, you’ll notice the signs. How their body alignment seems off. A five or six-year-old who talks in gurgles or unintelligible babbles instead of speech.

The kid was hurting no one by messing with the lift buttons. So yeah, maybe the lift would stop a few more floors. It didn’t bother me.

But if said kid, heck if ANY KID was running around unsupervised in a restaurant, running under tables, pulling table cloths with no guardian in sight (or worse, guardian is busy gossiping in corner), I would probably not be amused.

Thing is, most parents of autistic kids I know watch their kids like hawks. They’re watching. Always watching. Always alert. Because their children were born in special circumstances, so they need more watching. I never need to worry about autistic kids because God knows, their parents don’t need telling.

It’s the parents who aren’t as careful that bug me. The ones who are gossiping in a corner while junior is running through the glassware section. The ones who are too busy shopping to notice that their kids aren’t in the same shop.

It’s because I care about your damn kid that I get mad if you’re not watching them. And it should be a good thing that I care.

So think about it when you leave your child unattended in a public place. Maybe the only thing between junior and a hot pot of tea on his head is the stranger who grabs him before he gets to yank at the cloth in the first place.

The little Fonepad that could

So I got myself a new phone. Meet the ASUS Fonepad, everybody. A 7-inch tablet that runs Android Jellybean, lets me make calls and costs less than RM900.

I won’t lie: the main reason I got it was because it is comparatively cheap for a smartphone. And there are many things I could live without but a phone that isn’t a smartphone? Heck, no.

Let me explain. I used to be a tech journo and reviewing shiny, expensive things was what I did for a living. Now I may not specialise in tech anymore but I still rely very much on the Internet and various gadgetry to get my work done.

For the full spec list, check out the official Asus webpage:

http://my.asus.com/Tablet/Fonepad/ASUS_Fonepad/#specifications

The good stuff

Did I already mention it’s cheap? If you buy it from this little shop called Directd, you can get it for RM699. The official retail price is RM850 – not at all a bad price, either.

It’s pretty light and has a purty IPS screen. Not gorilla glass unfortunately so it WILL scratch if you’re not careful.

The battery life is pretty good on this thing. If you only do light surfing, Whatsapping and texts, the phone can last a whole day. Otherwise, video, games, reading will still wear it out only after 5-6 hours. If you use the ultra-saving power mode, you could probably stretch it to 7 hours. Not bad, OK?

It comes with some Asus software preinstalled to manage files, backup apps and 5GB of cloud storage. My favourite bit is that it comes with the Kindle and Zinio apps preinstalled though I  found the former to be a bit sluggish compared to its iOS equivalent.

As I like to read in bed before I sleep, I find the screen brightness and clarity of the text of my ebooks to be pretty good. The lightness of the device makes it comfortable to hold and at 340g, not much heavier than a thick paperback novel.

The not-so-good stuff

Asus won’t let you register its warranty online unlike most of its other stuff. Which is a damn shame.

Also, if you get a faulty unit, you have to request a one-to-one replacement from where you got it. If they refuse, you have to march to the nearest Asus service centre, get a letter from them and then make the retailer give you a new unit.

Not that Asus service is bad at all – when my laptop had power issues within its first year of warranty, I got handed a new laptop charger and battery, no questions asked.

It also uses a single-core Intel Atom processor so it won’t handle graphics-intensive games like Galaxy on Fire. Certain apps will lag a little and the 8GB internal space feels rather restrictive, even with the microSD expansion card as you can’t move apps on the SD card as yet.

Also for the Android tinkerers – there aren’t any good ROMs for it yet and it does not support OTG. It is also not running the latest version of Android though it is on Jellybean.

Android apps are still rather mediocre compared to the selection in Apple’s app store but if your needs are simple, then you’ll be happy enough.

There aren’t a lot of cases or screen protectors for the device as yet and the official Asus Versa Sleeve for it is sold separately and NOT cheap at RM129.

So should you buy it?

If you’re the type who would use a tablet more than you would make calls, I’d say go for it. It’s one less thing to carry around and you won’t need to have two separate data plans for your tablet and phone.

Since I’m living in a country where being mugged is a very real fear, at least I have the comfort of knowing that if someone steals this it won’t burn a hole in my wallet to replace it.

The Samsung Tab 8.0 is another phablet to consider but at nearly RM1.7k, it costs double what I paid for the Fonepad. Ditto the Galaxy Note II.

If you just want a tablet, I tell people to get an iPad for the better app choice/variety. But as far as phablets/phone hybrids go, Android still wins where price is the most important concern.

Where I got it:

Directd (Look for a bigass Samsung signboard)

No 64, Jalan SS15/4B Subang Jaya,Selangor 47500.

Shop Location GPS Coordinates :N 03 04.582′ E 101 35.316′

Call 0356211355 or text 0196910000

open daily 10.30 am to 11.30 pm

Getting on the Tumblr choo-choo train

I finally dusted off the Tumblr account I got eons back – being an early adopter meant I got to bag erna.tumblr.com. But I’d never bothered posting on it till now.

Waiting for Tumblr to ‘grow up’ was worth it. I now have comments thanks to Disqus and I really dig the theme customisation options on the theme I’m using.

Though the Web interface is super-fun, I’m likely mostly going to login to my dashboard to giggle at the fandom posts on the Mass Effect and Legend of Korra

What does suck though is the dearth of decent Tumblr desktop clients. I Googled them to death and couldn’t find anything as handy as Windows Live Writer (which I’m using right now). What I’m doing right now is blogging on my main blog and using a plugin to auto-post what I write her on Tumblr. This way I’m reaching out to people who are Tumblr junkies and not so keen on vanilla blogs like mine. Plus reblogs are the bomb, y’all.

I haven’t been blogging much lately. Spending too much time on Twitter/Facebook does that to you. Trying to get back into the daily blogging habit as I partly owe my current writing career to my blog. Blogging daily is a great way to keep the writing juices flowing and my blog is the equivalent of my real “home” on the Internet. Twitter and Facebook are really just hangout spots.

Here’s to a return to active blogging!

Joining the iPad converted

I resisted the call of the first iPad but finally succumbed to the lure of the iPad 2.

Rumours have it the iPad 3 will be announced next month so some will tell me I should have waited. And wait another year for it to come to Malaysia? No thanks.

You still can’t just walk into a store and buy an iPad 2 these days. The easiest option would have been to order it online and wait the 2 weeks or so for it to arrive. But Malaysian customs has been known to delay shipments and waiting around for the DHL dude to arrive? Not my thing.

Instead I resorted to buying one online from the Lowyat.net forum. Slightly more expensive than retail but I had my iPad delivered to me in person.

The main reason I needed one was because I was traveling to KK for a week and didn’t want to bring my laptop along. Also have been toying with idea of getting one for work as I already have a Bluetooth keyboard I can use with it and since I don’t drive, it is a bit of a pain to lug my laptop everywhere.

Though some advised me to get a netbook instead, the iPad made the better investment due to its higher resell value. Even first-gen iPads still fetch decent sums on the Internet so should I decide to sell the iPad I won’t have lost too much money.

I ended up buying an extra-long charging cable as well as the standard screen protector & case combo. When you buy pricey electronics it makes sense to invest in protection for said electronics, no?

So far I find writing on it not as much a hassle as I’ve been led to believe. I doubt I’ll be writing whole novels on one as my MacBook Pro is far more suited to the task but for blogging and filing stories, the iPad is perfectly competent but with a few tweaks of course.

Have also subscribed to Wired and Esquire magazine as they’re so much more affordable in digital versions. Have fallen in love with Flipboard and the way it displays my Facebook feeds in a magazine-like format.

The iPad for some people is more expensive toy than anything else but I hope it proves a useful work and travel companion. Here’s to a more mobile me (spot the Apple reference).

The Quest of the Shattering Tome (iPhone 4 review)

After the fun review of the HTC Desire in the style of Team Fortress II, I decided to review the iPhone 4 in the style of…Dragon Age.

Tale the First: The Hero receives her mission

In a land far, far away (that looked a lot like Petaling Jaya), our hero(ine) received an epic quest.

She was to go on an adventure with brave companions and her trusty hound to figure out the worthiness of a new, holy item.

It was called the Shattering Tome – a name most ominous. So ominous that instead, we shall hereby refer to it as the iPhone 4.

Tale the Second: The Encounter (read: Specs)

So beguiling was the tome’s looks that frenzied cult worshippers of a diety called Jobs fell into swoons at the mention of it. (See picture)

“Oh, my!” said our heroine. “Is the device truly that awesome?”

Truly, she found that it clearly was. Only a saving throw rescued her from certain Applefanboy-itis. A terrible fate to be sure that led to sudden fits of maxing out credit cards at the nearest Mac store.

“It is not light, the iPhone 4. But it is sleek and feels good in the hand. The glass back and front do make the phone rather fragile but the display is truly lovely and lucid. Vast improvement over its predecessor, the iPhone 3GS. Vibrant colours, sharper resolution and watching YouTube on HD on it is a revelation!”

The heroine found the iPhone 4 to feel good and solid in the hand though she would have liked a dedicated camera button.

Tale the third: Delving into the mysteries (Features)

Her companions, however, were quick to question their leader’s fixation with the iPhone 4.

“Why must we undertake this dangerous quest when, frankly, it’s just a damn phone?” they cried.

Yes, it’s a phone. But it’s a smartphone.

“A tome with a mind of its own! The horror!” but before her zealous supporter could smite the phone, our hero courageously chanted the litany of features:

“Behold its camera! 5-megapixels, 30fps video recording with support for 720p HD recording quality! With LED flash! And the latest update now adds HDR. Best iPhone camera ever, though not quite the best in the market. Video quality is rather good though not so great in low light.”

Tell us more, her followers begged.

“Storage! 16GB or 32BG. No 64GB model as yet and no SD card support, darn it Apple. Have no idea why they stuffed a three-axis gyro, proximity sensor into it though I suspect Apple thought it would just be cool.

Then there’s the usual Wi-Fi, assisted GPS, Bluetooth, HSDPA, EDGE, music & video playback, standard headphone jack & USB 2.0 charging. It does have better innards – 1GHz processor with 512MB RAM. Never sluggish, very responsive. It is certainly a decent hardware upgrade from the iPhone 3GS.”

Tale the fourth: Budding Attraction (Features)

As is inevitable in long, drawn-out quests, our heroine got distracted by something tall, handsome and in armour.

“Why, my sweet, must you sleep with that by your side when it can’t keep you as warm as I can?” said her would-be paramour.

“Besides the fact it can’t get me pregnant (Apple DO NOT put that on your features list!), I can’t quite live without it.

“The touch keyboard takes some getting used to and might not be the best bet for big fingers. But I quite like typing on it. I can get my Work, Gmail and Yahoo accounts integrated in my folder, sync my calendar and use various productivity apps like OmniFocus. Perfect work companion though it can’t quite swing a sword like you can.”

Our heroine then extolled the virtues of its camera and how her snaps on Twitter were now much better looking. Flickr on the iPhone is indeed a thing of beauty and makes uploading photos to the service pleasurable fun. The new folders help keep apps better organised so she needs to swish less screens than the previous clutter of her Android phone.

She was also intrigued with how (once she turned off all those darn push notifications) the battery lasted nearly 2 days without a charge. Our heroine couldn’t help noticing her paramour turning a funny shade of red when she talked about how long the iPhone could go for.

“The apps are what make the phone, really. The App Store still has the most choice and it’s fun browsing the App Store on iTunes. Games are also better looking with the new Retina display though it’s a bit wasted on someone who mostly plays a lot of Angry Birds,” she said.

Then looking at him under her eyelashes, “But some of the things I’d like to see you do…there aren’t apps for that. What say we discuss them in my tent later?”

“Your wish is my command.”

Tale the fifth: Quest Complete (Conclusion)

After spending days traversing the lands on the back of the Putra LRT, exploring the vast stores of the App Store, downloading apps, watching YouTube and listening to lots of music, the heroine finally reached her decision.

“What say you of the Tome?” asked her quest-giver.

“It is certainly well-made and well-specced. My main concern is that it’s not very well-protected. Without a decent case, the glass does shatter. Mail app did fail once and require a restart though restarts are few and far between.

“Multimedia quality is great visually, sound is so-so and not much different from the average iPod meaning it’s decent but not brilliant. Included headphones like most of Apple’s are just mostly meh so get your own. Wi-Fi reception is good, battery life is also good provided you turn off notifications and you don’t leave 3G on all day. If you do leave 3G on, expect a good 6-8 hours of battery life instead of 2 days.

“Camera’s good though the LED flash isn’t very impressive. Quality is above and beyond all its predecessors. What truly makes the phone is the apps and if you like what Apple’s App Store has then you’ll love the iPhone. But if you don’t see yourself buying/using the apps, then the iPhone is a bit of a waste. It only shines when given the best apps. Multitasking also isn’t as much of a battery drainer as I thought with playing music while surfing or doing other stuff doesn’t quickly deplete juice.

“Great phone for those who will make the most of the apps. People with rough lifestyles (dragon slaying, tyrant deposing) should invest in a very good case before buying and so far reception issues have been rare, mysteriously disappearing after the first 2 days. But then I bought a case.

“It’s not the best camera/vidphone so if that’s what you want, look elsewhere. Productivity-wise, it really depends on the mix of apps you’re using. I wish it had more storage space and a stronger flash. Otherwise, I love my apps and in that regard, love my phone.”

Our heroine then went off into the sunset with her knight in shining armour, trusty hound and…the iPhone 4 to a land of unlimited 3G and reception was always full bar.

The End

(DISCLAIMER: Dragon Age belongs to BioWare, the iPhone 4 belongs to Apple. I just happened to wed them in unholy matrimony)

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Loving those laptop bags

Crumpler skivvy

One expensive purchase I’ve never regretted is my Crumpler Skivvy messenger bag.

It’s light, made of durable material and like all the Crumplers I’ve owned over the past four years I know it’ll last me years.

Why pay a premium for laptop bags in the first place? Well, laptops aren’t cheap for starters. If you’re going to be carrying them around then you should make the effort to protect your investment.

I confess I’ve tried lugging laptops around in ordinary handbags but they’re just not up to the task. You usually need:

1. Good straps. The last thing you want is a strap to either give way or cause you a lot of pain when you carry it around.

2. Durable stitching. Most ‘ordinary’ backpacks often start fraying at the edges, particularly where the straps are sewn to the back.

3. Some amount of padding. Of course the best would be a laptop with a sleeve that keeps the laptop snug and secure in the bag and good all-round padding to absorb impact if you, heaven forbid, drop it.

Though I love Crumplers, I’ve seen some nice backpacks from other brands like this Speck Aftpack. Speck makes some mighty fine bags and cases for everything from iPods to MacBooks. Haven’t seen any of their bags locally but you can check out some of their classy designs here.

What do you carry your ‘precious’ around in? Do share.

Disclaimer: No, neither Crumpler nor Speck are paying for this post. Though I sure wouldn’t mind them throwing a few bags my way in my current state of self-employedness.

The real review: HTC Desire

From left to right: Pyro, Engineer, Spy, Heavy...

Image via Wikipedia

This isn’t my last post on the phone but just the full-on ‘proper’ review.

Will have a retrospective Day with the Desire log up soon but here’s a post written for the people who want to know the answer to the burning question: Should I get the damn phone?

Because most tech reviews are, seriously, bloody boring, I will do this review in the style of…Team Fortress 2.

If you haven’t heard of TF2, it’s only the most fun multiplayer shooter on the planet. I’ll do the review from the viewpoints of various classes in the game. So let’s bring it on!

icon_scout.jpgDESIGN: Surveying the territory

“Well, first impression of the phone: SWEET! OK, you have to admit it kinda looks like the Nexus One. The Nexus seemed lighter, though and the Desire has dedicated physical buttons as compared to the Nexus’ and swaps out the girly ‘nipple’ for an optical trackpad.

That suede back makes the phone easier to grip and the front portion show some great design of real estate – dedicating most of it to the SWEET AMOLED 3.7-inch screen. Good placement of ports – volume controls on the side, headphone jack on top neatly spaced from the power button. microUSB port on the bottom for quick connecting of charging cable.

But man, that back cover. Hell on the nails, know what I”m saying? And not making it easy to hotswap your microSD cards out by having a side port is insane. I have to take out my battery and the back cover just to switch microSD cards? Only good if you’re scared of losing your data.

UI-wise, if you love the HTC Sense UI, you’ll love how polished your Android experience is compared to Motorola’s kit. The purists who want to run Froyo, well stick to the Nexus One. For those who would great eyecandy and super usability, the HTC UI makes sense even if it means getting the latest Android updates a bit later.

So after surveying the terrain, the HTC Desire ain’t sexy (though the screen is, hell yeah), it is a nicely made piece of kit. Slim, easy to carry but make sure you get a nice big microSD for the phone as replacing it is a fiddly, annoying endeavour.”

icon_heavy.jpgSPECS: Is the Desire packing enough ammo?

“Ain’t easy playing tank so I need all the firepower I can get and it had better be enough to kick the other team in the teeth. So does the Desire deliver? Well, the innards speak for themselves: 1GHz Snapdragon processor, 576MB of memory, 512MB internal storage, 5 MP camera, 1400mAh battery (up to 340 hours of standby time) and support for up to 32GB of microSD storage. That’s quite the arsenal if you ask me.

The bad: 512MB is hardly enough if you want to get your fill of apps. If the internal storage isn’t going to be much, then make it easy to upgrade your microSD card for chrissakes.

480 x 800 WVGA is pretty decent resolution for the screen but AMOLED makes it unusable outside in harsh sunlight. You’ll just be looking at your face reflected right back atcha.

But it’s a great multitasking taskhorse. Screens are zippy, loads fine, OS very much stable. With minimal usage (read: no surfing/gaming), it can go over 2-3 days without charging. But with heavy YouTube usage, Tweeting, surfing or IM, battery can go down to 6-7 hours. Hope HTC’s planning optional higher capacity batteries.

I say the Desire’s got the goods under the hood all right.”

icon_engineer.jpgFEATURES: Can the Desire prove a great workhorse?

“Well, the Heavy’s got a great summary of the power the HTC Desire packs. Like the Scout says, the Sense UI is pretty sweet. Customising screens is a dream compared to the iPhone’s fiddlyness. You can pick and choose as many icons as you want. There’s so much more flexibility at your fingertips.

The camera? Eh. It takes great pictures outside, but it’s not going to be the ideal replacement for your pocket camera. Video could be better – someone figure out how to hack the Desire to shoot HD too, please? They managed it on the Nexus One after all.

You have to say Google’s Market does the job where apps are concerned. Not as informative or as fun as Apple’s App Store but definitely pwns Nokia’s pathetic Ovi Store.

Music player is rather boring, iTunes does it better. The headset that comes with it isn’t particularly stellar and the speakers? They’re loud, I’ll give you that.

But as a multimedia machine, I have to say watching video on it is great, with a decent set of headphones, sound is decent and browsing on it? Sure beats Safari on the iPhone or any Nokia browser. Though I like the native YouTube app, the syncing is a little off. Hope they fix that in an update.

If you, like everyone else on the planet, have Google accounts, this syncs perfectly with your contacts and Gmail. The iPhone doesn’t come close to doing mail as well as HTC’s Android does – IMAP, POP, native Gmail accounts – this is top-notch stuff.

As a regular phone, reception’s all right and a tad better than the HTC Legend (what the heck persuaded them to put the antenna in the bottom rubber attachment? Morons). Call quality is clear and not as wonky as the Nexus and its dual mics.

I have to say the specs make the touchscreen probably one of the most responsive ones I’ve used. The touchscreen keypad is very usable though you’d probably want to turn the autocorrect feature off. Damnably annoying.  Texting and making calls with it has a slight learning curve but practise makes perfect. Give it half an hour or so.”

icon_demoman.jpgCONCLUSION: Is it worth it?

“You bet your pansy ass it is! If you gave up on Nokia, don’t want to be associated with the iPhone fanboys, find Sony Ericsson
etc etc boring and want a real Android phone…the HTC Desire is the IT-phone.

Sure, it could do better but the niggles are tiny. It’s very usable, has a hell of a great UI, can beat any phone to the multitask crown (I’m looking at you, N900) and you can’t call it mediocre in any aspect. This is probably the best Android phone on the market, period.

Granted, this isn’t for the pussies who can’t be bothered to learn how to stretch battery life or really master using this sweet piece of kit (sorry, Scout) (wait, I’m not sorry) then you don’t want an Android phone. But out of the box, it works great.

You want a good phone? YOU WANT A GOOD PHONE? This is a good phone. “

Team Fortress 2

Image via Wikipedia


 (Disclaimer: Team Fortress 2 is the property of Valve and is just being abused by me for the sake of not boring myself to death. KTHKSBAI)

 

 

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