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The 8 smart tips that can save your data

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Smart devices live on data, and many users often think that their data is simply disappearing. The truth is it is not disappearing, but is instead being used by various apps and operating systems. Here are some handy tips to conserve data.

A smart device such as a phone or tablet lives on data, and while they allow you to really stay connected and informed, it can sometimes feel like your data allcoation isn’t touching sides. Fortunately there are a number of things that can be done to reign in a device’s data consumption.

Using data sparingly on a computer

PCs and laptops come from an age before mobile broadband. These devices have kept their old habits: online services on a PC or laptop often assume they have access to a fixed-line connection such as ADSL or a company network. Modern computers have become more internet-friendly, but some aspects – specifically updates – are still very heavy-handed. With this in mind, when using a PC with a 3G dongle or other mobile broadband device, keep an eye that it doesn’t automatically start downloads that may quickly kill your data bundle. It knows not what it does. In some cases, you can set your PC to only download after midnight, and nite specific mobile data gives you cheaper access to do just that.

“Computers have very different data expectations to smartphones and tablets,” said Cell C Chief Information Officer Maria Pienaar. “Mobile services are designed to use as little data as possible, but a PC or laptop rarely has that in mind. So avoid treating them as the same.”

Delete under-used apps

Applications make smart devices so much more effective. But there is a dark side to them. Apps tend to load in the background – even if they aren’t used or even started. A common but highly underappreciated reason for battery drain is because there are too many apps on a device. Those apps can also drain data surreptitiously. Get rid of any apps not being used. Also investigate if the web version is as good: services such as Facebook and Twitter have very good mobile browser versions that will not run persistently in the background, since they are accessed through the browser. Some apps have push notifications to let you know when something is happening, sometimes turning that off using the settings within the application will save you data.

Pienaar said: “You often hear about app fatigue, resulting from someone trying out too many apps. But how often do we delete the apps we don’t use? Those will continue to be updated and connect online. Deleting will save both data and battery life.”

Apps also need to be updated

Applications and phone software also need to be updated from time to time, to make sure they are always secure, don’t pose a security risk and any new features are loaded. More often than not, customers have their applications set to automatically update. Ideally, customers should update over Wi-Fi, and most phones will allow you to set your applications to download only over a Wi-Fi connection. Remember, free applications sometimes push software updates or advertising, which consumes data. Reading the review of an application before downloading will provide you with useful tips about the application.

“App updates are very important, because they may contain security patches. But not every update is so important that it has to happen right away. Set the device to only update on Wi-Fi and, when you reach a hotspot, give it a chance to quickly catch up.”

Use apps to track data consumption

Data can be tricky to keep track of. Even though smart devices can give basic data consumption statistics, one of the best ways to really make sure you get an accurate picture is with a third party data tracking app. There are several options, both free and paid, on the various app stores. A good tracker will give a lot of insight, as well as separate between mobile and Wi-Fi use.

“Modern phones have software built in to help track data consumption. These are a good starting point, so consumers should try that first. But there are several good third-party apps that can show in great detail where data is going,” said Pienaar.

Don’t auto-play videos

Videos use a lot of data. They are fun to watch, but consume megabytes in no time. Even stopping a video may not be enough as the video will continue to buffer – download data – in the background. That is simply data down the drain. Well-designed apps have options to stop videos from auto-playing or at least reduce how much data they use. The latter approach will result in lower-quality video, but unfortunately that can’t be avoided. The better quality a video or image, the more data it uses. This also applies to downloading music or podcasts: the higher the quality, the more data will be required.

Pienaar said: “More South Africans are streaming videos these days. But it is very data intensive, so make sure video files on a page or feed aren’t chewing up data. They can take a lot in a very short time.”

Tone down photos and videos

Another drain on data can come from the photos and videos being uploaded. Recording a high definition video or taking a photo at the biggest format looks good. But that quality is proportional to the amount of data required: a high-quality image is larger and requires more data if uploaded. It’s a bit like packing the contents of a closet: if there are only a few items, one box will suffice. But more items require more boxes.

“Modern phones have very nice cameras, but nice cameras take big pictures that uses a lot of data to send. Fortunately modern phone cameras are so nice that you can tone down on the quality, yet the video or photo will still look great while saving data,” said Pienaar

Use data-saving browsers such as Chrome 

Not all browsers are created equal. Even though every smart device comes with a built-in Web browser, there are better choices. Specifically, the Chrome mobile browser is renowned for their data-saving features. Both use special data saver technologies that reduce the size of the information a device downloads. This also tends to deliver high browsing speeds.

Pienaar said, “The browsers that come with phones and tablets are very good. But a few third-party apps specialise in faster browsing while using less data. If someone’s browsing habits are destroying their data, they should try one of those”

Keep in-bundle

Data bundles exist for a reason: to manage network performance. When someone buys a certain amount of data, a mobile network can anticipate that the data will be used within a certain period and keep an eye on demand. This is why out-of-bundle data rates are higher, so keep data costs low by purchasing bundles. Data bundles also provide better value to customers.

Pienaar said: “Going out of bundle is a very expensive choice. Any good operator will inform their customer if a bundle is about to be depleted. If you keep running out of bundles, consider buying larger ones. It will work out cheaper than buying smaller quantities of data all the time.”

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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