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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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Load-shedding leads
local searches

South Africans are searching in the dark, according to the latest Google Search trends.

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With more 1 million search queries generated in the space of 76 hours, load-shedding was by far the top trending search on Google South Africa this week.

Valentine’s Day came a distant second.

After news emerged last Sunday of the impending stage 3 load shedding, South Africans had generated more than 1-million load-shedding search queries by the time Tuesday came around:

  • “Loadshedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Eskom load shedding” – generated more than 100k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding Cape Town” – generated more than 50k searches on Sunday
  • “Load shedding schedule” – generated more than 400k on Monday
  • “Load shedding Johannesburg” – generated more than 20k searches on Monday
  • Load shedding schedule” generated more than 200k search queries on Tuesday

Leading up to Valentine’s Day, South Africans generated close to 300k search queries related to the romantic festival, including searches for quotes and gift ideas:

  • “Valentines Day” generated more than 100k search queries on Thursday
  • “Happy Valentines Day Images” and “Valentines Day Images” generated more than 10k search queries each on Thursday, with “Happy Valentines Day 2019” generating more than 20k search queries on Wednesday
  • “Valentines Day Specials 2019” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Love quotes” generated more than 5k search queries on Thursday
  • “Valentines Day quotes” generated more than 100k search queries and “Valentine messages” generated more than 50 000 search queries on Wednesday

Search trends information is gleaned from data collated by Google based on what South Africans have been searching for and asking Google. Google processes more than 40 000 search queries every second. This translates to more than a billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year worldwide. Live Google search trends data is available at https://www.google.co.za/trends/hottrends#pn=p40

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Showmax invites
student films

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Thanks to the growing popularity of video-on-demand services, there’s a new opportunity to help kickstart the careers of local filmmakers.

Numerous Hollywood blockbusters (District 9Tomb Raider 2018, and The Avengers: Age of Ultron to name a few) have featured substantial shoots in Johannesburg and Cape Town. While providing great opportunities for SA’s production talent, aspiring writers and directors don’t get the same benefit.

So where can local creatives showcase their work? Broadcast TV isn’t a natural home for unknown short films, and while self-publishing platforms are readily available hosting options, it’s tough to get noticed and get traffic when competing with videos from across the planet.

But with the emergence of video-on-demand services into the mainstream, there’s now a solution. The African film school AFDA has teamed up with the streaming service Showmax to give local talent a much larger platform than ever before. From 18 February, eighteen of the best recent short films made by AFDA students from their Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Port Elizabeth campuses will be live on Showmax. Drama, documentary, fantasy, and animation are all represented, in pieces running from under eight minutes to almost half-an-hour long. The full list of movies is included below.

Teresa Passchier, CEO of AFDA, said: “AFDA, Africa’s number-one school for the Creative Economy, is proud to kickstart this exciting and meaningful journey with Showmax and AFDA students, ensuring emerging young African filmmakers’ voices are heard and given a platform. It’s ground-breaking to share young, local, culturally relevant content on the same platform as Hollywood blockbusters. I am certain that this unique initiative will serve to boost and develop the African film industry and the careers of many young South African and African students alike.”

Included in the short films coming to Showmax are the award winners Junior and O-PunchaJunior, directed by Bert Dijkstra, picked up the Audience Award in the Made in South Africa Competition at the shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival Awards 2017. O-Puncha, directed by Adam Hansen, won two awards at the 5th annual Eldorado Film Festival: Best Student Made Short, and Best Editing – Alexander La Cock.

Another celebrated film is Sicela Amanzi directed by Mlu Godola, which talks to the subject of water shortage. The film’s heroine Zoleka is a mild-mannered young woman forced to go to extreme lengths when a small community’s only source of water unexpectedly collapses. The power of films like this is they shine a light on critical topical issues in new ways.

Speaking about working with the film school, Candice Fangueiro, Head of Content for Showmax, said: “There’s immense depth of filmmaking talent in Africa and it’s a privilege to be able to give that talent a home and a platform. Showmax is becoming part of the fabric of film and TV production in Africa, and importantly we’re doing this as a partner rather than just as a consumer. This is a key competitive advantage of being local and something we aim to continue to work on.”

AFDA is an Academy Award-winning institution, founded in 1994, and the first and only African film school to win an Oscar – for the Best Foreign Student film in 2006, the postgraduate film Elalini, directed by Tristan Holmes.

The full list of AFDA short films coming to Showmax is as follows:

Film titleDirectorGenre
Lullaby from the CryptKeenan Lott & Raven DavidsAnimation
Ko Ga CherenyaneSibonokuhle MyatazaDocumentary
IzilwaneKyllian RouxDrama
MallemeuleJaco Van BoschDrama
Canal StreetBrodie MuirheadDrama
On the FenceWarrick BewsDrama
The Righteous FewLindo LangaDrama
Hlogoma PeakLuke AhrensDrama
Frozen FlameCameron HeathmanAnimation
WolfBrett van DortFantasy
The Walk HomeSisanda DyantyiDrama
BearWesley RoodtDrama
JuniorBert DijkstraDrama
O-PunchaAdam HansenDrama
UmngenoSiphosethu NdungeDrama
DoreenLuvuyo Equiano NyawoseDrama
ForeverLindo LangaMusical
Sicela AmanziMlu GodolaDrama

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