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AppDate: Keep Truecaller safe

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In this AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Truecaller Backup for Android, Open Omnia, Marketplace on Facebook, Zulzi, Opera with news feed, Pet First Aid – Red Cross, Datally by Google, and Freeletics.

Truecaller Backup for Android

Truecaller, the app that allows users to filter out unwanted calls, has released Truecaller Backup for Android. Every day thousands of Truecaller users are switching to a new phone, getting a new SIM card, resetting their device or in general having to reinstall their Truecaller app. This inevitably leads to lost contacts, blank call logs and lost data. The backup solution is designed to simplify a user’s transition to a new phone or SIM card by securely backing-up contacts and settings to Google Drive.

Once the app is reinstalled, and the correct username and password provided, a user can go through the backed up data and decide what should be restored to the new device.

Platform: Most Android mobile devices.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store

 

Open Omnia

Open Omnia is a web-based programme that aims to assist students who struggle with mathematics to better understand the subject, by breaking down the formulae and providing step-by-step illustrations for mathematical equations.

A student can simply type in a mathematical problem, and the service returns a step-by-step solution to the problem. This ensures that students learn how to get to the answer – and can then apply the process to similar problems.

Platform: Most devices with an up-to-date web browser.

Expect to pay: Free to use.

Stockists: Visit www.openomnia.com

 

Marketplace on Facebook

Facebook will be rolling out its Marketplace service in South Africa in an attempt to compete with the likes of Gumtree, BidorBuy and OLX. The feature is designed to let users buy and sell items on the platform, with strict safety precautions for both parties. In addition to buying and selling, users can communicate with each other and are able to set their privacy controls to their liking. They do not need to install any third-party applications.

The feature is set to be rolled out in early February. Users wanting to start trading need to click on the Marketplace icon towards the bottom of the page.

How to use Marketplace 

  • To use Marketplace, tap on the Marketplace icon.
  • To find what you’re looking for, search at the top and filter your results by location, category or price.
  • To sell something, take a photo, describe your item, set your price and you are done.
  • Buyers and sellers can communicate with each other using Facebook Messenger.

Platform: Most devices using the latest Facebook version.

Expect to pay: A free service.

Stockists: Visit www.facebook.com to begin trading.

 

Zulzi

Zulzi is a locally developed on-demand delivery service app that brings groceries to the doors of its customers within an hour. Zulzi took first place in the Best Breakthrough Developer category of the recent MTN Business App of the Year Awards.

Zulzi is already making an impact in a number of suburbs in the north of Johannesburg, and already has more than 9 000 active registered users.  Thhe company has delivered over 15 000 orders since launch in 2016.

The app is very easy to use and offers users the ability to order products like alcohol, pharmaceuticals, food and groceries. One needs to enter their delivery address and the app will bring up a range of stores in the vicinity, from which orders can be made. Unlike many other delivery apps, the prices of the products shown on the app are usually in line with those at the physical store.

Once an order is placed, a personal shopper is assigned to collect and pay for the products, while the Zulzi user is able to monitor the order in real time.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download, but delivery charges range from R20 to R85. (This fee goes to the personal shopper, with Zulzi generating revenue from partnerships with the retailers.)

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Opera with news feed

With over 100 million users reading news through Opera and Opera mini, the company decided to develope its own artificial intelligence newsfeed. The feature is designed to learn what users read on a daily basis and then delivers video and articles based on their preferences. In addition to delivering news, the app helps users with their online shopping, delivering relevant search results and making mobile payments.

Platform: Android, iOS and desktop computers.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit www.opera.com

 

Pet First Aid – Red Cross

When your dog or cat suddenly becomes ill, it isn’t alway possible to rush it off to the vet. However, thanks to the Pet First Aid – Red Cross app, pet owners have some veterinary advice to help their dogs or cats out until they can be taken to a professional.

The app features a variety of how-to videos for advice ranging from helping a choking animal to treating ticks and viruses. It also offers help on how to administer medication and identifying toxic substances. Using geolocation, it shows the closest vet and its operating hours.

When your pet is not sick, Pet First Aid offers quizzes on what to do in case of an emergency, teaching one not to panic and how to react efficiently and effectively.

Even though Pet First Aid is a great app for helping pets at home, it is still advisable to take them to the vet should they get sick.

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Datally

The Datally app by Google helps solve one of the biggest pain points for smartphone users around the world. Google research found that many smartphone users worry about running out of data. This is an especially acute problem for the newest generation to come online. Not only are these smartphone users constantly thinking about data balances, but they do not understand where their data is going, nor do they feel they can control allocating data to the apps they really need.

Datally empowers users to solve these problems with four key features:

Data Saver. Apps frequently use data in the background for updating content and information. Datally’s Data Saver feature lets users control data on an app-by-app basis, so that data only goes to apps they need.

Data Saver bubble. Once Data Saver is turned on, Datally’s Data Saver bubble will appear when a user goes into an app. Whenever that app uses data, the Data Saver bubble will show the current rate of data usage, and users can easily choose to block that app’s data use if things start to get out of control. The Data Saver bubble is like a speedometer for mobile data.

Personalised alerts. Datally alerts users when apps start consuming a lot of data, and it allows them to see how much data they’ve used on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Wi-Fi finder. There are times when users want to use more data than they have on their mobile plans, such as when they want to watch HD videos. Public Wi-Fi is an important access point for high-bandwidth connectivity, so Datally’s Find Wi-Fi feature reveals the networks nearby, rated by the Datally community. Once connected, users can rate the Wi-Fi networks based on their own experience.

Platform: Android devices running Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and higher.

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store

 

Freeletics

Freeletics is a training app that combines full-body routines and exercises with running for a complete fat-shredding workout. The app is fast, efficient, effective, and it keeps you fit in under 20 minutes a day. It is designed for professional athletes or those merely looking to lose weight and tone up.

Whether you prefer to train outdoors, in your kitchen, at the gym or in your office, Freeletics will take you through every step. The app uses a virtual coach to assess your fitness level. It then combines the results with your age, weight and workout goals to customise an exercise plan. You’ll then have access to the online community of “Free Athletes”— to share tips, get advice and even compete with each another.

You can workout anytime, anywhere with little to no equipment. All workouts are designed to last between 5 and 30 minutes and you have more than 1000 training variations to choose from.cleardot.gif

Platform: Android and iOS

Expect to pay: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Online retail gets real

After decades of experience in selling online, retailers still seek out the secret of reaching the digital consumer, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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It’s been 23 years since the first pizza and the first bunch of flowers was sold online. One would think, after all this time, that retailers would know exactly what works, and exactly how the digital consumer thinks.

Yet, in shopping-mad South Africa, only 4% of adults regularly shop online. One could blame high data costs, low levels of tech-savviness, or lack of trust. However, that doesn’t explain why a population where more than a quarter of people have a debit or credit card and almost 40% of people use the Internet is staying away.

The new Online Retail in South Africa 2019 study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the support of Visa and Platinum Seed, reveals that growth is in fact healthy, but is still coming off a low base. This year, the total sale of retail products online is expected to pass the R14-billion mark, making up 1.4% of total retail.

This figure represents 25% growth over 2017, and comes after the same rate of growth was seen in 2017. At this rate, it is clear that online retail is going mainstream, driven by aggressive marketing, and new shopping channels like mobile shopping. 

But it is equally clear that not all retailers are getting it right. According to the study, the unwillingness of business to reinvest revenue in developing their online presence is one of the main barriers to long-term success. Only one in five companies surveyed invested more than 20% of their online turnover back into their online store. Over half invested less than 10% back.

On the surface, the industry looks healthy, as a surprisingly high 71% of online retailers surveyed say they are profitable. But this brings to mind the early days of Amazon.com, in 1996, when founder Jeff Bezos was asked when it would become profitable.

He declared that it would not be profitable for at least another five years. And if it did, he said, it would be in big trouble. He meant that it was so important for long-term sustainability that Amazon reinvest all its revenues in customer systems, that it could not afford to look for short-term profits.

According to the South African study, the single most critical factor in the success of online retail activities is customer service. A vast majority, 98% of respondents, regarded it as important. This positions customer service as the very heart of online retail. For Amazon, investment back into systems that would streamline customer service became the key to the world’s digital wallets.

In South Africa online still make up a small proportion of overall retail, but for the first time we see the promise of a broader range of businesses in terms of category, size, turnover and employee numbers. This is a sign that our local market is beginning to mature. 

Clothing and apparel is the fastest growing sector, but is also the sector with the highest turnover of businesses. It illustrates the dangers of a low barrier to entry: the survival rate of online stores in this sector is probably directly opposite to the ease of setting up an online apparel store.

A fast-growing category that was fairly low on the agenda in the past, alcohol, tobacco and vaping, has benefited from the increased online supply of vapes, juices and accessories. It also suggests that smoking bans, and the change in the legal status of marijuana during the survey, may have boosted demand. 

In the coming weeks, we can expect online retail to fall under the spotlight as never before. Black Friday, a shopping tradition imported “wholesale” from the United States, is expected to become the biggest online shopping day of the year in South Africa, as it is in the USA.

Initially, it was just a gimmick in South Africa, attempting to cash in on what was a purely American tradition of insane sales on the Friday after Thanksgiving Day, which occurs on the third Thursday of November every year. It is followed by Cyber Monday, making the entire weekend one of major promotions and great bargains.

It has grown every year in South Africa since its first introduction about six years ago, and last year it broke into the mainstream, with numerous high profile retailers embracing it, and many consumers experiencing it for the first time. 

It is now positioned as the prime bargain day of the year for consumers, and many wait in anticipation for it, as they do in the USA. Along with Cyber Monday, it provides an excuse for retailers to go all out in their marketing, and for consumers to storm the display shelves or web pages. South African shoppers, clearly, are easily enticed by bargains.

Word of mouth around Black Friday has also grown massively in the past two years, driven by both media and shoppers who have found ridiculous bargains. As news spreads that the most ridiculous of the bargains are to be had online, even those who were reticent of digital shopping will be tempted to convert.

The Online Retail in SA 2019 report has shown over the years that, as people become more experienced in using the Internet, their propensity to shop online increases. This is part of the World Wide Worx model known as the Digital Participation Curve. The key missing factor in the Curve is that most retailers do not know how to convert that propensity into actual online shopping behaviour. Black Friday will be one of the keys to conversion.

Carry on reading to find out about the online retailers of the year.

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Reliable satellite Internet?

MzansiSat, a satellite-Internet business, aims to beam Internet connections to places in South Africa which don’t have access to cabled and mobile network infrastructure, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Stellenbosch-based MzansiSat promises to provide cheap wholesale Internet to Internet Service Providers for as little as R25 per Gigabyte. Providers who offer more expensive Internet services could benefit greatly from partnering with MzansiSat, says the company. 

“Using MzansiSat, we hope that we can carry over cost-savings benefits to the consumer,” says Victor Stephanopoli, MzansiSat chief operating officer.

The company, which has been spun off from StellSat, has been looking to increase its investor portfolio while it waits for spectrum approval. The additional investment will allow MzansiSat’s satellite to operate in more regions across Africa.

The MzansiSat satellite is being built by Thales Alenia Space, a French company which is also acting as technical partner to MzansiSat. In addition to building the satellite, Thales Alenia Space will also be assisting MzansiSat in coordinating the launch. The company intends to launch the satellite into the 56°E orbital slot in a geostationary orbit, which enables communication almost anywhere in Africa. The launch is expected to happen in 2022. 

The satellite will have 76 transponders, 48 of which will be Ku-band and 28 C-band. Ku-band is all about high-speed performance, while C-band deals with weather-resistance. The design intention is for customers of MzansiSat to choose between very cheap, reliable data and very fast, power-efficient data. 

C-band is an older technology, which makes bandwidth cheaper and almost never affected by rain but requires bigger dishes and slower bandwidth compared to Ku-band connections. On the other hand, Ku-band is faster, experiences less microwave interference, and requires less power to run – but is less reliable with bad weather conditions.

MzansiSat’s potential military applications are significant, due to the nature of the military being mobile and possibly in remote areas without connectivity.  Connectivity everywhere would be potentially be life-saving.

Consumers in remote areas will benefit, even though satellite is higher in latency than fibre and LTE connections. While this level of latency is high (a fifth of a second in theory), satellite connections are still adequate for browsing the Internet and watching online content. 

The Internet of Things (IoT) may see the benefits of satellite Internet before consumers do. The applications of IoT in agriculture are vast, from hydration sensors to soil nutrient testers, and can be realised with an Internet connection which is available in a remote area.

Stephanopoli says that e-learning in remote areas can also benefit from MzansiSat’s presence, as many school resources are becoming readily available online. 

“Through our network, the learning experience can be beamed into classrooms across the country to substitute or complement local resources within the South African schooling system.”

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