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AppDate: Yet another video-on-demand app

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In this AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the new Sunday Times app, GauRider 2.0, C-flix, the BMW Museum App, Opera Mini with Video Boost, the REDISA Game, SAOTA’s 3D app, IFS Streams for Apple Watch, and SyncMate for Android.

C-flix joins VoD stream

The latest VoD (Video on Demand) player to enter the market is InterneTV with its C-flix app. Although the app is specifically designed for tablets and smartphones, it does offer a swipe option to view content on a smart TV. C-flix offers about 15 000 titles, many of them classics or older movies, but is in the process of adding later titles and apparently will soon be adding new releases before any other local VOD platform.

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Expect to pay: R62 per month.

Sunday Times app

The newly launched Sunday Times app is now easier to navigate, features a range of new features and includes functionality for faster downloads at reduced download speeds. The app now allows users to access rich content like videos, photos, galleries and even recipes. Subscribers also have an the option to download complete editions of The Times and Sunday Times in PDF format.

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Expect to pay: A free download, but is only accessible to Sunday Time subscribers.

GauRider 2.0

Apart from being able to view train departure and arrival times, GauRider 2.0 also allows users to view bus times. This version has been designed to make navigation easier and includes an option to log train rides according to departure and arrival points and train fares. The Smart Log System enables commuters to log their current gold card amounts and view if they have enough money to pay for train rides.The Smart GauSave Indicator displays the on-peak and off-peak rates, helping commuters know how much money they need to load in order to reach their destination.

Platform: iOS

Stockists: Visit the Apple App Store for downloading instructions.

Expect to pay: R80

BMW Museum App

The BMW Museum App offers users the ability to plan their tour of the museum in Munich before heading off. Users can preview highlights from the history of BMW and its products before they make their trip, while interactive technology allows them to engage more intensively with the exhibits during the visit itself. The app provides in-depth explanatory descriptions of the individual departments and exhibits and the audio and text commentaries are offered in seven different languages.

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Expect to pay: A free download.

Opera Mini with Video Boost

Android users will see less of the video-buffering wheel when watching videos through the latest Opera Mini Browser thanks to its Video Boost feature. It reduces the size of video data to lessen video loading time, which also results in less data being used. To start boosting video, users simply need to navigate to the “O” menu and tap the savings summary to change to high-savings mode. They then need to tick the box beside video boost to switch on smoother viewing. The video boost feature also shows a count where users can keep track of how many videos have been optimised.

Platform: Android

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store for downloading instructions.

Expect to pay: A free download.

REDISA Game

The REDISA Game is developed by the Recycling and Economic Development Initiative of South Africa and is designed to educate gamers on the value of waste. It is set in Jozyville, a fictional city that has become a polluted wasteland. The player’s objective is to declare war against pollution and clean up Jozyville, while making as much money as possible. Tools at the gamers’ disposal are a waste-cart and their entrepreneurial wits to make money from trash.

Platform: Windows, Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Expect to pay: A free download.

SAOTA 3D app

SAOTA, a firm of architectural designers and technologists, has released an app that allows users to view their architectural designs in 3D with the use of the Google Cardboard Viewer. The app simply needs to be downloaded and a building selected to view through the Cardboard. Once selected, viewers can roam around the SAOTA masterpiece as if they were there in real life.

Platform: Android and iOS

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

Expect to pay: A free download.

IFS Streams for Apple Watch

IFS Streams is an app that will only work within an IFS ERP implementation and lets users receive real-time updates and insight into the status of relevant company information and processes. The tool actively alerts users when changes happen in business objects, workflow tasks, IFS Talk conversations, and business events that relate to the employee’s work.

Platform: Apple Watch

Stockists: Visit the Apple App Store for downloading instructions.

Expect to pay: A free download.

SyncMate for Android

SyncMate allows for the synchronisation of data on between an Apple Mac and an Android device. The free edition offers the ability to sync only contacts and calendars, while the expert edition will also include images, videos, folders and music. The expert edition also lets one mount an Android device as a disk on an Apple Mac – letting the user browse and organise files much like any other disk.

Platform: Android

Stockists: Visit the Google Play Store for downloading instructions.

Expect to pay: R600

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

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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