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Consumers swayed most by device and price

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According to recent stats by Phonefinder.co.za, consumers select their phone contracts based more on the devices themselves than on the contract price.

“Upwardly mobile consumers, especially those in the emerging middle class want the latest smartphone technology, but many are not yet able to purchase a device outright,” explains Lance Krom, founder and managing director at Phonefinder. “In these instances, they consider a cell phone contract to be the ideal means to get the phone they want without the capital outlay or traditional financing.”

However, due to increased competition from a broader cellular provider market, which now includes four major players in MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Telkom, and literally thousands of contract options, Krom says that consumers often find it frustrating to compare options and find those that meet their specific needs.

“While this growth has been good for competition, especially with regard to price, buying a cell phone contract can certainly be confusing and complex,” he suggests, “which is why we launched Phonefinder in 2012.”

The website lists all available contract options in a neat, searchable and easy-to-understand manner. “Importantly, we’re unbiased. Visitors to our portal can search every mobile contract deal available based on the type of handset they desire, their preferred network, monthly costs, data bundles and voice minutes, or any combination of these criteria,” continues Krom. “Once they’ve selected their preferred option and submitted their details, a simple click of the ‘call me’ button will result in a service provider calling them back to sign up.”

By providing this service, Phonefinder has gained numerous insights into the buying habits of cell phone contract subscribers. “With over 20,000 inquiries received per month, we’ve been able to establish key trends in the sector,” he states.

According to these stats, when it comes to phone manufacturers, Samsung is the most popular brand, accounting for 47% of phone selected with contracts purchased via Phonefinder.co.za. “The Samsung Galaxy J5 Prime is the current top-seller as it is chosen as the preferred device in 20% of all contracts sold via the website,” adds Krom. The Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime Plus is selected in 6% of deals, ranking it fourth most popular.

Chinese smartphone manufacturer Huawei is currently the second most popular brand, with a 24% share among contracts purchased via Phonefinder. “The Huawei P8 Lite (13%) and Huawei P9 Lite (8%) are the top choices from this brand, in second and third, respectively,” says Krom.

The Apple iPhone 5S (16GB) rounds out the top five smartphone models, according to Phonefinder’s stats, accounting for 5% of sales.

Of secondary importance to the device, but still a major consideration in the final decision, is price and the composition of the package. “Since the coverage of smaller providers has improved, and with the ability to port numbers, consumers now like to hunt for the best deals,” explains Krom. “They’re looking for the most data and minutes at the lowest price, and they aren’t afraid to switch brands to get it.”

According to Phonefinder’s stats, mid-range contracts in the R189pm (24.4%) to R299pm (8.9%) price band are the most popular, with R199pm the second most popular option. “These contracts offer the right balance of affordability and the amount of data and minutes consumers need to make best use of their smartphones,” continues Krom.

And this deal-hunting trend is significant as it’s driving a major shift in the industry, he adds. “Our stats show that the current trend is a shift by consumers from the incumbent operators – MTN and Vodacom – to Cell C and Telkom as these operators are aggressively disrupting the market with value bundle deals and other unique offerings, such as call sharing.”

Phonefinder’s stats reveal that 29.9% of customers are moving from Vodacom to another provider, while 23.8% of MTN contract customers are choosing to change providers via the website. “Telkom appears to be the biggest gainer in this regard, with 42% of contracts selected via Phonefinder.co.za going to this provider,” states Krom.

Cell C is currently the second most popular provider, accounting for 27% of contract deals selected, with MTN in third (12%) and Vodacom in fourth (10%).

“From these figures it is clear that brand loyalty among cell phone contract subscribers is dead. The market has matured and providers are now competing squarely on device, price and added value. This bodes well for consumers as heightened competition leads to more options and cheaper prices, and with a service like Phonefinder at their fingertips, it has never been easier to find the best deal on cell phone contracts,” he says.

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AppDate: Prepare for space

In this week’s AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights Space Nation Navigator, Hitman Sniper, Snake Mask, Memrise, WhatsApp Web, and Carrot Weather.

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Space Nation Navigator

Space Nation Navigator is a bit of a strange app. It is part game, part exercise and part educational. On the game side, users have to navigate the Mars Rover, put the International Space Station back into orbit or move their Martians to safety before a sand storm hits Mars. When it comes to exercise, Space Nation Navigator provides users with a range of exercises and Yoga videos to prepare them for space travel and working in an anti-gravity environment. The education aspect teaches users about the planets, and star constellations, and then offers quizzes on what has been taught.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Memrise

Memrise takes a new approach to help people learn new languages. Instead of providing a user with random phrases and words to memorise, the app connects you with a person already fluent in the language you want to learn. In turn, the person you are speaking to wants to learn the language in which you are fluent. Once your profile is filled out and languages selected, it connects you with people around the world who are interested in your language, and then allows you to chat with them in real-time. Memrise also lets one learn new languages through games, chatbots and grammarbots that help with spelling, tenses and pronunciations.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: A free download.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Hitman Sniper

Hitman Sniper is loosely based on the Agent 47 movie released a few years ago. The game offers players the ability to hone their shooting skills through a range of training courses and, once they think they are ready, they can start taking out the bad guys. Things start off easy enough, but they get more and more difficult as one progresses through the 150 missions on offer. One will also have to upgrade various gun components, like scopes, magazine capacities and silencers, to make the missions a little easier. Hitman Sniper lets users buy 16 to tackle each of the missions – either with real money or via the points accumulated by completing missions. Money and points can also be used to upgrade firearms.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: R7 – with a range of in-app purchases.

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Snake Mask

The iconic Snake game that was preinstalled on most older Nokia phones has had a complete make-over. It now uses Facebook’s AR technology, meaning that you have to navigate the snake around obstacles in your home or office, all the while collecting coins and stars that change the snake’s speed and length. Unfortunately, Snake Mask is only available on Nokia’s new range of smartphones. However, it should not take long before it slithers onto other devices.

 

Platform: New Nokia smartphones running Android.

Cost: Free to use through the Facebook app installed on the device.

Stockists: Available through the Facebook app.

 

WhatsApp Web

Although this is by no means a new app, it is an extremely useful one, and one that not many people know about. Tapping out WhatsApps on your phone is easy enough, but thanks to WhatsApp Web it can be even easier. Open the WhatApp Web page under WhatsApp and you will see a QR code. Scan this code through WhatsApp on your mobile and you will be shown a replica of what you would normally see on your phone. You can then type and reply to messages using your computer instead of having to stop everything and unlock your phone every time a message comes through. WhatsApp Web is great if you share your computer with other people as it automatically disconnects when the browser is closed. However WhatsApp also offers an app that when installed will stay connected to your phone unless you manually remove it.

 

Platform: Any up-to-date Internet browser

Cost: Free to use and install

Stockists: Visit www.WhatsApp.com

 

Carrot Weather

There are thousands of weather apps on the Internet these days and all of them do the same thing – inform you of the weather in your area. However, Carrot Weather has taken what is just another app and turned it into something fun. By fun, I mean sarcastic, rude and completely politically incorrect. A user starts off by selecting religious and political views. It then asks about personality, ranging from friendly to homicidal to overkill – which includes profanity. So, for instance, instead of waking up to to the standard partly cloudy forecast, Carrot Weather will display something like: “It’s only partly sunny, the sun is a total effing failure.” It also has a range of insults that it throws at you whenever you open the app – some of them downright insulting, so it is definitely not for those who are easily offended. The app’s user interface is very simple, displaying a week’s daily forecast and hourly forecasts for the day selected.

Platform: Android and iOS

Cost: Free to download but with adverts. The premium, advert free version costs R12 per month.

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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SA Start-up reinvents PABX

For any South African business, the idea of setting up or changing a telephonic switchboard system is the stuff of nightmares. Dealing with expensive hardware and hearing things like QSIG and VOIP is not what you’d call exciting.But now there is an app.

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Enter BuzzBox (www.buzzboxcloud.co.za), a web-based telephone switchboard that is aimed at small and medium sized businesses wanting to take the hassle and cost out of the company switchboard. Whether you are a small one-man operation or a larger organisation with staff working remotely, BuzzBox is the best switchboard solution.

What sets BuzzBox apart from anything else on the market is its easy-to-use dashboard. It puts you in control of everything from picking your phone number to setting up voice prompts and managing your business-hours schedule.

BuzzBox was developed when the startup behind it, Jini-Guru, needed such a service for its own use across multiple continents. “When we started Jini-Guru we could not find a seamless online process that would allow us to set up a full web-based switchboard, so we decided to build one for ourselves,” says Mike Smits, Director at Jini-Guru.

He says a lot of startups today are tech savvy and know how to use apps and the services that go with it. “It’s the uberisation of services and its driving demand for instant service activation.”

BuzzBox works as an app on both iOS and Android but users wanting a desk phone option can choose from a variety of devices on offer or use their existing VOIP phones.

Setting up a BuzzBox account takes 5 minutes. During registration your FICA documents are uploaded [ID and proof or residence] and you get to pick your phone number before the account is created. Companies that want to keep an existing number can do so too.

The real magic happens when you log on to the BuzzBox Dashboard. The main screen displays a summary of statistics for your account while the left-hand menu provides you quick access to various configuration settings and reports.

Setting up new extensions or external numbers is done with a few clicks and you can even set up various departments which is a great way to route a call to various people in a department, like sales or support.

The intuitive user interface also makes it easy to set up hold-music and voice prompts. You can add voice prompts by recording them straight to your phone, just make sure you use a clear voice with quiet surroundings for the best customer experience.

One of the main features of BuzzBox is its call recording feature that allows an organisation to record calls for legislative purposes, such as a lawyer, or for customer service purposes such as support. Recordings are stored securely online, and you have the ability to download recordings for playback. Companies can opt-in for this service and it’s free to use. Recordings are stored online and are fully encrypted so only you can listen to, or download them. Storage costs R1 for every 1000 minutes of stored recordings.

Other features include call forwarding and scheduling. The latter allows you to set office hours for your organisation which will divert calls to an after-hours messaging service. You also have the option to enable routing to an employee who is on call after hours.

BuzzBox also has a reseller program for companies wanting to offer this as a switchboard solution to their existing customers.

The costs for this service is R89 p/m for the first phone number which includes your first extension for free. Thereafter you’ll pay R89p/m per extension. Calls between extensions are free but you pay per second for all outgoing phone calls. More info on pricing can be found here: https://buzzboxcloud.co.za/pricing/

BuzzBox is offering a Launch promotion where they are offering the first line and extension free for 12 months. Only pay for calls. Use promo code “feoifyaa” during sign-up to apply your discount.

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