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Fitbit launches new smartwatch, and new women’s features

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Fitbit has unveiled the Versa, a metal smartwatch with up to four days of battery life, a new personalized on-device health dashboard and quick replies for Android users

Fitbit, the leading global wearables brand, has unveiled a light metal smartwatch called the Fitbit Versa. It offers a comfortable design and a new dashboard that simplifies how users access health and fitness data. Advanced health and fitness features like 24/7 heart rate tracking, onscreen workouts, and automatic sleep stages tracking meet smart features like quick replies on Android, wallet-free payments, and on-device music, with 4+ days battery life. Versa is available for pre-sale at R3 199, with global retail availability in April 2018.

Fitbit also announced new female health tracking to help women track their menstrual cycle, view holistic health data in one place, and better understand connections to their overall health. Female health tracking will be available on-device for Fitbit Versa and Fitbit Ionic users, and to all Fitbit app users starting later this year.

“As the wearables category continues to grow, Fitbit Versa fills a critical need in the market by delivering a beautifully designed, full-featured smartwatch that is easy to use at a very competitive price,” said James Park, co-founder and CEO of Fitbit. “Versa brings consumers the advanced health and fitness features Fitbit is known for, along with broad compatibility across mobile platforms and 4+ days battery life to provide users with a better picture of their overall health, making it stand out from any smartwatch available today.”

Fitbit provided the following information: 

Versa launches with Fitbit OS 2.0 for the company’s smartwatches, including a new personalized dashboard that provides a more simplified, intuitive and holistic view of your health and fitness data, bringing the best of our mobile app to the wrist, including:

  • Stats at a glance: See your daily and weekly health and fitness stats, historical activity, heart rate, and exercise summaries, action-oriented motivational messages, tips and tricks, and daily guidance – all on your wrist.
  • More personalized over time: Reminders, celebrations, logging, insights, sleep summaries and social challenges, with prompts to take actions based on your data, coming later in 2018.

Versa also offers all the health and fitness features Fitbit users love most with 4+ days battery life:

  • Personalized fitness guidance: Enhanced 24/7 PurePulse heart rate tracking, on-screen personal workouts from Fitbit Coach,  15+ Exercise Modes, Connected GPS, swim tracking with water resistance up to 50 meters, plus automatic activity and exercise tracking.
  • Take charge of your health and wellness: Use Sleep Stages and Insights to see how well you’re sleeping and set a restful sleep schedule, and Cardio Fitness Level to see how fit you are; move more throughout the day with Reminders to Move. A relative SpO2 sensor opens the potential to track important health indicators in the future, such as sleep apnea.
  • Read more about Versa here.

Optimize your health, fitness and family planning with female health tracking 

Fitbit is also introducing female health tracking to help women understand how their menstrual cycle connects to their overall health. According to a recent Fitbit survey, 80% of women did not know how many phases are in a menstrual cycle and more than 70% were unable to correctly identify the average length of a cycle, demonstrating a lack of awareness about women’s health. Created for all adult Fitbit app users who identify themselves as female in the Fitbit app, the feature lets you:

  • Stay on top of your cycle: Easily log your menstrual cycle data, and record symptoms like headaches, acne and cramps; helps you be more informed about your health and life planning, and, as needed, can help you show your doctor specific details for more personalized care.
  • Know what’s ahead: See dynamic cycle predictions for where you are in your cycle and when to expect your period using Fitbit’s new proprietary cycle algorithm that gets smarter and more accurate as you log your period; see where you are in your cycle at-a-glance on your wrist.
  • All of your data in one place: View holistic data in one place to reveal connections between your cycle and  other stats in the Fitbit app, such as activity, sleep and weight trends to better manage your activity and sleep needs during certain times of the month.
  • Period 101: Learn more about the menstrual cycle, ovulation, fertility and common misconceptions with educational content on the Fitbit blog through the Fitbit app.
  • Connect with others: Join other women through Groups in the Community tab of the Fitbit app for support around key topics like periods, birth control, trying to conceive, pregnancy, and perimenopause and menopause.
  • Personalized insights and guidance: In the future, as the database of female health metrics grows this data may help enable Fitbit to deliver even more insights, such as how your cycle impacts your activity, sleep, weight and nutrition, and potentially how these things can affect your cycle.
  • Read more about female health tracking here.

“Female health tracking will empower women with a greater understanding of their menstrual cycles in conjunction with their physical and mental health, as they start to recognize what are normal trends over time versus what could be an issue to share with their doctor,” said Dr. Katharine White, MD MPH, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University School of Medicine and Fitbit Advisor. “The nuances of the menstrual cycle have not been as widely studied across populations as have other areas in healthcare. This exciting development by Fitbit could help potentially create one of the largest databases of menstrual health metrics in the world, providing healthcare and research professionals with an unprecedented ability to study menstrual cycles and women’s health with real world data.”

Lightweight and modern design for everyday life

Our lightest, most approachable watch yet, Versa is comfortable, durable and versatile enough for all-day and night wear. It features an ultra-thin, anodized aluminum case and is slightly tapered and angled in its design to fit small or large wrists. The rounded square silhouette display features a bright, colorful touchscreen and sharp graphics up to 1,000 nits, providing the ideal format to see all of your data on your wrist.

Versa offers a variety of stylish accessories so you can change your look based on your outfit or activity:

    • Classic accessories: Featuring new stain-resistant materials, these sleek, swim-ready bands are available in peach, gray, black, periwinkle and white.
    • Horween leather accessories: Using renowned and respected tannery Horween Leather, these hand-crafted bands offer a cool, casual look in cognac brown, midnight blue, lavender, and saddle with artisan-inspired tan stitching.
    • Stainless steel accessories: The stainless steel links and metal mesh bands give a polished look to elevate your style. Stainless steel links are available in black, silver or tapered silver; metal mesh bands are available in black or silver.
    • Fitbit Versa Special Edition: Offering two looks in one with exclusive woven bands inspired by athleisure trends in lavender with a rose gold aluminum case or charcoal with a graphite aluminum case, as well as a black Classic accessory band in box.

Essential smart features that help you simplify your life

Versa offers a range of smart features to help you manage your day and quickly get the information you need most:

  • Notifications and quick replies: View app, call, calendar, and text notifications from your smartphone, right on your wrist. Android phone users can send quick pre-populated or customizable replies to text messages and messenger apps (coming soon).
  • Music on your device: Listen to phone-free music anywhere you go using Bluetooth headphones like Fitbit Flyer™, now including your own or curated playlists as well as Flow from Deezer   and 300+ songs from your personal music collection.
  • Pay from your wrist: Leave your wallet at home and easily pay in any store where contactless payments are accepted with Fitbit Pay, available on Fitbit Versa
  • Apps and clock faces you want: Personalize your device by choosing from a wide range of apps and clock faces in the Fitbit App Gallery, including those from Fitbit, Fitbit Labs, and popular brands like Flipboard, Hue Lights, Nest, Strava, Surfline, United Airlines, Weather and Yelp. The Fitbit App Gallery has more than 550 apps and clock faces available today, many of which developers are working to make available to Versa users soon.
  • Fitbit Labs: An R&D initiative introduced last year focused on accelerating innovation and driving behavior change, Fitbit Labs is introducing a New Parent app to help parents more easily stay on top of their baby’s schedule. By logging their infant’s feedings, diaper changes and sleep, plus their own mood, all from their wrist, new parents can better understand the connections between their sleep and mood, and, over time, help build a healthy routine for themselves and their baby.iv
  • Broad compatibility: Versa is compatible across Android, iOS and Windows devices so you can use on most smartphones.

“We are thrilled to offer Fitbit’s global smartwatch community convenient and easy access to the music they want to help them stay motivated on their fitness journey,” said Riad Hawa, Global VP of Hardware Partnerships at Deezer. “With this partnership, we’ve made it easier to have relevant and fresh music on your wrist with Flow, a personalized soundtrack, and a wide selection of playlists – all without having to bring your phone when you’re exercising.”

Versa’s new software features are part of the latest Fitbit OS update, the operating system for Fitbit smartwatches. This software update will also be available for Ionic users.

New tools for developers

For those interested in developing for the Fitbit OS, Fitbit is also launching its first online simulator. This will allow you to easily build and deploy apps and clock faces for Ionic and Versa, without requiring a device of your own. By developing for multiple devices, you can increase the visibility of your app to reach Fitbit’s global, established health and fitness community.

Pricing and availability 

Fitbit Versa is available for presale today on Fitbit.com and select online retailers tomorrow for R3,199 in black with a black aluminum case, gray with a silver aluminum case, or peach with a rose gold aluminum case; accessories range from approx. R499 – R1,499. Versa will be available in stores worldwide mid-April 2018 at Makro, Incredible Connection, Dion Wired, Dis-chem, Totalsports, Due South, Sportsman’s Warehouse, Cape Union Mart and Takealot.

With the introduction of Versa, Fitbit expands its smartwatch offerings, providing consumers with greater choice across its product lineup of trackers and watches, and positioning the company to capture greater share of the overall wearables category. According to IDC, the worldwide wearables market is set to nearly double by 2021, with watches driving this growth in the long term.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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