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IM comes to SA banking

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Standard Bank has launched a new Relationship Banking Instant Messaging service in conjunction with WeChat.

Sibongiseni Ngundze, Head of Retail Banking says the hassle of having only limited contact with your bank, through physically going into branch and standing in queues, or calling call centres and sending emails is now truly in the past.

“Traditional methods of communication have their disadvantages, which can inconvenience time-strapped customers. These days most relationships are conducted via instant messaging, so why not your banking relationships? The goal of providing service on WeChat is not only to make banking easier, but also to provide an unmatched level of personal service that enables us to support our customers in all banking circumstances, anytime, anywhere.”

Instant messaging volumes around the world have already surpassed SMS by some distance and are continuing to grow.  Within a few years it is believed instant messaging will surpass many of today’s key communication mediums. “We plan to be ahead of the competition,” says Mr Ngundze.

It can take, on average, one day for an email to be returned, 15 minutes for your call to be handled efficiently, and 1.5 hours for a branch visit.

“Things move faster than that these days and relationships are increasingly moving into the digital world. As a bank that is in tune with the trends and demands of our clients, we have therefore moved quickly to make these solutions available,” says Mr Ngundze.

He says the new service is “like adding your personal banker to your messaging ‘friend list’ and having them available to you 24/7/365, just like many of your existing personal relationships”.

It is a market worth taking seriously. Research shows there are over one hundred million people sending instant messages worldwide, while there are 5 million WeChat users in South Africa.

Standard Bank has introduced a range of digital and social media-based products and services already, helping to integrate banking into customers’ lifestyles and making their use of banking services as personalised, intuitive and ‘connected’ as any of their other device or online-enabled activities. “The latest offering simply adds another level of convenience and ease in customer’s day-to-day dealings with us, and puts them in charge of the way their banking is conducted,” says Mr Ngundze.

Prestige and Private customers need simply phone or email their bankers, or speak to their bankers in-branch and provide their WeChat ID before being taken through a verification process, after which they will be registered on the network and then simply need to log in to WeChat and search ‘Standard Bank’ under ‘Official Accounts’ to have access to chat to the team of virtual bankers anytime, anywhere, with the added benefit of 3GB of free WiFi, valid for three months, through AlwaysOn in AlwaysOn zones.

“As the first South African financial service provider to offer WeChat as a communication channel of instant messaging to our customers, with its inbuilt customer relationship management capabilities and real time response , we are confident that this latest offering will further move our customers forward. And we won’t stop here – we will continue to develop products for our customers to suit their needs in lock step with technological advances,” says Mr Ngundze.

“Partnering with a household name like Standard Bank will allow us to demonstrate to their large Prestige and Private customer base, the benefits of using WeChat,” says Brett Loubser, Head of WeChat Africa. “In this instance, WeChat allows Standard Bank customers to speak to a real person rather than receiving automated responses. Having access to your own banker 24/7 is a first and another way that WeChat is bringing the online and offline worlds together. We look forward to offering more of WeChat’s unique features on Standard Bank’s official account in the future.”

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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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