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iOS 12: What to expect

Apple this week announced iOS 12, bringing with it improved apps and promises of performance improvement on older devices, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Jose this week promised to make up for two years of underwhelming updates to iOS. 

The event was intended to give developers insight into the capabilities of the new version of Apple’s iOS, and what they can harness before the official release in September. Developers have access to the first iOS 12 beta now, while everyone else has access to the public beta at the end of the month. While this public beta might be tempting to install, Apple is notorious for releasing extremely buggy public beta versions of iOS which are not suitable if iPhone is your daily driver.

iOS 10 and 11 often introduced more bugs and performance issues than useful features and improvements. iOS 12 has been unveiled as the better version of iOS, which deals with these known issues and improves performance on the older iPhone and iPad models. This promise was solidified by offering the upgrade to every iOS device that runs iOS 11, which means that every iPhone from the iPhone 5S onwards can be upgraded. 

The performance upgrades were announced by using the 2014 iPhone 6 Plus as an example of an older device. Compared to iOS 11, iOS 12 is claimed to launch apps up to 40% faster, the keyboard displays up to 50% faster when requested, and the camera launches up to 70% faster from the lock-screen shortcut.

The only new iOS feature is grouped notifications. Users can group notifications by person or app if the person or app creates too many notifications on the iOS device. This feature has been a long time coming and has been a feature in Android since 2014.

True to its promise to jpin the fight against phone addiction, Apple introduced a new health app that doesn’t require any additional technology. The Digital Health Dashboard provides insights into how many times one picks up one’s phone, how much time one spends on particular apps and provides warnings when one is using an app too much. It can also be used by parents to monitor iPhone or iPad app time usage and block apps after a certain amount of time spent on them. 

For example, if you feel Instagram wastes a lot of time, you can prescribe an hour a day and no more than that. iOS will warn you when you have 5 minutes left to use it.

Animoji, the facial-tracking emoji videos on the iPhone X, has been improved by introducing tongue recognition. A new extension of Animoji called Memoji allows users to create virtual avatar-style emojis to use as an Animoji. This is clearly following in the footsteps of Samsung’s facial tracking AR Emoji.

Siri gets an update but not as great as one would expect. Siri Shortcuts is a new feature which allows users to create recipes for phrases, similar to the IFTTT app, which can be used to execute multiple actions. For example, one can create a Siri Shortcut to the phrase “I’m coming home” to turn on a smart home heater, begin boiling a smart home kettle, find the fastest route home in the Map app and start playing a favourite radio station via CarPlay.

CarPlay gets an upgrade, with the integration of third-party map apps like Waze and Google Maps. A great step forward in the direction of a great smart car experience with the iPhone.

Group FaceTime, a highly anticipated feature, has finally been made a reality. The update will bring the capability to host 32 participant FaceTime calls, with a promise of similar clarity to traditional 2-participant FaceTime calls.

AR Kit has also been improved and iPhones which support AR will receive an app called Measure. It allows a user to measure a line on any surface and get the length of a real-world object, without the need for a ruler. 

Finally, the Photos app receives smarter features, allowing users to share photos from events with everyone who was at the event, using the facial recognition software built into the app. The redesign makes the Photos app more user-friendly and provides the users with a glance at what happened a year ago and groups notable events. This brings the Apple Photos app closer to the powerful Google Photos app.

Overall, iOS 12 shouldn’t be anticipated for its new features but rather for its performance upgrades. This announcement has shown that Apple cares about its customers.

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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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