Local social network Mxit said on Friday that it is shutting down its commercial operations and donating all of its intellectual property and technology assets to independent public benefit organisation ‘The Reach Trust’, report DUNCAN ALFREDS and GARETH VAN ZYL.
Mxit reported in 2013 that its monthly active user base was 7.5 million that year. But this figure has dropped to just 1.2 million monthly active users in July 2015, according to a Mxit statement on Friday.
Mxit, in its statement, said its application would still be available to the public as a download.
But as part of the deal, Mxit chief executive Francois Swart will depart after three years in charge. Almost 30 Mxit staff will also be transferred to The Reach Trust under CEO Andrew Rudge and ex-FNB CEO Michael Jordaan, who has been the chairperson of Mxit, will not be actively involved with the operations of The Reach Trust.
As part of the change Mxit will also exit its India and Nigeria businesses.
The Reach Trust has been providing free services such as text-based counselling and education initiatives to up to 10 million people since 2012.
“Whilst Mxit overall has seen a decline in activity and engagement over the past 18 months, the use of services offered by The Reach Trust on Mxit has been stable and in many cases show an upward trend,” Swart said in the statement.
Mxit’s fall as a commercial service has come amid intense competition from international offerings such as WhatsApp and Facebook.
WhatsApp has over 10 million users in South Africa while Facebook has 13 million users in the country, according to recent research from World Wide Worx and Fuseware.
“We’ve seen the last throw of the Mxit dice,” Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, told Fin24 on Friday.
“The social platform that introduced South Africans to instant messaging has seen a precipitous drop at a time when most other networks have climbed,” he added.
Goldstuck further told Fin24 that Mxit’s fall in user numbers started with the emergence of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) about five years ago.
Ex-Mxit staff react
Mxit CEO Francois Swart was not available for comment on Friday but one former staff member at the company has expressed his view on the social network’s announcement.
“We were incredibly passionate about what we were doing and what Mxit meant to millions of South Africans over the years. It’s hard not to see the final shut down as a personal failure and I know many of my former colleagues feel the same way,” David Luis, former head of internal communications at Mxit, told Fin24.
He said that the company believed it was prepared for the arrival of smartphone technology.
“We were never unaware of the threat of smartphones, but I personally believe that we were totally unprepared for how soon a cheap smartphone like the (MTN) Steppa would arrive, and the degree to which it would take over the feature phone market.
“The success of those cheap smartphones I believe put Mxit – sitting without a decent version for smartphones – on a downward spiral that was impossible to come back from, despite the massive effort of the team.”
The Reach Trust, though, has expressed how it is looking forward to using Mxit’s technology with a number of education projects planned in South Africa over the next year.
More than 500 000 learners access educational apps on the platform every month, according to Mxit’s statement.
“With the power of mobile technology in the hands of almost everyone in the country, we believe that it is critical to extend and expand the access to mobile content and services to accelerate social and economic change,” said Andrew
Rudge, CEO of The Reach Trust, in a statement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.