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Mario Kart makes the Switch

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Get ready to put your foot down as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches for the Nintendo Switch across Europe and South Africa later this week.

Start your engines, put the pedal to the metal, and get ready for the kind of thrilling racing action that only Mario Kart can provide, as Mario Kart 8 Deluxe launches across Europe and South Africa this Friday for Nintendo Switch. Whether racing with family on the TV in the living room, playing a quick race in the park with friends, or visiting a friend’s place and playing online together, Nintendo Switch lets players enjoy Mario Kart in more ways than ever before.

People of all ages can play Mario Kart 8 Deluxe together, with several play styles to accommodate all experience levels. With the new, optional, Smart Steering feature, players can focus on enjoying the action and not worry about driving off-course, keeping the action enjoyable for everyone. Motion controls can also be enjoyed via the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con Wheel, available in pairs and releasing across Europe on Friday.

In Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, familiar and fan-favourite Nintendo characters including Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Link from The Legend of Zelda, and the newly-included Inkling Boy and Inkling Girl from the Splatoon series, and compete across 48 race tracks inspired by familiar Nintendo franchises, from the Super Mario series to Animal Crossing, and even the world of Hyrule in a track inspired by The Legend of Zelda. Some of these circuits will be familiar to veterans, as racers can experience blasts from the past with revived and updated classic circuits from previous titles, including Mario Kart 64, Mario Kart DS, and Mario Kart Wii.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe will allow players to compete in frantic multiplayer races anytime, anywhere, and with anyone they choose. By handing one of the two Joy-Con controllers included with the Nintendo Switch console to an opponent and competing on the console’s built-in screen, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe’s multiple game modes can take place wherever players choose. Whether it’s played in tabletop mode while waiting for food at a restaurant, in handheld mode in the back of a car, or in TV mode at a party, there are plenty of ways for budding racers and veteran battlers to get stuck into wheel-to-wheel action.

As well as local and online multiplayer racing, players can also enjoy the new and revamped Battle Mode. Players will battle it out in one of eight dedicated arenas, including returning courses from titles such as Mario Kart 7, and engage in game modes returning from Mario Kart Double Dash!! and Mario Kart Wii, such as Bob-omb Blast and Shine Thief, alongside the classic Balloon Battle, and the brand new cops and robbers-style mode known as Renegade Roundup. Players can also make use of the returning Feather item to jump over obstacles in Battle Mode, the Boo to steal items from others, and can once again carry two items at once for more strategic battling and racing.

Joining a strong line-up of Nintendo Switch titles including Snipperclips – Cut it out, together!, 1-2-Switch, and  The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which has received more perfect scores than any game in Metacritic history*, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe has already received acclaim with critics:

  • Metacritic 94%
  • Forbes 100%

Alongside 48 circuits, local and online multiplayer racing and the new battle mode, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe also features five speed classes to choose from, including the super-fast thrill-ride of 200cc mode, plus a wide range of amiibo compatibility. The multiplayer action can be enjoyed in a variety of different ways on Nintendo Switch consoles, with four different methods available to play with friends.

  • Up to four friends can play on a single Nintendo Switch console in TV mode, or in tabletop mode by using the stand at the back of the console and placing it on a flat surface
  • Online multiplayer allows for up to two local racers to get involved in 12-player races with others around the world**
  • Through Local Wireless Play, multiple Nintendo Switch consoles can be connected to each other, allowing up to eight people to play together in the same room
  • Up to 12 consoles in TV mode can be connected via LAN Play***, with one or two players per connected Nintendo Switch for a maximum of 12 players

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, the biggest, most accessible and versatile Mario Kart game yet hits the starting grid this Friday, 28th  April on Nintendo Switch.

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When will we stop calling them phones?

If you don’t remember when phones were only used to talk to people, you may wonder why we still use this term for handsets, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, on the eve of the 10th birthday of the app.

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Do you remember when handsets were called phones because, well, we used them to phone people?

It took 120 years from the invention of the telephone to the use of phones to send text.

Between Alexander Graham Bell coining the term “telephone” in 1876 and Finland’s two main mobile operators allowing SMS messages between consumers in 1995, only science fiction writers and movie-makers imagined instant communication evolving much beyond voice. Even when BlackBerry shook the business world with email on a phone at the end of the last century, most consumers were adamant they would stick to voice.

It’s hard to imagine today that the smartphone as we know it has been with us for less than 10 years. Apple introduced the iPhone, the world’s first mass-market touchscreen phone, in June 2007, but it is arguable that it was the advent of the app store in July the following year that changed our relationship with phones forever.

That was the moment when the revolution in our hands truly began, when it became possible for a “phone” to carry any service that had previously existed on the World Wide Web.

Today, most activity carried out by most people on their mobile devices would probably follow the order of social media in first place – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all jostling for attention – and  instant messaging in close second, thanks to WhatsApp, Messenger, SnapChat and the like. Phone calls – using voice that is – probably don’t even take third place, but play fourth or fifth fiddle to mapping and navigation, driven by Google Maps and Waze, and transport, thanks to Uber, Taxify, and other support services in South Africa like MyCiti,  Admyt and Kaching.

Despite the high cost of data, free public Wi-Fi is also seeing an explosion in use of streaming video – whether Youtube, Netflix, Showmax, or GETblack – and streaming music, particularly with the arrival of Spotify to compete with Simfy Africa.

Who has time for phone calls?

The changing of the phone guard in South Africa was officially signaled last week with the announcement of Vodacom’s annual results. Voice revenue for the 2018 financial year ending 31 March had fallen by 4.6%, to make up 40.6% of Vodacom’s revenue. Total revenue had grown by 8.1%, which meant voice seriously underperformed the group, and had fallen by 4% as a share of revenue, from 2017’s 44.6%.

The reason? Data had not only outperformed the group, increasing revenue by 12.8%, but it had also risen from 39.7% to 42.8% of group revenue,

This means that data has not only outperformed voice for the first time – as had been predicted by World Wide Worx a year ago – but it has also become Vodacom’s biggest contributor to revenue.

That scenario is being played out across all mobile network operators. In the same way, instant messaging began destroying SMS revenues as far back as five years ago – to the extent that SMS barely gets a mention in annual reports.

Data overtaking voice revenues signals the demise of voice as the main service and key selling point of mobile network operators. It also points to mobile phones – let’s call them handsets – shifting their primary focus. Voice quality will remain important, but now more a subset of audio quality rather than of connectivity. Sound quality will become a major differentiator as these devices become primary platforms for movies and music.

Contact management, privacy and security will become critical features as the handset becomes the storage device for one’s entire personal life.

Integration with accessories like smartwatches and activity monitors, earphones and earbuds, virtual home assistants and virtual car assistants, will become central to the functionality of these devices. Why? Because the handsets will control everything else? Hardly.

More likely, these gadgets will become an extension of who we are, what we do and where we are. As a result, they must be context aware, and also context compatible. This means they must hand over appropriate functions to appropriate devices at the appropriate time. 

I need to communicate only using my earpiece? The handset must make it so. I have to use gesture control, and therefore some kind of sensor placed on my glasses, collar or wrist? The handset must instantly surrender its centrality.

There are numerous other scenarios and technology examples, many out of the pages of science fiction, that point to the changing role of the “phone”. The one thing that’s obvious is that it will be silly to call it a phone for much longer.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee and on YouTube
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MTN 5G test gets 520Mbps

MTN and Huawei have launched Africa’s first 5G field trial with an end-to-end Huawei 5G solution.

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The field trial demonstrated a 5G Fixed-Wireless Access (FWA) use case with Huawei’s 5G 28GHz mmWave Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) in a real-world environment in Hatfield Pretoria, South Africa. Speeds of 520Mbps downlink and 77Mbps uplink were attained throughout respectively.

“These 5G trials provide us with an opportunity to future proof our network and prepare it for the evolution of these new generation networks. We have gleaned invaluable insights about the modifications that we need to do on our core, radio and transmission network from these pilots. It is important to note that the transition to 5G is not just a flick of a switch, but it’s a roadmap that requires technical modifications and network architecture changes to ensure that we meet the standards that this technology requires. We are pleased that we are laying the groundwork that will lead to the full realisation of the boundless opportunities that are inherent in the digital world.” says Babak Fouladi, Group Chief Technology & Information Systems Officer, at MTN Group.

Giovanni Chiarelli, Chief Technology and Information Officer for MTN SA said: “Next generation services such as virtual and augmented reality, ultra-high definition video streaming, and cloud gaming require massive capacity and higher user data rates. The use of millimeter-wave spectrum bands is one of the key 5G enabling technologies to deliver the required capacity and massive data rates required for 5G’s Enhanced Mobile Broadband use cases. MTN and Huawei’s joint field trial of the first 5G mmWave Fixed-Wireless Access solution in Africa will also pave the way for a fixed-wireless access solution that is capable of replacing conventional fixed access technologies, such as fibre.”

“Huawei is continuing to invest heavily in innovative 5G technologies”, said Edward Deng, President of Wireless Network Product Line of Huawei. “5G mmWave technology can achieve unprecedented fiber-like speed for mobile broadband access. This trial has shown the capabilities of 5G technology to deliver exceptional user experience for Enhanced Mobile Broadband applications. With customer-centric innovation in mind, Huawei will continue to partner with MTN to deliver best-in-class advanced wireless solutions.”

“We are excited about the potential the technology will bring as well as the potential advancements we will see in the fields of medicine, entertainment and education. MTN has been investing heavily to further improve our network, with the recent “Best in Test” and MyBroadband best network recognition affirming this. With our focus on providing the South Africans with the best customer experience, speedy allocation of spectrum can help bring more of these technologies to our customers,” says Giovanni.

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