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Special edition S7 does justice to Batman

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In the week that Samsung unveils the next generation of its market-leading Note phablet, another of its smart devices is turning heads. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK gets up close and personal with the ultimate limited edition phone, the Galaxy S7 edge Injustice Edition.

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The Samsung Galaxy S7 edge was always going to be 2016’s last word in smartphone style. A year before, the S6 edge had been the most dramatic departure from standard smartphone formats in years.

The S7 maintained the curved edges, while adding to the screen size, RAM and battery size. Going from a 5.1” to 5.5” display was almost less significant than going from 3GB to 4GB RAM and from a 2600 mAh to 3600 mAh battery. But it mattered in a world in which looks can kill market share. The S7 lorded it over the main competitor, the iPhone 6s Plus, with the latter’s 5.5” display in a flat and – dare we say it of Apple – “traditional” screen format.

As Apple prepares to rejoin the battle with an iPhone 7, set for release next month, Samsung has just raised the stakes. The release in South Africa last week of the Galaxy S7 edge Injustice Edition is not only a dramatic style statement, but also evidence that a smartphone truly can be a thing of beauty.

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The unboxing experience is a rare example of a device’s industrial design being aligned with package design and the thematic concept behind the device. The square black box unravels like a mystery unfolding (see http://www.samsung.com/global/galaxy/events/injustice to see what emerges), revealing the main attraction: a deep black version of the S7 edge with gold inlays, a gold Batman logo carved into the back of the phone, and an adapted version of the phone’s interface with icons in deep gold on black backgrounds, a Batman-themed wallpaper set with several iconic images for different interfaces, and a cool Batman-inspired dialling interface.

The box includes a black Injustice edition of the Gear VR headset, along with Injustice game credits and Oculus VR content vouchers. This delightful package ostensibly celebrates the third anniversary of the Injustice: Gods Among Us mobile game, but is really a tribute to the Batman legend. In this sense, it is the Batman fan’s dream phone, but it is also arguably the most beautiful phone ever to go into general production.

“A lot of work has gone into this product and it has been carefully crafted and designed in terms of its size, colour and texture,” says Craige Fleischer, Director of Integrated Mobility at Samsung Electronics South Africa. “Ultimately, we hope more people will come to appreciate the Samsung and Galaxy brand through our fresh approach to a well-known product and via this special edition’s emotional appeal.”

One of the most striking aspects of the phone, its rich black body, turns out to have been carefully thought through not only as a design element, but also as a metaphor.

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“Samsung aimed to find a unique black hue for the Injustice Edition,” according to an explanation provided by the manufacturer. “Black encompasses the whole body, including the metal frame, unlike the standard Black Onyx version of the S7 edge. This matt-finish black represents Batman’s suit. Gold, on the other hand, was applied on the logo, edge of the home button and rear camera to make these stand out. A number of image samples were examined for the Batman logo on the back, with consideration given to size and dimension.”

Even the special edition’s Gear VR and phone case that comes in the box were part of this metaphor:

“The phone case is a reinterpretation of Batman’s suit and an effort was made to visualise this in a metaphorical sense, rather than make it too obvious. We chose a material that is both comfortable to grip and durable, but that also maximises the matt texture. The case needed to combine great aesthetics and optimum protection.”

While the overall package and design makes a powerful impact, it is the finer touches that count. For example, the Apps icon, behind which users can find their non-Samsung apps, is a stylised version of the Batman mask, in gold against a grey background.

The one jarring experience comes when non-Samsung apps are brought onto the main screens: their colours clash violently with the gold, grey and black colour scheme that helps give the phone such style. There is a solution, however: when apps are grouped together into folders on the home screens, the folders themselves adopt the gold-and-black look, and don’t look out of place.

Normally, the practical and pragmatic approach would be to ditch the style imperative, and simply stick WhatsApp, Gmail and the like on the home screen in all their colour-clashing glory.

This is one phone, however, where most owners will sacrifice one-click convenience, and relegate their key apps to a folder or a secondary screen. Eventually, the aesthetic impact will diminish, but it is unlikely this handset will ever be treated like just another phone.

* Only 100 sets of the Galaxy S7 edge Injustice Edition package have been brought into South Africa, at a recommended retail price of R22 999 per unit.

  •  Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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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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