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AppDate: Standard Bank ups the banking app ante

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In this AppDate, SEAN BACHER highlights the new Standard Bank app, Jongla messaging, TaxTim,  MiBlackBox personal assistant and the opening of the MTN Business SA App of the Year Awards.

Standard Bank smartphone app

The latest release to Standard Bank’s smartphone app enables customers to make international payments to individual recipients in almost 200 countries. It also now offers the ability for customers to adjust their daily and monthly ATM limits, as well as request vehicle finance letters. Another significant update is the built-in architectural changes necessary to roll out the app into various other regions in which the Standard Bank Group operates. Standard bank customers can also stop their cards if they get lost and can open up new saving or investment accounts.

Platform: Android, iOS and Windows Phone

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

Jongla messaging

Jongla is similar to WhatsApp and other IM apps in a number of ways – most importantly, users sign up using their existing mobile numbers and the messaging app can be used across most major platforms. Jongla differs from other apps in that it has been specifically developed for people living and working in Africa – and other emerging markets where data costs are high and coverage is unreliable. The app uses only 3.4MB to download on Android phones compared to WhatsApp (23.7MB) or Facebook Messenger (30.2MB). Once downloaded, Jongla uses just 10% of the handset’s memory and its data compression techniques mean it does not consume as much mobile data as other messaging apps.

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone and most modern Internet browsers

Expect to pay: A free download

Stockists: Visit the store linked to your device.

 

TaxTim

TaxTim is an interactive tax return assistant that is designed to help individual taxpayers with their tax returns. It is well laid out, making it user-friendly. It is fully integrated into SARS eFiling, meaning that, once authorised, the app can import the user’s IRP5 data for easy completion and submit the completed return directly to SARS. TaxTim has three tax return options, Lite, Smart and Ultra, to accommodate most earners, from those with a basic salary, to freelancers, commission earners, independent contractors and sole proprietors.

Platform: Any device with an up-to-date Internet browser.

Expect to pay: A free service.

Stockists: Visit www.taxtim.com

 

MiBlackBox personal assistant

MiBlackBox is a personal, virtual witness service that allows one to better communicate with loved ones or emergency services in times of need. The app lets users record calls, pictures and videos at the push of a button, subsequently relaying that information and encrypting it to a secured remote server, while also notifying an elected emergency contact or emergency services directly. MiBlackBox can also be used in cases of bullying, domestic violence, date rape, corruption or fraud, traffic officer and police interactions, road block scenarios, and even in accidents for insurance purposes. It also offers alternate methods to access the secured information, all of which is encrypted, time- and date-stamped.

Platform: Android, iOS or an up-to-date Internet browser

Expect to pay: R12 per month

Stockists: Visit www.miblackbox.co.za

 

MTN Business SA App of the Year Awards 2016

Entries for the MTN Business SA App of the Year Awards 2016 are now open. The App of the Year Awards is a springboard for creative developers and their solutions. Previous winners of the awards have gone on to launch their apps internationally, many of which have been acquired by corporates. Previous winners and category winners include SnapScan, Wumdrop, FNB Banking, Money4Jam, Zapper, Vula Mobile, and PriceCheck.

Visit www.appoftheyear.co.za for more information.

* Sean Bacher is editor of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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