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BBM Stickathon winner ‘more than just stickas’

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Last year, South Africans chose a range of new BBM ’stickas’ from Wesley van Eeden that most represent the South African culture and experience. They are now available from the BBM Shop for all major mobile operating systems.

South Africa has voted and chosen the ‘sticka’ ranges (chat icons) that most represent South African culture and experiences.  The winning designs created by Wesley van Eeden, among other entries, will be available for download from the BBM Shop on Android, iOS, BlackBerry or Windows Phones.

Wesley said that his designs represented his unique view of South Africa, captured on the BBM platform.

“I am inspired by African culture,” he said. “I love the organic, hand painted signage that you see around most CBD’s in South Africa and it’s this freshness that inspires my illustration technique.”

He said that illustration was traditionally used in a very one-dimensional way in elements like posters, logos and advertisements, meaning that the viewer could only interact with the illustrations by sight.

“Now, with these BBM Stickas, they use illustration in a way that empowers the users to be expressive in useful daily interactions,” he said. “To know that my stickas will help South Africans communicate is a very cool feeling.”

Matthew Talbot, BBM senior vice president, said: “BlackBerry has invested heavily into the South African market, not just as a technology brand, but in understanding the vibrant cultural tapestry of the local market to inspire a level of creativity that can enhance users’ experiences. We are in the business of creativity, and our ability to continue to push creative boundaries through a competition like the BBM Stickathon ensures our relevance as a brand.”

“I think the overall level of entries was very high,” said Industrial Designer and BBM Stickathon judge, Bradley Kirshenbaum of Love Jozi. “It’s amazing how South African culture can translate so perfectly into this new genre of iconography design. Stickas are not logos; they’re not illustrations; they’re a modern graphic communication tool and it’s exciting and challenging to design them.”

Kirshenbaum said he was most impressed by the fact that the designers really understood how to create a series of icons, as opposed to lone icons: “Some are less original than others, but there is a definite common thread running through them showing a strong South African visual language.”

Van Eeden wins an Apple iMac 21.5” as first prize, along with a Wacom Intuos Pro Medium drawing tablet, which he says he will put to good use as his current equipment is old.  Other prizes include a MacBook Pro and several Wacom drawing tablets.

View the locally-inspired BBM Stickathon entries at www.bbmstickathon.co.za.

 

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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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