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FNB unveils 2nd gen smartphones

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First National Bank has unveiled the next generation of its branded smartphones, the ConeXis A2 and the flagship ConeXis X2.

The bank also announced new data and voice packages, including the FNB Connect Ultimate Voice package as well as a Double Your Data promotional deal on once-off data bundles.

“It’s been over two years since the launch of FNB Connect and roughly a year since FNB became the first bank in Africa to launch its own branded smartphones,” says Dr Christoph Nieuwoudt, CEO of FNB Consumer Segment. “We are enabling digital migration at an affordable cost to emphasise our focus on customer centricity.”

Len Pienaar, CEO of FNB Connect, says: “Listening to customer needs helps us to provide a meaningful experience. The next generation of FNB ConeXis smartphones provides a premium experience at an affordable cost, and our competitive deals offer inclusive value for our Retail banking customers. More importantly, the integration of Connect into FNB’s banking platforms helps customers to exercise full control over their telco-spend and could potentially get the respective smartphones for free if they are on eBucks reward level 5.”

The flagship FNB ConeXis X2 has a sleek design, metallic finish, 32GB storage capacity, multifunctional fingerprint reader and enhanced dual rear camera capabilities with 3D photo shooting. The X2 is enabled with Tap & Pay functionality using Near Field Communication (NFC) and has a pre-installed FNB widget that allows instant message viewing, viewing of Connect subscription usage balances and access to perform a quick recharge should the need arise.

The A2 also has a metallic finish with a 4.5 inch display and 8GB memory powered by an improved 2000 mAh battery. Both devices are preloaded with FNB’s zero-rated banking App and calls from Connect SIM subscribers to the FNB contact centre are free, thus providing means to bank anywhere and at any time.

The FNB Connect Ultimate package announced at the same time as the smartphones, allows subscribers to make calls to any network for R399 with 4 000 voice minutes.

FNB Connect subscribers will also enjoy a Double Your Data offer for any once-off data bundle purchase for the ConeXis A2 or X2 respectively.

Dr Nieuwoudt says their latest move signals ambitious long-term plans to make Connect a telco provider of choice for FNB customers. “The seamless integration of Connect into our banking platforms provides a unique proposition for our customers. Banking and telco services have long become part of every customer’s life and we are committed to enabling customers to extract maximum value.”

FNB Connect has sold 487 000 smart devices as well as 75 000 ConeXis A1 and X1 smartphones.

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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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