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Google’s Android One smartphone launched in Nigeria

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Google has formally launched its Android One programme in Africa, releasing the Infinix HOT 2 smartphone in Nigeria, and with five other countries to follow.

Google yesterday unveiled its roadmap for the Android One programme in Africa, with the project’s first low-cost smartphone being released in Nigeria. Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco will follow soon.

Caesar Sengupta, VP of Product Management for Android, outlined the roll-out and its rationale on the Android Official Blog:

If you’re online in Nigeria, chances are you’re on a smartphone. Of the more than 50 million Nigerians who use the Internet, 95% do so on a mobile device — and thanks to those devices, the number of people across Nigeria and the rest of Africa with access has grown tremendously.

However, simply having an Internet connection isn’t enough. It’s important that people getting started with the Internet have a great, reliable, and relevant experience right away. This can be a challenge in places where local content may be limited, connectivity slow or intermittent, and quality phones costly.

While there’s still much more to do, we’re excited to take a step forward in addressing some of those challenges. Today in Lagos we’re announcing new products and features made to improve people’s experience when using a mobile phone to access the Internet.

First, the Android One program is expanding to Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Egypt, and Morocco with the launch of the Infinix HOT 2. This is the first Android One device made with our hardware partner Infinix, one of the hottest, fastest growing smartphone brands in Africa. Starting today, the HOT 2 is available in Nigeria at select retail outlets and online through Jumia at a recommended retail price of N17,500* (~88 USD), and it will become available in the other countries over the next few weeks.

Like all Android One phones, the HOT 2 combines a high-quality hardware experience with pure Android software. Bringing together a quad-core MediaTek processor with 1GB memory, dual SIM support, and black, white, red, blue, and gold (with 2GB memory) models, the hardware is a great complement to Lollipop 5.1.1, which provides up to 2x better performance and extended battery features. The Android One HOT 2 will also receive an update to the next version of Android (according to Infinix’s schedule), and thus stays fast and responsive over time.

Second, for people who already own a smartphone, we’re helping them get more for their MBs through a streamlined version of Google Search rolling out to devices worldwide and offering a faster experience on low RAM phones, such as those with 512MB. This feature can reduce data usage on the results page by up to 90%, while removing up to ⅓ of the time it takes to load results.

Finally, we will make the YouTube viewing experience even better by extending YouTube offline to Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, and Egypt within the next few months. This feature of the YouTube app lets you store many of the videos on YouTube for up to 48 hours, so you can watch them later when your connection may be slow — or non-existent. And if you want to quickly re-watch a video with friends without waiting for it to load, that works great too.

Nearly one year ago, Google introduced the Android One program and YouTube Offline in India. Today, 6 countries in Africa — with combined populations of 379 million people — join the list of places where Android One phones are sold. We’ve been thrilled by the progress and feel humbled by the work that’s left to do. But we look forward to continuing our work with partners to ensure that people have a great way to access the Internet, using it in ways that are relevant and useful.

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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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