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MWC: Software SIM to cut roaming cost and complexity

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KnowRoaming is best known for a sticker that goes onto SIM cards to enable low-cost roaming, but now it has come up with a software solution.

Roaming solutions provider KnowRoaming has launched an entirely virtual, hardware-free SIM, complete with custom management tools and a global roaming network, at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week.

“The KnowRoaming Soft SIM Platform is the first truly end-to-end, turn-key solution of its kind,” said Gregory Gundelfinger, KnowRoaming CEO. “The Platform offers the complete package, from delivery, to management, to global network connectivity.”

KnowRoaming has partnered with TCL Communication, manufacturers of Alcatel handsets,  for the launch of this platform in the company’s handsets – starting with the China market before launching in the US and other global markets. Its portfolio of products is currently sold in over 170 countries globally under the ALcatel and and TCL brands. Globally, it reported cumulative sales of handsets and other products of more than 83 million units in 2015, whiole Alcatel is the fourth largest mobile handset manufacturer in North America.

With the technology integrated in selected handsets, users can automatically connect to networks in foreign countries, monitoring their account usage in real-time through the dedicated app, all while benefiting from low data roaming rates and a seamless device- integrated experience.

The end users access roaming rates up to 85% lower than their carriers’ in 200+ countries thanks to KnowRoaming’s commercial agreements with networks worldwide. KnowRoaming operates the global Multi-IMSI network that provides the data, voice and SMS services. The network selection, call routing and billing are all handled by KnowRoaming infrastructure.

“Our Soft SIM Platform is designed for easy implementation with different baseband chipsets, purposefully created to be a quick, drop-in integration,” said Dominik Swierad, KnowRoaming COO. “The Platform offers full control and dynamic provisioning, custom- designed for Multi-IMSI roaming connectivity.”

KnowRoaming first entered the consumer market in 2013 with the launch of the Global SIM Sticker. The Sticker attaches to a customer’s existing SIM card and remains dormant while at home. When the customer travels, the Sticker automatically connects to local networks for significant savings. Since the launch of this product, KnowRoaming has continued to focus on developing innovative new technologies to better connect devices across borders.

“The Soft SIM Platform is a natural evolution for KnowRoaming. First, we took the standard SIM technology and created the ultra-thin SIM Sticker. Next, we removed the hardware component completely,” said Gundelfinger. “With the flexible delivery mechanisms, the operation of a mobile network, and commercial agreements with networks worldwide, KnowRoaming has a unique vertically integrated solution and the applications are seemingly endless. We’re a one-stop shop for global connectivity.”

* For more information, visit www.knowroaming.com.

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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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