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Nedbank to offer Mara phones to customers

Nedbank has partnered with Mara Phones to offer South African-made smartphones to its clients, along with finance options.

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Nedbank says it has partnered with Mara Phones to offer its South African-made Android smartphones to the bank’s clients, via flexible financing options. Pricing has not yet been announced, but the devices will be preloaded with the Nedbank Money App, suggesting that they will be heavily subsidised in order to drive app usage. Nedbank has apparently purchased several thousand of the handsets.

Mara Phones, a division of the Mara Corporation, recently launched what it claimed to be the first African-based smartphone-manufacturing factory in Kigali. President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the second factory in Durban on 17 October 2019. Each factory has a capacity to produce a few million smartphones units per year.

Ahuti Chug, chair of Mara Phones, said: “Our aim is to increase smartphone penetration on the continent by providing problem-solving, tailored solutions to for our customers and partners. This partnership strengthens our vision to change the narrative by demonstrating that Africans can produce high quality tech products. 

“The importance of quality and affordable smartphones cannot be overstated as they enable connectivity and efficiency.  It is part of Mara Phones vision and strategy to partner with financial institutions to offer solutions to consumers.” 

According to Ciko Thomas, Group Managing Executive for Nedbank Retail and Business Banking, the partnership resulted from Nedbank’s recognition of the close alignment of the Mara Phones philosophy with Nedbank’s purpose to use its financial expertise to do good. 

“Like Nedbank, Mara Phones is committed to leveraging technology to enable financial inclusion and enhanced education, healthcare and agriculture outcomes in South Africa and across Africa,” he says, “Through this transaction, the ability of both organisations to deliver on this vision will be significantly enhanced.”

The full details of Nedbank’s Mara Phones offer are still under wraps, but Thomas said the Nedbank offer would be a pre-packaged, high-value proposition, with the smartphones preloaded with the Nedbank Money App, and delivered via flexible finance options that make it easy for clients to pay for their devices.

Thomas says that Nedbank offer is unlikely to be network-specific. 

“We believe our clients should be able to use the mobile network of their own choosing, so we will be offering some, or all, of our Nedbank-bundled, dual-SIM Mara Phones devices without SIM cards, allowing the new phone owners to use prepaid voice and data packages from any cellular service provider.”

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Huawei Watch GT 2: A premium smartwatch for fitness

The Huawei Watch GT 2 is one of the best looking smartwatches on the market, and comes with impressive fitness tracking features. BRYAN TURNER tried it out

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One of the most beautiful smartwatches yet has entered the arena: the Huawei Watch GT 2. It features a vibrant and sharp AMOLED display and some of the best battery life on the market for backlit colour screen smartwatches.

We tested the Watch GT 2 for two weeks, which happens to be just the right amount of time to review this device on one charge. Its major selling point is 2 weeks battery life, and it surpassed that mark for us – although we didn’t use every single feature every single day, as Huawei suggests, for the 2-week battery life.

Out the box, the watch is presented in a premium foam housing, while the disc-shaped charger and larger straps are neatly hidden. The charger has two metal contacts that line up with the bottom of the watch, so it’s not wireless, but is still pretty sleek. The charging-disc also features a USB Type-C port, so only one cable is needed between the latest Android handsets and this watch.

When turning it on, the first striking detail of this watch is its stunning AMOLED display, which is super bright – making it ideal for outdoor runs in full sun. 

The display is also pretty big, at 46mm at 454×454 pixels, while not feeling like a bulky display on one’s wrist. The bezel doesn’t rotate, but at least it looks good and doesn’t get in the way of operating the watch.

Two buttons on the right side of the watch work in-tandem with taps and swipes. It does take some getting used to, because the top button is supposed to be a back button but sometimes takes the user completely out of the app. The bottom button is customisable but launches workout mode by default.

The device pairs with the Huawei Health app, which is available on both Android and iOS. The setup process is far easier on Android than iOS. On a non-Huawei Android phone, one must download Huawei Health and also get Huawei Mobile Services (HMS). On iOS, only Huawei Health is required, but not without head-scratching as to why it won’t pair on the first few attempts.

Once it’s paired, it’s smooth sailing. It makes use of Bluetooth 5.1, which keeps the watch connected with virtually no power consumption. This, combined with the super-efficient Kirin A1 chip, gave us over 2 weeks of battery life with regular use – which consisted of checking the time occasionally, with a 30-minute workout a day.

The watch is packed with a bunch of sensors ideal for the fitness-minded user who wants to know as much as possible about their workout. These include an always-on heart rate sensor, gyroscope, GPS, accelerometer, and an air pressure sensor for elevation detection.

It features 16 common workout modes for tracking users, including GPS-tracked outdoor running, cycling, open water swimming, using a rowing machine and an elliptical. Although Fitbit and Apple Watch have far more workout modes built-in – like yoga or boxing – the less niche fitness user will be fine with the Watch GT 2.

One of the nicest features for runners is the music sync functionality. The watch can pair to wireless earphones, and one can go for a run without taking a smartphone along. It can also store around 500 songs. The only catch: it’s MP3s only, like it’s 2002. Huawei will likely add third-party streaming services like Deezer and Spotify to the watch, though nothing has been confirmed yet.

Answering calls on the Watch GT 2 is also now possible. While it’s useful to talk to one’s watch like James Bond when one’s phone is nowhere to be found, it’s pretty gimmicky and gets old quickly on any smartwatch.

There are some pretty limiting features for iOS users. The watch comes preloaded with 14 watch faces but, if you want more, you’ll have to pair to an Android phone – Huawei Health for iOS doesn’t do that. Pairing a headset to the device is possible, but only through an Android phone with Huawei Health. In short, iPhone users are better off sticking to Fitbit or Apple Watch.

That said, it hits the nail on the head for a beautiful fitness-style crossover.

The Huawei Watch GT 2 retails for R4,999 at Total Sports.

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Infinite Power makes USB rechargeable batteries

One of the most underrated accessories to make our gadgets work – batteries – have just gotten much cooler. BRYAN TURNER reviews a battery with a micro-USB port.

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It’s 2019 and so many accessories still take batteries. In the office, we find we need AA or AAA batteries for some of the coolest tech. The only drawback is: batteries need to be thrown away after they’re flat. Not only is it a nuisance to pick up a gadget to find its batteries are flat, but it’s pretty bad for the environment if one’s feeling lazy and throws the dead batteries in the trash.

Then there’re rechargeable batteries. I’m a huge fan of rechargeable batteries because they’re far more environmentally friendly and, after a few charges, they’re more cost effective than non-rechargeable batteries. One issue with them is: finding the charger. It’s often the case, when it comes time to charge the batteries, that the proprietary charging device is missing. Thanks to batteries lasting so long, the charger gets deeper and deeper into the back of a drawer that’s not opened.

Enter Infinite Power by Charged Power. It has created a pretty nifty rechargeable battery that has a port directly on the battery. The port is also a standard micro-USB port, which many smartphones still use. Out of the box, we got four rechargeable batteries, and a single USB-A to two micro-USB charging cable, in case one wants to charge two batteries simultaneously. We can tell that the cable is a bit too specialised and will probably get lost in a cable drawer. That said, the batteries don’t take a proprietary port, which is a huge plus.

They come in AA and AAA variants, which are 1000 mAh and 450 mAh respectively per battery. The batteries also feature a soft button, which indicate charge level. From flat, they take around 5,5 hours to charge. The last depending on the device they’re put into. Remotes may last for months, while toys that draw a lot of power may last a few days. Charged Power says the batteries last for 500 charges.

Overall, these makes for practical stocking stuffers in the festive season. For more information, visit chargedpower.co.za

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