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Sheep game takes SA app honours

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Now South African phone users can do more with sheep than just braai, after local developer Justin Southey’s ‚The Most Addicting Sheep Game‚ grabbed the honours in Microsoft’s Windows Phone Application Development competition.

Southey walked away with a cool R50 000 for his game, which features sheep noises sourced at grass-roots level, as it were, on a family farm in the Karoo.

‚The Most Addicting Sheep Game‚ has become one of the many money earners on Marketplace in South Africa with 450 downloads so far and these are not limited to SA users, with many downloading from as far away as Germany and the US.

Other apps to feature strongly in the competition included a News24 app, which was a firm favourite for the business user. Judges liked its fresh interface, specifically designed for Windows Phone devices, and the fact that it allows users to easily access the latest news, sport, finance and lifestyle content from the sections screen and shows up-to-the-minute articles from 24.com’s most popular brands.

Another favourite was Torchbear, a social media information sharing tool that is represented by a ‚passing of the torch‚ . Users can tell where the torch has travelled and how many people have passed it as well as to where. Also featuring strongly was Mosaic, which allows users to build mosaics using the pictures on their phone.

Southey initially designed ‚The Most Addicting Sheep Game‚ for Xbox Indie using tutorials online and sold almost 10 000 copies of the game within its first year of release. When he heard about the Windows Phone App competition, he decided to reconfigure it for Windows Phone.

‚It took quite a lot of redesigning to make the game look and feel at home on a touch screen, but the response has been so worth it and the developer tools that are easily available online are fantastically user friendly, which made the journey a simple one,‚ he said.

Microsoft’s Suliman Noor-Mohamed says the competition was launched to highlight both the new Windows Phone operating system and to drive the development of local applications for Microsoft’s Marketplace in South Africa. The competition ran between November and December 2011 and has been a huge success, with around 70 new, homegrown applications now available to all Windows Phone fans.

‚The Most Addicting Sheep Game‚ was a favourite among the judges for a variety of reasons,‚ says Noor-Mahomed. ‚Not only is it incredibly addictive but it is also a quality app, with the design, structure, multi-gestures, movement and sound all being seamlessly integrated.‚

Clifford de Wit, developer and platform lead at Microsoft SA, says the biggest thing to come from this exercise is the proof that the South African developer market is actually far larger than people realise and says this competition marks the start of a focused drive to highlight the talent inherent to this country.

‚The talent that lies within our borders is astronomical and we really can’t wait to see how local developers take advantage of a new platform, namely Windows Phone, especially now that Nokia has announced the Lumia. And Microsoft will be right there throughout, helping to market highlighted apps through various channels going forward.‚

For his part in this, Southey now considers himself a Windows Phone evangelist due to the completeness of the toolset, code library support as well as the active and supportive local technical community. His new startup has already developed a new game, called BugZap, and he is seriously considering becoming a full time developer. Readers are urged to watch this space.

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Google Home and Amazon Echo come to South Africa

The devices are directly imported from the USA by Cellucity, but are ICASA-approved and carry a local warranty

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The Cellucity retail chain has announced that it will bring a wide range of Google and Amazon gadgets into South Africa for the festive season. It will be launching the Google home range of smart speakers, as well as Google’s Chromecast smart TV device and a range of Amazon products.

The company said in a statement: “Smart home speakers are all the rage right now – not only fun and entertaining; they are also useful at helping you plan your day. Set the alarm – no problem, check the weather – no problem. Check the traffic; yes, you probably guessed it – no problem! And, with the festive period around the corner, they make the ideal gift whether you are tech-savvy or a newbie to the world of IoT.

“We are not ones to shy away from trends and are excited to be able to offer a range of smart speakers. For our Google lovers, we are happy to be launching the Google Home range.”

The Google Home Mini is a stylish compact speaker with all the functionality of Google Assistant. Users can ask it questions or give it commands, hands-free. Although the Google Mini offers exceptional clarity of sound, those looking for a bit of oomph will probably look to the Google Home Assistant Smart Speaker. As with the Google Mini, the Google Home offers Google Assistant but offers enhanced sound, bass and far-field voice recognition.

“If you are looking for more than just a smart speaker, check out the Smart Home Hub,” advises Cellucity. “With all the functionality of the Google Smart Mini and Home, the Home Hub doubles as a digital photo frame and offers the advantage of video playback. 

The following Google Home products can be purchased either upfront or added on to selected Vodacom contracts at Cellucity:

  • Google Home Mini at R899, or from R40 per month as an add-on to selected Vodacom contract packages.
  • Google Home Smart at R2499
  • Google Home Hub from R2499, or R90 per month as an add-on to selected Vodacom contract packages.

For TV viewers, Cellucity has launched Google Chromecast, which connects to any smart TV. It’s compact and mobile so can br taken with on holiday. The Chromecast, which is ideal for bringing Netflix or Showmax to a smart TV, will be available from R849.

For those looking to Amazon products, Cellucity is launching the Amazon Echo speakers 2nd and 3rd Gen at R999 and R1499 respectively. It is also offering the Amazon Firestick 4K, allowing users to stream shows and content in 4K. The Firestick will be available from R1299.

 All the Google Home and Amazon products are easy to pair with both Android and iOS. 

It is important to note that all features may not yet be available in South Africa, particularly with Amazon products, but Cellucity says it is working on it. The devices have been imported directly from the USA, but have been ICASA approved and will carry a local warranty. 

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Fitbit Pay moves into 7 transit systems globally

Wristband’s payments will now be accepted in New York, Chicago, Singapore, Sydney, and Taiwan.

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Fitbit has announced that Fitbit Pay is available for consumers to use at seven major transit systems around the world.

Fitbit also announced it will be part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) One Metro New York (OMNY) contactless fare payment pilot program. Any user in New York with Fitbit Charge 3 Special Edition, Fitbit Versa Special Edition and Fitbit Ionic devices will be able to securely and easily tap and pay-per-ride directly from their wrist on select MTA busses and subway lines, providing the convenience to keep their smartphones and wallets tucked away.

Starting May 31, Fitbit users with Fitbit Pay-enabled smartwatches and trackers can tap and pay to board all Staten Island buses, and all stops on the 4, 5 and 6 subway lines between Grand Central and Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center. This pilot program marks the beginning of a long-term relationship with the MTA, with plans to extend the organization’s OMNY program to the entire subway and bus system by 2021.

“We’re excited to work with Fitbit and others to help us provide added value and everyday convenience to our customers,” said Al Putre, OMNY Executive Director at the MTA. “We are always looking for ways to enhance the transit experience and help New Yorkers and visitors alike get to their destination faster and make payment more convenient, and now they can do so with any Fitbit wearable that supports Fitbit Pay with a simple tap of the wrist.”

In addition to bringing Fitbit Pay to one of the largest and busiest public transit systems in the world with the MTA, Fitbit continues to expand its global transit system capabilities to serve commuters and travelers from all over. Fitbit Pay can now be used across seven open and closed loop transit systems, including Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Singapore Land Transport Authority (LTA), Sydney transport for New South Wales (NSW) train, ferry and light rail services, Taiwan iPASS, TransLink in Vancouver and Transport for London (TfL), with plans to bring Fitbit Pay to more global transit systems in the future.

“In addition to helping our users get healthier and more active, we’re committed to delivering holistic experiences on our trackers and smartwatches that help keep our 27 million active users engaged,” said James Park, CEO and co-founder of Fitbit. “As we expand the use of Fitbit Pay to work with the MTA and other major transit systems around the globe, we are enabling our on-the-go customers to safely and easily pay for transit with devices that are broadly compatible and have long battery life – all making it easier to go about their day.”

In less than two years, Fitbit Pay is now available in 42 countries and supported by more than 300 of the world’s leading banks and credit unions through American Express,1Mastercard and Visa networks. Through a few quick and easy steps, Fitbit users can add up to six credit or debit cards to their Fitbit Wallet in the Fitbit app on Android or iOS mobile devices. Using the NFC chip built-into select Fitbit smartwatches and trackers, Fitbit Pay users can easily pay for items at millions of stores worldwide wherever contactless payments are accepted.

All Fitbit Pay transactions use an industry standard tokenization platform, ensuring users’ card information is never revealed or shared with merchants or Fitbit. For added security, a protected PIN is chosen by the user during device set-up. Users are also covered by their bank’s fraud protection and continue to enjoy the advantages conferred by their bank or credit card, including guarantees, insurance coverage, points and miles, without having to take out their wallets. For more information about Fitbit Pay, supported banks and transit systems, visit Fitbit.com/Fitbit-Pay.

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