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Social media inspires hip-hop king’s #Hashtag smartphone

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An addiction to social media inspired the smartphone branded by South Africa’s leading hip hop artist, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

In his musical career, South Africa’s king of hip hop, Cassper Nyovest, has always beaten his own path. He released his first two albums on his own label, Family Tree. They were massive hits, both reaching Platinum status by selling more than 50 000 units each.

The second of these, entitled Reflioe (his real name), went gold in a single day when he filled the Dome, a 20 000-seat venue north of Johannesburg, by including a copy of the album with every ticket bought. The launch event was part-sponsored by AG Mobile, the local smartphone brand that is also the fastest-growing in South Africa.

That sponsorship started a relationship that will culminate, in the next fortnight, with the release of the first smartphone designed by a South African artist.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“They were keen to empower us as a team,” he said before the unveiling of the phone last week. “We started a conversation around developing a phone I would help design. After a few meetings, we came up with concept of the AG #Hashtag. The reason was that I am addicted to is social media.”

Like AG in the mobile market, Cassper has one of the fastest growing followings in local social media. He has passed the half-million mark on Twitter, is followed by 766 000 people on Instagram, and is close to 2-million Facebook Likes.

His public life is lived through these outlets, which provide him both with a powerful marketing tool and a platform from which to counter media mischief.

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Nyovest with Gadget editor-in-chief Arthur Goldstuck at the launch of the AG #Hashtag

“I’ve always been a boy who messed with tech, with cellphones and video games. But I have always been addicted to social media, starting when it was just Mxit, then Facebook, then Twitter. I’ve always been that guy on social media and that’s how we built our brand. Before my music started playing on radio, I already had a big following on social media and it’s really empowered me.”

At times, it’s also attracted the wrong kind of attention when he has treated the reply window like a weapon. But he insists he has toned down.
“I’m just a very honest person and I’m opinionated but I’ve learned to grow more responsible. I came from the streets where I don’t have a boss and can say anything I want. But once I started dealing with other brands, I understood brand association. I’m more calm now and don’t share my opinion as much in public.”

The temptation is always there for artists to leverage social media as a sales platform. Cassper does it only indirectly.

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Cassper Nyovest with the AG #Hashtag smartphone

“I’m not like a guerilla marketer in terms of selling music. I don’t ask people to buy my music. I just try to put out good music and convince people to listen. I don’t like to fill up my timeline with price tags.”

The #Hashtag was designed to match the artist’s persona.

“I wanted the phone to stand out when it lies next to other phones on a table. I wanted it to be the phone you see from far. At first everyone was against it being red, but I convinced them. MTN doesn’t usually range red phones. The reason for being red was that it was inspired by one of my favourite shoes, the Nike Yeezy Red October sneakers.”

The shoes also happen to be a collaboration between a hip hop artist and a major brand, in this case Kanye West and Nike.

Cassper made three other demands: “It has to be fast because I’m a very impatient person, so the Internet also has to be fast. It should take good pics because I travel a lot and I like to capture moments. And it has to have serious battery life.”

The result is a 4G phone with a 5.5” display, 13MP rear camera and f/2.4 aperture, 1.5GHz Octa-core processor, and a fast-charging battery.

The founder of AG Mobile, Anthony Goodman, was happy to oblige.

“We were keen to follow the specs Cassper wanted, because it leads to what the consumer wants,” he said. “It wasn’t challenging, because it’s something we wanted to do: we wanted a high speed phone for a social media consumer, and the rest had to follow suit. We all worked together to make sure it happened.”

* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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