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Updated: 19 min 16 sec ago

How the smartphone camera evolution took over our lives

4 hours 6 min ago

(15 minute read)

Do you remember your first camera phone? How good was it? How many megapixel did it have? Well, I need not describe what a smartphone camera is, since the definition is right there in the name. First, they don’t look like normal cameras and so one would essentially say that a camera phone is that part of a smartphone that many of us own and carry around in our pockets or bags.

The Advent of camera phones

The smartphone camera trend really started in the late 1990s as digital cameras were starting to become a thing in the consumer sense of it. Some companies started to try and put cellular radios in those cameras so that you could connect them to things. This was not successful at the time since none of the technology like the camera sensor technology was in existence. In the early 2000s, all of a sudden everybody started to own a cellphone and digital camera companies were racing to make the sensors smaller and cheaper to be able to make digital cameras a thing.

Cellphone companies were able to take advantage of this on the extreme low-end and take the smallest and cheapest that weren’t really good but were good enough to prove the concept  of a camera on your phone. This eventually became a thing– putting cameras on people’s phones.

At the time, Nokia was probably the biggest phone maker, in the early 2000s they started putting cameras in every phone line-up. Every camera was an incredible leap from the one before it to a point that before the company was bought by Microsoft for $7.2 billion in 2013, they had phones with 41 Megapixel cameras on them. At this point I was like “Okay this seems like its past the limit of  what is necessary”

The iPhone Era

When we are talking about a smartphone camera and how much it has trended, it should be noted that back then, when you took a picture with your phone, there wasn’t a lot you could do with those photos. Before 2004, there was no Facebook, no WhatsApp, no Twitter, no Snapchat nor Instagram where you could post them to. May be the few people like bloggers and those who were using the first gen social-networking sites like  Myspace and Friendstar would take advantage of such photos, but the quality was very poor.

In 2007, came the iPhone, the gadget that single handily pushed the smartphone camera into the new generation and Nokia really doesn’t really get enough credit for this since it is now some weird bastardized brand that few people want worldwide. But, those two phone makers really got the idea of getting a camera in most people’s hands and also getting increasingly good cameras within just a couple of years  into everybody’s pockets.

DSLR Vs Camera phone

There are people who have never come into contact or seen a DSLR camera ( digital single-lens reflex camera)– mainly used by semi-professional and professionals, they undoubtedly also take great photos. DSLRs are old film cameras, and used by people who are more into photography. The advantages of DSLRs over camera phones include;

  • You can change lenses on it according to your desires. From super-wide angle lens, or one that zooms really crazy in that you can take the picture of the moon that fill up the frame.
  • Tonnes of manual controls on DSLR cameras as opposed to smartphone camera and you can dictate how the camera takes the picture. On a smartphone you can’t do as mush manual control– the focus is fixed. So if you are say a meter away from a subject, the things behind that subject will also be in focus which limits its usage as a professional camera.
  • In most DSLRs these days you have a digital image sensor that is slightly smaller than the actual of a 35 mm frame of film and also a lot of DSLRs have full-frame sensors, which is the exact same size of a 35mm piece of film, all that meaning you get a lot better resolution than the tiny image sensor that would be in a smartphone camera.

Smartphone cameras also typically have a fixed focal length, so you have what is a pretty wide angle view not super wide like a Go-Pro wide but wide enough to capture a scene. So phone companies have sort of settled on that as a standard for smartphone cameras.

iPhone camera setup Smartphone camera Popularity

Truth be told, any camera that you are carrying is better than a great camera that you are not carrying. Now days the iPhone and Samsung have dominated the smartphone camera phone space. At first these phones started with 2 Megapixels and 5 Megapixels (in the iPhone 4) cameras but as we have seen with time, Megapixels don’t determine everything  about a camera but the sensors were really small. But the iPhone and Galaxy phones were the things that made people really love to start buying smartphones because they have cameras on them an idea that we were already pretty comfortable with.

With these companies popularizing the idea of a smartphone camera, it was the clearest path to the school of thought that “What if you had a great camera on this powerful pocket computer”. Apple and Samsung were some of the few companies running with this idea and by the time we got to the iPhone 4 and Galaxy s3, they actually has incredible camera with all these things considered. And, this partly why these companies have dominated the smartphone industry.

The Power of Software in Camera phones

Apple doesn’t make the image sensors in their phones, they buy from companies like Sony. Sony makes almost half of all the images sensors used in any digital cameras and they just sell them to those companies. Apple and Samsung are so good at using the processors they put in their phones and writing the right kind of software to make the best of that image sensor that they’ve bought and put in their phones. So that’s what has helped these two companies keep that lead. The companies do more with the image sensors and camera components than any body else has up until this year when Google  put out a phone that competes with the dual, producing images that are as good or probably better in some situations than the iPhone 7s and the Galaxy s7.

Google’s Pixel phone is a great example of the power of software in a camera phone. One wonders how important the hardware and software components in making use of all the data that the hardware is collecting. Well, they are super important.  The biggest iPhone competitors in the last couple of years have had like really comparable hardware that make up the cameras on their phones.

The reason why the iPhone and the latest Galaxy phones are held up as an example unlike HTC’s phones that lag behind when you compare the two cameras, is in really how they implement the whole thing together. The camera app should be fast and easy to understand, the base-level software like what they do with the processor on the phone to interpret that data from the image sensor is so its super important.

Google’s Pixel phones use full-time HDR (High Dynamic Range) trickery to bet its competition. The traditional way of using HDR is by taking multiple images while exposing different parts of the scene and later merge together the shots to create the final photograph. Google uses a different method with the Pixel, they do HDR by taking a bunch of images at once and they are all under-exposed. They thereafter use algorithms to take all the data from the under-exposed photos and bring out the shadows. The idea that a camera on a phone is doing that alone is mind-blowing compared to where the whole smartphone camera evolution started. While we know that smartphones are not as capable like a DSRL, there is some really crazy stuff that is happening on phones nowadays.

The Google Pixel Phone

It is terrifying that the big companies like Apple, Samsung and now Google are rich enough to throw money at any problem that could in theory buy out most of these traditional camera companies. Truth be told, they are now in direct competition with phone makers, these have taken over the camera mass market business and left the traditional camera makers with the niche market.

The Top camera smartphones

With the anticipation of the Galaxy s8 and iPhone 8 later this year, the current top smartphone cameras are no doubt the iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, the Galaxy s7 and s7 edge and the Google Pixel. According to most experts who have held and reviewed these phones extensively always praise Google’s Pixel phone’s image quality. But, they also note that the difference between them all is very slight and some are better in some situations than others that like its almost a draw.

The Dual camera craze

With the launch of the iPhone 7s plus, Apple unveiled its first phone with a dual lens camera lens (Note: It wasn’t the first phone to have a dual camera lens set up). Rumor has it that the competition with follow suit this year. One of the cameras is just a wide angle camera that is on the iPhone 7s or any other kind of phone and then next to it is a whole different group of material. Meaning it has another sensor with another lens set up. It’s a whole separate camera next to the main one. The difference is that the second camera is what Apple calls tele-photo, its not quiet what hardcore camera users would consider tele-photo since it doesn’t zoom like crazy but it zooms optically about two times (2x) what the standard lens does so you can get a little bit close to subjects without actually having to get closer to your subjects.

Digital zoom is something that most smartphones have, and its essentially enlarging the image you took in real-time. So its no different from putting it on your computer and just blowing it up. Whereas the second lens on the iPhone 7s plus is actually building a camera that can  see things a little bit closer. As I said before Apple is not the first to do this, as a couple of other phones have implemented dual-camera systems Nokia had one , HTC’s Evo 3D also had one. These implementations are still no where near a DSLR or point and shoot camera, but it’s heading down that path. If phone companies put more varied camera on the back of the phone if they can find space for it, then they will start to bridge that gap up to a “real camera” that is more versatile with 20x optical zoom and ability to change lens.

Should one buy a professional camera?

The obvious answer to the above question there is a resounding NO. But, should one buy if they can afford and they really into photography? Of course yes, especially if its within in your means. Even if smartphone cameras are good, they don’t tell the whole story when it comes to image quality. Frankly I would prefer to take photos of the important things in my life with a digital camera, but its too expensive to own.  Will I regret it in the future? Most probably I will. Since in 10 or 15 years down the road from today, they might not look the same as technology keeps changing at a fast pace including both the screen and camera technology which will be different in the future.

The image you shoot today with an HD (720p) camera will look different from on the screens that we shall be using 10 years from now say on a 12k (24 times HD) screen or even Virtual Reality. They will look like the photos you took with your olden first smartphone camera.

We take selfies at events, nights out with family and the like, but apart from sending them and sharing them on social media, what next? Its better to preserve the moments in a higher fidelity than what we use now.

How has you smartphone camera changed your life? You can leave a comment below to share your experience.

 

 

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WhatsApp’s up coming feature to drain your data bundle Snapchat style

8 hours 53 min ago

WhatsApp’s official birthday is on February 24. The company is celebrating it today by rolling out a new feature called, Status, that’s reminiscent of how it got its start. The new feature is similar to Snapchat and Instagram’s Stories features, WhatsApp status messages last 24 hours and then disappear, and you can add to them throughout the day. For instance, you could post eight status messages chronicling your day of sightseeing in a new place. Anyone who views your status will see all eight.

Given that both Snapchat and Instagram have seen their Stories features become phenomenally popular—and even Facebook is testing a version of the idea—it’s not a shocker to see WhatsApp offer its own take.

Unlike Snapchat, messages sent with WhatsApp, status messages are end-to-end encrypted. The app uses phone numbers rather than user names to connect people, so by default, your status messages are viewable to anyone whose number you have saved in your phone. But you can also set your privacy settings on a per-status basis, so one of those eight messages could just be viewable by just your best friends.

Get ready for data bundle hog

With the upcoming feature, get ready for a higher data bill something that will benefit the telcos and IPS more than anything else. For a vivid WhatsApp user who has over 100 friends sending their status stories with video content, would be a killer data hog for an average user.

When the feature rolls out, it will use an algorithm to determine which status messages you’re likely to want to open, so it can automatically download their content and make it ready to view as soon as you open a message.

WhatsApp currently has 1.2 billion monthly active users who send a over 50 billion messages a day. Last year, company had a mere 1 billion monthly active users which signifies a dramatic growth and by then, these users were sending 42 billion daily messages. All those users are also sending 3.3 billion photos, 760 million videos, and 80 million GIFs each day. Over the past year, the number of photos shared on the service has doubled and videos have tripled, a trend that encouraged the company to look at bringing these elements to status messages.

When will you get it?

Status launches today on Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone. The feature will initially be available in beta in France and the Netherlands, followed by the U.K. and Spain on the February 21, and Italy, Israel, and Saudi Arabia on February 22. A global rollout—including the Uganda—will follow those tests.

 

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Galaxy S8 design teased by Samsung app

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 18:50

With just a few months to the launch of Samsung’s new flagship phone, rumor-mill is high on how the phone will look like. A leaked version of Samsung’s Secure Folder app for the Galaxy S7 has been making its way around the internet today. The app offers fingerprint security for a specific folder of apps and contacts, but it seems the same app might have also confirmed the design for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S8, as spotted by SamMobile.

The leaked image seems to confirm the various rumors about the S8, albeit in the broadest way possible — we expect to see a phone with small bezels, no buttons on the front with a curved display. This is the first time we are seeing any official images from Samsung even if we have seen several hardware leaks of the alleged device already online.

The app would also seem to indicate that Samsung is planning to bring the Secure Folder feature — previously exclusive to the now defunct Galaxy Note 7 — to the S8, in addition to the S7. The Galaxy S8 is expected to be released toward the end of March, when we’ll presumably find out more on the design and software of Samsung’s next flagship.

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PesaLink is the banks solution to Mobile Money in Kenya. Could it be on its way to Uganda?

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 10:43

PesaLink is a real-time interbank switch from Integrated Payment Services Limited(IPSL). IPSL is an affiliate of the Kenyan Bankers Association. PesaLink is more or less like mobile money and it is seen as a direct reply to the latter.

Just like mobile money, PesaLink enables mobile phone users to send and receive money from each other while also sending money to their respective bank accounts without any intermediaries involved. Previously, the intermediary has been mobile money but it is now out of the equation.

The Kenyan Bankers Association is an umbrella body of Kenyan banks and financial institutions currently with a membership count of 47, some of which have cross-border operations in Uganda like Equity Bank, KCB, DTB, Bank of India, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, Citi Bank, Eco Bank, GTB among others.

It should be noted that Mobile Money has cannibalized the would-be bank customers owing to its ease and non-bureaucratic nature. It is for this reason that mobile money has more registered accounts than the whole conventional banking industry in most East African countries.

PesaLink is seen as a solution to address this while keeping bankers (previously excluded by telecoms) within the fold. It allows its users to send money from as low as Ksh 10 (UGX 350) up to Ksh 1,000,000 (UGX 35,000,000). PesaLink can be accessed through different avenues like mobile banking (USSD & Mobile applications), Internet Banking, ATMs, POS terminals, Bank branches and through agency banking.

Agency banking is reminiscent of the mobile money branch chain where mobile money operators license agents to do business on their behalf. It is this that has upheld mobile money over traditional banks since you can easily find agents in every corner of the country.

However, costs associated with PesaLink shall vary across different banks as is the case with sending mobile money to non-mobile user accounts. PesaLink, for now, will only allow P2P transfers while transfers to bank accounts will roll out in the nearby future.

While our Kenyan Banking brothers are looking to keep mobile money in check, could their Ugandan counterparts or affiliates borrow a leaf and innovate fast with the same solution? Similarly, mobile money has disrupted the Ugandan banking industry to an extent that some of the giants in the industry have had to partner with telecoms to offer mobile payments solutions.

If they’re armed with a similar solution like PesaLink, the intermediaries (read telecoms) will be thrown out and in return, it will keep costs down for the end user which might increase their customer base.

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UberChoma: How to order for free Nyama Chyoma in Kampala today

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 10:47

After teasing the service on their website and mobile app and also successfully launching it in Kenya. Today, Uber launches a new service called UberChoma, for meat lovers in Kampala. You can now order a stick or two or your favorite meat using the new service.  Uber has partnered with a local restaurant called Choma Zone Bar and Grill to deliver free Nyama Choma.

This has been seen as a move to directly to compete with Jumia Food. Jumia food is currently the leader of food delivery services in Kampala and are able to overcome the traffic clogged city by the use of two wheelers commonly known as “Boda Bodas”.

Uber has partnered with a local restaurant Choma Zone Bar and Grill to see this promo through.

HERE’S HOW IT WORKS
  • Open the Uber app between 12PM (noon) – 2PM on Friday, February 17 in Kampala
  • Tap the UberCHOMA banner at the bottom of the screen
  • Request an UberCHOMA
  • If your request is successful, a driver will arrive at your location with free Nyama Choma
SOME TIPS
  • Be sure to go outside when your request is accepted. This will make it easier to connect with your driver and help ensure a quick drop-off
  • Demand will be high –so don’t be discourage, just check back and try to request again if your initial request is not successful
  • Remember that requests can only be made between 12PM (noon) – 2PM on Friday, February 17 in Kampala
  • There will only be one order delivered per request

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The UberChoma promo could be a pilot for UberEats

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 11:12

On Friday Uber has a Nyama Choma promotion for its users within Kampala. Users using the app between 12pm – 2pm will have an option of requesting for free Nyama Choma after tapping the UberChoma option instead of the proverbial UberX option (This will still be available for those seeking to hail a ride). Nyama choma will thereafter be delivered to your destination by an Uber, free of charge.

Uber has partnered with a local restaurant Choma Zone Bar and Grill to see this promo through. A similar undertaking has just been concluded in Kenya and results are painting the whole process a success. It has now been extended to the Kampala workaholics and residents.

While UberChoma is reminiscent of UberEats, the former is limited to Nyama Choma steaks while the latter delivers a variety of meals. It has since branched from the main Uber app into a standalone app but the food delivery service  is only live in a few cities in Sub-Saharan Africa like Johannesburg and Pretoria. It is safe to assume that this as a pilot study for the much larger UberEats that offers a variety of meals besides meat steaks as is the case with UberChoma.

Similarly, UberEats uses the same model of partnering with local restaurants within a given radius while delivery is accomplished by Uber drivers. However, it has a slightly larger menu displayed from which to choose from. The final price one pays is a combination of both the food and delivery costs which is displayed in the app.

UberEats users are advised to schedule their orders prior to their preferred meal time just like you would schedule a ride. If implemented, it will be a direct reply to Jumia Food that has enjoyed considerable success in terms of food delivery.

Jumia food is currently the de-facto leader of food delivery services in Kampala and are able to overcome the traffic clogged city by the use of two wheelers commonly known as “Boda Bodas”. Uber on the other hand uses traffic prone cars for its services which might give a lead advantage to Jumia food should UberEats launch. But until they launch a fully fledged UberEats service, we shall remain being speculative of their coming but once they do, cost, ease and quality of service will be determinant of who will win this battle.

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UCC cracks down on illegal “Bizindaalo” broadcasters in Kampala

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:31

This week the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has been busy. Together with NEMA’s environmental protection Unit and the Uganda Police the telecom regulator is cracking down on notorious noise polluters and illegal broadcasters in Kampala and surrounding suburbs.

The Uganda Communications Commission Act 2013, section 26(1), provides that “A person shall not or operate a television station, radio station, or any related broadcasting apparatus without a license issued by the commission”. A broadcast is any sound, video or data intended for simultaneous reception by the public.

The commission and the Uganda police have been cracking down on illegal broadcasters who use apparatus such as “Bizindaalo” or outdoor community broadcasting stations. The crack down has began in areas of Makindye, Wabigalo, Nsangi, Kyengela, Nabbingo, Kayunga,Nansana,Naluvule,Yesu Amala and Mukono.

Operation also affected those who use “Bizindaalo” preaching (especially born again christians), an act that was seen by the public as the state “fighting God”.

The war on Bizindalos continued today in Mukono. #StopIllegalBroadcasts #NoisePollutionIsACrime @UCC_Official pic.twitter.com/h2ntlYlw09

— NEMA UGANDA (@nemaug) February 15, 2017

#Bizindaalo location 3; Wakiso covering areas like Kayunga,Nansana,Naluvule,Yesu Amala.@omuluuka all is well,enjoy the peace and quiet. pic.twitter.com/ZgNDpqM8jr

— UCC (@UCC_Official) February 14, 2017

Day 2 of #Bizindaalo operation got us to Wabigalo radio,in Wabigalo they had 7 trumpets!@Pamankunda @nemaug @ugandaupf @ChimpReports pic.twitter.com/7Jzw6T59zD

— UCC (@UCC_Official) February 14, 2017

On Wednesday last week, the regulator sent out a public notice in the print media warning of this operation sighting that these operations were illegal and a public nuisance. UCC also noted that they infringe on rights of citizens of peace and quiet in areas where bizindalos operate. In the notice UCC ordered all these illegal broadcasters to cease operations before the crackdown begins.

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Facebook challenges developers in Africa to create the smartest Bots for Messenger

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 12:29

Facebook  is challenging developers in Africa to create innovative bots in the Bots for Messenger Developer Challenge. This aligns with Facebook’s commitment to promote innovation on the continent by providing developers and start-ups with the tools they need to build, grow, monetize, and measure products and services.

Facebook grew out of a hacker culture and thrives by promoting innovation on new platforms. That’s why Facebook is launching the Bots for Messenger Challenge, a contest to recognize and reward developers who are able to create the most innovative new bots on Messenger.

Developers, in teams of up to three people, are invited to create bots in three categories: gaming and entertainment; productivity and utility; and social good.

Prizes

Finalist Teams
The 60 finalist teams (10 per category in each region) will win a Gear VR and mobile phone, one hour of Facebook mentorship and tools and services from FbStart, a Facebook program designed to help early stage mobile start-ups build and grow their bots.
All student teams who make it to the finals will win an additional $2,000 (students will be verified against their registration via their government accredited school email accounts).

Runner-Up Teams
For each region, three runner-up teams (one from each category) will win $10,000 and three months of Facebook mentorship.

Winning Teams
For each region, three winning teams (one from each category) will win $20,000 and three months of Facebook mentorship.

Dates

Submissions open: 15 February at 09:00 GMT
Deadline for entries: 28 April at 11:59:59 GMT
Finalists announced (30 teams each in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East/North Africa): 19 May at 09:00 GMT
Deadline for entries from finalists: 2 June at 11:59:59 GMT
Winners announced: 19 June at 09:00 GMT (three winners and three runner up teams in the Middle East and North Africa; three winners and three runner up teams in Sub-Saharan Africa)

Enter and see the rules of the competition here  and join the Facebook Group to keep connected.

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BoU warns on use of digital currencies in Uganda

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 08:37

The Bank of Uganda (BoU) has warned Ugandans who deal in any form digital currencies that they “are taking a risk in the financial space”. The warning has come at time when a new firm known as One Coin Digital Money a company which is not licenced by the BoU under the Financial Institution Act 2004, is conducting its business illegally in the country out side the regulatory scrutiny.

One Coin Limited is a Dubai based Cryptocurrency company with offices here  in Uganda at Mukwano Courts , Buganda Road in Kampala. According to BoU  it is still under formative stages. The company is reportedly aggressively encouraging Kampala dwellers to buy digital money promising high returns and rewards on a first-come-first-served basis.

Officially Saying NO to Bitcoin in Uganda

The Bank has come out warn Ugandans and said in a public notice that ;”whoever wishes to invest their hard earned saving in Cryptocurrency from such as One-coin, Bitcoin, Ripple, Peercoin, Namecoin, Dogecoin Litecoin, Btyecoin, Primecoin, Blackcoin or any other digital forms of currency is taking a risk in the financial space where there is neither investor protection nor regulatory pureview.”

The Bank has further gone ahead to encourage Ugandans to only do business transactions with only licenced financial institutions. You can find a full list if approved institutions here.

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The Nokia 3310 is coming back with a bang

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 13:11

By now you must be knowing that HMD Global is the entity tasked with manufacturing and marketing of Nokia branded handsets. The company is yet to announce four new handsets later this month at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and one of them will be the legendary Nokia 3310, though there is no the rumored Nokia P1 flagship handset in sight. VentureBeat reports that a person privy to the matter is quoted to have said so.

The Nokia 3310 was renowned for its battery prowess and quality build and was a darling back in the day. Other soon to be unveiled handsets will include the Nokia 3, 5 and 6.The Nokia 6 was earlier launched as a China exclusive with mediocre specs that included a 5.5Inch FHD screen, 4GB of RAM and a 16MP primary camera. The 3 and 5 aren’t any different and won’t juice up the 6..

The  Nokia 5 will downsize the 6 further with 5.2Inch HD screen, a 12MP primary camera and will come with half the RAM at 2GB while retaining the same SoC as the  Nokia 6, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 430. It is estimated to retail for $200.

The Nokia 3 on the other hand goes down the drain and is said to be an entry-level  Android handset.

The killer of all will be the reincarnated  Nokia 3310. The original one was a marvel of phone engineering maintaining a powerful yet reliable battery and outstanding hardware for many to envy. The new 3319 will be a spruced up version of its predecessor but without a spec sheet to cement this, we only hope HMD Global lives upto to this hype.

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UCC sets new policy for radio frequency spectrum management in Uganda

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 12:46

The primary law of the Communications Sector is the Uganda Communications Act 2013, which established Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) as the regulator in the sector. Section 5(1)(c) of the Act confers upon the regulator the responsibility to allocate, license, standardize and manage the use of the radio frequency spectrum resources in a
manner that ensures widest variety of programming and optimal utilization of spectrum resources.

Radio frequency spectrum resources are scarce and the used in several radio communications services in Uganda like Aeronautics, TV and Radio Broadcasting, National Security, private radio networks and Telecommunications (based on CDMA, LTE, UMTS, GSM, WIMAX, McWILL, & Point to Point). The commission has come out and shared a document with the public detailing how they will manage spectrum resources.

According to the report, telecoms have so far exhausted 70% of the available resources and the FM radio spectrum band  occupy  89% with a number of the planning regions at 100%. Details in graph shown below.

Percentage of spectrum allocation in Uganda

It should be noted that Spectrum demands in Uganda are driven by a number of factors. Key among these are the level of usage of the associated services, technology developments, the national plans, as well as regional and international decisions.
Although there is continued evolution of more spectrum efficient technologies like 5G in telecoms, the industry is also developing new spectrum-hungry systems and applications. The emergence of a networked society and expansion in use of spectrum to other sectors of the economy like agriculture, transport and energy due to developments such as Internet of Things (IoT), has also heightened the scarcity of spectrum and its
importance to the development agenda of the country.

Spectrum Policy Objectives

This Radio Spectrum Management Policy puts forth the objectives, principles and associated proclamations that shall guide UCC in the management of the radio frequency spectrum within its existing legislative responsibilities in order to extract maximum social-economic value for Uganda.

The specific objectives of the radio spectrum management policy are as follows:
a) To encourage the investment in and use of spectrum efficient technologies and techniques.
b) To facilitate the development, of the use of radio-communication services and applications by Government, commercial and private users across the country.
c) To improve the transparency and effectiveness of the spectrum
management process in Uganda

In the same policy, UCC has the powers to withdraw any radio spectrum:
i. that is not brought into use by the date specified in the authorization and/or assignment
ii. that is underutilized due to unauthorized suspension in the use of the spectrum.
iii. That is determined to be under-utilized by UCC

Spectrum fees shall be determined on a case by case basis through administrative processes by the regulator and market oriented mechanisms as applicable. UCC shall ensure that Uganda’s interests are promoted and safeguarded in regional and international spectrum management activities.

And in order to enforce the policy, UCC shall acquire and deploy equipment or infrastructure required to effectively monitor and inspect the use of radio spectrum in Uganda. Any interference reported or observed shall be investigated and
addressed.

See detailed report here.

 

 

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This is what MTN, Smart and Africell Uganda customers are getting for Valentines

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 18:03

We just started Valentines week, and with the D-day just hours away, most telecom companies have come out to offer something special for the lovers out there. MTN, Smart Telecom and Africell Uganda have crafted some offers for their subscribers. There has been no offers yet from Airtel and Smile Telecom. Here are all the promotions offers per telecom company.

MTN Uganda A free smartphone

Win a brand new Avvio smartphone this on Valentines Day? To win, follow these simple steps to win.

Visit the MTN Dating site sign up, find love and you will be entered into a daily draw to win an Avvio 793. 2 brand new Avvio phones will be given away each day.

More to this, two lucky couples who sign up and meet online will be rewarded with free dinner all paid for by MTN Uganda plus a free Avvio smart phone each.

Want to win a free Avvio smartphone today? Find out how here; https://t.co/P3AVMAiUgM pic.twitter.com/XjzbgAADKJ

— MTN Uganda (@mtnug) February 10, 2017

Airtime

 

Free airtime to be won this Valentines with #MTNRadio. Don’t miss out. pic.twitter.com/3BFaEPDQ3R

— MTN Uganda (@mtnug) February 13, 2017

Africell Uganda Double data

Africell is doubling your data for each and every MIFI of data dongle that cost between UGX 169,000 to UGX 59,000 you buy this Valentine season. This comes with two free SIMs cards and free data that ranges from 5 GB, 3 GB and 1 GB depending on the device you buy.

Double LOVE! Double DATA! Get any of these devices and get twice the amount of Data for YOU and YOUR loved one. Happy Valentine’s Day! ♥♥ pic.twitter.com/EM1hD7lkwo

— Africell Uganda (@africellUG) February 13, 2017

Free 4G Smartphone

Africell is also giving out  free 4G smartphones when you buy a caller tune.

Win 4G Smartphones and Free Data this month of Love. Visit our Facebook page – Africell Uganda for details on how to win. #AfriValentine pic.twitter.com/bdNWGxhFCQ

— Africell Uganda (@africellUG) February 13, 2017

Smart Telecom Free Unlimited Internet and Calls

Smart Telecom has also kicked up and notch and is giving out free unlimited calls and data for only UGX 10,000. Smart customers can dial *100*5# to get started.

 

Surf until you drop, make calls and having nothing else to talk about this month of Love.#letstalk pic.twitter.com/o374qKj48V

— Smart Uganda (@Smart_Uganda) February 10, 2017

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MTN Uganda dismisses over 100 employees

Sat, 02/11/2017 - 14:22

Uganda’s biggest telecom company MTN has dismissed 109 employees especially the long serving old guards in a move that was seen as away to free up top positions of people who have been getting huge salaries and benefits. According to sources, when the new CEO Win Vanhelleputte  took office last year, he took time off to talk to a majority of mid-level managers, supervisors and several employees to inquire about what they felt about the company and how they can reverse the declining state of the company.

There was over an whelming response from the employees among other things, who complained that several top managers had stayed in the same positions for over 15 years leaving no room for growth, which has led to low motivation and less room for career advancement for them. The CEO reportedly directed the GM Human Resource to look into the matter and how it could be resolved putting the company’s goals in mind.

According MTN’s official statement, the company confirmed the layoffs and called it a “Voluntary departure programme” that all employees were aware of and that the voluntary exit was demanded by the long-serving employees who expressed to move on from MTN and give desire to their personal lives. The Official statement went on further to state that “Only permanent staff who have been in employment with the company for over 12 years were eligible to benefit from the plan. They were given the opportunity to express their interest not later than 12 January “.

However this blog has learnt that some of the long-serving employees like the current Head of Mobile Money (MFS), Mr Lubega Phrase (image below) who has been a longtime employee of the company; was forced to resign due to internal politics and performance related issues.

Among those affected, Phrase Donald Lubega Head of Mobile Money

 

Retiring of senior management world-over is a common practice, since they are more expensive and the company would be more profitable by recruiting cheaper ones, a practice some telecos like Africell have already adopted since they took over Orange Uganda.

Hefty severance packages

Some sources we spoke to at MTN, confirmed what was in the company’s official statement that indeed, they were informed via email about the layoffs in December 2016 and that everyone who was interested was supposed inform the Human Resource department by January 31st 2017. The company had promised to remit a certain allowance that would be calculated based on one’s salary and the number of years they have worked for the telecom giant. Only 34 staff requested to benefit from the voluntary departure programme who were offered a hefty departing package.

According to new vision, some senior managers who were earning about UGX 20 million and have worked for a minimum of 12 years, got up to UGX 300m. On top of that, the staff were also allowed to go with the company’s phone numbers but will have their tariffs changed to a usual MTN customer’s tariff by March.  Each employee was entitled to a 3-months severance and additional 3 months bonus (6 months of full pay). In addition to that, for each year worked, a departing staff member got half the salary they earned as monthly salary whether this was subject to taxation was not disclosed.

The biggest percent of affect employees come from the customer care department, with over 40 people leaving.

 

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Vodafone JUMP is a new educational e-platform for the youth (Video)

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 12:48

Today Vodafone Uganda has launched Vodafone jump, a content based website targeted for the youth called JUMP. JUMP is a social e-learning hub that provides free educational and youth related local content  through educational , entrepreneurship, self-improvement portal. Vodafone aims to provide an online library of educational resources to facilitate personal and career development of the youth and interactivity among peers.

The portal is targeted for the youth especially students, fresh graduates and young professionals. The content on Vodafone’s JUMP platform is generated by young Ugandan writers, influences and editors. The JUMP editors include Malayika Ntanzi for Life Style Magazine, Solomon king Benge for entrepreneurship, Cythia Anyeza for Education, and Andrew Ojara for for Self-improvement.

The company also recently rolled out an educational program and has since recruited some of the best  and brightest recent graduates to account for 50 per cent of its staff compliment in its market.

The Vodafone JUMP Portal

“These ambitions young professionals, who yearn  for recognition  and career advancement are at the forefront  of some of  our most  disruptive  and next generation digital products  and services” said Mr. John Ndego, CEO Vodafone Uganda.

 

 

 

 

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WhatsApp further tightens its security with two-factor authentication

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 08:42

After several months of waiting for this feature since it was last announced last year, WhatsApp is finally ready to release two-step verification to each of its over 1.2 billion users on iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

Two- factor authentication or 2-step verification adds additional security to an account by asking the user for a secondary method of authentication to access it. In most cases apart from your password which provides the first piece of authentication, the platform also sends you a code sent via SMS/text message often acts as the second layer of security. This is the kind of security that WhatsApp wants to bring to its 1.2 billion users, you should have the feature now, although it may require you to update the app before you can access it.

For WhatsApp users, there are no SMS complexities, the first piece of authentication comes from you using the app on your mobile device, and the second is a six-digit passcode you’ll create once you enable the feature.

How to switch on WhatsApp’s Two Factor authentication?

When you get the latest version of WhatsApp, you can enable the feature, by opening WhatsApp > Settings > Account > Two-step verification > Enable. Whatapp says that every seven days, you’ll be required to enter the passcode to log in to the app although you won’t, have to enter it each time.

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You might soon pay for Uber rides using Mobile Money

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 11:10

Today Uber has reduced its price structure for riders around Kampala, a move seen as an incentive at attracting more riders and also increase the stipend for its drivers. However, that wasn’t all, the ride hailing service also hinted about a big partnership with MTN Uganda for data concessions and the possibility of introducing mobile payments over the latter’s Mobile Money platform.

MTN’s Mobile Money is the market leader when it comes to numbers and so Uber considering a mutually beneficial partnership with them straight away makes business sense. It will also be a positive welcome since many people have become accustomed to Mobile Money that it is even now used for merchant payments.

The world is quickly moving towards a cashless economy with many opting not to carry physical money given the insecurity that comes with it. Once implemented, Uber riders will only have to initiate payments on their mobile phones to complete Uber transactions that as of now been limited to cash and card payments.

Adding the mobile money option will make it the third payment gateway for the service in Uganda. East Africa ranks first when it comes to Mobile Money usage at a global scale if you factor in the precedent sent by Safaricom’s M-Pesa.

Even here in Uganda, Mobile Money has more registered accounts than conventional  traditional banks that are grappling to respond with their own solutions to mobile Money.

While we welcome this, it would work best if they struck a similar partnership with Airtel too since it also has the numbers to complement MTN’s Mobile Money and the two make up the largest bulk of the mobile money fold.

Uber has also partnered with Africell and Smile Telecom to provide 4G smartphones and concessional pricing on data and voice packages for the drivers. Another partnership in the pipeline is with Stanbic Bank, with the banking giant considering a vehicle asset financing for driver driver-partnerships and rolling out a corporate and retail debit card solution for riders to pay for Uber rides under the Uber for Business Solution.

 

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Uber Uganda reduces fare rates on UberX

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 10:59

Shortly after Uber announcing their food delivery service called UberChoma in Kenya, Uber has announced today that residents in Kampala and tourists to the city will be able, to ride for less thanks to reduce fare rates on UberX in Uganda with up to 23% price reduction. With over 15,000 active riders using Uber in Kampala, Seeta, Wakiso and Entebbe. The Apps has also become an earnings generating alternative for drivers who have partnered with Uber.

Following growing competition from the like of Friendship Taxi, boda bodas and others, starting today, anyone booking an UberX ride in Kampala will pay the following;

 Old Price (UGX)New Price (UGX) Base rate 13001100 Distance (per Km)900750 Time (per minutes)200150 Minimun Fare 50003000 Ride Cancellation50003000

Speaking at the press briefing Aaron Tindiseega Country Lead in Uganda confirmed that reducing fares aims to boost demand for trips from riders and thus unlock more business for driver partners. “Years of experience have shown us that lower prices are very attractive in boosting rider demand, ” Tindiseega explains “and the more people request Uber rides the more drivers will spend time with paying riders in the backseat and less time sitting waiting for a request.”

Uber has successfully cut prices in other countries like Kenya and Nigeria and they believe that doing the same for Kampala will work. When Uber reduced their prices in Kenya there was a 70% increase in the number of trips taken by riders as well as a 100% increase in the number of trips requested from the first time Uber users, showing reduced prices helped reach riders. Uber is also confident that the same win-win scenario will unfold when prices are reduced in Kampala.

So what happens to the driver’s earnings?

While the city adjusts to the new prices, Uber is putting in place temporary payment guarantees for the driver partners so that they don’t lose out. Tindiseega also explained that, as it typically the case these lower prices are not always permanent and partner economics are very closely monitored.

 

 

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Top 6 upcoming online streaming challenges in 2017

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 13:58

People often find cutting the cord more convenient and why not, online streaming is much easier than relying on cable. Streaming your favorite shows from the place of your choosing is incredibly convenient, and besides, being able to switch to different streaming services is a must-have. This isn’t the only reason since the expense of a cable service too is a huge contributing factor. Convenience served cheap, what else do you need? But before you move ahead and hail praise for the flexibility of online streaming offers, there are a number of factors you must consider before switching from traditional TV to online streaming:

Not everything is accessible!

If you are of the view that you can access every show online with ease, then you will be sorely disappointed. Not every show aired on cable is available on streaming services. Channels have some exclusivity rights that allow them to make money and they will surely not let this revenue stream slip from their hands. HBO, for example, has its streaming channel, HBO Go that allows users to watch their favorite shows online, but there’s a catch – you’ll need a verified subscription. Now, if you want to access popular shows somewhere else, you won’t find them. This is a restriction imposed geographically to stop people from other regions of the world from accessing the shows, in the name of copyright infringement.

The wait will test your nerves!

It is not possible for you to access a show online while it’s being broadcasted on TV simultaneously. The official broadcasters don’t approve a title for live streaming until the entire season has already been aired on TV. So, if you want to watch a series or a show like Game of Thrones, you may have to wait before it’s available online. Same goes for movies, and if it’s a blockbuster, it might take a year to be released online. The official distributors and broadcasters do that to boost CD/DVD/Blu-ray sales and to prevent piracy. Obviously, since they have invested a hefty amount, they would want to squeeze every drop of profit from their investment. So once again, users seeking convenience will have to be patient.

Ads are there as well!

Some people switch to online streaming as they don’t like to see ads in between shows. Well, the case isn’t different here as well. You subscribe to a streaming provider and while enjoying a show an ad suddenly pops up. So, all your efforts to avoid ads will go in vain. This is done for obvious reasons. Users don’t pay enough to online streaming service providers, and they need to boost their revenue streams. Ads help them achieve their revenue goals; so streaming providers tend to run more and more ads.

Exclusivity agreements!

Just in case you have difficulty in understanding this, recall the case of Netflix and Starz Network. Netflix and Starz Network had a deal, according to which Netflix had the rights to stream movies online broadcasted by Starz Network on cable. The agreement was going smooth until Starz demanded an increase and Netflix had to cancel the contract. The result of which was a huge number of movies being dropped from Netflix and users had to search for a new medium. So, this shift in agreements can create a hurdle for users who end up suffering the most.

Get additional streams to enjoy!

Online streaming providers have grown smart after realizing how smart the users have become. People like to share account details in a family or friend circle, so everyone can watch their favorite shows, movies, and series simultaneously. Potentially sharing the same account isn’t possible now as online streaming providers have limited the number of video streams and connected devices. So, in case everyone wants to enjoy on their own, they will need an additional account to do so.

Data caps from internet service providers

Streaming online isn’t a piece of cake for users as they not only have to do deal with streaming service providers but also the internet service providers. People who love to watch high definition videos have to suffer the most. Simply because HD videos consume a significant amount of data bandwidth and to ensure quality service to all the customers, internet service providers put data caps. So, no matter how fast your service is, you may end up exceeding your data caps. The most common example is the mobile data contracts of Smartphone users who are offered unlimited data with a hidden limit.

Is it all that bad?

We have already entered 2017 and the craze to stream online is still the same. The challenges above are also there to ruin your online experience, but it isn’t that bad. You can always find solutions to overcome such issues. And, as it’s already being said, users seek convenience served cheap, for which the most efficient solution available is a VPN.  A VPN is a whole new story but to be precise, it masks your identity and allows you to stream anything online with ease. You are most likely to encounter these challenges while streaming online. A VPN will help you overcome these and other digital hurdles in a matter of clicks.

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True African Launches Mobile Money Collection Platform for Merchants

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:08

True African a financial technology provider in Uganda has launched Pay Leo an e payments platform that enables businesses and other organizations receive payments from their clients from MTN Mobile Money and Airtel Money seamlessly.

How it works

On signing up an electronic collections account known as Pay Leo is created and allocated to a merchant. The platform creates a unique Merchant ID. Merchant ID is uniform for both Airtel Money and MTN Mobile Money which eliminates the need to deal with different telecoms.

So far, the USSD platform of the application is accessible to only MTN and Airtel subscribers through a USSD code *210#.

A customer wishing to make payments dials the code and is prompted to enter the Till number, Amount and his MTN Mobile money or Airtel PIN to authorize the payment.

Charges
Signing up for the Pay Leo account is FREE.

How to sign up for the platform

Fill in the Pay Leo account opening form and sign the collections agreement guiding the operations of the account, rights and obligations of each party. The merchant ID is created and allocated to the organization to allow the customers to start transacting through Airtel Money or MTN Mobile Money.

E Money Micro Finance Ltd has been appointed as the marketing firm. For any clarification drop them email at here.

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SafeBoda launches a new app with free rides for each app download

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:04

Safeboda is Uber’s equivalent when it comes to two wheelers commonly known as Boda Bodas in Uganda and the greater East African region. Today, it has announced via email about the launch of its new app in the Play Store calling it significantly better, smoother and way more beautiful.

The app borrows a Uber like interface except with the orange and white color schemes plus the side menu that draws Payment, a toll free customer support number, the user’s profile and the app settings. SafeBoda rewards each new app download with with free rides worth Shs 25,000.

However SafeBoda’s areas of Operations have been contracted now covering Central Kampala, Nakasero, Kololo, Kitante, Ntinda and Naguru or what I can summarily call Nakawa Division besides the central parts of the city. For now its operations will run from 7:00 AM – 11:00 PM and are limited to the aforementioned areas. Safe Boda assures that they’re soon expanding to other areas around the city.

Users are advised to first uninstall the old app and then go ahead to install the new app. The new app is touted as bringing a new fair pricing model that foregoes bargaining since fares are now standardised as set by the app, an improved experience and a new design.

As is the case with Uber, you just input your current pickup location and a drop off point. The app will then display the payment mode and the estimated fare and then you’re good to go. After all is set, you then tap “Request a SafeBoda”

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