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Updated: 52 min 39 sec ago

Matatu Champion is Kola Studios’ new play for cash version of their most popular game

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:43

Matatu is the only most popular Ugandan made app on both the Google Play Store and App Store and today, Kola Studios has announced the launch of a new play-for-cash version of the game called Matatu Champion. This new game allows people to play their favorite game with the added excitement of winning real cash.

Players can choose from a selection of 3 different money matches; UGX 500, UGX 2,000 and UGX 5,000. Once one of these games is unlocked, a player’s money is on the line and they must try to play all their cards before the opponent in order to win the game. The lucky winner takes all and the loser goes empty.

The features and gameplay are all pulled straight from the original Matatu game with additional functions allowing the possibility to make a deposit, play games with the cash, win and go on to redeem the cash won to their mobile money account. It is required for every player to have a mobile money account on either Airtel Money or MTN mobile money or else they will not be able to deposit cash and unlock any game.

The Matatu Champion app has new beautiful designs that gives it a casino like feel and give the users a different experience. Constant updates will be made to improve the user experience and environment. You can learn how to play the game using the instructions in the screenshot below.

How to Play Matatu Champion

The decision to launch a play-for-cash version of Matatu has been greatly motivated by the constant request from players. For years they have been asking us to provide some sort of reward after every win and this is our response.

You can try it out and Download Matatu Champion here.

 

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Uber Driver app Review: Experiencing the Ugandan Uber Driver side of things

Fri, 06/23/2017 - 11:09

At least Uber is synonymous in many people’s’ ears since it has become a universally accepted alternative to crowded Matatus, Special Hires and hey, car owners that feel like they would need to be chauffeured to their destinations, at least to the Ugandan Urban middle class. These Uber prefers to term them as riders given they use the former’s rider app but what about the people that drive them around? The drivers?

Today, we are here to discuss about them. The drivers, the chauffeurs or whatever you prefer to call them and we had an opportunity of experiencing Uber on the driver side of things particularly Uber X. How does their app work? What is so different from their app than the riders? Is their interface the same as that of riders? These and more have been answered while also giving you a sneak peak of a few things reserved on the driver side of things.

The Uber driver/Partner app is available both in the App Store and PlayStore only that you can use it after going through a thorough certification process with a few submittals like

  • A licensed car
  • A valid driver’s license
  • An Interpol Certificate of Good Conduct
  • A national ID or passport
  • KCCA Permit/Sticker
  • Vehicle Insurance Policy
  • Vehicle Log Book
  • SGS Vehicle Inspection Certificate

All these are validated to ensure that the drivers are on par with Uber standards besides safety concerns and the abiding by regulatory framework in order to not to crossfire with authorities.

A training process commences thereafter and graduands are then certified as drivers, given access to the Uber driver/partner app and all they have to do is enter their credentials, select their vehicle by tapping the accounts tab and chose to go online and yeah, become Uber drivers/partner and commence operations. (More on this later)

Let us talk about the User Interface (UI)

The Welcoming User interface (UI) is quite simple with a Home, Earnings, Ratings and Accounts tabs at the bottom. The navigation map takes a large chuck of the welcoming screen, the activation button is the the top left and a drop down menu at the opposite side that is the top right.

You might be wondering what the heck do all the tabs above represent. Worry not, let us delve into all these tabs, toggle them for you, explain their representation and the different services that accrue once you tap on one.

The activation button lets you choose whether to be online and accept rides or not. This helps drivers to decide when to work and when not to work depending on their preferred work schedule.

The Home tab is of course the welcoming home page with a map as is the case with the riders app. It also displays communication from Uber to drivers normally in a cards format  with tips, promotional information among others.  On cases where a portion of the map is geo-fenced inscribed with a number, the fence depicts an area you are most likely to pick up riders while the number normally followed with a multiplication symbol represents the chances (number of times) you’re most likely to get requests from that particular area.

At times, it might be a heat map  with different colors of Yellow, Orange and Red. All these represent surge at different degrees. While yellow is for low surge, orange is for medium surge and red is for High surge.

Surge for this case means high rider demand in relation to the supply of drivers. Apparently for surge to surface,  the demand for rides is higher than the available drivers and as a result, the fares also shoot up by a particular percentage as depicted by the aforementioned colors.

The earnings Tab of course shows the driver his earnings over the course of the week. It should be noted that Uber drivers are paid per week and this section is a cumulative of their different earnings from different trips as well as other promotional incentives that accrue to their accounts.

The Ratings tab is where you will find ratings from riders normally on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being the worst while 5 is the best. Here you also find rider feedback, compliments (The can be in a riders appreciation of car, in-car infotainment system, services among others), a driving style dashboard, pro tips to improve on one’s skills as well a weekly reports.

The Accounts tab is where you will edit your account details like name, number among others, choose the car you’re to use, seek help from Uber, report issues among others, get your Waybill which contains details of your last trip, submit/change bank details and upload and check status of required documents to be an Uber driver as stipulated the third paragraph.

The Experience

Now that you know what each tab represents, let us get into the experience of using the app as a whole. The question tinkering in your head might be like; how do drivers accept rides, how do they get to know where the rider is located, what happens after the trip is completed among others.

A ride request comes in form a  beep accompanied by a sound and tapping the smartphone screen is a confirmation that you have accepted the ride. The second phase is now navigating where the rider is located.

You can do this by pressing the arrow icon located on the top left corner of the screen and then follow directions to the pick up location. For cases where you can’t locate the rider, you can opt to call them by tapping the clipboard icon, selecting contact and then dialling the number on the screen.

After locating and confirming the rider and their destination, sliding the green start trip button at the bottom of the screen starts the trip. After reaching the rider’s destination, sliding the red complete trip button ends the trip and thereafter the payment or break down of the fare information is displayed (For this case it was  a green screen depicting cash). Next is tapping collect cash  and then boom, you get paid, input the rating of the rider, you can as well put a reason for your rating and you’re good to go.

For such cases that you can’t take the rider’s, you can just ignore the request beep (Uber discourages you to) or after confirming, you have to tap the clipboard icon and then select cancel instead of contact, input the reason for the cancellation and Uber will let the rider know that you’ve cancelled their trip.

Other interesting features within the app is the ability to have utmost two trips per day that you can only activate to accept rides taking your preferred direction. This is good if you prefer doing Uber when to and fro work especially for folks with a 9 – 5 job.

It also allows some sort of Facebook Messenger chathead-esque functionality with the ability to allow the driver to do other stuff on his smartphone while the driver app appears as a chathead.

What we would like to see
  • The ability for an in-app chat feature to easily locate riders as some of them input wrong up locations.
  • The option to allow riders tip drivers after the end of the ride.

 

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Uganda Telecom (UTL) launches Msente partnership with PayWay

Thu, 06/22/2017 - 10:59

Uganda Telecom (UTL) has launched a partnership with PayWay; a leading brand vending payments system through which Uganda Telecom Msente customers will be able to deposit and withdraw money from any and all PayWay machines, agents and dealer outlets countrywide.

“We are excited to partner with PayWay to boost our mobile money distribution footprint. This partnership will enable our customers to enjoy the convenience of being able to transact at numerous points of sale without necessarily having to look for our service centres. In addition to the affordability of our mobile money tariffs, this partnership will further boost our distribution and mobile money transaction points for greater convenience and an improved service experience for our customers” said Joseph Ndoboli UTL’s Head of Msente.

He added that in August 2016, UTL launched a new and improved mobile money platform that is multilingual; supporting 5 languages including English, Luganda, Swahili, Luo and Runyakitara; the first of the kind in East Africa.  

“ With the increased number of mobile money agents and outlets through such partnerships and many others to come, we encourage current and new mobile money customers to try the new platform  that offers quite a range of services at very affordable rates including utility payments – NWSC, UMEME, DSTV, GOTV, Startimes, Zuku TV, Simba TV, Azam TV etc” Joseph concluded.  

PayWay’s head of marketing Lonah Kamugisha, acknowledged that the partnership with UTL is in line with their mission to provide the most affordable, secure, easy to use and convenient means dedicated to solving all payment related needs.

 “We have a wide network of retailers countrywide who are strategically located at supermarkets, petrol stations, retail shops, restaurants and hotels. Our network is stable and UTL customers will be able to conveniently deposit and withdraw their money. I call upon all current and potential UTL customers to visit any of our outlets and I guarantee that it will be a smooth and flawless transaction experience,” Kamugisha explained.

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Gizmo Crash : The future bendable laptop

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 15:24

Today we crash on the future of laptops and this concept laptop by Lenovo that has some wild ideas to share. The company has show off the above image at an event in New York today.  This is Lenovo’s idea of the future of personal computing with an image of a bendable laptop with a flexible display. It comes with a full built-in keyboard; and even the signature ThinkPad pointing stick, or mouse nub. Since the laptop is so thin, we expect most of the interaction to happen over voice commands or a stylus. The company Lenovo says that this concept would be achieved through “advanced materials” and “new screen technologies.” Not forgetting future battery technologies.

A foldable PC? Maybe someday. Just a concept for now. #LenovoTransform pic.twitter.com/UIq1qpaSwj

— Lenovo (@lenovo) June 20, 2017

We don’t think we are even five years away from such laptops to see the light of day so we have to hold onto our horses, at least not for a while. Several companies including Samsung have shown off flexible displays at major international tech events like CES, and yet, we have no flexible displays in our daily lives.

Well lets see how long it will take device makers to bring flexible displays to the mass market in any product.

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Kenyans are getting a music streaming app from Safaricom but one could do for Ugandans too

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 14:51

Kenya’s biggest telco Safaricom, apparently is launching a stand alone music streaming service, allowing musicians to upload a great amount of their creative work to the service while also allowing its subscribers to listen to it. At a cost of course but mostly likely, these users data will be zero rated to attract not just numbers but make them part of the experience.

Away from Kenya

Okay, let us come back to reality in the land. Here, there is no such a thing as a streaming app from any of the telcos. Caller tunes is what is being fronted while streaming has been left to the likes of YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer among others. These are big guns and competing with them can take a great deal of effort but they all lack a thing or two that might play to the local players advantage, local content!

With the exception of YouTube, the rest haven’t focused so much on the local industry but Google’s video service has infamously been labelled a data hog. How about a zero rated music streaming service with a local ingredient from a local giant?

It’s so absurd looking for local talent on these services only for the search to return blank results.

Either the industry as a whole hasn’t built enabler synergies for this or artistes themselves haven’t yet embraced the future but the future is slowly catching up them sooner than later.

Caller tunes were a hit. What about a streaming Service?

When telcos fronted caller tunes, artistes followed suit and most likely if they get past the paperwork and legalities involves, artistes could follow their lead this time around given monies are involved for their royalties.

Music downloading is gradually becoming a thing of the past while streaming from the cloud is slowly gaining ground lost by the former.

We now have phone cameras that shoot in 4K, add that not only to photos and video but large apps and files that renders the 16GB, 64GBs and 128GBs of storage a little nothing than an accommodation of the the aforementioned files. If you’re to add local files like music to the equation, your further strain the default storage that comes with most of these gizmos.

Give Ugandans an option to listen to music with unlimited storage in the cloud, slowly, the uptake will rival music downloads since there is an option of saving on storage.

You can also include a few value additional services just to get everyone hooked. Like a place to call home and then telcos can capitalization on that while trying to offer value to their subscribers.

How will subscribers to this service pay? Of course Mobile money and cards for those that use them. Artistes on the other hand could reap rewards from streams  instead of letting the pirates reap the rewards off their work.

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Smile Telecom quietly adds new UnlimitedPlatinum bundle, further screws up UnlimitedPremium plan

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 12:00

Following the recent launch of Unlimited internet from the MTN Uganda, Smile Communications has also beefed up its Unlimited offering with a pricier data bundle called UnlimitedPlatinum. The bundle joins the UnlimitedPremium and UnlimitedEssential that cost UGX 330,000 and UGX 179,000 respectively. The new UnlimitedPlatinum Internet bundle will cost UGX 550,000.This is the third time Smile has changed its Premium data plan in less than a year.

This blog has come to learn that Smile UnlimitedPremium subscribers who will top-up their internet packages from today on wards will be disappointed with the new caps that the company has put in place. A current Premium customer will have to upgrade to the new Platinum plan in order to enjoy the same level of service they had before, which means they would have to add an extra UGX 220,000.

Okay, lets get down to the numbers. The new Platinum plan will start off with speeds of up to 6 Mbps, when you reach 60 GB, speeds will be throttled down to 4 Mbps, and when you exceed 100 GB, you its 1mbps and after you hit the 120 GB mark you will experience snail slow 128kbps.

new smile platinum and premium data caps

This is how bad it is for the current premium users, in the new data cap structure, you will start off with the usual 6 Mbps  up to 60 GB, after that you will capped to 4 Mbps until 75 GB. Between 75 and 100 GB customers will be experiencing 1 Mbps speeds and after 100 GB its 128 kbps. The UnlimitedEssential plan remains unchanged.

 

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Owning a UTL SIM card will soon be mandatory for all Ugandans

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 10:13

Ugandans will soon be forced to own a UTL SIM card in order to save the struggling telecom company. This was revealed yesterday by the State Minister for Investment and Privatization Evelyn Anite, where every Ugandan will have a UTL SIM just like the National ID. Speaking at the UTL staff blood donation drive at the constitutional square in Kampala, the outspoken minister said that owning a UTL line should be a show of pride and patriotism for Ugandans. Anite was tasked with ensuring that UTL doesn’t wind up.

Uganda Telecom has been facing challenges of nearly one trillion shillings in debt and was recently placed under receivership.

UTL’s blood donation drive is in partnership with Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS) will be held at the Constitutional Square in Kampala from Monday June 19th to Wednesday June 21st 2017. The drive will then be moved to Queens’ way, Entebbe road from Thursday June 22nd to Saturday June 24th 2017 from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily.

Speaking at the launch, the State Minister of Finance for Investment and Privatization, Hon Evelyn Anite praised UTL for taking the lead in spearheading such initiatives. “I am glad to officially launch this blood donation drive and call upon everyone to join us as we donate blood and save lives. I hope UTL will organize more of such activities and I pledge to render my support in all ways possible. I also call upon other companies to follow UTL’s example and engage in activities that are communally benefiting to all,” Ms. Anite remarked.

Mr. Bemanya Twebaze, the Administrator, Uganda Telecom thanked the minister for being a part of the drive and promised that through UTL’s CSR department, more of such activities will be held. He said “I thank the honorable minister for taking time off her busy schedule to be a part of this initiative.  I have a vibrant and dedicated staff at UTL and we are working together to ensure that such activities are continuous. We want to impact the lives of a large number of people, not just in Kampala, but countrywide. This blood donation drive is just one of the many CSR activities that we have planned.”

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Apple Music quietly added a UGX 170,000 annual subscription plan

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:10

Apple Music subscribers in Uganda, currently pay UGX 18,000 ($4.99) every month and UGX 29,000 ($7.99) for a family plan per month. But Apple has quietly added another option that lets you pay can now pay about UGX 170,000 ($49) for a 12-month subscription.

This setting is quite buried as Apple doesn’t want you to know that you can pay less than what you’re actually paying. We tried different scenarios, and it was quite hard to find the new annual plan — but it’s real. Apple clearly wants to remain ahead of the competition like Spotify who don’t have annual subscription plans and have no presence in most of the countries including Uganda.

If you’re not a current Apple Music subscriber, the Music app only lets you subscribe to a normal monthly plan. But if you’re an existing subscriber, you can go to your membership settings and switch to an annual plan. So new users will have to buy a monthly subscription first and then switch. With the annual subscription, it means you can save over UGX 40,000 ($10.88).

New Apple Music annual subscription

So if you think you’re going to keep using Apple Music for the foreseeable future, you can switch in a couple of taps and save around 17.5 percent.

It should be noted that Apple Music subscription rates are change geographically as the app users in US will have to part with $99 for the same 12-month subscription.

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The Uber Passenger App Review: A 24/7 ride experience

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 09:06

U ber recently updated their passenger app with a major redesign, something they had not done since 2012. In this review we shall to learn how to request rides, maintain a high Uber rating score and more. If you’re an Uber driver, you’ll also find out how you can still use the updated app to scout out the competition and snag more requests. We however have a full Uber driver app review here, so don’t hesitate to check it out but for now lets have a full Uber Passenger App Review.

Lets get started

If it’s your first time using Uber, click here to get an account and also get a discount on your first ride. You will also need to enter you details, like name email, phone number and create a password. Finally you will need to download the Uber app to your smart phone or tablet by searching for “Uber” in your app store or Google Playstore.

When you first open the app, you will be prompted to enter your phone number and password you used when you Signed up. Then, you will be taken to the main screen. Here the app will show you up to 8 drivers closest to your location.

Request a ride Requesting Uber ride, ETA and Options that follow

With the new Uber app, you are able to request for a driver immediately, or schedule one for the future. Tap the calendar icon to the right to schedule a ride or tap where to if you are ready to go right away. My experience with scheduling a ride is that if you stay in areas with few Uber drivers, you must at least expect a 10 to 30 minute delay especially during rush or peak hours.

The App will use your phone’s current GPS location. To fill in the address where you would like to be picked up, please give your phone’s GPS some time to settle until you request for a ride. This means, double check to make sure the address being provided by your GPS is correct. You can edit or move the location pin if needed.

Something for the drivers

If you are a driver, you can use this screen to scout out the competition. After you tap the starting location line, you will be able to see the map again, from here you can scroll and zoom to show you the 8 drivers closes to the new pin location, this will also help drivers scout out the competition and position yourself away from a dense park of drivers thus maximizing your chances of receiving a ping when a new passenger request comes in.

Smart Features

Once you’ve got your pick up location set, you will need to enter your destination. You can enter an address or search for places by name but double check to make sure you have the right one before you get going. Sometime there might be several different destinations with the same name. Two new features in the Uber app are Smart Address suggestions and Location sharing. The app will save locations that you travel to or from as shortcuts and suggest them at the bottom for easy access. You will also see the option to ride to your friend’s current location (may not be available to everyone).

Trip fare known in Advance

Once you’ve selected your destination, Uber will show you a preview of your ride on the map. Uber recently changed their billing method to a more customer friendly variant where one gets to know how much their trip will cost in advance. Even if this angered most Ugandan Uber drivers initially, it was best for the customers. Now you can see the actual fare that you will pay for the ride. Fares for a given ride may vary depending on the time of day. Pricing is based partly on current demand and driver availability, so expect to pay a bit more, when heading home from a big event, when it rains or during the busy hours.

If you haven’t yet entered a payment method, the app will prompt you to do so at his point. Keep in mind that the app gives you the option to share the bill with your friends (max 4) and you can pay with either your debit/VISA card or cash with Mobile money options coming soon in the near future. In our review and interactions, we’ve noted that some drivers prefer cash to card payments and will cancel trips or rate passengers low based on this.

Lets get riding

Once your request is accepted by a driver, the app will show you their Estimated Time of Arrival (ETA) along with their first name, picture, car (get ready to see all kinds of Toyota brands ever made) and license plate. If you have special instructions for your driver, tap the bar at the bottom. Tapping contact will give you the option to call or preferably SMS your driver (wondering when WhatsApp integration will be added). If your pick up address is a bit vague like most address are in Uganda, you can help your driver to get to you quickly by telling them exactly where to meet you once they arrive. Most Uber drivers in Uganda will always call you to confirm your pick up place, but be warned they are not mandated to do so.

If the driver delays or any other issue happens, you have the option to cancel the trip, however if you cancel after 5 minutes, a standard charge of UGX 3,000 will be billed to your account.

When your car arrives, confirm the driver’s name and you will be on your way. During the ride, you can view your progress on the map. Please be warned that at this stage the app uses a lot of your device’s resources so don’t be worried if the device get a little bit warm. Scrolling down, you can see your current trip details. Tapping the Change button next to your destination allows you enter a new destination. Your driver should receive a notification and their GPS should update accordingly. You can also share your ETA with a friend by tapping Share Status. When you keep scrolling down on the same page you will find new Uber promos and services if any at that particular time.

Rating time

When you’ve reached your destination, your driver will end the trip and your app will ask you to rate them. If all was well, please give your driver the full 5 stars and he will do the same for you. Uber is very strict about ratings. So drivers try hard to make every trip a 5 star experience. In some countries if a driver’s average rating falls below 4.6 they will no longer be able to work on the platform. But, in Uganda, I have been driven by drivers with ratings as low a s 4.4.  You can also write complements or write a thank you note to your driver. Drivers can see both notes and compliments but they are not factored into their ratings.

Uber Menu, Rating and Trip Details Should I tip my driver?

A few passengers in Uganda wonder if they should tip their drivers, although tipping is not required remember that tips are not included in the fare. Drivers very much appreciate anything extra you can give especially for shared rides or short minimum fare trips below UGX 5,000. When you take the booking fee into account, Uber winds up keeping a percentage of every fare and they don’t reimburse drivers for any gas, maintenance or other expenses.

Understanding the Uber Menu

Tapping the icon to the top left opens the main menu. Under the payment section, you can add different credit or debit cards or choose the cash option. Companies and Individuals can also set up a business profile to easily charge all of your business trips to a different payment source.

If you need to report a problem that occurred during the ride, go to the menu and tap, Your Trips. Tapping a trip will show you a list of common issues including lost items, payments problems and more. If the issue concerns multiple charging, scroll to the bottom and report that particular issue.

The Free Rides menu option allows you to invite friends to signup for Uber using your unique invite code in my case its rogerb3253ue. So if they decide to use Uber, you’ll earn a credit on your account.

The Help menu offers assistance on a variety of topics at the top, you will see your most recent trip, tap it to report an issue. The help menu also contains explanations, and instructions for resolving various issue related to accessibility. If you have an issue that is not addressed in the help menu, you may have to contact Uber directly. There is no way to do this from the app itself, instead you will have to visit the Uber website and fill out a contact form.

If you want to find out your passenger rating, Uber has now put it conveniently next to your name in the menu profile. We already have details about the Uber passenger rating system here, so feel free to check it out.

In the main menu under settings, you can change your personal info, including your email address and password. You can also add shortcuts to your home and work address, and these will appear on the main screen, for easy access.

 

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Downloading and watching Netflix content offline is becoming a “raw deal”

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 08:23

Late last year, Netflix enabled downloads for offline playback, which was great news for subscribers who travel constantly or who are very mobile. At that time, the function came with some minor drawbacks, like expiration dates for downloads and limited support for microSD storage on Android devices. Now, another limitation with offline playback is causing grumbles making Netflix offline viewing another raw deal in the making. Now, some content can only be downloaded a finite number of times a year.

This was recently discovered by Android Police, where a notification appears without advanced warning, popping up only when you’re about to hit the download threshold. If you try to download after reaching the limit, you’ll receive an error. There has been no exact figure on what this limit is, but it has been estimated at four to five downloads a year. It’s also not Netflix’s fault the limit exists, as we’ve known from day one that it doesn’t own the vast majority of the content it offers, and so, it is constrained to rights holders.

What is incredibly annoying, though, is that there are multiple scenarios where these limits could kick in before you ever watch something offline. Some offline content expires in as little as 48 hours, for example, leaving a short viewing window that can be interrupted by anything you could be doing in your day to day life. So, what about offline content deleted to free up storage that then can’t be re-downloaded?

 It’s worth noting that Netflix does state on a help page regarding downloads: “Due to studio limits, you may not be able to renew all titles. If you are unable to renew a title but would still like to watch it, you’ll need to connect to the internet to stream.”  When downloading content off Netflix next time keep in mind that you have some limitations.

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Govt phasing out current ordinary passports in favor of e-passports

Thu, 06/15/2017 - 08:08

The Ministry of Internal Affairs says it is facing a shortage of passports in the country. The state minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania blames the shortage on the delay in the implementation of the e- passport (electronic passport) as was agreed upon by the East African community member states. The Ugandan passports is one the internationally legally recognized travel document and owning one is enshrined in the constitution. But from this Wednesday 14th June till early August, only a few applying for this document will be able to get one.

In a local daily, the directorate of immigration in the country, issued a statement indicating lack of ordinary or machine readable passports, in the country. “We are going to go to e-passports, then we are going to phase out these machine readable passports, so therefore there is no need to put an order for new passport books in March or April to cover the other period. We only ordered a number which will last up to about July. Because we expect by the end of July we shall be using fully e-passports ” the State Minister of Internal Affairs, Mr Obiga Kaina said.

With more Ugandans now interested in traveling out of the country in search for jobs and education among others, the immigration department says there is a sharp raise in the demand for passports the Minister said that “Suddenly there has been a surge of Ugandans going out of the country. You’ve heard of Ugandans going to the Middle East for jobs, you’ve heard of a lot of Ugandans going outside for business, and those going for studies. Therefore the stock which we has anticipated will last up to July, we’ve now realized will not necessarily run up to July “.

The cost of acquiring an ordinary passport is UGX 150,000 and UGX 300,000 for an express one, however the department says exceptions will be made for emergency cases. The immigration department has decided to ration the issuance of passports to mostly for people with medical cases, certified government officials, students who have urgent matters and finally any other emergency which they deem fit.

In March last year, the East African Community launched the electronic passport, where citizens of Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania and South Sudan would start issuing electronic or machine readable passports (MRP). Issuing these e-passports was initially scheduled to start by 1st Jan 2017.

The new e-passports will be equipped with an electronic chip that is readable by airport machines across the world where the system is already implemented. In 2003, due to global security threats ICAO adopted the scheme for implementation of both MRPs and use of biometric identifiers in all of its 188 members. The passports are embedded with radio frequency identification chips that are machine readable and carry the passport holders information other than the bio data. In terms of apperance, the new passports will not be different from the existing ones except for the features in the ICAO guidelines. Last year, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says that the infrastructure for electronic passport scanning at the airport is already in place and waiting for implementation.

 

 

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Google’s Android Excellence kicks off today in the Google Play Store

Wed, 06/14/2017 - 08:44

Google has today, unveiled its new Android Excellence program, an expansion to its Play Store with that features curated apps by the editorial team. The new revamped experience will  feature rotating collection of apps that deliver an excellent Android user experience, and also those that take advantage of Google’s “best practices,” and “have great design, technical performance, localization, and device optimization.” The apps will be shown off two categories, including apps and games. Android Excellence is really not that new in the Play Store as Google previously has the Editor’s Choice section, where they would promote good apps.

 Apple recently announced a revamp of their AppStore wit a new interface that focuses on discovery and how-tos. The new App Store’s upgraded landing page will feature one new app a day, opening possibilities for up-and-coming developers and encouraging daily visits. Android Excellence program is Google’s response to this, with more extensive app lists to be updated quarterly.

The Android Excellence kicks off today in the Google Play Store. Below, their first round of selects.

Android Excellence Apps

Android Excellence Games

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WorldRemit launches with Android Pay to offer mobile-to-mobile transfers to the world’s unbanked

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 12:45

WorldRemit, the leading digital money transfer service has added Android Pay to its service, offering a new way for WorldRemit’s Android Pay users to send money internationally and reach millions using mobile money accounts.

Pioneering a mobile-first approach to the $600bn a year remittance industry, the move sees WorldRemit bringing together the leading players in mobile payments from Silicon Valley and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Launching the global rollout of the service at MoneyConf 2017, WorldRemit will enable Android Pay users to safely and securely send money to +112 million mobile money accounts accessible via its network. The integration will make WorldRemit the only remittance provider offering international payments through Android Pay around the globe.

By connecting directly with Android Pay, WorldRemit customers can transfer money instantly across continents in just 5 taps – without entering credit card or 3DS details. Using mobile money, a recipient customer can then pay for school fees, utility bills and groceries among other things directly from their mobile phones – without the need for 3G or wifi. As Android Pay is supported by industry standard tokenization, payments are sent with a virtual account number providing an extra layer of security.

WorldRemit currently sends money to more mobile money accounts than any other operator in the world. The company enables migrants to send money from their smartphones to the mobile phones of the people they love, in over 140 countries to be paid out in cash, paid into a bank account or into a mobile money account.

Alice Newton-Rex, VP of Product at WorldRemit, comments: “Currently 60% of WorldRemit app users are on Android, which is also by far the most popular mobile operating system in the developing world, where 2 billion people are still unbanked, but critically half a billion use their mobiles as a bank account.

“This integration with Android Pay is the next logical step of our mobile first approach, and continues our commitment to providing greater financial inclusion.’’

Pali Bhat, Director, Product Management at Google, said: “We want to make it easier for organisations like WorldRemit to offer a simpler, faster in-app payment solution for their customers. With Android Pay, people will be able to speed through checkout with their Android phones in a few clicks”.

WorldRemit users make around 600,000 transactions every month, sending from over 50 countries to more than 140 destinations.

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Youtap partners with MatchMove to deliver open-loop payments for mobile money customers in Africa

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:17

Youtap, a global provider of contactless mobile money payments and financial services software, has announced a partnership with MatchMove that will provide Youtap’s customers in Africa and Asia with an off-the-shelf open-loop payment acceptance solution for closed-loop wallets.

Youtap has worked closely with MatchMove to provide integration to Youtap Pay, Youtap’s mobile money payment processing platform. The combined solution will enable mobile operators to issue Mastercard companion cards to their mobile money customers. Cards can be branded and integrated with an operator’s current mobile wallet app.

This partnership is in response to the growing demand for Mastercard companion cards connected with mobile money accounts globally. It provides for tight integration for the acquiring, processing and settlement of credit, debit and prepaid cards linked to a mobile money wallet.

Chris Jones, CEO and founder of Youtap, said, “Our partnership with MatchMove is yet another disrupter for cash transactions in growth markets. It makes it possible for customers without credit cards to buy products online and in stores with mobile money.”

Shailesh Naik, CEO of MatchMove, said, “MatchMove is committed to accelerating financial inclusion for the millions of people worldwide who are now connected digitally via their smartphones but remain unbanked and uncarded. Our partnership with Youtap will expand the availability of our secure cashless solutions for mobile operators around the world, thus creating a new channel to bridge the gap between mobile money and end users.”

Youtap’s mobile payments platforms are operating in multiple countries in Africa and Asia with various payment service providers and mobile network operators.

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The MTN Uganda Unlimited Internet Experience Review: A slice of Unlimited speeds

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 10:04

A few weeks ago, we hit the interwebs with an exclusive story about the biggest telecom in the country finally giving unlimited internet a shot.

It has been business as usual at MTN Uganda and not at one time had it tried sailing in the waters of unlimited internet. And so,  it came as a surprise to many that finally big yellow wants to give the likes of Smile and Africell a run for their money.

With one of the biggest 4G and 3G footprints in the country so hey, why not try giving Ugandans Unlimited Internet they’ve longed for? Just as we previously promised, we’ve had a chance of experiencing MTN’s new unlimited internet to attest whether it is truly unlimited not just in word, but in service too.

The greater part of last 2 weeks has been spent experiencing MTN Uganda’s take on unlimited internet and here are our observations.

The Bundle Basics

MTN launched its unlimited internet with three tiers with MTN Unlimited Basic going for UGX 179,000 for, MTN Unlimited Premium having a market price of UGX 330,000 and finally MTN Unlimited Night going for UGX 99,000 and all valid for 30 days as explained here. The pricing looks similar to Smile’s unlimited only that there was lack of a volume mention on MTN’s side, until we explained it above.

For this review, we went all out and tested with the MTN Unlimited Premium bundle using MTN’s Huawei E5573s – 320 MIFI which is capable of download speeds of up to 150Mbps and upload speeds of 50Mbps. Test areas included; CBD, Nakasero, Bukoto, Ntinda, Naalya and Namugongo given they are some of the areas with a large bulk of internet users and penetration.

The Tests

The tools at our disposal were Ookla’s speednet, Netflix’s fast and speedof.me. We are pretty heavy internet users and so we strained MTN’s unlimited internet to the maximum plus our observations are quite conclusive and a testament of what MTN’s take on unlimited is. Any disagreements or suggestions are welcome in our comments section.

The speeds were not pretty consistent and at the worst, the network dropped to 3G since MTN’s 2600MHz band can allow it to switch to 3G in case you can’t pick up the 4G signal. This is the one thing that differentiates MTN from the some of the unlimited crowd as they solely focus on 4G LTE while big yellow has both third and fourth generation networks at its disposal.

The Experience

How better to test heavy usage than big data like video? I binge watched on Netflix for the greater part of my evenings enjoying Netflix Originals like; Iron Fist, and 13 Reasons why on both SD and HD, Youtube not forgetting torrents, updates among others. Whereas the picture quality was good on most streaming services (Netflix in particular), likewise there were times with a noticeable drop in frame rates which were later regained.

MTN Unlimited Experience using Netflix’s speedof.me

I will attribute this to optimization with time that Netflix could tell my dropped speeds and optimized my experience to suit the speeds. I suppose also, that this was after I exceeded the daily download limit of 3GB after which speeds are dropped to less than 256 kbps best-effort as the FUP applies. It’s wasn’t until the following day, that speeds would resume as were before. Well, no surprises there.

The average download is 1.7Mbps on all and 1.0Mbps uploads, while concurrent heavy usage saw speeds drop to as low as 140Kbps, way below the suggested 256Kbps.

Overall, each day had its own experience with highs and lows but the nights turned out to have the best experience. It could be because of low usage and as such, the network isn’t as strained and congested as would be the case during day.

MTN Unlimited Experience using Speedtest

Also, given the different pricing of the three unlimited offerings, it is safe to assume that each will have its own volume as you can’t equally divide volumes to a UGX 179,000, UGX 330,000 and UGX 99,000 user but MTN has mostly delegated the debate to speeds than volume. Each tier has the same maximum download speeds of 2 Mbps but different different data caps.

Coming from Smile, MTN still has an achilles heel to battle but might rise triumphant  given Uganda is blanketed by the yellow network, coverage plays to their favor unlike the green network that is limited to a few Metropolitan areas. However with experience, Smile Wins!

The average speed of 2 Mbps might sound good on paper but it kept dropping as more devices connected to the network especially the moment I returned home owing to the many gadgetry, getting connected simultaneously. Still, you have to keep the daily data limit into consideration as it would take a while to fully optimise the experience to a seamless one once exceeded with many devices connected at ago.

While people privy to the matter remain cagey about the actual volumes dispensed per tier, it is safe to assume that the 3GB threshold per day will equate to 90GB at the end of the normal 30days period for MTN Unlimited Premium and MTN Unlimited Night while the 1GB per day for MTN Basic will equate to 30GB for a 30day period window.

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Airtel Uganda announces investment partnership with Facebook to improve Uganda’s telecom infrastructure

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 09:29

Airtel Uganda has announced an investment partnership with BCS, with support from Facebook to improve the telecom infrastructure in Uganda.

The investment will see a total of nearly 800 KM of optical fiber laid in North West Uganda – covering Gulu, Adjumani, Arua, Koboko, Nebbi and Kamdini areas – which will be funded jointly by Airtel, BCS and Facebook.

Talking about BCS and its involvement in the Project, Mr. Yonas Maru – Managing Director BCS commended Facebook and Airtel for realizing that coming together to build reliable communication infrastructure can only work to make sure that in the long run the customer, the country and the people win. Reliable and dependable communication infrastructure helps to demolish all manner of boundaries and put local people firmly on the path to becoming global citizens. We at BCS are very happy to be part of this partnership and like in the past where we have been at the forefront of making sure that Internet in Uganda is accessible, reliable and affordable, we will forge ahead and keep opening new frontiers”.

“This investment supports our mission to bring internet access to the remaining 50% of the world’s population who are not yet connected. We’re excited to partner with Airtel and BCS in Uganda on this open access fiber backhaul project – bringing expanded data capacity to a region where it’s currently limited. We hope to continue to expand this model to partner with more operators and connect more people around the world,” said Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s African Public Policy manager.

“This investment is in line with our promise to provide the Latest Technology, Fastest Network and Widest Coverage at the most affordable cost. We at Airtel believe that internet is the future and as such have invested heavily to ensure that our customers are part of the future now. This partnership with Facebook & BCS will see faster speeds and better internet experience on the smartphone network,” commented Mr. Anwar Soussa – Airtel Uganda’s Managing Director.

ICT is the fastest-growing economic element in Uganda and with appropriate partnerships like the one we are witnessing this morning, we the regulator are pleased that the underserved rural communities of Uganda are getting access to ICT, noted Mr. Godfrey Mutabazi – Executive Director UCC

Mr. Bagiire Vincent Waiswa – Permanent Secretary of the ICT Ministry, commended Airtel, Facebook & BCS for the strategic partnership that will foster growth in the North West region. “We need more investment in data, because that is what the global community is heading,” he added.

Over the years, Airtel Uganda has signed strategic partnership with the leading technology partners like IBM, Facebook, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE in order to ensure that subscribers have the best data & telecom service experience across the entire country. With this partnership, Ugandans countrywide, starting with those in the North West, will be able to stand at par with any subscriber in Kampala or any other developed country for their ICT needs whether for business, NGOs, education, medical, social integration  or administration improvement.

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Microsoft’s next games console is the new powerful Xbox One X

Mon, 06/12/2017 - 11:57

Microsoft has finally unveiled its long awaited its powerful “Project Scorpio” games console today, and it’s officially named Xbox One X. The company plans to launch the Xbox One X on November 7th worldwide, priced at a price of $499.

 The beauty about the Xbox One X launch is that all existing Xbox One accessories will work on it— alongside all existing Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles and Xbox One games. Microsoft is planning to use “super sampling” on the One X to make new games look better even on Full HD TVs. Specifications

The new console will ship with 6 teraflops of graphical power, and when compared to its main competitor, the PS4 Pro, with 4.2 teraflops, the Xbox One X is king. Microsoft is using a custom GPU engine on Scorpio that runs at 1,172MHz, a big increase over the Xbox One’s 853MHz and even Sony’s 911MHz found on the PS4 Pro. The Xbox One X will ship with an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for 4K movies and entertainment, and 1TB of storage.

Microsoft has 22 “console launch exclusives” arriving on the Xbox One X, including Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, and Sea of Thieves. Microsoft’s Xbox chief, Phil Spencer, introduced a number of new titles and left most of the company’s E3 press conference up to the games themselves.

According to Microsoft, the new Xbox One X is the “smallest Xbox ever,” and the black design looks very similar to the existing Xbox One S model. This means there aren’t many external changes over the Xbox One S design, and the X simply gets a little smaller. For now, Microsoft is only shipping the Xbox One X with the black design and 1TB of storage.

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These are the 5 major features coming to the new Windows 10 Creator’s update

Fri, 06/09/2017 - 12:58

Windows 10 users will have some reasons to smile, as today Microsoft is releasing a new test version of Windows 10, build number 16215, and as there are several changes in this new version. For  If you’re a Windows Insider on the Fast Ring then it’s available immediately, for everyone else all of the new features will arrive in the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update later this year.

New Action Center There will be a redesign of the notification center (Action Center),with separate sections for apps. It certainly looks a lot better, and groups notifications together in a more coherent way from devices, apps, and elsewhere. Pin website on task bar You’ll now be able to pin your favorite websites to the taskbar in this latest Windows 10 update. Of course, once they’re pinned they’ll open in Microsoft’s Edge browser, but the pinned sites feature is returning after feedback from Windows 10 users. Cortana Improvements There are some changes in the animations for new tabs in Edge, making things a little faster. But in a bigger note, Cortana will also see some changes, with the ability for the digital assistant to prompt for reminders by scanning images (with your permission) for things like events. Windows 10 stylus support Perhaps the biggest changes Microsoft is focusing on are with Windows 10 stylus support. The handwriting panel has been overhauled with more gestures, better editing, emoji, and automatic handwriting detection. As you write with a pen words are automatically converted to text, and words will shift along so you can simply keep writing. Emoji comes to emails and social media messages

It is now easy for one to add emoji into emails or social media messages. A new winkey + period / semicolon keyboard shortcut will trigger a new emoji panel where you can pick the most appropriate emoji for your messages. The company will also be adding a new touch keyboard for Windows 10 desktop and tablet users, with prediction, emoji suggestions, one-handed input, and shape writing with your fingers or a stylus.

And the rest…

There’s a lot of other minor changes and fixes listed in Microsoft’s huge blog post, and all will be welcomed by regular Windows 10 users. This is one of the bigger feature additions to Windows 10 preview builds for a few months now as Microsoft heads towards a September release for the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.

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Uber introduces a new feature that allows drivers to link with riders going to the same direction

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 14:38

Uber today announced a new feature that helps driver-partners  automatically link to riders/ trips headed in the same direction at the beginning and end of their working day. This will allow driver-partners to continue earning even while on their way home and begin earning earlier as they head out of home.

The ‘Driver Destinations’ feature will allow driver-partners to set their destination twice a day when they want to be matched only with riders traveling in a similar direction The new feature has been rolled out as an option to all drivers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

Commenting on the new feature, Uber General Manager for East Africa, Loic Amado said, “We are constantly looking for new ways to enhance our app to better serve the needs of our driver-partners. Based on past feedback we’ve received, we’re excited that this feature can help them make their first and last trip of the day count even more.”

 To access the feature, drivers need to be logged into their driver application, tap the clipboard icon on the top right corner of the app and either select a saved location or search for a new address. Once they start driving toward the destination, Uber will automatically filter requests for trips along the way.

 “Using this great new feature, our driver-partners can continue earning even while they are on their way into the city from home and on their way home. This brings us one step closer to realizing our goal as a company, which is to get more people into less cars thereby increasing economic opportunities for our driver-partners and ultimately reducing congestion on our roads, ” said Mr. Amado.

Although the new feature is currently included in the UberX service which is the version of Uber used in East Africa, this is the first step towards a stand-alone model that Uber runs in other markets ‘UberPOOL’ – a service that ensures that passengers travelling on the same route can share a ride and pay less than a standard UberX fare. UberPOOL, which is available in 32 cities across the world, accounts for 20% of Uber trips in those cities.

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Apple has a new smart speaker and its called the HomePod

Tue, 06/06/2017 - 11:04

Apple’s latest “innovation” is a new HomePod intelligent speaker, which kind of looks like a mesh-wrapped Mac Pro. The Homepod is a direct response to Amazon’s popular Echo device and GoogleHome all of which are meant to serve the same purpose.  It comes in black and white, and has seven tweeters in the bottom, along with a four-inch woofer, and six microphones at the top.

The HomePods were showed off the the public in the demo area of their Developer conference that happened yesterday. And the Homepod is expected to ship in December for $349 (UGX 1.3 million). The speaker is powered by an A8 chip that does automatic EQ and echo cancellation with beamforming for the tweeters — it detects the size and shape of a room to tune the best sound.

It will respond to the same key word you use on your iPhone, “Hey, Siri,” and it will light up at the top with a little waveform, and you can ask for a lot of Siri-type things, like reminders, timers, and random questions.

Apple’s also took time off to promote the privacy aspects of the HomePod — it reportedly  doesn’t send anything to Apple until you say “Hey Siri,” and then it sends data using an anonymous encrypted Siri ID.

Apple’s billing the HomePod as a home music speaker first of all, connecting it to the iPod, iPhone, Apple Music, and AirPods. So there’s a lot of focus on Apple Music integration.

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