Your smartphone is smarter than you know
These days, an increasing number of Rwandans is upgrading their communication, ditching their old simple mobile phone for a smartphone. What they are not upgrading, however, is their usage of the device – they are still limited to calling, SMS and connecting to the Internet, with the only difference that they are now using a phone that is much more likely to impress their friends or fellow commuters.
What they do not know is that the shiny device they hold in their hand is also a camera that shoots high-quality videos, a powerful wireless internet hotspot, an amazing e-book reader, a portable digital music and video player, and a console full of games. It’s called ‘smartphone’ for a reason.
“Over 70% of our customers don’t really know that there’s more to these devices,” says Matt Karangwa, customer care agent at Elite Digital, the sole authorized reseller of Apple in Rwanda. “Those are people who will go ‘huh?’ when you tell them that Apple ID is the first thing they should think of after unboxing their iPhones.”
Here are a few of the more useful, but not so obvious, functions to help you get the most out of your iPhone or Android (we do not look at BlackBerry in this article, but since they are fully supported by MTN, you can always visit one of their service centers or their website to find out more about your device).
Apple ID / Gmail
A smartphone with no applications (apps) isn’t any different from an Internet-enabled feature phone. The most useful feature of a smartphone is that it is in fact a small computer that can run third-party programs (the apps), like Facebook and WhatsApp Messenger but also thousands of home-made apps that include things such as calculators, dictionaries, shopping lists, voice recorders, games etc. etc.
To access those (from App Store and Google Play respectively), you must have an ID. For Android, the process is simple and straightforward: you only need a Gmail account, which normally you will be requested to create the first time you turn on the phone.
It’s a bit more tricky with the iPhone, where you must register your email to Apple ID by providing a local physical address where iPhone is supported. Now that isn’t the case yet for Rwanda, so entering ‘Rwanda’ as your country will not be accepted. The simple way around this is to use Apple’s own corporate address, by copying the contact details found at http://www.apple.com/contact/. If you happen to know a physical address in Kampala, you can also use that one, since Uganda is Apple-supported.
If you have a smartphone and you want to browse the internet on your laptop, tablet or desktop computer, there is no need to use an MTN or Tigo modem anymore – your phone can connect you. This is called tethering, which is supported by both Tigo and MTN.
For iPhone, go to Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network. If you’re not already connected, write internet.mtn or web.tigo.rw in the first APN field and then scroll down where there’s an option for Internet Tethering. Repeat the above APN and go back. You’ll now see a new entry labeled “Personal Hotspot”, tap and enable it.
For Android, depending on the model you’re using (we have used the Galaxy Nexus), go to Settings > Wireless & Networks and then tick “Tethering & Portable Hotspot”. When you do this for the first time, you will be asked to enter a network name and whether you want to protect it with a password (which is always a good idea).
After tethering is activated, check the wireless networks on your computer and connect to the one of your phone.
Be warned however that tethering is a battery-drainer, so remember to turn it off when you are finished using it (with the iPhone, the wireless will automatically become idle when you’re not connected to it).
This is the feature that made BlackBerry so popular: when you receive an e-mail, the device immediately detects it and notifies you.
For Android too, the feature is de facto standard. The system comes with a native Gmail app that handles push automatically, and if you want to use Yahoo or Hotmail, there are apps for them in Google Play that do the same.
The problem child is the iPhone which, to save the battery, normally does not constantly monitor you e-mail, but only at certain intervals (15 or 20 minutes). Yet you can activate push in Apple Mail (a built-in e-mail manager). Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Add Account… and then you’ll see different e-mail options. What you have to do is to tap Microsoft Exchange and fill in the fields. The only info you might not know is the server name that Microsoft will need to push e-mail: for Gmail and Google Apps for Business, use m.google.com; for Hotmail use m.hotmail.com. If you need to push Yahoo Mail, you’ll have to download the official app from the App Store.
With iCloud, your iPhone will store contacts in the cloud, meaning that you’ll be able to retrieve them if you change your phone. You just set up iCloud from Settings and that’s all. There’s also an option of storing them in Gmail and Yahoo.
If you’re using Android, you have the option for storing your contacts on Gmail — this is the only and compulsory way to people using Nexus phones. Any changes you make to a contact in Gmail reflect on Android, and vice versa.
If you’re using the iPhone, you can take advantage of FaceTime, a feature that allows you to have a video conversion between anyone with an iPhone, iPod touch, iPad or Mac. Friends will be calling you using your Apple ID. FaceTime works only over Wi-Fi. There are also alternatives that work across all platforms (Android and iOS). Fring and Tango are the best free apps you can download. They don’t require any registration — only your phone number.