Saturday, 9 January 2010

Cheap International calls from South Africa using Calling Cards (no computer necessary): another HTT calculator to compare offerings

Yes, I’ve blogged about VOIP and SkypeOut and VoipBuster and NimBuzz and Fring and Dect-to-Voip but all of those require a computer or cell phone, and Internet connection (preferably ADSL or 3G/Edge).  Some of my readers and friends have asked for a much simpler way of making international calls and save money – in fact they are already using calling cards
Calling cards are more expensive than using your ADSL connection (probably slightly more than paying for the data charges on your cell phone unless you have a data bundle), but the low cost (relative to Telkom), simplicity and convenience of using a calling card from any phone is a very good option for a lot of people.

This blog article attempts to find a few services that are available in South Africa and compares their rates:

(Please note that I haven’t tried any of these web services, although I have purchased some physical calling cards from ‘Talk Time’;
Also, rates are taken from the services’ web sites and might differ from their actual charges;
Don’t forget to consider the costs of the local call to the calling card’s local service number (that’s the cost of the Telkom call) – call at Call-More-Time {weekends and on weekdays: after 19h00 to 06h59} else get a Telkom ‘Closer Plan’)

image image  imageimage  imageimage
image  image

Please note that HTT has not tried any of these services so cannot guarantee their services at all.  Quality of call, and rates might not be as depicted on their web sites.

Download HTT’s calling card calculator – download and read the “ReadMe” worksheet for instructions: HTT’s PhoneCallingCardsRatesCalculator
Note: the spreadsheet also compares VoipBuster and SkypeOut rates – did I say that VoipBuster rocks??!!! 
That DECT to VoipBuster solution is really convenient too :)

HelloHowzit: is dedicated to provide a low cost, high quality phone service offering discounted overseas international telephone calls.

Phone IT also known as: or 

They sell international phonecards for inexpensive international calls.  I think this is the service that provides the “Talk Time International Calling Cards”. 
Access numbers are: 011 - 232 9792 or 011 - 555 9600 or 021 – 673 6730

They also have a dial through service using the 087 8063555 access number, which is useful if you have free cellphone minutes to use up.

International phonecard rates start at R0.36 to most land line destinations. See the website for a whole list of countries.

Free R50.00 signup bonus on new South African call-through accounts!
This offer is valid for a limited time when opening a new R300 account.

The CARE project calling cards:
Make Free International Calls from you mobile or landline and support The C.A.R.E Project.  Save time and energy by using our free service and pay local call rates.  Use you mobile free minutes to effectively make free calls to overseas destinations. YES... It's FREE and support a charity organisation as well!

C.A.R.E (Caring. Assisting. Reaching. Empowering) is a non-profit organization formed to combat poverty and assist those less fortunate in realizing their potential towards self-empowerment.  The organization aims to do so by providing food and other products to poverty stricken communities, and advocating programmes for self- development and sustainability.

Dial the local access number (010 590 4444) and make free calls to over 60 countries. It's that SIMPLE!
Cellphone free minutes do apply, no PIN required, pay local mobile or fixed line rates.

All profits will be used to fund their social development projects which include:
  *) Funding and support of an orphanage
  *) Homeless feeding schemes
  *) Other social development projects to be initiated

1. How does it work ?
  i) Dial our local access number, 010 590 4444
  ii) Wait for the voice prompt
  iii) Dial your Destination number follows :
         00 <country code> <destination number>   e.g    00 44 207 3457654  (UK London)

2. What's the catch ?
Well... There is no catch.  You dial our access number, we obtain rebates from the service providers and the profits are used to fund social development and charity projects.

3. How much does it cost ?
Calls to global destinations are FREE!

Calls from your mobile provider depends on local call rates available on the package you have subscribed to.
Free mobile minutes may apply. This is not a premium rated service and you will be charged at local cellular rates to call our access number.  Peak and off peak rates apply thus determining the Free destinations available.

Calls from your Telkom landline to our access number are charged at R0.78 per minute during peak hours and R0.40 during off-peak.

4. Do I need a PIN number ?
NO. You do not require a PIN so call at your convenience

HTT comment: excellent rates to a limited list of 127 countries (and some cell phones).

Telesaver Phone Cards

HTT comment:
Excellent per minute rates BUT, beware: the cards expire: R50 expires 6 months after first use.  R20 expires 1 month after first use.  Recharging makes a card last for an extra 6 months per R50.
The rates listed are awesome!  Some are even better than VoipBuster!

HippoCom allows payment by credit card.
The International Pre-Paid Calling Cards are available in R25, R50 and R80 denominations. These cards allow you access to all our international destinations at the lowest prices.

Access Numbers: 031-251 8100 and 031-765 2248

See here for their FAQs: FAQs

Phone4You allows payment by credit card.
Web site is (still) undergoing an upgrade but shows the rates and compares them with Telkom rates (and % saving).

Updated on 09Jan2010 @ 17h00: added WorldChat and SunDial telecom (and updated WorldChat to calculator .xls)
{Didn’t change the verdict tho)

WorldChat: allows payment by credit card
Calls are billed per minute.

Denominations of airtime: R25, R50, R100, R200

Please note all cards expire within 90 days of initial use.
R200 cards will expire 180 days after initial use

A trick: to add another 90 days credit to your expired card & have access to your expired airtime, recharge online.  Even by recharging with the smallest denomination (R25 for which you'll only pay R22.50) you will get access to your expired credit as well as the extra credit you have recharged by!

Access numbers:
  *) Durban     031 2048090
  *) Johannesburg     011 2312800
  *) Cape Town      021 4871040
  *) Tollfree (but rates per minute to International countries is higher): 0800 1WORLD (0800 196753)

SunDial telecom:
Per minute charge varies according to the calling card denomination that you have purchased – the more expensive the card, the lower the per minute rate.

The advertised web site is not working: rather use: SunDial telecom

Access numbers:
Nationwide Share Call 0860 104649 – you pay for a local call (to Telkom) – this is NOT toll free.
CellSave 087 941 5000

Cape Town 021 402 0164
Johannesburg 011 252 1157
Pretoria 012 313 6930
Nelspruit 013 752 9524
Vereeniging 016 420 6447
Klerksdorp 018 406 2018
Rustenburg 014 590 2002
Standerton 017 727 8261
Kimberley 053 838 2040
Bloemfontein 051 411 0781
Durban 031 582 8218
Port Elizabeth 041 397 9805
East London 043 700 3005

Calls can be made to the 087 Cellsave access number from your cellular phone to use your free minutes (you receive a 30c discount on the per minute rate.) 
All calling card and subscriber calls made to the Toll Free access number (you don't pay local call charges)

See here for rates: SunDial telecom rates

HTT verdict: based on a random selection of countries (listed in the default filtered list in the spreadsheet) it is obvious that the Telesaver International Phone Card rates are the best – but, if you don’t use up your card within the expiry time, then you will lose your money! 
{R50 expires 6 months after first use. R20 expires 1 month after first use. Recharging makes a card last for an extra 6 months per R50.}
Don’t forget though, if you have ADSL, then VoipBuster is the best and cheapest!

Some tips: BEWARE of services that have 0861 access numbers – the rates are probably cheaper BUT they get a kick-back from Telkom per minute of the LOCAL call costs (to the calling card’s access number).

Here’s an excellent (although a bit dated) article from ‘Personal Finance’: Ten ways to cut your phone bill


Monday, 4 January 2010

Well done Cape Union Mart: your 5 way guarantee is fantastic… I’m a customer for life!

I just happened to look at the back of my till slip after purchasing stuff at the Cape Union Mart sale and I was very pleasantly surprised at the very accommodating “terms of sale” printed on the back of the till slip – especially the “Specials and Promotions” clause:
Cape Union Mart employs a "5 Way Guarantee" that we have tailor-made for our customers:

1. Price Matching
Cape Union Mart will "price match" any identical article currently advertised and currently available from other retailers. The store manager will simply undertake a telephonic verification and thereafter match the price.

2. Returns and Exchanges
Any product may be returned for credit, exchange or refund within 12 months from date of purchase provided that the merchandise is unused and is returned in its original box/wrapping together with a valid cash sales docket.

3. Specials and Promotions
Should any item purchased go on special or promotion within one month of the date of purchase, the customer, on producing a cash sales docket, shall be entitled to a refund of the difference between the original price and the special/promotion.

4. Guarantee
Irrespective of guarantees offered by any manufacturer, Cape Union Mart will guarantee all items sold by us to give reasonable wear and tear. Repairs, returns and credits will be sanctioned by the store manager in consultation with the customer. In the case of any guarantee claims, proof of purchase must be produced.

5. Purchases by foreigners
We welcome foreign visitors and will accept all major credit cards for any purchases. Purchases may be settled in foreign currency and credit cards - free of commission - at the ruling currency rate of a major commercial bank. Documentation to enable refunds for VAT will be provided, free of charge, on request.

On the web site, there’s an additional paragraph (understandably):

Please note: Cape Union Mart does not, unfortunately, price match online stores (e-tailers).  Please contact should you require more information.  

So, if you’ve just purchased something that wasn’t on sale last week, then go back and ask for a refund!  :)

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Buying a camcorder? – here are my top choices… Canon Legria FS200 is still top of my list at the moment

I’m in the (South African) market for a (budget) digital video camera (ie: <R3,000) and I am busy doing comparisons and evaluations of a few models available in Cape Town online and in real brick and mortar shops. 

If you have any inputs or suggestions that will assist me (and others) in this exercise, then please add your comments or email me directly (handytechtipper at gmail dot com).

One of my main problems is comparing quality of video and photos, and of course ease of use – these cannot be done in-store – so this type of purchase is either hit-and-miss or word-or-mouth or Internet-reviews-assisted.

To manufacturers: feel free to provide me with samples to try out and I’ll include your products in my review.

Updated on Mon 4Jan2010 after visiting a few shops in Century City today (thanks to Joseph from Game for his advice to get the Canon FS200).

My criteria for this exercise are (in order of priority):







Image stabiliser


Battery life


Video quality


Internal memory


Optical Zoom




Charge from USB


Powers up without battery






Front mic


DV control


Size, Weight






A/V output






Built-in flash


Built-in Light


So far, my shortlist is made of the following products (in no particular order):
A) Sanyo VPC-CG10 HD Flash Memory Camcorder with 5x Optical with 10MB photos: 

Click for full specs
High Definition 720p MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 videos, high resolution 10 Mega pixel photos, face chaser function for photos and videos, 5x optical zoom, image stabiliser function, stereo recording, (40MB internal memory).
Great review here:
My main concerns are: the low 5x zoom (lacks true variable speed control), long time to focus; No viewfinder; You cannot charge the battery and use it at the same time (the camcorder simply doesn't have a DC power input on the body, so you have to remove the battery and charge it separately); low light performance; Minor internal editing to trim and join video clips; Imprecise, cheap joystick is the only way to operate manual controls or navigate menus; no audio input; no headphone output;
My main attractions are the HD (High Definition), Stills/Photos: “Colour accuracy and clarity are practically unrivalled among camcorders”, “Surprisingly, the Sanyo VPC-CG10 may be the best still performer we've reviewed this year, even beating out the thousand-dollar flagship models of the competition”; Nice to have: voice memo record audio only feature;
See here for’s “conclusion
Best price obtained so far: online: R2,291+delivery R99-R50 = R2,340 (free delivery if order 3 or more items; R50 voucher for new clients – only valid for 7 days :( ) BUT still need to purchase the 16GB memory card @R569 ==> R2,810 plus need a spare battery @ R337 ==> R3,147
Brick ‘n mortar store: Game: R2,999 incl. 4GB memory card

B) Sony SX40 Memory Stick Video Camera:
Click for full specs [pdf]
Bundle includes: Sony SX40 video camera and 4GB MS Pro Duo, 4GB internal memory, 60x optical zoom, 2,7" wide LCD
My main concerns are it’s not HD, the recording quality (from Internet reviews), past experience with Sony video camera failure, proprietary memory sticks (and more expensive)
My main attractions are the 60x optical zoom, fader, price, 4GB internal memory
Best price obtained so far: R2,499 (incl. 4GB card) ==> plus 8GB memory card @ R380 ==> R2,879

C) Canon Legria FS200 Camcorder:

image SD/SDHC, 1/6" CCD, 37x optical, f2.0 - f5.2, DIGIC DV II, 2.7" LCD, USB 2.0 Hi Speed
Click for full specs
Great review here:

Bundle includes: 16GB memory card, 41x optical zoom, 2,7" wide LCD
My main concerns are it’s not HD, the video light has terrible range; Limited still features; sharpness and noise levels weren't good, photo 1.23 MP (cell phone will probably take better photos), headphone terminal outputs a mono signal, charges only when camera is off; downloads files only when power cable is plugged in.
My main attractions are the 41x optical zoom, excellent battery life, 20 min charge for 1 hour recording; included 16GB memory (up to 4h recording time), Pre Record feature (but: using it can quickly drain your camcorder's battery life), has ‘fader’ and ‘wipe’ functions, night mode, remaining battery is displayed in minutes remaining, not just an icon (same for remaining memory), auto lens cover, works without the battery and LCD closed (to save power)

I have seen various articles complaining of the .mod files (MPEG-2) on the SDHC memory card.  Don’t worry: you can plug the SDHC into your PC’s card reader and then rename the \SD_VIDEO\PRG001\MOVnn.mod file to .mpg OR you can plug the camera into your PC’s USB port (and power) and use the provided software (PIXELA\ImageMixer 3 SE Ver.4\Transfer Utility\IMx3Launcher.exe) – the latter (Pixela software) will rename the file to yyyymmddhhmmss.mpg (renaming the file manually means renaming from MOVnn.mod to AnythingYouLike.mpg ie: you need to transcribe the yyyymmddhhmmss from the file’s properties)

Update on Sun10Jan2010: Didn’t realise how painful this .mod file issue was – especially for Mac users.  I have been reading some articles and forums and there’s a great, free utility called SDcopy which converts and renames the files for you.  Written by Sektionschef, it’s available on the Zyvid forum for download here [424.78Kb]: {keep checking the forum for updates – or use}

Best price obtained so far: R2,999 (incl. 16GB memory card)
Also available for collection in Cape Town here: for R2,895 BUT doesn’t include the 16GB memory card)
Canon FS200 Owners Interactive Resource Community:
Here are some more useful reviews:

Another thing to consider/ponder about: 16GB memory card costs about R570 incl. VAT (from WantItAll) – that’s about R36 per GB… if you buy a camera with say 30GB HDD (Hard Disc Drive) for about R1,000 more (that’s R33 per GB) [and the HDD cameras are ?probably? of higher quality]
Update: I don't like the thought of a hard drive falling apart in a camcorder and decided the removable media option was better.  Also, memory card is big plus because I can just pull the card and stick it in my laptop to transfer data... no cables needed! 

Q: Another question that I needed answered: “IF I get a HD camcorder (so I don't have to upgrade later), will I be able to watch videos on my regular TV or computer without buying a lot of stuff to make it work?? {I don't do a lot of editing}”
A: “You can shoot in HD, then convert to SD when burning your disc.  That will allow you to watch with a standard DVD player.  To watch in HD you either need to watch it on your computer, watch the video directly from your camcorder, or upgrade to a Blu-Ray player.
It is worth getting HD. Video shot in HD, then converted to SD, looks better than shooting the video in SD from the start.  Also, Blu-Ray players are getting cheaper ($99 range).  After you see the video in HD, you'll want to burn HD discs, because it is a big quality difference between HD and SD.”
{See here for the full discussion thread}

HTT comment: for most South Africans (definitely for me), I think the cost of an HD CamCorder and the editing speed and convenience of an SD will be the overriding factors driving the purchase decision.  Also, HD files are about 13GB per hour; SD files are 4.5GB per hour.

I’d also like to include a Panasonic camera – any suggestions?
I might extend this options list to include HDD camcorders… nope – see reason above

HTT’s current (not final) feeling/verdict: HD isn’t for me (yet) – I don’t have the large HDDs nor computer power to process those large files (and the Sanyo VPC-CG10 con’s list seems too numerous at this stage).  I guess the Canon Legria FS200 Camcorder is about to pull my purse strings open soon….

I’m still waiting for any manufacturers to come to the party before making the final decision

Good review sites:
Amazon’s most popular CamCorders (updated hourly)

imageThanks to for the excellent reviews referenced above :)

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Copyright © 2008 HandyTechTipper. All articles are released under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 South Africa license, unless where otherwise stated.