Pokémon Go is out, but right now it is limited to the region you are in. That however, did not stop us from making a plan and downloading the iOS app onto our iPhones. How well does the app work and how does it work in SA? We have everything you need to know about it.

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Pokemon Go in South Africa

What is Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go, if you don’t know, is an augmented reality Pokémon experience which uses your location and camera on your mobile device as a feature to catch Pokémon and explore a digital world in your surroundings. After downloading the app, we were taken through a quick tutorial on the basics and got to choose one of three starter Pokémon. We chose Charmander. The app lets you use a camera on your device to augment the Pokémon’s location in your world, and by moving your device around, you can look and see if anything is around you.

Pokémon Go

Soon after the tutorial was complete, the game threw us into the deep end without any real idea on what we had to do. So we did what we thought was best – we got some shoes on and went for a walk. As we walked through our garden, we saw grass rustling on the map in the app and blue lights appeared around us. We tapped on this glowing spot and a wild Zubat appeared. It seemed easy enough to know that this is how it is done.

Catching Pokémon is pretty simple, but it all depends on the Pokémon that you have encountered. Zubat for example, flies around, which requires you to flick your screen to throw a Poké Ball at him. Nidoran on the other hand, moved around very little, making him a quick and easy catch.

Pokémon Go

The user interface is pretty simple. You have our Pokédex which tracks all the Pokémon you have seen and caught before, and your pocket shows all the items you can use in the app. These items range from incense which attracts Pokémon to your location for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that this is 30 actual real-time minutes. Poké Balls are the items used to catch the Pokémon around you, obviously.

There are ranks to earn as you play the game. Some of these will be unlocked at first, while others will only be available once you have discovered them. For example, we had a “Swimmin” rank which we could now see because we caught our first water Pokémon. We also levelled up in one, reaching a bronze rating for catching 5 Pokémon, the next ranking is silver and requires 50.

Pokémon Go In South African Streets

We were pleasantly surprised to see that the app worked really well. We had two Pokémon in our neighbourhood. There locations are determined by Nintendo, which has taken real-world locations and made them public to users on the app. These show up on your app and when you tap them, they will show you a picture of the location you need to travel to. Once you are close enough, you can then tap on the icon and claim Poké Balls from it. This then depletes the Pokémon, and you will not be able to claim again.

Pokémon Go

In terms of connectivity, we had no issues once the app was open, but the app is extremely buggy. 90% of the time we would get stuck at the loading screen, forcing us to restart the app over again. The app lost our GPS signal which forced us to reopen it too. We were often kicked out of the app and forced to sign in again with our Google Account, this would then require our data to resync with our devices.

In terms of data usage, we spent a good hour on the road with the app and we only hit 20MB of usage. This is a great sign that the app will not rely heavily on data, rather than on GPS. Saying that, the app is very heavy on battery life, as we saw out devices drop as we were using it. Best you pack a power bank if you are heading out for the day.

The app is fun to experience. Living in this Pokémon world is great. We cannot wait to head to a water area soon and see what we can catch there, or maybe even find a Pokémon Gym nearby to fight some other Pokémon. The Pokémon Company still has much work to do on the app to assure it runs better and uses less battery, but we are hopeful that this experience will kick off and everyone will jump in.

We can at least for now, confirm that Pokémon Go is alive and kicking in the streets of South Africa, so when the app does release here on iOS and Android, you will be able to jump right into the action.

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