For those who don’t know Okoa Jahazi Shortcode, don’t ask, use Safcom Speedy

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Introduction

If you are in Kenya right now, chances are you are using a Safaricom line. Actually, there’s a 65 percent chance that you are a Safaricom user. If that is the case, then chances are that you have at one time forgotten the USSD service code perhaps for checking your credit balance, recharging credit, buying internet bundles, borrowing credit, or any of its services listed. Or maybe you are just a new Safaricom customer and therefore need to learn fast how which codes to use for the services. If I’m still talking about you, then this new app – Safcom Speedy – is indeed meant for you.

I was lazily scrolling through Google Play Store checking which apps were popular when I bumped into “Safcom Speedy” at No. 17 under “Top New Free” apps. My curiosity made me click on it, read its description, read the reviews, and install it. So far, it surely does what it promises and it has a future as a mobile app in Kenya.

The App

The app was developed by a firm calling itself SpedTek and availed to users on May 13 this year. The description on Google Play Store says Safcom Speedy is a “free app for all Safaricom android users that help in easy, speed and hassle-less dialing of Safaricom USSD services codes, M-Pesa, M-Shwari & M-Banking, plus others services through a user friendly interface and by just a button click”.

Its features include doing the following with just the click of the button:

  • Checking Airtime balance, SMS balance, Data bundles and Bonga points.
  • Recharging airtime with just the click of a button
  • SMS – subscribing or unsubscribing to an sms plan
  • Data bundles – subscribing /unsubscribing or even buying bundles
  • Bonga points – managing bonga points
  • Sambaza – You can sambaza airtime, data bundles or even bonga points
  • M-Pesa manager, M-Shwari and M-Banking.

 The Good

Safcom Speedy so far does what it promises. I was able to check through all the buttons provided and get the codes running on their own without having to specifically type in the USSD codes. The app has a rick menu of services it offers and is therefore a very comprehensive app that any Safaricom user will find appropriate. And it is free. The app supports android 2.3+.

The developer has a blog site (http://safcomspeedy.blogspot.com/) which describes what the app is all about and allows for feedback from the users. The developer also has a twitter handle specifically dedicated for the app (@safcomspeedy). This is also good as a channel for getting feedback from users.

The Bad

The interface: The user interface is ugly. It is bulky. The fonts are too huge for me. Every item is arranged on one spot making it look like a huge PDF file of the infamous “list of shame”. I wish the developer could make it more appealing. With its potential, this is something the developer needs to work on immediately. If this can be addressed, I will be a happy user.

The ads: Then, it allows ads at the bottom of the page. I hate apps that come with ads. Maybe this is one of the ways the developer is making money from the free app, but if it is possible for it to disallow ads, I will be a loyal user of the app. At the moment, I have to download an ad blocker from android to shield me from the annoying ads at the bottom of the page. However, the ads are not as annoying. I’m exaggerating because I generally hate ads on my phone. They are too small to be noticed if you don’t scroll through the entire page.

The users: At the moment, this app only service pre-paid Safaricom clients. As some of the users of the app noted on Play Store, the app needs to support USSD codes for postpaid clients as well in order to maximise its use among Safaricom subscribers.

The version: the present version of Safcom Speedy only works on android phones. The developer has not developed an app for Windows or iOS. Those without android phones will therefore have to keep cramming the USSD codes until someone comes up with an app for them.

Security: That it comes with ads means the user could be vulnerable to malicious apps installing themselves on the phone. I’m not an android security expert but I fear that this is a possibility. If the developer can assure users of the security of their gadgets, that would be fine. Since this app can run your phone by a click of a button, is there a possibility that the app could be used to defraud users especially as far as MPESA is concerned? I have no answer here, I am just curious.

The Future

Safcom Speedy doesn’t need to be tied to Safaricom lines only. Airtel and Orange too have shortcodes and most of the time those who migrate don’t know the shortcodes for the same functions in the new network.

The developer may link this app with other service providers to do the same thing it is doing with Safaricom service codes. With the rise of double-SIM phones in the market, a mobile subscriber is likely to have more than one SIM card and therefore may need to use the USSD service codes for other service providers other than Safaricom. Integrating this app to take the USSD codes for other service providers such as Airtel and Telkom will be a plus. As earlier noted, the app is only available for prepaid users. The developer should think of a way to enable postpaid users benefit from the app. Lastly, having iOS and Windows versions of the app would be great.

What is your opinion on the topic?
Fredrick Ombako
Fredrick Ombako is a research consultant at ResearchPro Solutions and Director at Bukas Accountancy & Consulting Limited. He consults mostly for NGOs and county governments by conducting research studies, Monitoring & Evaluation, and Project Management. You may reach him on 0721977108
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