The development of mobile and carrier services has taken decades to grow to its current state. In the past, say early 90s, only the wealthiest of people could afford a brick-sized cellular gadget and manage to foot ridiculous service charges. Over time, however, the sector has achieved tremendous growth in terms of infrastructure and customer base, among other extras. Some of these gains can be backed up with numbers such as user penetration and so forth. In fact, it is predicted that more than 6.1 billion people will have access to smart handhelds by 2020.
Telkom Kenya is one of the pioneers of local telecoms operations, having launched its services as a pay phone operator. However, the entry of competitors such as Safaricom and Airtel Kenya eclipsed its market share with better products and services. The company attempted to bounce back amid management changes that saw it adopt the Orange Kenya moniker. After a series of ups and downs, Orange Kenya was finally acquired by U.K.’s private equity firm Helios Investment Partners (as a major shareholder. The Kenyan government owns 40 per cent) in a move that included several administrative and technical overhauls.
The company reverted to Telkom Kenya in a transition period that happened mid-2017. Subsequently, the carrier started implementing key services, as well as the launch of new products. For instance, it became the second Kenyan mobile operator to deploy LTE services in a some locations, coupled with a plethora of data, voice and SMS plans. A few weeks later, Telkom Kenya axed Orange Money for a replacement that we are yet to see.
By the end of 2017, Telkom launched a self-utility app, to augment its product portfolio. My Telkom app, which is available for both Android and iOS, is bundled with key features as highlighted on these posts.
In the two-month period I have used it, I have come to like several of its features, which guarantees a short and sweet review.
Most of the things I love about My Telkom app are mostly subjective but there is a good chance some users will agree with me.
To begin with, you only need to set up the application once, and you are done. Of course, the app is tied to you Telkom number, which needs to be authenticated during the sign up process. Afterward, you need to set a password and that is it. Whether you uninstall it or switch phones, the app will not task users with a series of SMS-based verifications as noted in mySafaricom app. This means that you can load it on another device (without your Telkom SIM), log in and check the status of your line. I like that.
Secondly, the app is packed to the brim with features, some of which are not accessible via USSD. It has five tabs (home, profile, account, top-up and bundles) for ease of access to the mentioned functions. For instance, users can use the top-up option to load airtime via multiple ways. The same can be done for data and so forth. Also, these features are easily visible. Furthermore, the entire app is splashed with the carrier’s theme colour (blue) for a cohesive experience.
Lastly, it is reliably speedy. I have noticed it breezes along faster than mySafaricom app, and while the latter is obviously heftier (my Telkom app is barely 2 MB in size) and includes additional services, users can tell the difference. I hope the experience will continue to impress with future updates.
The not so good
Well, there are a few things that the app needs to fix. First of all, its tabs cannot be swiped for transitions like a modern app. In fact, the hamburger menu cannot be swiped too (you need to touch the hamburger strip) to get access to extra features and settings. This should not be the case with an app that targets modern design cues, and we hope a future update will address these issues.
Another issue is not a directly tied to the app, and that is the lack of mobile money services or a payment platform. A couple of days ago, the telco announced that its mobile money service is imminent. It will be interesting to see what Telkom brings to the table as competitors continue to augment their mobile money offerings. For instance, mySafaricom app’s M-PESA service is fully fledged with support for One Tap for devices that have inbuilt NFC chips, cost calculator and loan services via M-Shwari and KCB M-PESA.
We are fairly certain Telkom’s mobile money service will include new features and products since a basic implementation will hardly convince users to leave their primary platforms for an experience that does not bring exciting additions. Additionally, it will be exciting to witness how Kenya’s third largest carrier will integrate the product on the app.
Admittedly, each mobile operator in Kenya needs a utility app to make life easier for consumers. Those that have taken this route like Telkom have subjectively made a point about the importance of an official smartphone tool that bundles all features and products for the ever-increasing customer base. In this case, My Telkom app demonstrates its effectiveness by incorporating key features that would otherwise be missed. While its robustness fails to match Safaricom’s, it surpasses it in terms of setup and speed.