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Are South Africans ready to ditch their wallets? 

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After years of hype, the mobile commerce bandwagon may have just rolled into town. And if projections are anything to go by, the days of the traditional wallet might be numbered, writes MUSTAPHA ZAOUINI, CEO of PayU.

The global mobile wallet market is projected to grow at an annual compounded growth rate of 36.8% over the next four years, according to research by RNR Market Research.

Additionally, Statista predicts that the global mobile payment transaction volume is expected to reach US$721 billion in 2017, up from US$235 billion in 2013.

Paypal, the leading provider of wallet services, now has circa 162 million active wallets.

A further look at mobile money growth from around the world reveals the fruits of unprecedented user engagement and device proliferation.

A 2014 report by Hamburg based yStats.com revealed that in China, where more than 200 million people already use mobile payments, third-party mobile payments grew by 800% last year and are forecasted to more than double this year. Meanwhile, USA mobile payments are growing at three-digit percentage rates.

Banking apps in the U.K. were used 10.5 million times a day across the country in March, surpassing the 9.6 million daily log-ins to internet banking services, according to data from the British Bankers’ Association.

Impressive numbers, but will South Africans be as keen to replace their physical wallets?

In my view, current local market factors support mobile wallet adoption. The mobile phone user adoption curve is at a point where we have a sufficiently large group of consumers in SA who are comfortable with making payments online, as well as enough mobile devices to make the mobile wallet service viable. However, the value proposition must be relevant to both the consumer and merchant, both online and offline.

The high rate of mobile phone users in South Africa – approximately 59 million according to Wikipedia – suggests that user education is not a barrier. This is further supported by a 2015 World Wide Worx survey that found internet browsing via phones to be at 40% in South Africa.

Moreover, we have seen that payment infrastructure is improving and a sufficient density of wallet pay points has been reached thanks to incumbent Wallet initiatives acting as enablers of point of sale devices.

Homegrown wallet offerings like Snapscan, Zapper, Flickpay and eWallet are gaining momentum despite the backdrop of modest e-commerce growth.

FNB’s mobile wallet is an example of banks looking to ensure that they scale through low cost access channels to serve the under and un-banked customers with higher profitability. A key focus for wallet providers will be on the seven million people in South Africa who earn salaries but do not have their own bank accounts, according to Vodacom’s estimates.

I agree with FNB’s eWallet’s CEO Yolande Steyn’s sentiments that the success of eWallet has shown that there is still massive scope for mobile money remittances as an entry point for mobile money in a country. The challenge lies in creating further financial services adoption off the back of it.

Last month’s go-ahead for remittance exchanges between SA and Zimbabwe’s Econet by the SA Reserve Bank may be an omen for mobile money.

Yolande Steyn also maintains that using supplementary technologies such as self-service terminals, ATMs and other mobile applications can further augment the value proposition.

A 2015 Forrester report suggests that the future of mobile wallets may lie beyond payments. The research points to the fact that in the next five years mobile wallets will resemble marketing platforms.

A diversified offering will unlock value in a South African Market that is socially savvy and has an appetite for integrated services. It is an inevitable progression for large third-party players like Apple or PayPal to offer a suite of services through their wallets. In China, for example, the Alipay Wallet already lets brands reach consumers via mobile banner ads.

Thomas Husson, Principal Analyst at Forrester perhaps summed it up best in a recent mobile wallet report: “Offering faster or more-secure payments is not enough; wallet providers will have to solve real pain points, such as giving consumers the ability to see how much is on stored value cards at any moment in time, access loyalty points, or automatically receive digital copies of payment receipts.”

The Forrester Report highlights the top functionality that people interviewed want in a mobile wallet. Loyalty points and rewards ranked highest among US respondents (57%) and second for EU respondents (34%). Coupons discounts and special offers came in a close second for both groups (56% and 36% respectively).

Other items making the list were price comparisons, relevant product info, the ability to make reservations, split-billing, as well as digital tickets.

If the mobile wallet, in conjunction with cash and credit cards, can provide the means for all South Africans to access the digital world then the traditional alternative’s time may be up.

For me, it’s a question of when the wallet will cross the chasm, rather than if.

* Follow Gadget on Twitter on @GadgetZA

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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