mobile

Challenge 19 of 52: Regular Taxi vs Uber vs MyTeksi

What do users want? Fast, cheap, and safe mode of transportation. What choice do they have now? They have regular taxis, taxis augmented by MyTeksi and UberX.

Regular Taxis
Truth to be told, taxis are a regular punching bag. The chief complaint is wildly inconsistent service. The car condition can range from super clean to intoxicating kretek smoking den; charge by the meter to arbitarily exorbitant charges; polite professional drivers to downright criminals.

It’s tempting to lump all these taxi drivers into one category but the reality is they come from all walks of life. On one hand there’s people who work as taxi drivers as last resort, some are just part-timers (including civil servants!). On the other extreme, there’s ex-top civil officials (ie; JKR Engineers) who drive taxis to fill their time and genuinely seek to serve people post-retirement.

MyTeksi

MyTeksi seems to smooth out the wild inconsistencies in taxi service. So far, I’m yet to find a rude MyTeksi driver. They are a pleasant bunch of drivers. In fact, I found one of the most professional driver ever through MyTeksi.

However there’s still some inconsistencies such as whether who should pay for the booking fee — some choose to absorb it while some pass the cost to the passenger. Other than that; we can expect that the drivers charge according to the meter, dress decently and drive safely.

In short, taxi service as spelled out in government regulations.

UberX

The first ride with UberX is in a brand-new MyVi. No idea whether it is owned by Uber or the driver, forgot to ask. The ride is from Avenue K to IKEA with a young male driver and the total charge is RM18. The small car strained a bit climbing hilly highways but overall experience is still good.

Only when I came back from IKEA with a taxi I realized a critical difference — UberX uses SmartTag lane while taxis are still bound to cash lanes. This create a remarkable difference in experience as it shaves off precious minutes. Imagine how valuable it is when you are chasing a bus trip or an important meeting.

That was before SPAD issue any statement so to be thorough another round is required.

As for the second ride the app informed me that I’m getting a Mini Countryman. Wow! But then a Nissan Teana came along and picked me up from Low Yat Plaza to KLCC. The car clearly have a limousine license and the driver is an ex-VIP driver who is bored chauffering them to the same place.

The icing on the cake for UberX is there’s no need to whip out my wallet and fumbling with small change. So you can focus on getting your stuff out from the car and whatever you wanted to do next.

Thoughts on Related Issues
No Internet?
Tough luck, IKEA was super congested on Merdeka weekend so no Internet service. I can’t hail UberX nor MyTeksi. Even though the signal indicator shows full strength with 3G all packets get dropped and I have to wait until the crowd disperse before able to use either app.

Surge

This is the bane of any kind of centralized commercial clout. Uber’s algorithm can automatically drive the price up when the demand is high. On the other hand, taxi drivers at bottlenecks such as train stations and bus stations form mini-cartels to impose an all time arbitary surge pricing.

Credit Card
Uber requires credit card and that might be a deal breaker for many. They fear unauthorized usage or over-charge. Uber has mistakenly over-charged me once but later promptly refunded in the form of ride credit. Recent survey by Nielsen indicates that more than half of Malaysian respondents (55%) say they are either hesitant or would not shop online and use their payment card details on either a smartphone or tablet device although their personal information is protected.

Note: This is a part of my take on Uber vs Malaysian authorities showdown. It was originally published on Medium and later syndicated by TechInAsia.

Challenge 7 of 52: RoketSMS

This week entry is a bit different. Rather than describing design flaws around me and the proposed solution, this time I’ll share about a project Abi Dzar and I work on. This week we released RoketSMS – a simple SMS marketing system. We rolled out to those who had pre-registered the week before.

What brings us to create this particular web app? Isn’t there already a lot of SMS and marketing apps out there? Why SMS?

One strong drive that leads us to create this web app is the increasing frenzy of Internet companies to find and manipulate choke points. Facebook had flexed its muscle in monetizing the choke point. On average, only 10% of a FB Page fan will see any new updates. Need more reach? Pay Facebook.

Gmail also starts to follow suit by introducing the Promotions tab – a feature dreaded by email marketers. Open rates are down and adding salt to the injury is Google’s audacity to sneak ads that looks like email right in the Promotions tab.

Apart from direct mail, SMS seems like the only convenient and affordable solution. Robo-calls are also available but I think that’s too annoying to be an effective marketing medium.

So we set out to build a web app that help to collect mobile phone numbers and then send SMS broadcast to those who signed up. My experience with email marketing software such as Aweber and GetResponse reminds me to keep things simple. Businessmen and marketers wnated to connect directly with customers, not to be bogged down with bloated software.

Thus, our project is modeled after TinyLetter, effectively making the concept of RoketSMS as TinyLetter for SMS. This app is extremely simple, no autoresponder, no segmentation, no nothing – which is actually a good thing.

With no outside funding, Abi Dzar coded the web app during his free time. Marketing started in earnest after the Eid holidays and after 10 days (or so) we are open for users. 
That’s our story so far, if you read Malay head to www.firdausariff.com for more in-depth story on this project. 
See you guys next week.

Challenge 2 of 52: U Mobile Prepaid Android App

This time I’ll look to re-design a part of service that I personally use which is U Mobile Prepaid. I use it  on my secondary phone and heavily use it for mobile data. The scope of this week challenge is the unofficial U Mobile Prepaid Android App.
First of all, it’s such a big missed opportunity for the telco not to come up with an official app. It can be a good platform to increase usability and user’s satisfaction. Somehow, an individual took initiative to do an unofficial app and release it on the Google Play Store.
Basically, this app is a ‘skin’ for U Mobile Prepaid USSD codes. Instead of remembering the weird codes and entering it on your own, you have the app to remember it for you. It is straight forward and all the main menu are prominently displayed. However, the ad cuts through two buttons – that’s a silly mistake that should’ve been avoided.

When you request for any information, you’ll see system message stating that USSD code is running and later on a USSD window appear with the information. This break the illusion that this is a ‘proper’ Android App.
So, how a re-designed should look and function?
So here’s my quick sketch done under 15 minutes. The new app focus on the key information that the user wanted to know which is the credit balance and the last call cost. Main difference is that the app is more pro-active, instead of waiting for user to request the information it will do the query each time after the user made a call. 
The rest of the function is hidden in another page indicated by the orange notch in the lower right corner. If this is made by U Mobile, it can increase the overall user experience and also a better platform to promote new products and services to users. Users will also perceive higher transparency from the telco and have ‘proof’ that they are in fact receiving free calls. This will later on lead to word of mouth promotion among the users.