Category Archives: Samsung

Going App to get better Banking Service

It’s been over a a month since Barclays Kenya gave a peek to its’ new banking app that can be downloaded from the android and apple stores.  The app offers customers full service in terms of viewing account transaction histories (of up to 3 months), making payments and transfers, and finding Barclays ATM’s & branches.  

While other banks have like KCB, Equity and Co-Op have chosen the  agency banking route, Barclays has gone for an app – and with a device like a Samsung Galaxy Tab, other Android phone or Apple device, you can now make payments on the go such for credit card bills, water bills, with a few clicks that take less than a minute to make in lieu of previous visits to banking halls to queue and fill out forms. 

The app works on the premise that you build functions on the Barclays web  platform where you go and setup/add accounts, add payees such as utilities, credit cards, landlords etc. (if they bank with Barclays), and other details.

It is free to use (for now), and one attraction of this app is that it comes at a time when banks are clawing back on services like free monthly statements which are sent to fewer and fewer customers – and yet, oddly, remain a mandatory requirement to bring in to the bank for a loan or credit card application. You can get mini-statements at the ATM, but they fade after a few days in your pocket or wallet. 

The Barclays app is still a test app, on which the Bank hope to build more functions around it with time. It also appears there are working apps for customers in other countries like Ghana, Zambia, UAE, Botswana and Mauritius. 

Some issues to consider so far include; 
– Each time you log in, it asks you to answer a secret question (even if you’ve entered the password correctly). For this, it’s advisable to set your secret answer to be as simple as possible e.g. if you pick out a favourite movie (and year) as a secret answer, just fill in ‘Matrix’, not  ‘The Matrix’, ‘Matrix1999’, ‘Matrix 99’  or ‘Matrix(space)1999’ – as if you get it wrong, the system does not provide for an alternate question.
Statements are not formatted to export or print. You can print or export 3 month old statements in Excel or PDF formats

Nairobi Expense Account

Finally have one month of data on expenses incurred using Moneywise on the Samsung Tab and which is a really nice and easy way to record expenses and have them priced in  Kenya shillings, add categories, export data  (as a CSV) and gives a nice instant graphic that is up to date after each transaction.

The full list in of expenses summed up as in the month (ranked by money spent) was Rent 23%, Repairs 17% (Car, computer), Dining 10%, Gifts 8%, Transport 7% (KQ, taxis), Fuel 7%, 6% each to investments and to Drinks 6% (EABL), Recreation 4%, 2% each to Communications (Safaricom), Clothing, Electronics, and to Utilities, and 1% each to Newspaper and Groceries 1%.

June was an unusual month of with quite a bit spent on some major car repairs and travel (taxi and also air travel) and this took away from savings and investments.


Tablet for Business Tales: Part I

How do you introduce someone who’s watched the new world of tablets, launched with the first iPad, go by very rapidly and evolve into many stronger models three years later – and who does not believe in them? Very gently…!

Despite the prevalence of iPads and other tablets at conferences, on the TV news, and even around Nairobi,  I still have not met anyone, other than @Wanyama, who uses a tablet productively as their main business device.

I recently got a generous offer to review the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (Model GT-N5100) from Samsung Kenya after the recent 2013 Kenyan Blog Awards in which Samsung was a sponsor.

The first order of business was to get a SIM card, and that was at Safaricom who also cut the card down to micro-SIM size with a special stapler. It’s also very easy to switch the Note from Safaricom, to a Wi-Fi when you find a signal, and save on some money. I also bought a Micro SD card, but when it came to getting a hard shell/case for the Note that took a bit longer. I went to several shops, who all had a variety of 7″ and 10″ cases, and this is a new size in the market at 8″ (the Note is aimed at Apple’s new iPad mini), but eventually, I found one at Fone Express.

Need to invest in larger Suit Jacket pockets

Another challenge was portability of the Note. It does not seem to fit in many jacket pockets, but larger pockets are something one should request from a tailor when ordering a suit in the future!

Tablet’s are about apps, and there is a Google Play Store and a separate Samsung Store that I’ve not really tried. In the first month, from the Google one, I downloaded several apps I was familiar with such as:

– Evernote (great when you take notes on different devices like laptop’s or mobile phone and sync) and Adobe Reader

– Waze, Ma3Route and Ushahidi for Nairobi traffic updates

– Skype for communications

– The New York Times, Bloomberg, the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal for news

– DSTV to see programming highlights

– Tried out several simple farming applications to track farm inputs and sales.

Road Bump: Swype is a nifty program that makes typing faster in touch screen devices. It costs $0.99 and I was able to buy it from the Google store (which also prices paid apps in Kenya Shillings) after I added my credit card details. However, when I uploaded Swype, I found that I could not access the tablet as there was no keyboard to Swype/type in my access password on the top screen.

I spent a few days going back and forth with the Swype (online) and then Samsung (in Nairobi) teams without success and I had no choice but to go for the most radical option – which was to wipe out the tablet.  This seems to be a common issue in the tablet world in which people are constantly adding and deleting apps, some of which don’t work properly, or compromise all devices.

There were quite a few guides online and videos on YouTube showing the simple commands to reset it to factory mode – and fortunately, it worked! Within a few minutes, the tablet was back to life, and once I got online, the previously downloaded apps were ready to re-install including Swype, which I’ve re-added, without incurring an additional charge.

So far the Note is growing on me. It’s nice and easy to use for taking notes at meetings, where I previously used to carry around a laptop. With a hard case, and larger jackets, let’s see where how far this can go.

Urban Inflation Index: September 2011

One year after the euphoria of a new constitution, the direction of the economy is uncertain as seen in the weakening Kenya shilling, tangles in implementation of the constitution, and rising food prices. It has been a year of some price controls in the fuel, and possibly in the food sector whose parliamentary price control bill was signed into law last week by the President.

Comparing prices to six months ago and last year. On to the index

Gotten Cheaper: Nothing really.

About the same:

Communication: All Kenya’s mobile phone companies have call rates of about Kshs 3 shillings ($0.03) per minute to call across networks. It is unclear what will happen with call rates, as the smallest company in the market, Yu, launched free daytime phone calls, Airtel Kenya lost a CEO, and Safaricom has indicated that they may raise their call rates, as has happened in Uganda with MTN . The real battle is in data, where prices have not really dropped but companies are offering more speeds for less. The market here is divided between the companies with 3G (Orange & Safaricom) who compete on speed, and those without 3G(Airtel & Yu) who offer cheap internet rates of about Kshs 50 (~$0.5) per day for unlimited use.

Another communication developments that, in a way, lower the cost of business include the launch last week at G-Kenya of GKBO, which encompasses free website creation tool, domain registration, and site hosting for small companies by Google in Kenya.

Utilities: The bill on pre-paid electricity is still at about Kshs 2,000 ($21) per month, and getting about 30 – 35 units per buy via M-Pesa. However that is expected to go up after notice was issued for rates to go up 22% per kwh unit. So what alternatives are there? In a somewhat timely move, Samsung launched the NC215, a solar powered netbook laptop last week. It gives 1 hour of power for every 2 hours of charge in the sun, has a 15-hour battery life, and is able to charge other devices by USB even when it is off.

Also got a gift of a solar phone charger (T2126 Hemera from Hirsch) that works quite well; it takes about 12 hours to charge in the Sun or 2 hours via USB, has a flash light and can charge a variety of phone models.

But when you look at the rapid advances in laptop batteries and cell phone batteries over the lasts decade, you get the feeling that there has been a lag in the pace of solar devices, and that more solar based solutions and advances should be emphasized.

More Expensive

Fuel: A litre of petrol fuel, which is regulated by the Government, now costs 117.75 (~$5.6 per gallon) in Nairobi. Regulated fuel has proven to be more expensive than unregulated fuel, and while this can be attributed to the weaker shilling and fluctuating oil prices, the formula used to arrive at the price remains vague, and the limit on margins (stipulated buying and selling price of petrol, diesel, kerosene in each town) appears to have hurt small oil industry companies, more than large ones. However, among the listed companies, Kenol appears to have weathered the regulatory regime better than Total, by having diverse operations in other countries in East and Central Africa that remain unregulated.

Staple Food: Maize flour, which is used to make Ugali that is eaten by a majority of Kenyans daily. A 2kg bag which cost Kshs. 80 six months ago, and Kshs 65 a year ago, is now Kshs 119, the highest it has been in the short history of this index.

Other food item: Sugar : A 2 kg. Mumias pack which has hovered at about Kshs 200 for the last years, now costs Kshs. 385 (90% more than last year) and . The sugar sector has really gone full circle causing many to questions its relevance, recurring shortages shortage (why all factories close at the same month for maintenance), why sugar is grown in a food producing area and how many items we can consume without having to use sugar as a sweetener e.g. tea without sugar, or use of honey as a substitute.

Foreign Exchange: 1 US$ equals Kshs 95.6 compared (now 96.8) to Kshs 80.8 a year ago (and 83 in June 2011) – a loss of almost 20% in a year. It’s unclear of this has been a concern to the Central Bank which has made other confusing policy moves as related to interest rates at a time of mounting government debt and their laxity has enabled banks to spot and take advantage of an arbitrage opportunities to trade with government money.

Beer/Entertainment: A bottle of Tusker beer is Kshs 180 ($1.9) (at a local pub) a slight increase from compared to Kshs. 170 a year ago. However beer has become out of reach for many poorer Kenyan who have resorted to drinking unsafe local brews, which in some unfortunate cases have resulted in blindness or even death.