2 February 2017

Hafiz Adewuyi

USSD Assistant (Nigeria) App Review

If there is one Nigerian application which I've downloaded this year and I think deserves to make the builder some good returns, then it would be the USSD Assistant app on the Android Play store.

HOW DID I FIND IT?

At lunch time yesterday, I had just downed my hefty meal of rice, beans, meat, plantain and chicken and it was time to pay up. For the past couple of weeks, I've been using mCash (NIBSS' new USSD payment product which is meant to serve as an alternative to POS and targeted at micro business owners)  to pay for lunch at the office canteen. The bank where I work happens to be one of the front-runners of the new payment scheme. So in order to put their money where their mouth is, the internal product managers got all the food vendors at the company canteen to set up merchant codes on NIBSS mCash.

As I picked up my phone to pay with mCash, I winced mentally as I remembered the length of the short code which I had to type to make a simple payment. Not only that, I also had to turn in my seat and squint at the poster on the wall to get the 7-digit merchant code. The format of the shortcode is: *402*Merchant-Code*Amount#. In yesterday's case, the code I was to dial was *402*77000567*800#. At this point, it occurred to me to check my Android Play store for an application where I could store my frequently used USSD codes. I was sure this is a problem that a reasonable amount of Nigerians face, given the recent proliferation of USSD applications in the country's financial industry.

I opened the Play store and searched for "USSD code Nigeria". The first six results were non-Nigerian applications and from the names, none of the results seemed to be what I was looking for. However, upon scrolling down a little, I found what turned out to be the perfect match for my problem. The name of the app "USSD Assistant (Nigeria)" invited me to click it and take a closer look into what it has on offer. As I finished reading the app details, a smile of contentment appeared on my face. This was exactly what I was looking for!

On the one hand, I was glad that a solution actually existed for my current problem. However, I  was not so happy that my hopes to launch my Android development practice with this idea were now laid to rest. Now, I have to look elsewhere for a real problem that is best solved with an Android app.

I went ahead to download and install the app and after exploring it for a few minutes, I was so impressed that I gave the app a rating of 4 out of 5 on the app store.


USSD assistant Nigeria Android Play store review
My Android Play store review of the USSD assistant Nigeria application

USSD ASSISTANT (NIGERIA) POSITIVES

  • auto-detects your device MSISDN and network
  • comes preloaded with the most useful USSD codes on your mobile network (airtime recharge, airtime balance, airtime transfer and so on)
  • comes preloaded with the USSD recharge code of all the Nigerian banks with USSD banking

USSD Assistant (Nigeria) Android app homepage
USSD Assistant (Nigeria) Android app homepage

  • allows you add, edit and categorize as many (named) USSD codes as you want
  • has a simple UI; except for the network website home page which I consider unnecessary. Perhaps, it's just that I'm not in the target demographic for this pesky feature

USSD ASSISTANT (NIGERIA) IMPROVABLE AREAS

  • should allow you specify placeholders in your USSD short code. This would improve the flexibility of the app. Currently, if tomorrow, I want to pay a different amount than I did on mCash yesterday, I would need to create a completely different code
  • should remove the constantly displayed ad on the homepage of the application (who am I kidding). Meanwhile, is Jiji.ng the only Nigerian organization advertising with Google Adwords these days? They are all over the videos on YouTube and now, here they are all over this application
  • should come preloaded with other useful default menus like bank transfer which will contain the USSD funds transfer codes of Nigerian banks

CONCLUSION

However useful it might be, the USSD assistant Nigeria app happens to have less than 100 downloads. As of today, it has been on the store for over three months. On noticing this, I remembered a post I read on Radar's Techcabal that through analysis, explained how difficult it is to make a mobile app which solves a problem local to Nigeria, commercially viable. I also noticed that the only other review on the app before I wrote mine today was from the developer's relative (they share a last name).

In any case, i think it's great that the developer took the effort to solve that problem. In the worst case, he would not earn any money from it but he would always be able to point to it as an item in his portfolio and use it to get rewarding opportunities in the future. In the best case, he would get sponsorship or investment from a company or organisation interested in the success of this tool. Win-win if you ask me. I want to be like Azeez Olaniran (the developer of the USSD assistant Nigeria Android app).

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24 March 2017 at 20:45 delete

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