Christmas comes early for Safaricom’s mobile app as it receives the much awaited “big” update

Safaricom’s mobile application, dubbed mySafaricom, is receiving a huge update. The company had recently intimated that the “big update” would be rolling out by the beginning of the year (2018) which should be true when all mobile platforms are factored in and the fact that most of us are on the app’s beta channel.

Version 1.3 of the app, which is already available through the Google Play Store, brings with it several key features that have been missing from the app, and which were promised to be on the way, and others that we didn’t know were in the pipeline until recently.

The M-Pesa menu inside the app has been updated to include the following features:

Bill Manager

This simply makes it easy for Safaricom subscribers to pay utility bills among other things.

M-Shwari and KCB-M-Pesa

Found under the Loans & Savings menu, the two are mobile savings and credit facilities. M-Shwari was a big omission when the application was updated earlier this year to include M-Pesa. Other than simply finally being included in the app, there are no new features. We’re just not sure how we’re supposed to embrace the pig that is used to denote ‘Send to M-Shwari’ and ‘Withdraw from M-Shwari’.

M-Pesa 1Tap

As we had earlier discussed in this episode of 24Bit, smartphones with NFC (Near-Field Communication) technology should be in a position to transact using M-Pesa 1Tap, the latest upgrade to M-Pesa that lets users pay for items at retail outlets and elsewhere via a single “tap”, much like Android Pay and Samsung Pay are used for in the markets where they are available. While the ability to directly use a smartphone for making payments using 1Tap has been something that is possible, at least on paper and in the various tests that Safaricom has been conducting since the feature was announced, it is not until this moment that it will become possible for many M-Pesa users.

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The way M-Pesa 1Tap on the updated mySafaricom app works is such that one will need to already have a 1Tap card issued (they are available for free at Safaricom retail outlets all over the country). Since these cards are already linked to one’s Safaricom line, there’s no need to do anything else. You just tap the “Get my card” button and it will update with the correct details, of course after prompting you to key in your four-digit M-Pesa PIN. After that is done, one does not need to have their 1Tap card with them in order to make payments at any till where Lipa na M-Pesa 1Tap is supported.

It is interesting to note that this feature won’t show up on devices that lack NFC. For instance, while I have it on the Nokia 6, Nokia 8 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, it’s lacking on the OPPO F5.

Notice the difference between 16:9 and 18:9 displays from this screen grab? 😊

Scan QR and Pay

The feature should work as its name suggests. Like I noted earlier, this should be pretty much how it works: Remove smartphone from pocket, open mySafaricom app, click ‘Scan QR (code) and Pay’, point phone camera at vendor’s Quick Response code, sorted! This means that we should expect to see lots of QR codes popping up everywhere Lipa na M-Pesa is accepted. China, here comes another QR code nation!

Outside the M-Pesa menu, other features have also made their way to the mySafaricom app with this update:

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Tunukiwa

Tunukiwa, which is Swahili for “get rewarded”. It has been Safaricom’s way of uniquely rewarding its subscribers with several enticing offers daily. Now, going forward, Tunukiwa has a permanent hope in Safaricom’s mobile app.

Data Usage

This does not do anything unique other than make the “Data usage” feature that is found in the Settings app on every Android device under “Wireless & networks” more accessible and visually appealing, even though with a day’s use of my device(s) with the feature turned on, I found some interesting disparities that fit within the acceptable margin of error.

Remember, this is the same feature that we have relied on previously to dispel those wanakula bundles zangu (data bundles disappearing “mysteriously”) claims.

For the feature to work, though, you will have to grant it the Android “Usage access” permission. Don’t worry, you will be prompted to do so.

The update is also available to subscriber’s of Safaricom’s youth-centred Blaze network even though I noticed that there, the Bill payments option is missing from the M-Pesa menu. Is it that the youth don’t have bills to pay or what? Or I simply missed the feature?

Have something that you believe I need to have a look at? Hit me up: echenze [at] androidkenya.com