That April 2019 is going to be a rather dark month for technology enthusiasts has not been in question for a while now. This is because Google had long made us aware that it would be folding two products: Google+ and Inbox by Gmail.
While the former is yet another attempt by Google to crack social networking that failed to take off and which not many will miss, the latter seems to have had quite a number of fans who will, hopefully, be able to go on with life without feeling orphaned as Google has been incorporating most of the features that made Inbox preferable to its users over the standard Gmail experience to, well, the Gmail app.
That is true globally.
Locally, an interesting new development means that Kenyans have even some more good and bad news to take in.
The bad news is that Safaricom, Kenya’s leading telecommunications company, is shuttering its Flex bundle subscription service on April 8th. That revelation was contained in a text message alert sent to subscribers on Tuesday (March 19th) afternoon.
While unforeseen, Flex’s demise seems to have been a long time coming if recent developments are anything to go by.
First of all, last month, Safaricom introduced new bundles that offered subscribers both calls and mobile data, something that had, until then, been the preserve of several other Safaricom products and services, Flex included. Dubbed “All in One monthly bundles”, the bundles have since been refined to include SMSs as well in the last few days, completing the cycle and rendering products and services such as Flex redundant and, probably, irrelevant.
Unveiled 2 years ago, Flex initially targeted the so-called “hustler” who needed a product or service that could absorb the dynamism that defined their lives and give them the freedom to have all the versatility they needed to make their efforts at earning that extra coin possible.
It achieved this by going against the grain and using a model centred around Flex points, virtual currency that determined how much value one got from a certain set amount of money as well as get rewarded with more points for usage of other Safaricom services like M-Pesa. For instance, a simple person-to-person M-Pesa transfer would see the sender earn 3 Flex points that could be used to make calls, browse the internet or send SMS.
For a long time, that worked and it is why yours truly has never really seen the need to migrate to a home internet package that bundles mobile data, SMS and calls to the usual monthly home internet subscription, the so-called 4-in-1 Fibre Plus.
However, with the introduction of the All-in-one bundles, Flex has increasingly struggled to stay relevant.
Here is a good example: Kshs 1,000 which normally gets one just 3GB data if used wholesomely for data or 6 hours talk time when used exclusively for calls or a healthy mix of both – and SMS – if used wisely, is hardly a match for the 4GB data, 3.3 hours talk-time and 1,000 SMSs that one gets for a similar amount with a subscription to the monthly All-in-one bundles. Did I say that the latter also includes free access to WhatsApp during the bundle’s validity period if one exhausts their allocated data?
Also facing the axe this April alongside Flex is Advantage+, another product made redundant by the All-in-one bundles and, as a result, being phased out.
Responding to user queries on social media on what happens to those, like yours truly, who are still subscribed to some of the services being retired in April, Safaricom notes that they continue being accessible and operational for their validity period which doesn’t go beyond a month for both Flex and Advantage Plus.