All-in-one apps seem like a smart move these days, with the ever-increasing smartphone boom and the massive amount of (sometimes fragmented) services that ye average telco has to offer to customers.
To that effect, Hutch has rolled out Hutch Buddy, a single app that lets you handle your accounts from your smartphone. To quote the app’s makers, you can access and switch between multiple Hutch accounts (mobile, dongle, what have you); you can check your balance, recent activity, recharge or pay your bills via credit card and activate special packages from the app itself. It’s out now for Android devices. Comparisons to others, are inevitable, so to start…
Let’s take it from the top.
Once you download the app and work your way past the login screen (use your phone number), you’re greeted with six tabs: My account, Packages, My Offers, Customer Service, Reload and My Profile. These six pretty much cover the gamut of the app’s scope: you won’t find any functionality outside of these, and they’re very self-explanatory.
My Account is pretty much the deal-maker here. It pulls up a screen with detailed tabs on whatever number you’re using: it’s got tabs for recent activity (read: calls you’ve made and so on, a detailed history of which will be emailed to you) and a whole host of quotas and balances which we find extremely useful, especially if you’re running one of the many packages that they’ve got. To a T, it shows your internet quota, minute quota (that’s how many minutes of talk time you have), SMS quota and the balance in rupees. According to the Hutch dev team, it tracks whatever packages you activate and keeps the data/voice/sms quotas adjusted to match.
The other tabs are self-explanatory. Packages pops up a menu of stuff that you can activate. My Offers is a loyalty thing: it gives you goodies based on your usage, like a built-in loyalty card of sorts. There’s stuff like “Free H-H calls for one month” and so on. Users who rack up large bills are apparently going to be given the full range. As a frequent Hutch user, I find this laudable. Dialog has its Club Vision. We have something a little bit more accessible.
Customer services, Reload – that’s just as they are. My Account is a bit interesting: apparently this is where you switch between multiple Hutch numbers, like your data SIM, your daughter’s SIM, your own, and so on.
Usability and the Tech
From a usability perspective, there’s still a few things to be ironed out. There is an element of lag and slow loading on low to mid-range devices. We suspect is due to this being a webkit browser communicating with a web page rather than a truly standalone application. This is very apparent when you try to boot up the app without the data connection. As-is, the app is usable, but could greatly benefit from being a standalone app rather than relying on this web-based approach.
When queried about this, the Hutch technical team acknowledged the tradeoff as being vital for them to constantly push offers and keep upgrading the app without requiring the user to download each time an update is pushed out. As is, they simply need to update the web portal on their server and the changes are available to everyone. We hope Sinhala and Tamil support will also roll out in one of those updates.
Feature-wise, it’s got the basics nailed down. Hutch Buddy has a fairly wide scope, opening up pretty much all the services offered by a brick-and-mortar outlet, from reloads to call history checking. Now as far as all-in-one’s go, Dialog and Hutch seem to be the only local players with an offering out. Dialog’s Selfcare app is a bit of a behemoth, available in all three languages and serving as a front-end for their other services. Hutch Buddy is leaner and focused on less things. Usage is also free of data charges.
In fact, the closest parallel would actually be Vodafone’s My Vodafone app, which Hutch seems to be almost matching in terms of functionality. We’re told that everything, even the UI, is still at the iteration phase, and that changes will happen based on user feedback.
It’s not perfect, but it certainly is a welcome step to in the right direction.