As of yesterday (12 February 2012) a new instant messaging app is vying for the attention of mobile phone users in South Africa and 15 other countries.
Two features in particular set the service apart from its competitors: an SMS fallback for enterprise users, and the promise of rewards for clicking on advertisements and other activities.
Users accumulate reward points, which can be spent on airtime and premium content. In South Africa, airtime purchases for reward points are available for all five mobile networks.
The South African launch wasn’t without hiccups, with some users complaining that they were unable to receive their ZiNG registration SMS which contains the PIN required to sign onto the service.
BlazingChilli’s head of mobile strategy, Brett Loubser, said that they are looking into the issue and will provide feedback to users as soon as it has been remedied.
Loubser also answered many questions about the service. The full interview follows below.
Are there plans to support Symbian, Windows Phone, or any other platform?
Our next supported platform will be Windows Phone, but no specific plans for Symbian right now. We believe the Java versions are strong and of course all of the Symbian products out there will support the Java versions. We will always keep evaluating demand though and make sure the most important platforms are supported for our user base.
Do you plan to list the app on BlackBerry App World?
Yes, this should happen shortly. It is currently in process.
ZiNG isn’t available in the US App Store and many South Africans opted for US accounts to work around region restrictions on content. Will you be listing the app in the US App Store? If so, when?
We plan to launch into many other markets soon, but with this specific point you have raised, the US store is a priority for us. This will be done soon.
Why did you choose not to have the app available in app stores globally?
This is our initial launch phase, and we have a staged rollout to all international markets.
The app allows users to sync their address book. Do the names and phone numbers get sent to your servers?
Yes, this is done to create a completely seamless user integration experience for the customer (similar to WhatsApp).
Do you store a user’s phone number and/or the names and phone numbers of their contacts on your servers?
Yes, this feature brings contact backup capability to low end phones, because the users contact list is stored in our servers and linked to the users account, so even after swapping phones their contacts will exist within the ZiNG environment. We believe this will be really beneficial in the African market.
In The Times article on the ZiNG launch there is mention of sending messages via SMS to users not on ZiNG. Is this feature available? How does one get access to and make use of this feature?
This specifically refers to the user invitation mechanism for consumers. For the enterprise messaging product which will launch soon, the servers will check to see if a customer is a registered ZiNG user, and if not, send an SMS to ensure contact is made.
Are communications encrypted over ZiNG? If so, what type of encryption do you use?
At launch we do not have encryption built in. The decision was made because encryption has two specific complexities that come along with it:
- It increases data overhead and therefore the cost of using the service. We really want this service to be as accessible as it can be to the African market.
- It slows the service down due to increased processing requirements and increased bandwidth requirements.
Having said this though, we know that there is a clear demand for this in certain environments, and it is certainly a part of our plans for the future.