From scratch cards to websites. From chatbots to voice assistants. The world of prepaid top-up is evolving faster and faster. How will we top up our prepaid phones in the near and distant future?
The year is 1876. In Boston Massachusetts, a 29-year-old teacher of the deaf, who had been working on all sorts of inventions in his spare time, is finally awarded a patent for what would later become the telephone.
Innovation leads to more innovation
This teacher, who went by the name Alexander Graham Bell, was working on a device that could accurately reproduce the human voice. He came upon this idea, by working on the ‘harmonic telegraph,’ an improvement of the telegraph. This improvement, which meant expanding the range of audio frequencies, led to the ability to transmit a lot more messages simultaneously, truly laying the groundwork for a means of mass communication. As for the telegraph itself? It relied on a constant flow of electricity, so it basically came about thanks to the invention of the electric dynamo by Michael Faraday.
Simply put, if every innovation leads to another, being able to predict what’s next is perhaps one of the greatest skills a person or organisation could have. Right?
But hey, even if we can’t accurately predict the future, we can certainly analyse the past, understand the present and make informed guesses as to the opportunities that lie ahead.
The Prepaid phone
The telephone has come a long way since 1876. In the following 143 years since, the telephone has become more accessible and even more indispensable. It has changed shape, become mobile and is now available in a wide range of categories. From cheap and sturdy to expensive and fragile. Fortunately, for millions of people around the world, so have the various options to pay for such a service.
Service you say? Well, the device is one thing, but the service it provides is so much more. The phone allows people to connect, regardless of distance or social standing. Thanks to connectivity, people are able to remain in touch with loved ones, become more productive and have a better quality of life.
Whereas the societal impact of the mobile phone is one that simply cannot be denied. The prepaid mobile phone is truly a game changer. The prepaid phone has allowed developing nations to leapfrog into the future, skipping the age of the landline.
For the millions upon millions of people with prepaid phones, connectivity can only be hampered by one thing; the ability to top-up.
We all know the traditional way of topping up phone credit. It generally goes like this: you dress up, leave the house, go to a store, purchase the prepaid scratch card, find a place to read the instructions, send a specific code to a specific phone number and hope you put in the code right within the first three tries or end up having to buy a new one.
Thankfully, topping up your phone today is easier than ever. You don’t even have to do it yourself. If you live in a remote area or lack an internet connection, a friend or family member elsewhere can top up your phone credit remotely.
In recent times, innovations in top-up are moving pretty fast. Technology is changing, allowing for more technical possibilities. As a consequence, people’s behaviours and expectations are changing as well. Naturally, the top-up landscape is changing along with them.
So, where do we go from here?
The first wave: Chatbots / Dash buttons
The first wave is already upon us. Chatbots have enabled users to top up their phones from wherever they may be, as long as they have an internet connection and a messaging app on their phone. Once the user initiates the conversation, the chatbot asks a few questions and the transaction is made. A good example of this is the WhatsApp chatbot available through aufladen.de in Germany.
In most parts of the world, just about everybody has WhatsApp on their phone. So users don’t need to download yet another app to their device.
And how about dash buttons? A dash button is a nifty little device that is connected to a user’s Wi-Fi. Whenever the user taps the button, a message is sent to the supplier and a confirmation request is sent to the user’s inbox.
For about four years, Amazon sold dash buttons that enabled its Prime users to order just about anything with the tap of a button. From toothpaste to condoms. However, as of March 1st 2019, Amazon stopped selling physical dash buttons. Why? Because the company noticed user preferences were shifting towards voice assistants and subscriptions.
Amazon may have given up on theirs, but the concept of a dash button goes beyond a physical device. A button on your phone’s home screen is perhaps a more useful ‘dash button.’ What if all you had to do to top-up your phone, was ‘tap and confirm’?
The second wave: Voice Assistants
As we ride the chatbot wave onto the shore, a brand-new swell is already on its way: the voice assistant. If you own an Apple or Android device, you already have one in your hand.
Asking the voice assistant on your phone for directions makes life easier. Asking it to tell a joke or beatbox can be funny. But how about asking your phone to top-up its own credit or someone else’s?
Voice assistants are becoming more popular and many homes already have one. Have you embraced it yet? Do you think mobile phone top-up through voice assistants is going to be the next big thing for prepaid users?
The third wave: Augmented reality? Or something else?
Once we’ve mastered the art of ‘asking’ computers to top up our phone credit and gotten used to chatting with bots, what will be next?
Given the way in which one innovation often facilitates another. Is voice going to pass the baton to augmented reality? Mercedes-Benz is already combining voice and augmented reality in their navigation systems. You use your voice to ask your car for directions. While driving, graphics are layered over a real-time video of the road ahead. Or what about holographic technology? Back in 2012, we saw Tupac Shakur perform at Coachella.
Summoning a hologram, only to ask it to top up your phone seems like a hassle though.
What’s your prediction?
Will we top up our phones by commanding robots? Or will neural implants simply ‘know’ what we need and take care of it? Will our concepts of money, currency and payment evolve altogether? Or will the availability of free Wi-Fi and messaging apps simply kill the need for prepaid top-up?
I’d love to hear what you think the future of prepaid is going to be like. Get in touch!
If you have any question about our reload services please let me know. I’ll be happy to answer!
About the author
Alper Altan – Reload Services
Business Development Manager
I’m Alper Altan, Business Development Manager at Alphacomm Solutions. I make sure that Alphacomm maximizes profit on existing customers as well as new business.