Messaging platform Hike today has introduced a new service for Android phones that aims to deliver various basic Internet utilities to hinterlands where people are still struggling for a connection. Called “Total”, the platform lets users access the news, transfer payments and chat with their friends, all without mobile data.
Hike Total employs the technology behind USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data), a service which has lived on almost every GSM phone since the inception for offering quick bits of information like horoscopes, sports scores through SMS when the user requests by dialing a specific number. The best part of leveraging this years-old tech is the fact that it’s entirely free of cost to the user. Hike has partnered with a bunch of manufacturers for embedding an upgrade of this framework on Android-powered budget phones.
Doing so preloads a series of apps which come integrated with the USSD protocol. One of them is a digital payment application which is based on the country’s Universal Payments Interface (UPI) protocol that allows for money transfers between bank accounts. You’ll be able to also pay with the Hike Wallet. In addition to that, there are applications for instant messaging, cricket scores, news, and more. Users will be able to login with just their phone number.
Furthermore, Hike Total can function with the Internet whenever required. For instance, when someone sends you an image in a chat, the app will prompt you to buy a data pack for viewing it. To ease the user, Hike together with carries such as Airtel, Aircel, and BSNL is offering dirt cheap recharge plans, prices of which start at as low as Re. 1 for 20MB at 4G speeds.
To kick things off, Hike will be preloading Total on phones developed by Intex and Karbonn. “The Intex devices with Total are Aqua Lions N1, Aqua Lions T1, Aqua Lions T1-Lite and the Karbonn device is A40 Indian“, Hike mentioned on its blog. The devices are scheduled to hit the shelves starting 1st March 2018.The company says that the first four phones preloaded with Total will become available across India in March. Total users will also get up to Rs. 200 to spend on any of the services when they buy one of these devices.
Hike Total sounds like a really ingenious approach for bringing internet to the country’s underdeveloped areas. However, the company will also face the challenge of actually raising awareness for this in this regions where people who are still largely unfamiliar with the benefits of the Internet. There’s also the question of whether Total will be compatible with phones Hike has not partnered with.