Tech – Atul Karmarkar.Com http://www.atulkarmarkar.com Around Pune, Technology, Startups, Investing, Food Mon, 23 Jul 2018 02:48:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 3411319 Using the Hound voice search app http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/using-the-hound-app/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/using-the-hound-app/#respond Mon, 17 Aug 2015 04:25:40 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3838 After almost 9 years of development, SoundHound finally released Hound – its voice search app, a couple of months ago, […]

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After almost 9 years of development, SoundHound finally released Hound – its voice search app, a couple of months ago, and it has been making waves since then.

Hound App

The SoundHound name would be familiar to most users who have been using this wildly popular music recognition app to listen to and decipher which music is playing or even being hummed.

The Hound app is still in beta, and available in the US only, and a friend over there had downloaded it and was raving about it, although it did seem to crash more often than desired. Another friend in India who downloaded it said the same, and it seemed to be messing up with the Contacts as well.

I was curious to see how it performed, so downloaded the app a couple of weeks ago and requested an invite. Frankly, I was expecting one to arrive after a long time, but I got the notification quite soon and decided to pit it against Google Now.

Having seen two friends have problems with app crashes and mismanagement of contacts, the first thing I did while setting it up was to uncheck the ‘Sync your contacts’ and the ‘Enable contact integration’ options.

Hound App

Hound App

I started off with some really random whodunit / conspiracy type of queries just for the heck of it, and both Hound and Google Now responded in a predictable manner – as expected 😀

Hound App

Hound took slightly longer for the next set of queries that were more localised, although it finally picked up “Pune” and returned similar results; better than Google Now in the case of ‘population of Pune’ and more generic w.r.t ‘traffic between Pune and Mumbai’.

Hound App

The next set of queries were again off-beat ones, and I was slightly surprised that Google Now didn’t return the exact result of the mathematical calculation (it usually does). Hound being completely unable to correlate Wimbledon with tennis was odd, and the reply stumped me. The Chuck Norris one is an old Google-search joke though it was interesting to see Hound throw up related music tracks in response.

Hound App

Seeing the music tracks in the previous case prompted me to try some music based queries, and here Hound’s response was quicker and better than Google Now on both occasions. On being asked to play Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’, it immediately began doing so, whereas Google Now prompted me for an app with which to play the song. Likewise, when I was listening to ‘High Hopes’, absolutely no surprises here at Hound being able to recognise the song but Google Now’s response took me aback. Quite apt, considering which song it was :p

Hound App

Hound is an extremely capable app. Users already on Android, iOS and Windows Phone will be familiar with its existing competitors – Google Now, Siri and Cortana respectively, and although Hound isn’t integrated with the OS like these three are, it is extremely fast, intuitive and can very well hold its own against this trio. The Hound company demo below (although seemingly a tad unrealistic) gives an idea of the app’s capabilities. There are several videos around of these apps going head to head in real-time which you can look up here, here and even one which shows all four together.

It is still in beta as I previously mentioned, and US-only for now, so several queries on local / other Indian cities, hotels and restaurants, weather, hotels, streets, or even share prices on local stock exchanges didn’t work as meant to, which was to be expected. However, it is a quick learner, seeing the above – considering that during initial use, it couldn’t even understand ‘Pune’ at all. As I hadn’t enabled integration of contacts, I couldn’t try voice calling or texting people in my address book or any other function that needed Contacts.

If you’re in the US or use a VPN, you can download it from the Play Store, and there’s an iOS version also in the works. Alternately, you can head over to the APK Mirror site and sideload the latest apk from there. Either way, you still need to request an invite to be able to use it.

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Using the Mi 16000mAh Power Bank http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/mi-16000mah-power-bank/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/mi-16000mah-power-bank/#respond Wed, 01 Jul 2015 01:59:31 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3816 When the Mi 16000mAh power bank was announced, I couldn’t resist buying it along with the Mi Band when both […]

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When the Mi 16000mAh power bank was announced, I couldn’t resist buying it along with the Mi Band when both were made available on 09th June at 2pm. Some months ago, during a sale on Amazon, I’d picked up an ihave ia1310 Boss 10000mAh Power Bank (Gold) for Rs. 799, so as far as power backup requirements go, things were actually quite sorted.

Previously, I’d looked at buying one from Ambrane (10400mAh), Lenovo (13000mAh), OnePlus (10000mAh) or even Xiaomi’s own 5200mAh and 10400mAh power banks, but they were mostly sold out quickly and then out of stock for ages. Plenty of fakes floating around too apparently, as I learned from some folks who’d bought them, though there are ways to identify the fakes.

Mi 16000mAh Power Bank

I liked the look and finish of the power bank. In fact, both this and the ihave power bank could easily pass off as products from the Apple stable. Housed in an aluminum body and powered by a Lithium-ion battery, the Mi 16000mAh power bank is literally a handful at 145mm X 60.4mm X 22mm – slightly slimmer than expected, and yes, at 350g, somewhat on the heavier side – as expected. There’s a charging cable included, but no adapter.

Mi 16000mAh Power Bank

The Mi 16000mAh power bank has a power button, micro-USB input and two USB ports for charging, both supporting a 5.1V/2.1A output current. As they say, the devil is in the details, so if you’re using both ports simultaneously, the maximum output is 5.1V/3.6A, not 4.2A as you might expect. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t get too hot when charging two devices at the same time. The power button has a slight indent, so no accidental pushes, which is good. The four LEDs indicate charge status.

Mi 16000mAh Power Bank

On the opposite side, the specs are listed, and there’s a mention of rated capacity at 5.1V being 10800mAh and conversion rate > 90% – nice of Xiaomi to actually print this information. Basically, this means that to know how often you can charge a device, a simple calculation of dividing 16000mAh by your device battery(mAh) wouldn’t be accurate. The actual number of charges would be a tad lower than that.

Mi 16000mAh Power Bank

Charging the iPad2 (6930mAh) seemed to take ages, and I unplugged it midway. Might be quicker with the newer iPad range. I was able to charge both the OnePlus One and the older Note2 pretty quickly,  The OnePlus One has a 3100mAh battery, and it took around 1.25 hours to go from 2-3% to 100%; the Note2 also has a 3100mAh battery and it took 10-15 mins longer compared to the OnePlus One. Overall, I could utilise the power bank for four charges till it drained out; I don’t wait for the phone battery to be 0%, usually plug in a charger at 10% or so so this is decent.

Charging the power bank itself takes 8-9 hours with a 5V/2A adapter and standard cable, and 13-14 hours with a 5V/1A adapter and standard cable. Saw some comments from folks saying it too long to charge, so you need to ensure you use the proper adapter.

The Mi 16000mAh power bank is a beast, and at Rs 1,399, it’s worth it if you use multiple devices that need to be charged during the day and if you want to avoid carrying multiple power banks as well.

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Mi Band – a fortnight later http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/mi-band/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/mi-band/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 02:51:11 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3815 In the past year or so, Xiaomi has shaken up the ‘gadget world’ by introducing a range of products at […]

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In the past year or so, Xiaomi has shaken up the ‘gadget world’ by introducing a range of products at very reasonable prices. Add the Mi Band and Mi 16000mAh power bank to the list.

Even though both were available towards mid to end of 2014, they weren’t being sold in India. Add to that the ‘flash sale on select sites’ theory where stuff typically gets sold out in seconds. Earlier this month, there was an announcement that both these products could be bought off the Mi site, starting 09-Jun-15, 2pm onwards. I wasn’t too optimistic of snagging ‘em but at 2pm sharp, I was thrilled to see both products shown as available before realising I hadn’t even created a Mi user account :p Managed to quickly do so, add both products to the cart, and make the payment. Phew!

Right, so its been a fortnight since then, and overall it has been a decent experience.

Mi Band

At Rs. 999, the Mi Band is among the cheapest (wearable) activity trackers around, besides apps on your smartphone. It is a basic and simple looking band with no display. The unit itself is a polycarbonate body with 3 LEDs on it, and shaped like a capsule. It has a couple of charging points at the end, which slip into the shell in the charger which accompanies it.

Once fully charged, it needs to be inserted in the casing of the band, which is available in multiple colours, for Rs.199, though some colours are often out of stock. Putting the capsule in and removing it takes a bit of effort, which is cool since there’s no worry of it accidentally coming off. Along with an accelerometer, there’s a Bluetooth 4.0 chip and a 41mAh Lithium-Polymer battery. The more advanced trackers have additional sensors, like an altimeter (to measure inclines, stairs etc), blood flow sensor (to measure heart rate), perspiration sensor (to gauge workout intensity) and so on.

The hypoallergenic silicone band (made of TPSiV – a thermoplastic elastomer, suitable for sensitive skin) is comfortable to wear and has enough slots to accommodate even the thickest of wrists. I wear a watch on my left wrist when I’m outdoors, so I’ve taken to wearing the Mi Band on my right wrist.

Mi Band

Someone had shared  a picture of his wrist getting a rash due to the band. I’ve worn it throughout since purchase except when having a bath (although it can be worn even then thanks to the IP67 water-resistant certification) and haven’t experienced any rash/itch/irritation on the skin; in fact, I don’t even ‘feel’ I’m wearing a band. It has been subjected to slight rain and the usual chafing while writing or typing on the laptop. Not much of visible wear and tear so far, or maybe it’s because I’m using the black one. Bands with lighter colours could get / look soiled quicker. I do recall there being a skin rash related issue with the Fitbit Force a year ago though.

As the Mi Band has no controls or display, it is managed entirely via the Mi Fit app and syncs via Bluetooth. Pairing the device took a few tries more than expected, as did completion of sign up on the app. Once that was out of the way, things were pretty smooth. The device and app are compatible with smartphones supporting Bluetooth 4.0, running Android 4.4 and above, or iOS 7.0 and above; the app is available for download on the Play Store and the App Store.

The sign up process requires adding date of birth, height, weight and gender, along with a suggested ‘target’ number of steps per day, based on that data. When you complete 1/3rd of that target, a single LED lights up and so on till you achieve the target for the day.

Mi Band

Mi Band

Within the app, you can access information on how many steps you’ve walked/run, as well as your sleep patterns. Based on your height, weight and activity level, it shows how many calories were burnt – not very accurately though. The sleep tracker measures your total sleep time as well as how much of that duration was light or deep sleep, when you went to bed, when you woke up. The information can be viewed as a daily/weekly/monthly summary too.

The app also has other settings through which you can set alarms, vibrate on incoming calls, unlock your phone, sync with Google Fit – I haven’t tried any of these features yet, except the alarm. Sharing to social media is enabled for those who want to.

Mi Band

It is not without some quirks though. Since it is worn on the wrist, there are times when excessive hand movements / gestures could be recorded as a walk/steps although I’ve not seen too much of that. It also doesn’t seem to track afternoon naps; only sleep during the night is tracked. If I decide to move to another app or band or even if I want to feed in the data elsewhere, there’s no way to export information from this app. However, unlike another friend, I didn’t see car rides being counted as steps, so that’s good.

It was otherwise interesting to see the variations in data captured by the Mi Band, Google Fit and apps like Runkeeper or Runtastic, although that was to be expected. The “average exceeded by” data as per Google Fit is odd, since I usually walk 3 km or so in the morning. In terms of steps and total distance the Mi Band shows 2.12km / 2,845 steps v/s 2.16km / 2,814 steps in Google Fit. Runtastic shows the least distance walked – could be a GPS glitch.

Mi Band

 

Mi Band

All said and done, it is a cost-effective and basic level activity tracker with fantastic battery life (supposedly 30 days, usually lasts much longer). Most smartphone fitness apps will also show similar data though they’re usually GPS-based.

Should you get one?

Well, it depends; if you’ve never been particular about activity related data or used a wearable tracker before, the Mi Band is worth a try to see

a) how you feel about using one or even showing off one 😉

b) whether you’re comfortable wearing it almost 24X7

c) if you want more accurate and detailed activity tracking with increased use

before spending on more expensive devices from Garmin, Jawbone Up, Fitbit, GOQii, or Basis.

There’s also competition from Micromax, who have launched YuFit – their activity tracker, at the same price point of Rs.999. It has a display which shows the time and other indicators, and also integrates with the HealthifyMe fitness app, but not much more is known about its specifications or availability as of now.

The Mi Band was initially available only on the Mi site (where it’s out of stock), was then available on Flipkart – where it now shows up as “Permanently Discontinued”, which is strange. You might have to wait a bit to get your hands on it.

Update: 25-Jul-15 *It is available on Amazon as of now. Grab it before it goes out of stock again.* 

Incidentally, the entire Fitbit range from Rs.4,000 – Rs.19,990 can be pre-ordered on Amazon right now, and will be available from 03-Jul-15. You may want to have a look at those too.

Do you use an activity tracker? Which one? Do share your experience.

 

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Using HDFC Bank PayZapp – a mobile payment solution http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/using-payzapp-from-hdfc-bank/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/using-payzapp-from-hdfc-bank/#respond Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:06:43 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3800 The mobile payments, wallets and shopping  ecosystem has seen an entire bunch of apps in the past year or so, […]

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The mobile payments, wallets and shopping  ecosystem has seen an entire bunch of apps in the past year or so, and HDFC Bank PayZapp is the latest entrant to that club.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

Using HDFC Bank PayZapp, you can create an online virtual card via Netsafe, link your credit + debit cards to make utility bill payments, shop, and transfer funds – all from a single app, and without having to re-enter / re-authorise payment details each time you transact.

There’s a truckload of permissions needed upfront by the app, which are mostly self-explanatory and necessary. The mobile number is mapped to the device and other details stay with the bank; none in the phone or with the merchant.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

At the primary screen, you need to first register by inputting your mobile number after which you’re sent an OTP. I liked that the app picked up the OTP on it’s own; some apps with permission to read SMS still expect manual input. Once that is done, fill in personal details and a 4-12 digit PIN which will be used for future login. There’s also an email verification that follows. Enter the PIN to log in, select the two check boxes for one click payments.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

HDFC Bank PayZapp

The menu is straightforward; with tabs for shopping, creating a virtual card, recharge/bill pay, sending money to contacts, wallet transactions, and managing your cards. You need to link your credit / debit card first, before you can transact. Interestingly, if your card is an embossed one, the app can scan the card number unlike flat ones, where you need to input the details manually. Took me a few tries to get it perfect and I had to input the expiry date. I’ve not linked my debit card yet though.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

PayZapp also allows you to create a virtual online credit card via Netsafe, within the app. I’d used this facility many years ago when it was newly launched, will explore it again. It generates a virtual 16 digit credit card number with CVV code and expiry date, linked to your credit card or bank account, so your actual card numbers remain undisclosed.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

For using the wallet, you need to add money to it. As it is linked to your credit / debit card, there are no transaction limits and no need for top-ups either. Money can be sent to mobile / email contacts; they need not be HDFC Bank customers. HDFC Bank SmartBuy, the bank’s shopping portal is also integrated with PayZapp and although there aren’t many merchants on the PayZapp platform yet, several are expected to come aboard in the next 1-2 months.

HDFC Bank PayZapp

As I’d just installed the app, I wasn’t looking to buy anything right away or transfer funds to anyone, so settled on the transaction that was upcoming – paying my mobile bill 🙂

HDFC Bank PayZapp

Quite a straightforward process, as is visible in the pics, and quick – no set of questions to answer, no waiting for an OTP or having to input a secure code.

There are plans afoot to introduce a loyalty / rewards program, an e-vault to store documents, along with “contactless” and QR code based payments. Sounds interesting and something to look forward to.

Presently, HDFC Bank PayZapp is available for all customers of HDFC Bank and only on Android, which you can download from the Play Store. Versions for other platforms should be out soon too.

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Send money via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, SMS, email http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/send-money-whatsapp-facebook-twitter-sms-email/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/send-money-whatsapp-facebook-twitter-sms-email/#respond Sun, 31 May 2015 13:09:48 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3725 If you are an Axis Bank customer, you can now send money via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email to […]

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Axis Bank Ping Pay

If you are an Axis Bank customer, you can now send money via WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, SMS and email to anyone in your contact list.

That’s right; Ping Pay from Axis Bank is the latest addition to the list of payment apps from banks, recent ones being Pockets from ICICI Bank and Chillr from HDFC Bank.

Axis Bank Ping Pay

The initial announcement was made 2-3 weeks ago, but the app wasn’t available on the Play Store back then and I forgot about it. When I checked back some days ago, it was, although it seems Android-only for now.

Setting up the app was fairly simple once the mobile number was entered and OTP verified. The same M-Pin as that for the bank account is used to log in once authentication is done. The only crib was having to tap the ‘Enter / Return’ key on the keypad each time to confirm an action, as there was no other way to confirm input. Seemed a bit archaic.

Axis Bank Ping Pay

As the blurb on their site says,

“Ping Pay is a multi-social payment app from Axis Bank that lets you send or ask for money and mobile recharge across Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, SMS or e-mail. And everytime you send or ask for money or recharge, say whatever you have to say to your friends through videos, voice notes, images, or customized messages. So now everytime you have to send or ask for money, simply #PingPayKaro!

Axis Bank Ping Pay

Axis Bank Ping Pay

To send or receive money using Ping Pay, select a contact + connect mode, mention the amount to be transferred. The receiver gets a link, after which he/she should download Ping Pay and enter bank details to receive the money. However, the caveat here is that sending money or recharge is available only to Axis Bank customers. Non-Axis Bank customers can receive money or recharge as of now. Secondly, the receiver’s bank has to be IMPS-enabled.

Axis Bank Ping Pay

Simple enough, but when it came to actual use, the interface was quite confusing without knowing what to do next before I figured out at that one needs to long press the ‘Money’ or ‘Recharge’ button as the case may be, and then move it Up or Down depending on whether money has to be sent or received.

The per day, per transaction limit for transferring funds via Ping Pay as of now is Rs.50,000. Secondly, the app can only be used on one device with one mobile number.

Not everyone would be keen to download multiple apps just to send and receive money. With each bank coming up with their payment apps, it will be interesting to see their stats and stickiness six months down the line. There are several bank-agnostic payment apps and wallets that consumers are already using, not just to transfer money but also make purchases and avail of discounts/cashbacks. Personally, I’m already sensing a degree of fatigue with the plethora of payment apps and wallets around.

Ping Pay is presently available for download on the Play Store and is expected to be on the App Store soon as well.

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Cardback – for the best credit card and wallet offers http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/cardback-for-the-best-credit-card-and-wallet-offers/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/cardback-for-the-best-credit-card-and-wallet-offers/#respond Mon, 18 May 2015 11:20:08 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3719 “Which of my credit / debit cards can get me the best deal on an online or offline purchase?” This […]

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Cardback

“Which of my credit / debit cards can get me the best deal on an online or offline purchase?”

This is a question all of us grapple with in the quest to maximise rewards and discounts from almost everything that we shop for now. Besides a plethora of loyalty cards from various stores, it is quite common for consumers to have more than one credit / debit card. How do you decide which card is the best to use, and where?

That is the dilemma Cardback aims to solve. It is a recommendation engine which displays the best offers and savings that are possible with the cards you hold.

Had chanced upon the app sometime towards the end of last year during my usual “app-hunts”, but it wasn’t of much use then since physical locations in Pune weren’t covered. Now that they are, I decided to try it out. Besides Pune, establishments in Delhi – NCR, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad are covered.

Cardback

Cardback

At first glance, the permissions needed by the app as well as their terms and conditions are daunting and somewhat discomforting, regardless of the explanations given.

The main screen has three tabs;

  • ‘Explore’ – which lets you decide on a course of action among the 9 specified (online as well as offline)
  • ‘Smart Pay’ – where you specify how much you’d like to spend, and where. Based on the cards you have, the app suggests which one gets you maximum bang for the buck
  • ‘Card Holder’ – which displays the cards you’ve added and allows further additions

Cardback

The best part is that there is no need to add any actual card numbers at all, only the card type, so none of your financial information is being accessed here. Most of the major card issuing banks are included, along with Paytm, Citrus, and Mobikwik among wallets.

While the app mostly works as it should, there are some quirks and mismatched data, like

  • under Pay Bills, it has “Citibank Online Bill Pay” with “Use HSBC Platinum Visa Credit Card” and 1-2 similar ones
  • under Movies, it shows offers from “The Economist”, “Open Magazine”, “Fortune India”, “India Today” etc
  • while most of the locations were nearby (<5kms), it did go off tangent at times, showing places > 10kms away

It also takes too much time – right from loading initially to displaying recommendations. I tried it offline at a couple of places and it took a fair bit of time to show me the best offer at those places, which can get irritating. Not too many physical establishments with offers are visible currently for Pune, although I expect that scenario would improve over time.

Cardback

There’s a tab for the Menu, which lets you log in via Twitter and Facebook. The app can be used without logging in too, which is good. Settings option lets you specify your interests as well as whether you’d like to receive notifications. Funny thing is even though I checked all, I don’t recall ever seeing any notifications. They also have a tie-up with Uber where you enter a code and get two free rides worth Rs 300 each (for first time users only).

Cardback

The FAQ appears to be designed in a hurry and is all over the place with text overlapping across two screens.

Overall, it’s an interesting and useful app to have if you use multiple credit / debit cards & wallets and are always looking for the best offers and deals on those cards.

It’s available for download on Android, iOS and Windows Phone.

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Cabin app – share messages, reminders, location with groups http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/cabin-app/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/cabin-app/#respond Mon, 20 Apr 2015 06:57:48 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3694 Some months ago, I was missing the old Latitude app and looking at others which allowed location sharing in real […]

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Some months ago, I was missing the old Latitude app and looking at others which allowed location sharing in real time to a group, whether family, friends, colleagues and so on.

Cabin App

Among those, one app was Cabin; downloaded it, but didn’t begin exploring till much later, and it goes beyond just location sharing.

After installing the Cabin app, you need to set up at least one group and invite people to it. Once that is done, you can

a) use it for instant messaging
b) schedule events / tasks and set up reminders for group members or self
c) share location privately within the group

Cabin App

Cabin App

Cabin App

It’s quite convenient and easy to set up and use. Of course, these features are available in some form in other apps too, but having all of them in one app in this form is quite convenient. This works best for those who are a part of multiple groups and have tightly integrated interpersonal activities on close to real-time basis, whether family / friends / teams.

It’s available for Android and iOS as of now.

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Making payments gets easier with Chillr http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/making-payments-gets-easier-with-chillr/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/making-payments-gets-easier-with-chillr/#respond Wed, 11 Mar 2015 05:17:42 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3263 Had come across mentions of this app 2-3 weeks ago, but only recently got around to actually downloading and using […]

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Chillr

Had come across mentions of this app 2-3 weeks ago, but only recently got around to actually downloading and using it. An addition to the world of payment related apps, Chillr lets you send money to anyone in your phonebook who has a bank account.

It does away with the usual practice of having to add a beneficiary account along with bank details and wait anywhere from 30 minutes to 24 hours to be able to transfer money to that beneficiary. There’s no ‘wallet’ either.

Chillr

Unsurprisingly, it is a moderate privacy risk with the access it needs. Presently, only customers of HDFC Bank are allowed to send money, but there’s a whole bunch of other banks which can receive money. Presumably, sending money will be extended to customers of other banks (members of NPCI) and merchants at some point later.

Chillr

Add name and mobile number, wait for and then input the OTP you get via SMS. Seeing a message that my mobile number was not registered with the bank did lead to a WTF moment for a second. However, that was taken care of by logging into my Netbanking account and generating an MMID. Adding email id is optional. There’s also a bunch of other options from the menu which you can access.

Chillr

The home screen has four main sections, and tapping ‘Pay’ takes you to a screen with names of those who have installed the Chillr app and all other contacts. You can also Request funds, make payments towards Utilities and recharges (Coming Soon, as the app says). This would also allow for splitting food bills with friends or sharing rent with flatmates. The ‘Near Me’ function allows payments to those who are physically near your location.

Chillr

To actually make a payment, you need to call 18002666262 (toll free) and generate your m-pin. Once you receive it, change it to a 4 digit m-pin of your choice;

1. Dial *99# from your phone (from a GSM phone)
2. Enter ‘HDFC’ as the first four letters of your bank
3. Select option – ‘Change m-pin’
4. Follow the instructions

Recipients need to download the app and link their bank account in order to receive the money, which they’re prompted to do via SMS once you initiate a transfer. Besides the m-pin itself, there are other security measures in place as well.

Presently, all Chillr services are free till 31-Mar-15 and they say new charges if any, will be notified 45 days in advance. There is a cap on receiving money via the app, which is 10 times in a month. The FAQ on the HDFC Bank website says Rs.3.5+service tax is levied on each transaction while sending money. A maximum of Rs.5,000 can be transferred at one time and also per day, as well as 10 transactions per day.

Chillr

As of now, the app is available on Android and is expected to launch on other platforms as well. There’s a detailed FAQ on their website as well as information on the HDFC Bank website which should answer any queries you may have.

One odd thing I noticed was that none of the information on their website was accessible via mobile. Still seemed in pre-launch stage.

Chillr

Will be interesting to see how things shape up when their other services are launched, more banks come on board and *if* they start charging for services after 31-Mar-15. Try it out till then 🙂

Update: It seems to be available on iOS also now, although their website still doesn’t say so. 

This post, Making payments gets easier with Chillr, was originally published at Atul Karmarkar.Com

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Walnut App – a powerful expense tracker and money manager http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/walnut-expense-bill-tracker/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/walnut-expense-bill-tracker/#comments Mon, 20 Oct 2014 01:36:38 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3250 I love trying out new apps and in the past 2-3 years, I’ve probably tried over 1,000 apps across Blackberry, […]

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I love trying out new apps and in the past 2-3 years, I’ve probably tried over 1,000 apps across Blackberry, Android and iOS. At any given time, my phone / tablet easily has close to 250-300 apps on it, and the Walnut app is the latest addition to that list. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to writing about those apps, so rectifying that now.

Walnut

With the mobile phone becoming the preferred computing device of choice, there’s an app for practically everything one does nowadays, and personal finance is no exception. Personally, as far as the finance domain (banking/personal finance/stocks) is concerned, I’m not really a big fan of mobile apps; prefer to use desktop apps like MS-Money to track bank/card/loan details and MProfit for investments.

The Walnut app helps you manage your spending as well as track upcoming bills and payments. Nothing new or unique about the first bit; there are thousands of apps in that category, ranging from all-round personal finance managers to the specific budget/spend tracking types. At a basic level, these apps tell you how much money you;

  • have now/earn
  • spend & on what
  • will have at a future date
  • spend on bill payments

Then again, among all these apps;

– Some are free, some are paid (or with in-app purchases)

– Some are convoluted to set up and manage, some are too basic

– Some need minimal personal information, some expect too many sensitive details

– Some pick up information automatically, some expect you to input it manually

With regard to the last bit, some apps scan receipts and bills and generate reports from that data, others scan the SMSes you get from various sources like banks/credit cards/other merchants.

Aha, did that last bit cause the privacy-freak in you to get jumpy? 😉

Well, permission to read SMS isn’t anything new and knowingly or unknowingly, you use such apps all the time. The Walnut app doesn’t read personal messages or OTPs, only business transactions (bank/card/bill alerts etc) and all the processing based on those messages is done locally. Read their FAQ on this.

Walnut is very easy to begin using with barely any setup. Fairly straightforward Settings here. You can choose to turn notifications on and also set a monthly spending limit.

Walnut

There’s an Overview with Summary, Spends and Offers, Views with account details – somewhat intriguing to see my Axis Bank account shown twice under the card icon, once as “AXIS DEBIT”, whereas both HDFC Bank accounts and the credit card are shown with the bank icon.

Walnut

The Summary lists out month-wise details for cards, banks and bills. Tapping on them gives you an itemised list for spends as well as bills. Again, my Axis Bank account was shown under Cards. I don’t hold a credit card from that bank. Both my HDFC Bank accounts were listed correctly, but a recent transaction at ICICI Bank was missing. I also noticed that while my American Express credit card was detected, the American Express charge card wasn’t. (Update: The American Express charge card is detected now – it has a different messaging format compared to the credit card.) 

The Bills tab was mostly accurate, showing payments due on my American Express card, HDFC Bank credit card, Vodafone bill, and Citibank card. However, for my ICICI Bank credit card, multiple spends and a card payment were shown under this tab, which I thought was odd. (Update: This issue has been resolved.)

Walnut

The Stats tab shows your top spends category-wise as well as merchant-wise and month-wise (1mth, 3mths) and the the Map tab shows the location of the merchant establishment where you last swiped your card.

Walnut

Spends and Bills are shown correctly, with the latter showing no. of days remaining for payment. The Spends tab allows you to dive into each item where you can then categorise spends.

Walnut

It smartly pulls up a list of matching places so all you have to do is select the correct one. However, for spends at the same store in two different months, it located the place for one transaction, but couldn’t for the other, in spite of several attempts, which was odd. For online spends, one needs to select the category manually.

Walnut

Walnut

The Walnut app works only in India as of now. I like the fact that it handles everything automatically and is unobtrusive. Other apps which scan SMSes are quite annoying as they pop up each time you get one, asking for your inputs on that transaction.

Periodically, I keep deleting my SMSes in which case the reporting accuracy may be slightly hampered for me. Apparently, it’s not a problem if messages are deleted  – once recorded in the app, the spends data stays as is.

So if you use mobile apps to track and manage your finances, and are based in India, give this one a shot. Walnut is free, has a small footprint and is a powerful app in terms of the spends insights provided with almost zero manual input needed.

The Walnut app is presently available only on Android and you can get it from the Play Store.

* Some of the images which seemed to have too much personal financial information have been blurred, so apologies for the lousy screenshots 🙂

This post, Walnut App – a powerful expense tracker and money manager, was originally published at Atul Karmarkar.Com

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OnePlus One – a fortnight later http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/oneplus-one/ http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/oneplus-one/#respond Thu, 16 Oct 2014 02:44:17 +0000 http://www.atulkarmarkar.com/?p=3241 So yes, its been close to a fortnight since I got my hands on the OnePlus One, and it has […]

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So yes, its been close to a fortnight since I got my hands on the OnePlus One, and it has been a good experience.

OnePlus One

Ever since the motherboard of the Note2 was replaced in June, and given the recent issues with random re-starts, I’d been looking around for a replacement phone. I wasn’t keen to buy the Nexus 5 or wait for the Nexus 6, not too enthused with the Moto G or Moto X, had to be incredibly lucky to snag any Xiaomi Mi3 or Redmi 1S off Flipkart, and for a brief moment, even considered buying the iPhone 5s (Gold, 16GB)off Amazon as the sale price plummeted from 35-36K to 30K. However, being used to larger screens now, this was a no-go. And nope, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plusweren’t feasible options either :p

A couple of friends had already bought the OnePlus One and although I hadn’t seen the phone physically, it looked quite attractive online. My initial reaction of course was one of scepticism; unknown company, unavailable in India, quirky invite system / contests to buy it, doubts about warranty etc. However what finally decided me was the combination of those specifications at that price, so I bit the bullet and decided to go ahead as a friend had an invite.

Claiming the invite (within 24 hours) was simple enough. They have a 16GB and 64GB variant, and I chose the latter in Sandstone Black ($349). Added a ClearCase as well for $11, so the total cost came to around $375 including ~ $15 for shipping. Payment was done via PayPal (there is no other way to pay), and after initial hiccups with the U.S address (courtesy Shop and Ship), the order was finally through.

It was delivered by OnePlus to the SnS address in 3-4 days and from there to India in another 4 days, including one day on hold to dispute customs duty. My shipment was listed as “Home Appliance” instead of “Mobile Phone” and customs duty was higher. If you’re ordering via SnS, remember to send them a copy of your invoice within 24 hours of intimation of the tracking number to ensure the correct customs duty is charged.

On opening the box, the packaging left me speechless; probably the best I’ve ever seen for a phone. Most come with all the stuff crammed into a small box, barely the size of the phone itself. In this case however, this was no less than some luxury item – the phone, the charger, cable, SIM removal tool, clear case. Gorgeous 😀

OnePlus One

With a  Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and 2.5GHz quad-core CPUs, powered by CyanogenMod 11S running Android 4.4.4, this is a 64GB (Sandstone Black) beast with 3GB RAM, a 5.5 inch IPS LCD display, 1920 X 1080 full HD resolution, a Li-Po 3100 mAh battery, and an Adreno 330 GPU for superior graphics and gaming experience. It isn’t super slim, but reasonably so, and not very heavy either. Some might crib about lack of microSD storage but considering I didn’t need one for my 16GB Note2, 64GB here is more than adequate for me. I like that the back is actually rough like sandpaper making it easier to grip. However, with the clear case on, no worries on that front.

OnePlus One

During the first couple of days, the battery life was good, then dipped after one update, and then the latest XNPH38R update seems to have taken care of that. This update was also expected to fix touchscreen related errors, but I didn’t experience any, so no worries there.

The rear camera is a 13MP one while the front facing one is 5MP. Both images and video output were pretty good as far as my usage is concerned. There are several options to tweak the mode even as you’re readying to take a pic, which I found useful. The latest update also brings with it the ability to shoot images in RAW.

I ran the AnTuTu Benchmark app to check how the OnePlus One stacked up against the competition and while looking at the results feels great, it doesn’t take too long for others to catch up nowadays. Playing games like Carmageddon, Riptide GP2, and Asphalt 8: Airborne was a breeze and I didn’t notice any frozen frames or lag / stutter.

OnePlus One

All said and done, at 25-26K for a 64GB phone with top of the line specs, this is one heck of a phone. No other comes close!

* Google has announced Lollipop, the next version of Android, along with the Nexus 6 phone and Nexus 9 tablet. At $650 for the phone, it does seem a tad steep, and is available in 32GB and 64GB versions on pre-order by end-October.

* Update: Just as OnePlus was getting ready to launch the phone in India, their partner Cyanogen seemingly pulled the rug from under their feet by signing up with Micromax, putting up a question mark on future OS updates for those buying the phone *in* India. OnePlus were taken by surprise, and though Cyanogen issued a statement after the ensuing shitstorm, the damage was done.

* Meanwhile, Micromax obtained a single judge court order to restrain OnePlus selling, marketing or shipping any phones in India – which was overturned by the Delhi High Court.

* The phone is being sold in India on Amazon without the Cyanogen branding – Rs 21,999 for the 64GB Sandstone Black version – even as OnePlus is getting their KitKat based OS ready to ship.

* The invite system still continues though, whether in India or via their own site. They’ve introduced invite-free Tuesdays, opening a window when the phone can be bought without an invite.

 

This post, OnePlus One – a fortnight later, was originally published at Atul Karmarkar.Com

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