Globe Telecom’s GoSakto Promo for prepaid is gaining wide attention from subscribers in which many claim that it is much more powerful than Globe’s postpaid offerings. The idea is that you get to customize and create your own promo that would fit your budget and needs. You can specify the call minutes, number of texts, data limit, the network where your call and SMS will be valid, and even the validity period. There are a lot of combinations in which we can customize our own promo, and often times, the pattern is inconsistent specially regarding the amount of the promo. For example, if you create this promo:
Call & Text
Valid for 30 days
Amount = P742.00
What if you want to add 20MB of surfing? Surely, you would expect that you’d pay a lot more, but guess what, if you add 20MB worth of data to the promo above, you would only have to pay P667.00. That’s P75.00 of savings!
Due to this inconsistent nature of computation, I searched the web for the formula used by Globe to set the price for each combination of promo, but sadly, it seems that nobody is interested in knowing on how the amount was computed. So what I did was examine Globe’s GoSakto Facebook App, and see how it generates the amount and keyword of the promo. But as I delve deeper into the app, I found out that the computation wasn’t done in the user’s browser (client-side), instead was done in Globe’s servers (server-side). This is the time where I figured that it will be too hard (but not impossible) to crack down the algorithm that generates the amount to pay for the promo., But luckily, I found out that a certain API REST call can generate the list of the promos stored in Globe’s database. That means, even though I don’t know how to compute the amount, I can just browse through the list of all the promos, better than nothing. And here it is, I collated the list of all the GoSakto promos!
I have been using GCash ever since Globe Telecom introduced the service to the public, but never found it too useful at that time. Well, aside from being one of the first services to offer money transfer via mobile (I’m tempted to call it mobile banking but it’s not a bank account), which is cool at that time BTW, there were tons of fees for every transaction, including the transaction fee deducted from your load. But the real strength of GCash was the ability to send money anytime, anywhere, that’s why it was a hit on most Philippine online stores, even local buy and sell websites. It can even be used to pay bills and shop at partner establishments. Other than the points stated above, the service doesn’t scale enough to become a full mobile banking experience. Though you can use it to shop at stores, I rarely see someone paying GCash for their purchases. It’s been years since I have been looking for a much more universal purpose for my GCash account.
But it seems that Globe is making a lot of changes and improvements to their GCash service, it’s probably because their rival, Smart, is gaining loyal customers from their own service, Smart Money. I have to admit, I was tempted to switch to Smart Money because of their added convenience over GCash. First and foremost, Smart offers a physical card that you can use at an ATM and swipe at stores as a debit card. Then Globe introduced the GCash Card. It also gives you a physical card powered by Megalink, but the only advantage over Smart, is that the design of the card is fully customizable, great for people who want to express their self through their card. But the draw back is that the transaction fee is ₱20.00, compared to the standard ₱10.00 for ATM cards and Smart Money (now at ₱15.00 effective October 2012). But even if both of them have physical cards now, Smart still has the upper hand. Their card is powered by MasterCard, which means it can be used on establishments where MasterCard is accepted, even online! So, here is where the new GCash American Express Virtual Card enters. A couple of months ago, Globe introduced a new innovation, where their subscribers can get their very own American Express virtual card that can be used to purchase online, in which actually, is the only purpose of this virtual card. This works like a debit account where the funds are automatically deducted from the user’s GCash Wallet. But now some of you will think, “What advantage does this offer compared to Smart Money?” Well, it has one advantage over it’s rival service, it comes with a free personalized US address courtesy of My Shopping Box. The major benefit from this is that you can shop on US online stores and lets you avail of some online stores’ free shipping to a US address, in this case, your personalized US address. You may shop until you drop, send them to your US address, then choose to ship all of your purchases all in one package to the Philippines, which in turn saves you shipping costs.
To summarize some of the key points of GCash AMEX Virtual Card, here is my list on what I think their pros and cons are:
Gives you a personalized US Shipping Address
Since it is powered by American Express, you can use it on online stores where AMEX is accepted. We have to take note that some locally-issued credit cards aren’t accepted by some US merchants, but I think this one is issued from the US as hinted on the billing address, which is your personalized US address.
Although you won’t get any physical card for your AMEX Virtual Card, you can opt for the GCash Card, powered by Megalink, that you can use on ATMs and as a debit card nationwide. I think it’s a pro, since you can customize the design of your card.
Secured security code. Your virtual card security code can be sent to your phone via SMS, also you can change it anytime you want to. If you think your security code has been compromised, feel free to request another one.
You get a free subscription to My Shopping Box that originally costs $25 annually.
Gives you a free one month trial for the virtual card.
Unlike Smart Money which doesn’t require you an annual fee, you can get GCash AMEX Virtual Card for a subscription fee of as low as ₱250.00 annually. Or you can opt to pay monthly or semi-annually (₱25 and ₱140 respectively). But considering it’s an American Express Card debit card ₱250 is quite low compared to credit cards (around ₱1,500) or prepaid cards (BPI My ePrepaid Mastercard for instance, costs around ₱500 to ₱600 for 2 years depending on your location).
It cannot be used in PayPal. Yes that’s the hard truth. If you already have a PayPal account which is already verified using your Philippine billing address, you’ll notice that when you try to add your virtual card, you can’t change the country for your billing address to US due to different “banking regulations”. Also don’t try to push your luck by entering your US address, even though the country selected is Philippines, your card won’t be verified. But when you create a new account using US as your address, chances are, you can’t verify it using your virtual card, since registering in PayPal in the US requires you to have a US bank account. Well, if you have a US bank account, that’s a different story.
It charges double currency conversion rates from international sites. American express charges 1.5% above the tagged market rate. Aside from that, GCash charges 0.5% to 1.5% on top of the AMEX rate.
If you think that you can handle the cons presented above, and excited about the pros of the virtual card, here’s how to apply:
First and foremost, you have to be a Globe subscriber. Also, you have to be registered to GCash. If you aren’t registered yet, you may do so by dialing *143# on your Globe handset. Select GCash and follow the instructions.
Now this is the crucial part, especially for prepaid subscribers. Get KYC’ed. KYC means “Know Your Customer”, a process required by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which requires a one-time validation of your identity. This is to ensure that the person transacting with Globe is the real person he claims to be, which in turn adds a little more security for your mobile money transactions. The process could be as simple as personally transacting with Globe and showing a valid ID as proof of identity. For postpaid subscribers, simply call 2882, follow the voice prompts to get you to talk to a customer service representative and ask them to get KYC’ed. Since postpaid subscribers have already transacted with Globe upon applying for their postpaid plans, your personal information submitted upon your postpaid application will be used to get KYC’ed. For prepaid subscribers, you need to visit a Globe Store (yes, you’re required to personally visit a Globe Store; I think there are other places where you can get KYC’ed, these are Villarica Pawnshops, Prime Asia Pawnshops and SM Department Stores, not sure so a Globe Store would be better), ask them that you want to apply for a GCash AMEX Virtual Card, so they would know what you need to accomplish. Present a valid ID so they can verify your identity. If you want, you can take this chance to cash-in to your GCash Wallet.
Click Sign-Up for your ONE-MONTH FREE trial on the upper right corner of the main menu. Fill up the popup form with the correct details.
If the system detects that you’re already KYC’ed, an email will be sent to you later on, informing you of your successful registration with the link to a PDF of your account details. If the system returns an error that you are not yet KYC’ed, you may opt to wait a little longer, system delays are not uncommon. But if you think that it was a mistake, you may contact the GCash Hotline at 2882.
Included in the PDF is your new American Express Virtual Card number and your personalized US address courtesy of My Shopping Box. Take note, that it may take a while before you may be able to register to your My Shopping Box account, around an hour to a day.
Upon registering, you are given a free month trial of the service. After about a month, you will be notified to subscribe via their subscription plans mentioned above. The subscription fee may be automatically deducted from your GCash Wallet or you may choose to include it on your postpaid bill.
Using it online is just like using any other credit/debit card. Upon checking out your order, when you are prompted to enter you credit card details, simply use your virtual card number and your US billing address. The security code can be requested via *143#. Take note that your billing address and your shipping address may not always be the same. The billing address is the address used by your virtual card, while the shipping address is where you want your purchases delivered. If you’re shopping locally, you may use your home address as the shipping address. But if you’re shopping from a US online store, you may choose to ship your items at your personalized US address. You have the privilege of availing some store’s Free Shipping promotions to your US address. By logging in to your My Shopping Box account, you can check if your items has arrived and also opt to ship them to the Philippines. Visit their website to know how they compute their shipping rates. The general idea is that if you ship all of your items in one package, chances are the shipping rates are much lower than shipping them one at a time.
You may also use your virtual card to purchase digital goods from iTunes, Google Play and the like. You heard it right, you may use it to purchase in iTunes. I tried using it in Google Play by registering it in my Google Wallet. Registration was pretty straight-forward. Simply enter your account details with your US address as the billing address. Submit it and you’re ready to go. Take note that Google will charge your GCash wallet $1 to verify that your credit/debit card is valid. Unlike PayPal, which can hold funds to your account, PayPal can charge you $1 from your card and refund the amount to your PayPal balance. Google on the other hand simply relies on credit and debit card functionality in which it cannot return the $1 back to you. I think it’s not that bad, especially if you frequent Google Play.
GCash has evolved from an SMS-based micropayment service to a full-pledged payment system. I’m so glad that I can use my GCash Wallet for ATM/Debit transactions (via GCash Card) and for online shopping (via GCash AMEX Virtual Card). But like any other services, it’s not yet perfect. I have some suggestions that I think would further strengthen it’s stand. Brainstorm!!
I hope that the virtual card and the GCash Card be combined into one physical card. It would be nice if my physical card displays my AMEX card number. Of course it would be best if the card will still be fully customizable.
How about a second virtual card that has a Philippine billing address? I’m sure it would come in handy for people who uses PayPal, especially when transacting online where credit/debit cards are not feasible or where American Express is not accepted.
How about a credit system for postpaid subscribers? I hope that someday I can use GCash as a credit card, where my purchases aren’t debited, but credited to my GCash Wallet and payable via my postpaid bill. It would save time when you want to buy an item immediately but doesn’t have enough funds from your GCash Wallet. Also, it can pull people into applying for a postpaid plan. I think in other countries, some telecom companies enables you to purchase stuff and charges them to your bill.
Convert load to GCash. If GCash can be used to buy prepaid load, well, why not do the opposite. It always happens to me when my prepaid load balance is bigger than my GCash Wallet balance. It’s good for easily cashing-in GCash funds when you’re away from a GCash outlet, since an AutoloadMax is always closer to the subscriber than a GCash outlet. This will further integrate GCash to Globe services.
A more comprehensive online banking solution. I know that there exists an online service where you can transfer GCash on a click of the mouse. But it would be nice to login to a website and view your GCash balance, transaction history and transfer GCash to another person. This would be nice for people who want to control their budget and monitor their expenses effectively. This website could be a mobile site so GCash wouldn’t deviate much from it’s original aim, mobility.
Encourage banks to be a GCash outlet. It would be beneficial if transactions regarding money would be centralized to a certain location, which is the bank. In turn, this could lead to more banks supporting fund transfer to GCash. I know how it feels as a guy who needs to withdraw from my LandBank ATM (that’s where my payroll goes), go to a GCash outlet and cash-in to my GCash wallet. The less steps needed to funding GCash, the more subscribers will be attracted.
A flexible API, where website developer and application developers can embed into their websites/applications that enables them to perform purchases that are included in their transaction flow. This will allow in-app payments to buy digital goods (i.e. game items, game credits, unlock full version, etc.) and pay them via GCash within the app. Or if a webmaster has an e-commerce site, users can checkout with their purchases and opt to pay via GCash and automatically processes the purchase, similar to how PayPal and Google Wallet does. Or if the PayPal-like service is to big of a task, find a local online service that do just that, partner with them and enable them to automatically deduct funds from GCash.
Probably use an NFC chip for tapping and shopping. We know that Smart has been testing the NFC technology for these purposes, so why not develop an app using this technology and GCash?
I just hope that Globe promotes this service heavily to achieve a widespread acceptance of the average Filipino consumer. I can’t wait what Globe would bring us next time. Surprise us!
In order to promote Globe Telecom’s new USSD number, *143#, Globe gives their subscribers to browse Facebook using their mobile phones for free. Take note that this offer is on a subscription basis and is not automatically enabled. Subscription is valid until March 14, 2012 only. When subscribed, the user can use their mobile phone browser and simply go to http://m.facebook.com. Take note that browsers like Opera Mini which proxies the page using their own servers won’t work with this promo.
Subscribing is easy, there’s even no text format to follow, simply dial *143# on your Globe handset. Since this is a USSD code, it will work regardless of what phone model you are using, whether a smartphone, a black and white phone or even the early 2000 models would work. Upon dialing the number, it will present you with a menu, select “5 Surf Promos & Free FB”. Then another menu will come up then select “1 FREE Facebook” then opt to subscribe. After a while a confirmation text will be sent to you. Mine reads like this:
You are now registered to FREE FB. Enjoy FREE Facebook on your mobile phone until Mar 14, 2012! Click on http://m.facebook.com to start browsing. To check status, text FREE FB STATUS to 8888. To stop the service, text FREE FB STOP to 8888. Stopping the service will automatically forfeit remaining days available. Promo is NOT open to Opera Mini browser users. Regular browsing rates apply when accessing other links (ex: Youtube, Yahoo, etc), unless registered to an internet promo. You can also register to PowerSurf, P15 for 1 hour or 20MB of consumable mobile internet. Text POWERSURF15 to 8888 to register. Guided by Globe Acceptable Terms on Fair Use. Promo til 03/14/2012. DTI 0997 and 0995.
I’m pretty sure that this promo would make heads turns and would likely increase the share of the pie for Globe in the telecom business, even if it’s for only a certain period of time.
I was asked to do a review of a tablet to be used by a certain office, so I got my hands on a demo unit of a Firefly Mobile Inspire.
Upon receiving the unit, I immediately inspected what the box has to say for the unit. Nothing much is given, since this is a demo unit, but there seems to be an array of icons which represent some of its features such us HD Movie, Web Browsing, Music Player, Wi-Fi capable, Game and HDMI. Not very informative, but at least it gave me a glimpse of what this tablet can do.
Upon opening the box, the tablet was placed neatly on the top with the included accessories below in a separate compartment. The accessories included in the unit is a wall charger, USB cable (Standard A to Mini), USB cable (Standard A receptacle to mini) and a Soft case sleeve pouch. The actual retail unit might have an earphone and a micro SD card included, but I’m not sure.
I didn’t find any information about this unit online, also the Firefly Mobile website doesn’t have any information available on their website at this moment.
Android 2.3 Gingerbread
Single Core ARM v7 Processor (VFPv3, NEON) 1GHz
4GB Internal Storage (around 3GB available for usage)
7″ Capacitive Touchscreen 800×480 @ 68Hz
PowerVR SGX 540 GPU (OpenGL)
Front-facing VGA camera
3.5mm headset jack
micro SD support
The Firefly Mobile Inspire looks like a typical tablet that you see everywhere else. Assuming that we are holding it in landscape (width is longer than height), it’s a black slate with a 7″ screen and a single round physical button in front on the right side of the screen, which serves as a Back button. The front-facing camera is also located above the screen with the Firefly Mobile logo embossed with metal highlights below. The tablet has metal edges which gives the impression of a sturdy build, though the front and back sides are made of plastic. On the top edge lies three physical round buttons. The left-most button is the power/lock button. And I have to say that I was surprised to know that the middle and the rightmost button are not volume buttons, they are Menu and Home buttons respectively.
On the right edge lies all the I/O ports, (from top to bottom) 3.5″ headset jack, USB on-the-go (OTG), HDMI port, Reset button, USB host, charging port, Transflash slot, built-in Mic.
The tablet measures 197cm x 125cm x 10cm, thinner than the other tablets of its category. I’m not sure about the weight, but it’s not that heavy for a tablet. The back side is simply a black surface with a Firefly Mobile logo in the middle, the same as the logo in front of the device. The speakers are located on the upper and lower right corner of the unit when you are looking at the back side.
I wasn’t really expecting anything groundbreaking from this device. But I have to say that this device really performs quite well, but didn’t really surpassed my expectations. Performance-wise, this device did its job well. With a quadrant score of 1900, it has the potential to outperform some older Samsung tablets and phones. Scrolling through the home screen is good, with some 3D animations that resemble those of HTC phones. I’m too lazy to try and download HD games, so I stick with Angry Birds, and it was fluid and smooth as hell. Also tried playing HD videos, and surprisingly it can support 1080p, which I think plays well with rare to no occurrence of lag. The volume of the internal speaker is pretty bad, good thing there is headset jack available to plugin your earphones and speakers. Regarding the performance as well, when I enabled all the animations on the Settings, the UI stops responding (temporarily) and alerts me to Wait or Force Close the running application involved. It happened many times and I find it annoying, though the Android core itself didn’t crash and is completely recoverable, it’s such a waste of time to wait for an application to respond.
The durability of the product comes to mind when you first see the tablet, since it’s build largely resemble the generic tablets from China that are usually rebranded by most companies. But I can safely say that although it looks cheap, somehow it doesn’t feel cheap, at least compared to generic China tablets. The physical buttons don’t feel like it can stand a beating like the big boys can (Samsung, HTC, Apple, etc.), but are pretty responsive. The capacitive screen is pleasant enough to use without frustrations. Though if you’re used to high-end tablets in the market, you’ll feel a very slight lag in the response of the screen. The screen brightness is good but not as bright as the AMOLED screens of Samsung tablets. I suggest to lower the brightness of the screen since it can really hog most your battery.
Regarding the camera, it is terrible. My decade-old Nokia phone can shoot better picture than this tablet. The picture that it takes is also reversed, just like when you are looking through a mirror. There are only a few customizations that you can do with the camera and most of them can be left untouched. Though we have to consider that this is a tablet and not a camera, if we want better pictures, get a camera instead.
The user-interface isn’t that bad, it’s a custom UI that still feels like a typical Android tablet. The notification bar is on the lower part of the screen. There are also additional icon buttons on the left of the notification bar for navigation as the Back, Home and Notification buttons respectively. And I’m pretty sure it was redundant since there are already Back and Home buttons physically on the device. They should’ve opted to place a physical volume button instead since some apps on the market doesn’t have a volume control, such as games, so adjusting the volume would be a pain to do.
The battery is not up to par with the famous brands, in my opinion at least. I managed to have it on for only 3 hours on a full charge with Wi-Fi on and brightness at max while playing videos. Though charging the unit only takes around 2 hours using the included wall socket charger, proper techniques to preserve battery life must be taken care of. I suggest to always carry the charger with the unit or bring a portable power bank with you when going out for a trip since the battery is built-in, like most tablets, a reserve battery is not an option.
Like most Android tablets, the Android market is pre-installed and can be used to download apps like eBook readers such as Aldiko, Moon+ Reader and FBReader. I don’t think this product is available for retail as of this writing. When I visit their website, it only shows me their email addresses for inquiry, where I can safely assume that they can be contacted for bulk orders and such. No information or even a catalog is available at their website, which raises a question regarding after-sales support. We know that they will replace or repair products under warranty, but what about software maintenance? I’m not sure about how frequent will they release updates for Android, but there is an Updater (they spell it as Updatter) menu under Settings which checks for software updates.
The Firefly Mobile Inspire is just an average, typical Android tablet that offers you what a common tablet can offer. It’s quite hard for me to decide on how to rate this tablet since I wasn’t informed of it’s price. But if the price is under the P6,000 range, I’ll give it a thumbs up. Hypothetically speaking, the price shouldn’t go over P8,000 or else it will be pale in comparison even with other locally-produced (Note: not locally-made) tablet such as the Cherry Pad Turbo and CDRKing Fastpad. But for now, I could say that this tablet will do for an average user who simply reads ebooks and browses the web casually.
Another Update: I recently found a stall at our local mall, and the Firefly Mobile Inspire is priced at P6,490. Not that bad, huh?
(Updated, see below) Zoom has finally announced another product from their long line of Guitar Multi-effects pedal, the new Zoom G5. The specs:
Simultaneous use of up to nine effects
Real tube booster for amp overdrive
Four large LCD displays with intuitive amp and stompbox interface
3D Z-pedal for multi-dimensional parameter control
Over 120 versatile effects including 20 amp models
Looper function with 60-second phrase recording/overdubbing
Integrated drum machine and auto-chromatic tuner
Balanced XLR output for DI use
USB audio interface for DAW recording
Edit&Share software available through free download
Includes Steinberg Cubase LE recording software
Personally, I find the appearance to be a combination of the latest Zoom G3 and the older Zoom B9.1ut. The beautiful graphical interface of the G3’s large LCD screen (Stompbox interface) on top of the sturdy and streamlined body of Zoom’s flagship pedal for the bass, the B9.1ut, without the clutter of LED buttons and knobs. I think this was the answer of Zoom coming from the users’ comments regarding the steepness of the learning curve to customize the sound from a Zoom product. Considering the processor of the G5, I believe it shares the capabilities of the G3, including its processing limit, i.e., not being able to use multiple amps at a time.
If the capabilities of this new Guitar Effects pedal is the same as the G3, personally, I would still prefer the older Zoom G9.2tt. It’s true that the G5 may sound a bit better than the G9, but I would have to go for customizability for this one. The G5 may handle 4 simultaneous guitar effects at a time (3 if you’re using an amp model), but the G9 can do more than that. For example, I can do with a Compressor+Wah+ZNR+Stack Amp+Phaser+Delay+Reverb all at the same time. But the beauty of the Stompbox interface is the ability to switch the order of the effects chain, something that the G9 can’t do effectively.
I’m sure that this G5 is just a prelude to something much better. I would love to have the Stompbox interface on the body of the G9, including the Energizer and Accelerator tubes for the analog feel. Also regarding about the numbering, what happened to the G4?
According to Samson Website, the G5 can handle up to 9 stompbox effects. And if we look at the Z-pedal closely, it is very much upgraded and now looks like a single pedal and doesn’t look like two pedals on top of each other. This time, I’m changing my opinion, I definitely want one!!