Not that long ago, one of the oldest record labels in our country used to have an artist by the name of Flexx. If you’re old enough you can remember the guy, if not you must have at least had this hit of his that had to do with matters “carpentry”.
Now I wish this article was about that track as it’s by far more an interesting subject compared to what I’m about to delve into. You see that artist’s name was the first thing that came to my mind when I came across Safaricom’s advert for Flex Bundles. Going by the rate at which they’re launching new products, it’s quite clear that some hardworking employees at Safaricom have been busy flexing their minds this past few years.
I take it they’re on a path to diversify their offerings to their peculiarly loyal and at that, very large subscriber base seeing the market is changing rapidly especially on the data end. So it started with the youth targeted tariff by the name of Blaze and now they’ve something new for us.
What are FLEX Bundles?
|Safaricom Flex Bundles|
FLEX is all-in-one tariff bundling call, sms and data into one convenient plan. It’s really not that different from Blaze Bundles or Airtel’s Unliminet with the exception of one minor difference: rather than a certain amount of money getting you a pre-defined plan (i.e. including Blaze’s “Create Your Plan” from our plans), Flex Bundles gets you FLEX Units which you the subscriber can then “redistribute” across your call, sms and data needs as you wish.
If you’ve used any one of the aforementioned all-in-one tariffs, then you might have encountered its BIGGEST problem: they offer you a discount but disproportionately give you less what you actually use the most. So often one will end up with hundreds of unused SMS’es while your data and minutes got long exhausted.
Flex Bundles get around this shortfall in that you only use what you need rather than get items you probably get to use or exhaust. It’s from that flexibility that Flex Bundles gets its name from.
How Do FLEX Bundles Work?
To achieve this flexibility, Flex uses a “middleman”: the FLEX Unit. Each unit is the equivalent of a given amount of call time, sms and data. One flex unit is the equivalent of one of the following:
- 20 secs of call time (3 Flex units for a minute i.e. 20×3=60secs)
- 3 SMS
So if you make a call that lasts a minute, you’re deducted three units from your “pool of units” which is determined by your FLEX Bundle. Same thing for data and SMS usage. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how much your FLEX Bundle cost or for how long it’s valid: a unit gets you the same thing across all plans.
The FLEX Bundles are however still valid over a
certain fixed period (daily, weekly & monthly) after which they expire if
you don’t renew the plan. Without going any deeper, I can tell you
here’s where the catch is.
Which are the FLEX Bundles?
The flex bundles are determined by their validity period: daily, weekly or monthly. At their launch, only three plans were available, one for each of the three periods. Safaricom has since however revised the tariff and now offers more plans in the daily and monthly periods. The plans and their pricing is as follows:
How much do the FLEX Bundles REALLY cost you?
Without going any further you should have now connected the dots on what I meant when I said the validity period is where the catch is. Here’s why:
Let’s take the daily FLEX Bundle plan which gives you 115 units. These units are the equivalent of:
38 min 20 secs
A quick look at what the total units (115) gives you for each for the products gives you the impression that you’re getting quite the discount i.e. if you don’t mind parting with 100 bob daily. The total data you stand to get is especially tempting (not anymore with Faiba4G around). However, ideally you’ll have to spare some units for minutes and SMS if you still use them. So in a typical scenario let’s see what you stand to get while using all of them:
115 Units @ Ksh.99 Daily (valid for 24hrs)
Minutes take quite a large chunk of the units, so if you leverage their usage wisely you stand to get more data. The SMS numbers are deliberately low since I assume most people don’t use them nearly as much nowadays, opting to use chat and mobile messenger’s apps.
Now let’s me spoil your excitement and tell you this is not nearly a good deal as you might think. But then again one may argue that anybody willing to spend 100 bob daily on airtime may not mind any of this. Nevertheless, I think it’s reasonable to assume that you’d still want to get the best value out of your money regardless of your finances. For that, let’s take a look at the competition and see what they have to offer.
The only plan that I can find that rivals FLEX Bundles is Airtel’s Unliminet. It’s not flexible as FLEX in that you can’t use what you just need but you’d be surprised how much it gives you even with its “inflexibility”. The similarly priced plan of Unliminet 100 Daily gives you the following:
Unliminet Daily @ Ksh.100
60 (30 to Airtel, 30 to other networks)
So for the same amount of minutes (or more accurately, double if you make use of the Airtel only minutes), you end up getting way much more in Data and SMS compared to the FLEX bundles. The SMS number is clearly on the upper side but even if you don’t make use of them, you are still getting more value.
A similar trend can be seen in the weekly and monthly equivalents. The weekly Flex Bundle goes for Ksh.599 which gets you 700 units, a hundreds units less compared to what you’d get if you subscribed to the daily flex bundle daily for one week (805 Units @ Ksh.693). A sample usage in line with Airtel’s almost similarly priced weekly Unliminet plan would be as follows:
700 Units @ Ksh.599 Weekly
Airtel’s weekly Unliminet plan goes for Ksh.500, a hundred less compared to the Flex bundle, and unsurprisingly it’s clearly the better deal of the two, the “inflexibility” notwithstanding.
Unliminet Weekly @ Ksh.500
300 (150 to Airtel, 150 to other networks)
Again you’re getting double the amount of call time and this time round for even a cheaper price. The data bundle is fair enough while the SMS ration is more than enough for your spamming needs.
For the monthly plan, an example of the trend would be as follows:
3100 Units @ Ksh.2499 Weekly
Unliminet Weekly @ Ksh.2000
No need to add on anything here, let the tables just speak for themselves.
Flex Bundles is quite an innovative product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. The biggest shortcoming I find with Flex, as it is the case with other Safaricom products, is just the pricing vis-a-vis the validity period. I mean how many people are willing to fork out a hundred daily just for airtime. So many people are living on less than that daily.
The pricing is clearly not favourable for the common mwananchi but I’m sure they’re well aware of that. I presume the target market for this plan is the young middle class, you know, the ones that got locked out of Blaze but are still young enough to see the logic and benefits of this arrangement. If in doubt, just take a close look at the demographic featured in the Flex Bundles ads.
The way I see it, Safaricom should consider adding some lower priced plans into this, otherwise I don’t see as many people getting into it. An even better solution would be to scrap the plans themselves and instead have a constant price for one unit, such that even 1 bob can get one a number of units.
This can then be coupled with longer validity periods. I feel that works better since the units themselves have a fixed rate on what you can get. It doesn’t matter if it’s daily, weekly or monthly plan – one unit gets you 20 seconds of call time. But then again, I realize that may not be as profitable as what they have now, in which case I suppose we’ll leave those that can accommodate this price regime to sustain the tariff.
You can subscribe to Flex Bundles by dialling *100# on prepaid and *200# on post-paid.