Tuesday, October 13, 2009

0870 iPhone App saves users £267,000 in 2 weeks

This is another great example of a genuinely successful, useful iPhone app.

The 0870 app finds alternative, cheaper local numbers that connect to the same service (numbers with the national 0870 prefix cost more than local numbers). The app is free, but takes advertising, served through the AdMob ad server and sales house.

Simon Maddox, the app's developer has gone public with some stats on his blog - essentially, in 2 weeks:

153,135 calls made
£267,987.54 saved (assuming a £0.35 saving per minute, and an average 5 minute call time)
Plus $680.82 in ad revenue.

So far then this hasn't proved to be a major money-spinner for the developer, but it's performing a great service for the users. It's also fantastic that Simon is sharing the data.

More info at the Guardian's Technology Blog


Danny Muerte said...

Interesting, but his asumptions sound highly suspicious.

Are 0870 numbers really an average of 35p more expensive per minute? I thought they varied and that 35p was towards the top of the range.
From the Guardian: "According to comparison website Moneysupermarket.com, the average cost of a 10-minute call to the customer service numbers of HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Barclays, Halifax, Scottish Power, npower, and Virgin made from a mobile would all cost around £1.92."

Also, I can't believe the average phone call length is 5 minutes. Maybe for conversations with friends or family but just to check something with a company help desk? Seems unlikely.

Also, how does he know how many calls people are making? Is his app reporting back to him the calls people make once instaled? This sounds like a privacy issue.

Dan said...

Hi Danny,

I agree that I'm using the developers figures, but here are some examples:

"T-Mobile charges 40p a minute, Vodafone 35p, Orange 20p, while O2 charges 20p, and both 3 and Virgin charge 15p."

Furthermore for 'help' services it is quite common to be on a call for 5 minutes, going thought menus, being held in a queue, kept on hold etc.

A quick note - the original blog post I referred to did not state the number of calls; I did they myself, using the figure for the savings (267,000), and the figure for the average saving (0.35 x 5 = £1.75). I am assuming that this is how the number was worked out.

However I don't think that this is the actual number of calls made - what I think it measures is the number of numbers that are converted from 0870 on the app, and then assumes that each one results in a 5 minute call.

So yes, the £267,000 could be an inflated number, but it could also be very close to reality.

Unknown said...


This is Simon, the developer of 0870.

I got the 35p per minute number by going to all of the UK operator websites, writing down the call costs for 0800, 0845, 0870 etc and taking the average. It was approx. 35p per minute..

Everyone I've spoken to thinks 5 minutes is quite short - you're usually phoning the numbers for some kind of customer support. If you're in the queue for less than 5 minutes, you're lucky!

The database is stored on my server, 0870.me. This way it can be updated live instead of waiting 2 weeks for Apple to approve an update (by which time, the update is out of date). The only things I log are:
- Number of requests
- Number of successful conversions
- Number of failed conversions
(I have no way of tying two requests together, so I've no way of building a "user profile" or anything like that)

I then take the number of successful conversions to work out the money saved. Yes, it's all guesswork at the end of the day, but I'd rather approximate than figure out a way of detecting how long all of your phone calls last.

When asked about privacy, this is my response: if you're that worried about it, call the 0870 number. It's the only way to be 100% sure you're getting through to the right company, since they publish it on their website.

Hope that answers your questions! :)



Roger White said...

An astonishing figure saved in just 2 weeks. Simon, have you released any further saving figures recently?

I'd be very interested to read into the figures for the year of 2010 or something along those lines.

Simon said...

Hey Roger,

To be honest, I've stopped tracking this now. Last time I checked, it was something in the region of £15 million. I can't recall when that was though.

Since moving the hosting off my own VPS to Heroku, I've never got around to setting up those statistics again.

According to by DNS logs though (hosted by Zerigo), there have been 16,540 DNS requests since December 1st. I'm not really sure whether you can accurately turn that into a £ value, but it's definitely interesting...

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