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Thursday 21 September 2023 Dublin: 13°C
# Look after the pennies
This startup wants to help you find the cheapest phone deal possible
After working on it as a hobby for a year and a half, the team behind KillBiller made the jump into full-time and have some ambitious plans for 2015.

IF YOU HAD to describe phone plans in one word, it would probably be ‘confusing.’

Numerous service providers, vast number of plans and terms and conditions that can almost be undecipherable. It’s probably unsurprising that most of us choose a plan and stick with it, even if most of the benefits aren’t actually used.

That’s what KillBiller hopes to change. By analysing 70% of your phone calls, text and data usage, it can help you figure out the most cost-effective plan for you, helping you save money in the long-term.

Originating from a startup weekend, the three founders, Shane Lynn, Bart Lehane, and Ciarán Tobin decided it was an idea worth taking further and so started developing the app in their spare time, before turning it into a full-time venture this year.

Considering the mobile market is highly saturated – there are roughly 4.9 million active mobile subscriptions in the country – and the growing competition among providers, there’s more reason to switch, but few of us go through it.

Developing the idea

While the idea came about almost two years ago, it took the good part of a year for the first version to be released on Android back in June

The app has been downloaded almost 5,000 times, which is a small amount but good when you consider it was a side project with no advertising or marketing behind it. That and the support from investors and programmes like AIB’s Startup Academy and Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers was further proof that there was a genuine interest and market for this type of service.

Still, it had its fair share of challenges and obstacles according to its co-founder Shane Lynn.

“[The] biggest challenge is probably, and it’s probably the same with all programming tasks, is catering for all the weird things that happen,” explained Lynn. “So when you build something, you always assume that everyone uses their phone the same way you do.”

That wasn’t the case as they found certain users who didn’t make calls, didn’t send texts or users who only rang specific people all of the time.

While the app presents the results to you, it doesn’t calculate the results itself. Instead, the data is sent to one of their servers for analysing before returning the relevant plans.

One such instance is looking at the networks a person contacts. Doing that means it’s able to determine the type of carrier you should go for since there tends to be deals for making calls within networks.

IMG_4906 KillBiller Shane Lynn, one of the three founders of KillBiller. KillBiller

Part of KillBiller’s appeal is that you can switch plans directly through the app or at least register a call to a provider –  for now, these are dealt with by Carphone Warehouse – to help with the switch.

That switching is also how it manages to cover costs every time someone switches through the app and the high volume of mobile users means providers want to work with them, a relationship that Lynn describes as involving a “bit of give and take.”

There are some providers that are more cost-friendly than others and are looking to gain market share. There are more SIM cards than people so it’s a massively saturated market… the offer that we give them is giving them more customers for less cost so deliver high-quality leads so it’s not just a lad on the street, someone has actually thought about changing plans, looked at how their data works and seen that this plan is the one for them so in a way they’re not unsure.

Next steps

The next step for the team is to release the iPhone app which has been coded and submitted into the App Store (those who have signed up to the beta will get it this month).

While developing for Android is mostly open, Apple implements greater restrictions meaning there were more obstacles to work around.

Developing a hybrid system was one measure taken so the look and feel of the app would be the same across both platforms, but the team had to develop some workarounds to cope with iOS’ restrictions.

KillBiller App KillBiller The app analyses your call, text and data usage (or asks for a rough estimate) to get you the best deal. KillBiller

For one, you can’t access an iPhone’s call log, meaning users will have to download logs through iTunes or enter details manually. It’s an extra step that some users may find annoying, but it was necessary because of the constraints placed on iOS.

There’s just no other way. We looked into it extensively and the unfortunate thing is… we will be able to cover 80% of users, but there will be 20% whose account, for instance, doesn’t have call usage info in it so we can’t get it… We’re developing a semi-manual entry so you can put in how many minutes you talk.”

After the iPhone app is released next month, the next aim is to add prepay plans and smartphones to the mix to make it more comprehensive and allow premium users to switch, but they’re thinking beyond that. The next step is to expand into other European countries, starting off with the UK which has significant potential, and something the team has been working towards.

One of the challenges we always kept in mind we wanted to build something that was scalable to a new market so the system we built, we can import new plan details from a different country… so we’ve built it with that in mind constantly, that we’re going to move into other European markets and go from there so that’s the plan anyway… we’re optimistic for the months ahead.

KillBiller is available on Android while iPhone users can sign up for the beta version on its site.

Read: Twitter’s biggest problem? The way that people think about it >

Read: Airbnb hosts: ‘We’ve been making the housing crisis worse’ >

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