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Life on a smartphone

Released at: 09:51, 21/07/2019

Life on a smartphone

Photos: Viet Tuan

A lot of life's little and big jobs can now be taken care of quickly with a few taps on a smartphone.

by Le Diem

The message written on the helmets of some drivers with popular ride-hailing app Grab has impressed many, stating “Free wi-fi. Password: Vote me 5 stars please”. Most agree to do so, given the idea of sharing their wireless router is greatly appreciated. Vietnamese people now enjoy more and more convenience in life, thanks to advanced technologies and new services created to meet demand. 

Wi-fi heaven

With most people using smartphones today, internet connections every time and everywhere are also sought after. It’s becomes a necessity for businesspeople and for tourists traveling often, as smartphones are an important “assistant” or “travel buddy”. 

When traveling, people must usually buy a wi-fi package with limited data based on hours, days, or months. They can go to a restaurant or a café for wi-fi, but not everywhere has it. It can be especially inconvenient in urgent situations where the internet is needed to check on something.

But they can easily access wi-fi free of charge in many places around Vietnam. Free wi-fi has been installed at tourist sites in destinations such as Ha Long, Hanoi, Hai Phong, and Bac Ninh in the north, Hue, Hoi An, Quang Binh, and Quang Tri in the central region, Da Lat in the central highlands, Ho Chi Minh City and Vung Tau in the south, and Can Tho in the Mekong Delta, allowing thousands of connections at any one time, for both residents and visitors. 

Moreover, wi-fi is also available at plenty of malls, shops, convenience stores, restaurants, cafés, bars, cinemas, and even some street food stalls, taxis, and motorbike taxis, so people can indeed access the internet every time and everywhere. 

All this has seen Vietnam being called “heaven for free wi-fi” by many tourists posting on travel websites and blogs.

Rides & delivery

With the internet everywhere, online services have more opportunities to develop and bring everything people need with just a top on their phone. 

One popular new service is ride-hailing. In large cities with millions of people, traffic congestion is always something to be avoided, so more and more people choose not to drive but to order a ride through apps, to work or wherever they may be going. Together with the giant Grab, other ride-hailing apps such as Go-Viet, Be, and FastGo have also been launched with major promotional programs, providing passengers with more options and better prices. 

These apps have also broadened their service to goods delivery. Thanks to a huge resource of drivers, it now takes just minutes or a day to deliver to customers instead of a few days with traditional delivery. It’s especially convenient for merchants given the strong development of online shopping. “When I receive an order, I just request a delivery ride and my customer has their goods after just a few hours if they are in the same city,” said Mr. Minh Duc, the owner of an online fashion shop. “Quick delivery is important today. If customers have to wait, they may change their mind and choose another supplier.”

Besides ride-hailing and express good delivery, another service seeing rising demand in recent times is food home delivery. Though street food can be found on nearly every corner in Vietnam, food apps make it even easier, as customers don’t even need to walk out the front door. 

Food apps such as Vietnammm, deliveryNow, Lozi, Chonmon, and AhaMove have linked with popular food and beverage name both local and international, such as McDonald’s, Lotteria, Pizza Home, KFC, Burger King, Toco Toco, and others, as well as thousands of local restaurants and cafés to offer customers a diverse selection while also recommending new trends in the country’s rich world of food. With user-friendly interfaces and smart functions, these apps show each shop’s location and menu, with images and basic information on each dish, a price, and a delivery time. Attractive promotions are also offered to encourage people to order more. “Sometimes I want a certain dish that is a long way from my office and I just don’t have the time to go out,” said office worker Ms. Minh Nguyet. “Now I can get it easily, thanks to these apps. I just wait 15 or 20 minutes and the delivery only cost about a dollar.”

Ride-hailing apps have also joined in this food service with the same delivery model, such as Grab Food and Go-Food. One customer, Hasham Wali, an expat from the UK, has enjoyed a lot of Grab Food since its launch last year. As a regular customer of Grab Car and Grab Bike, he usually receives discounts of VND50,000 to VND100,000 ($2.2 to $4.4) off his food order. “It’s great compared to other apps with no discounts,” he said. “Its menu is also varied and it’s helpful when I neither want to cook or go out of my air-conditioned room to eat during the summer. Some restaurants are also open late at night, so it’s convenient if I’ve been out and then come home and start to feel hungry.” 

According to a report from Kantar TNS, a global market research business, the frequency of mobile phone orders increased from once or twice a month to once or twice a week in 2018. It also predicted this will continue to rise as young people today are busier and most use smartphones and are willing to pay for the convenience. Online payment through e-wallets is also a plus. 

Easy online market

Along with food and drinks, fresh food is another service gaining more traction, with websites and apps such as Dichothue, 3sachfood, Dichonhanh, and Dichodum being launched recently. 

Users can select from a menu of vegetables, meat, seafood, eggs, dried food, spices, fruit, and specialties from various regions. These sites also offer combos for several days with preferential prices, recommend menus, and some preliminary processing. 

The new service has been especially welcomed by mothers of young kids, as it helps them cut their workload and stress. “I no longer have to get up early in the morning or deal with the rush hour traffic after work to go to the local market or supermarket,” said Ms. Nguyet. “I’m often quite tired after a long day at work but still had to think about what to have for dinner. Now it just takes me a few minutes to select items and they are delivered within the day. The price is a little bit higher but it helps me save time.” 

These sites receive about 10-20 orders each day on average, with about 30 per cent coming from new customers. Orders tend to range from VND200,000 ($8.5) to VND2 million ($85). 

Kids pick-up

A child pick-up service has also joined the list of offerings. 

Many people’s working hours differ greatly from their kid’s school hours and picking them up or finding someone to pick them up can be a hassle. The service is offered by students, housewives, freelancers, motorbike taxi drivers, and retirees keen to earn some extra income. They usually live in the same area or have some sort of trusting relationship with each other. 

Some also offer babysitting services after school by the hour. It usually starts from 4.30pm and finishes at 8pm, and includes a light meal and some games for the kids. Parents can then rest easy and finish their work without worry.

Professional maids 

Although house maids by the hour is common in many countries, having a full-time maid who lives with the family is still quite common in Vietnam. But there is a shortage of maids and it’s not easy to find a good one who will commit to working for a long time, and the cost can also be quite high.

New apps providing house maids by the hour, like HouseCare, Tidy, and bTaskee have therefore appeared to meet demand among city residents. All housework, such as cleaning, cooking, washing, babysitting, etc. can be taken care of with just a click on a smartphone. Working like a ride hailing app, these apps allow users to “book” a house maid anytime and an estimated charge is provided. 

After finding bTaskee, Ms. Phuong Hoa doesn’t have to go to an agency and pay a fee like she did before, and has a lot more options. It also cheaper by about half than having a full-time maid. “A full-time maid usually lives with us, so it also affects our privacy,” she said. “These apps solve that issue and help us cut our workload at home so that we can have more time for the family. Customers also leave feedback, so it is safe and trustworthy.” 

According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, every day women spend about five hours on family tasks - some 2 to 2.5 hours more than men. This adds up to about 1,800 hours each year and it is, of course, unpaid. It becomes a burden for many women, making it difficult for them to fulfill their duties both at work and at home. With the development of science and technology, though, people, especially women, have been “liberated” from many tasks and have more time to enjoy life. 

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