There are plenty of online recharge services for prepaid mobile phones and direct-to-home satellite TV services in India, so it’s normally not worth special consideration when a new one pops up on our radar. However, when we first saw Paytm, we thought it was a service our Indian readers would benefit from knowing about.
What separates Paytm from the crowd is its utterly simple user interface and its commitment to design that inspires a sense of confidence. There is something about a well-presented homepage that makes you trust a company with your credit card info, and Paytm earns that trust with its UI.
We liked the fact that the main page was sparsely laid out, with only the essential information presented to the user. By contrast, its competitor Recharge it Now throws up a whole mess of images, links, ads and even a scrolling marquee before letting you move onto a different page where you actually enter your details.
Looks will only get you so far, however, and we did take the Web app for a spin to test whether it lived up to its promise of instant recharges with zero service fees.
When you start entering your mobile number, Paytm automatically recognises which carrier you are on and selects it in the drop down menu for you. It even offers to show you the most popular recharging options on that carrier, although I found that it worked for only some of the carriers and had limited information. You’d be better off coming prepared.
After that, you just enter the amount and hit Proceed. The next page gives you some offers, which is apparently how they make money, but none of them are selected for you by default. You can then proceed to pay using one of many payment options and the website helpfully offers to remember your credit card information for you if you have signed up for an account.
We did a recharge and it instantly popped up on our phone, but the website goes to great lengths to assure you that you will immediately be refunded if you fail to receive the recharge for any reason and that “your money is yours unless you have received your recharge”.
What seemed like one of the coolest parts of Paytm’s service to us, besides its UI, is the fact that it has various mobile apps for Android, BlackBerry and iOS devices and a Java-based app for Nokia phones. We eagerly took the iPhone app out for a spin to see if it worked as advertised.
Unfortunately, we came away disappointed. Despite a decent design and a simple workflow, the iPhone app lacks many of the features of its Web-based counterpart. It neither automatically detects your carrier nor offers to tell you about its most popular recharge options. What’s more, it does not even allow you to log in to your Paytm account to fetch your credit card info.
What it does have, however, is a credit card scanner that is supposed to identify your credit card through the phone’s camera and fill in the details automatically. However, that feature did not work for our test device, an iPhone 3GS running iOS 5.0, either. The final nail in the coffin: the transaction kept giving us errors for all the cards we used, even though the same card had worked on their website earlier.
That was a major disappointment, and we hope you fare better than we did, but it was still worth letting you know about Paytm because it really is a polished gem in a category teeming with contestants. We think they’ll work on the iPhone app to resolve its issues and add the missing features, but even if you can only use the Web app, it’s one of the best ways of recharging your mobile phone, DTH or data card in India.