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Interview with Fabio Longano, co-creator of fuel app

Interview with Fabio Longano, co-creator of smartphone fuel app.

FillApp is a South African-developed smartphone application that informs you when to fill your petrol tank.

The fuel app, which was developed by TouchFoundry was launched in late January 2015 and has already reached 5000 downloads.

Co-creator Fabio Longano has told ITWeb Africa that developing this app was very important and would be very useful in a tough economy.

Longano spoke to ITWeb Africa’s deputy editor Simnikiwe Mzekandaba about the importance of their app and what’s in store for the future.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: Tell me about the FillApp? What kind of app is it?

FABIO LONGANO: FillApp is an online and mobile service (Android and iOS app) that alerts users to the best time to fill up their tanks, based on the fluctuating prices of fuel in South Africa, in order to maximise savings. Users with Android and iOS smartphones will receive Push Notifications while users without these devices can still subscribe to our email fuel alerts from our website.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: What was the motivation to develop a fuel app of all things?

FABIO LONGANO: It's a big issue for a lot of South Africans and in an economy where budgets are very tight, saving every cent counts.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How will the app help its users?

FABIO LONGANO: It will notify them at month end whether the price of fuel is going up, or down. In the event that fuel is going up in price, users will be advised to fill up before the change date, and if the price is going down, they should fill up after the change date. Based on the size of your car's fuel tank, an estimated maximum savings is calculated.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How does the app actually work to provide this information to the user?

FABIO LONGANO: Our servers fetch and cache the latest available information from reliable, publicly accessible sources and delivers this information to the app on demand. We monitor all major grades of petrol and diesel including Unleaded93, Unleaded95, LRP93, LRP95, Diesel 50ppm and Diesel 500ppm.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: What has been the response to the app?

FABIO LONGANO: We've been overwhelmed with the positive response, with some really good recommendations for upgrades coming from our users. We've received mostly 5 star ratings across both Android and iOS app stores and are delighted to see users engaging with us via the in-app feedback mechanism.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How many people have downloaded the app so far?

FABIO LONGANO: We've astonishingly hit over 5,000 installs in 7 days across Android and iOS.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: When did you launch the app?

FABIO LONGANO: We officially launched the app last week Thursday the 29th of January.
SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How long must a person be using the app to see its use?

FABIO LONGANO: A user will realise the value almost immediately. Although we only release actual fuel price announcements near month-end, we provide prediction data beforehand so that users are able to anticipate what the expected change in price will look like. Traditionally, South Africans are only alerted via news sources near month end. With our app they can have a view already on the very first day of the month.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: I’ve downloaded the app and found the questions to be quite basic, why did you decide to keep it that way?

FABIO LONGANO: Yes, we wanted to keep the user interface and end user experience as simple and elegant as possible. Too many apps break basic UI and UX principles by confounding users with irrelevant information on screen.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: Is it only available on Android and iOS?

FABIO LONGANO: Yes, the majority smartphone market share in South Africa currently lies with Android and iOS devices. We decided to make a great app for only just these two operating systems instead of an average app for every OS. With limited time and resources this just made sense.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: When are you planning to make it available to other operating systems then?

FABIO LONGANO: At this stage we are not planning to roll the app out to any other OS. We do, however, offer a fallback service to users that are on other devices in the way of email notifications. A user simply has to visit our website at http://www.fillapp.co.za/#subscribe, enter in their email address, and they will be notified near month end as to when the best time to fill up is.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: The app is only available in South Africa, what about other African countries?

FABIO LONGANO: The service is only available in SA for now. As fuel laws and regulations differ country to country we decided to launch in SA first to gauge how the app was received. Our service can, however, scale to other countries with similar fuel regulation policies.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How are you going to make money from a free app?

FABIO LONGANO: There are a few revenue models, which make sense to us from a business perspective, but at this very early stage, we want to focus on getting the product polished before we focus on anything else.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: How big is your team of the people you work with?

FABIO LONGANO: We have a team of 3 highly skilled, multi-disciplinary resources allocated to this project. This enables us to maintain a lightweight, agile and extremely responsive working methodology.

SIMNIKIWE MZEKANDABA: So what are your plans for the future and the app?

FABIO LONGANO: Again, at this very early stage we're focussing on perfecting the product. Bugs reports, feature requests and community management are keeping our hands plenty full at the moment. Do watch this space though...

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