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Sunday Times STLive By TOBY SHAPSHAK, 2012-02-12

Cellphone messaging is given ZiNG

A South African company is aiming to revolutionise cellphone messaging with a low-cost system that works on both smartphones and low-end handsets.

Unlike the popular WhatsApp (which works only on smartphones) or MXit (which is used mostly on so-called feature phones) ZiNG will work on all cellphones.

Like both those services, instant messages (IM) are free, except for data charges, which are fractional. And, like them, it lets you send individual messages and group messages.

ZiNG, however, goes a step further. If a company's message is sent to a group but a person cannot be reached via ZiNG, an SMS will be sent instead, guaranteeing delivery.

"It's mobile messaging on steroids. We're calling it mobile group messaging, because it does more," said Brett Loubser, the mobile strategy director at Blazingchilli, which developed ZiNG.

Its "zones" of interest can be news, sport or entertainment; while it also offers surveys and voting. ZiNG rewards users who participate in surveys and voting, or for viewing advertisements, using a points system. These points can be redeemed for a number of things, including airtime.

Large organisations will be able to send messages to an unlimited group, and will be able to send a range of communications. This means they have the potential to reach both their customers and their workforces with things like training information.

"We believe this is going to revolutionise communications on the continent because it has this dual capability straight out of the starting gates," said Loubser.

ZiNG, which has been running as a pilot project for several months, will be launched in 15 African countries today.

It works on all Apple devices, Android, Nokia, Samsung, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.