Puerto Vallarta-based Bitcoin startup, Volabit, recently launched a service for the popular messaging app, WhatsApp. The service will pay your phone bills, utilities, and other expenses with Bitcoin. Named Jamie, it’s operated by a computer bot and pays bills by deducting bitcoins from the user’s Volabit balance.
To use the service, start by taking a picture of the bill and send it to Jamie’s phone number, 322-200-4949, through Whatsapp. After confirming you want to pay the bill, an amount of Bitcoin identical to the amount of Mexican pesos owed is deducted from your Volabit balance. The service can only pay for select services - water delivery, phone minutes, internet, utilities and cable.
Though the service appears to be a side project for the company, it could have several real use cases. Merchant adoption of Bitcoin is still very low in Mexico and Jamie doesn’t just increase the number of services one can spend Bitcoin at in Mexico but also allows them to pay for services vital to a person’s daily life.
The service could also be a way for people in the United States and other countries to send remittances, in the form of paying bills, to their family in Mexico through Jamie. This use case, while a possibility, is currently viable for a small group of people who have an Volabit account and live outside Mexico.
Jamie charges no fees for topping up your phone credits but takes take 6 pesos plus IVA tax for bill payments.
Mobile Phone Personal Assistants
Volabit’s Jamie follows in the trend of businesses like TaskRabbit and Magic, which allow people to text a phone number and order anything. Recently, BNC covered a Bitcoin version of these services that operates in China, called WeSecretary. The service communicates with the user through the popular Asian messaging app, WeChat and allows people to buy anything in the China and pay with traditional payment methods or Bitcoin.
Unlike Jamie, it is not limited to certain services or providers and is manually operated by WeSecretary’s co-founders Daniel Worlton and Dave Lancashire. WeSecretary also goes beyond its Mexican counterpart by offering a stronger value proposition than just convenience. The service allows expats to buy Chinese goods, start the process to get a visa and much more without having to come to the country or have a Chinese ID - both large hurdles.