24/7 Banking Convenience with BPI

Online banking has really brought so much convenience to depositors these days.

I remember what it was like in the 80s. If you walked into a bank’s branch, the first thing you’d notice is that the area allocated to backroom operations was so much larger than the area for its depositors. Signature cards were contained in several, long metal file containers; deposit slips were filled out in duplicate or triplicate and different types of checks (on us, local, regional, out of town checks) would require different, color-coded deposit slips; and perhaps the biggest inconvenience was that you could only transact from Monday to Friday and oftentimes, only till 3:30 pm. Clearly, banking processes then were designed more for the banking institutions rather than for the depositing public.

Fast forward to today and we see all banks having some kind of online presence. But even then, not all banks are the same. More banks are better at bringing greater convenience to its depositors than others. In my personal experience, having banked with several banks over my lifetime, BPI’s 24/7 online banking channels are among the best, if not the best.

ATMs

Not many may know this but BPI was probably the first local commercial bank to introduce ATMs in the Philippines. I was then working in the Computer Audit Group of SGV and was a witness to this as I had a chance to look into BPI’s IT systems including ATMs (by saying this I am dating myself, haha). It was a challenge then. BPI not only had to ensure its ATM software and processes were airtight so that everything was balanced and accounted for daily but it also had the pioneering task of changing the mindsets of depositors who were quite reluctant to deal with a machine, especially when it came to dispensing money.

But look where we are today. ATMs are everywhere. And BPI’s ATMs can be found in any nook and cranny, within bank premises, in malls and even in some schools. An ATM’s 24-hour convenience has become part of the Pinoy’s daily life.

EXPRESS ONLINE BANKING

So far this is the one I use a lot. I never have to leave home because I can pay bills (immediate and scheduled), load my mobile phone (and that of my kids), check my investment and credit card accounts aside from my bank accounts, and even get a queue number before I go to the bank, all right from my laptop. Did you know that last one? It’s an option available inside BPI’s Express Online Banking website, right after you log in. Just identify which branch you’re heading for, choose date and time, and it gives you a queue number! This, to me, is a killer feature of BPI’s online banking as it saves me so much time.

Look for this button inside your BPI Express Online account
Screenshot of appointment page of BPI Express Assist Online

BPI Express Mobile App

The latest addition to BPI’s 24/7 banking channels is the BPI Express Mobile App for iOS and Android.

This is really a convenient alternative when I cannot go online on my laptop. On-the-road checking of my balances, being able to pay bills on the fly and even loading up our mobile phones is so easy. In fact, the mobile app allows you to transfer funds to any 3rd party account (as long as you have activated this feature) — something you can’t even do yet via the Expressonline account on the web.

Like me, you can enjoy the painless convenience of BPI’s 24/7 online banking channels. In these times of busyness and traffic, being able to do all these banking transactions from wherever you are truly cuts time, effort and cost for BPI depositors.

BPI Expressonline homepage: www.bpiexpressonline.com

Samsung’s Concept Store at Robinsons Magnolia

My very first trek to the newly opened Robinsons Magnolia mall in Quezon City was for the launch of Samsung’s concept store.

With Odette Velarde of Samsung and friend Noemi Dado at the launch

Celebrities at the ribbon cutting ceremony

A Peek inside the Concept Store

The Samsung Concept Store is located on the al fresco area of the mall on the 3rd floor. At first, Noemi and I got lost and thought the Samsung store inside the mall on the same level was it. Apparently that one was just for mobile phones.
Upon entering the store, we found that it contained all the appliances one would need for the home. We saw the inverter airconditioners, washing machines and refrigerators which we had previously seen up close in another event. My post on that is HERE.
But the star of the event on that launch was Samsung’s series of Smart TVs for 2012.

The Samsung plasma TV sets
These TV product offerings center around 3 ‘Smart’ pillars: Smart Interaction, Smart Content and Smart Evolution.
Smart Interaction
Why even use a remote? Many times, I get frustrated looking for the remote especially when someone does not put it back in its place. With the Smart Interaction technology, the TV set itself detects your hand. There are no more boundaries between the TV screen and you. Motion Control, Voice Control and Face Recognition technology let you turn the TV on or off, select apps to activate, or search and select web content — all without having to use a remote.

Playing Angry Birds with hand

Celebrity using hands to play Angry Birds

Smart Content

While Samsung’s Smart TVs have already been providing premium content through over 1,500 apps worldwide, in 2012 it is taking that a step further by providing a Smart Hub, a simple user interface (UI) in full HD. Through AllShare Play, Samsung allows content to be pulled in from a Smart TV or mobile device or manually pushed out to the cloud, regardless of a user’s location.

Smart Evolution
Samsung is proud to be the only electronics company worldwide to offer Smart Evolution. This feature is available on select Samsung Smart TVs and really addresses the obsolescence issue. Many times, we buy a TV only for a new model and feature to come out soon after. With the Smart Evolution feature, the select TV sets have a Samsung Evolution Kit. A simple slot-in at the back lets consumers keep up with newer introductions of both hardware and software without the need to go out and bu a new TV set. You can potentially keep up-to-date by just “slotting in” the new features using Samsung’s proprietary system-on-chip technology. That is just so cost-effective!

Smart’s Freedom Plan: Postpaid Plan Redefined

Who wants complete freedom with a postpaid plan that starts from ZERO, has no monthly fees, has no lock-in period and does not require the presentation of documents before you can be given a subscriber line?

That’s what Smart is offering to prepaid subscribers now with its Freedom Plan.

My Smart Freedom Plan sim

For the next few months, I will be testing out this plan.

The facts: I’m a prepaid subscriber on both Globe and Smart (and I used to be one with Sun too). Many friends ask me why I have stayed prepaid all these years although I was a postpaid subscriber when I was still fully employed. I tell them that with prepaid, I can monitor my mobile spending based on how much I load (very important for one with no full-time job and is on a tight budget). I have the freedom to choose what telco and even what plan I will enroll in from day to day (I use my home wifi most times and only need internet when I am mobile). I am free of bill shock risk. When they tell me that postpaid subscribers get a free phone, I just shrug and tell them that the phone I want usually comes with a monthly plan (which is too inflexible for what I need) so I’d rather just buy the phone I really want and use a prepaid sim.

I really enjoy my prepaid freedom and won’t just give it up and be tied to a network or postpaid plan unless I enjoy the same or better flexibility I now enjoy as a prepaid mobile user.

So when Smart invited me to try out their Freedom Plan, I agreed to give it a test run. Here’s what the Freedom Plan is all about.

Key Features

* No fixed monthly fees (you start from ZERO)
* No lock-in period (you just get the SIM. No phones are bundled with the plan.)
* No documents to submit if you stay within the default credit limit
* No bill shock – Each SIM is ready with a P600 credit limit. You can mix/match the plan’s  “postpaid buckets” for the month until you reach P600.


Available Postpaid Buckets

You can use a combination of any of available postpaid buckets (up to the credit limit of P600) in any month, depending on your planned usage. Just use the corresponding keyword and send to 9990.

For example, you decide to choose this combination:

Trio Talk 150 + All Text 200 = 150 minutes of Tri-net (Smart, Sun, Talk ‘N Text) calls + 2,000 texts to all networks + 150MB internet surfing

That will only cost you P350. Since you’re well within the P600 monthly limit, you can still avail of another postpaid bucket worth P250 within the month.

What if you are close to or hit P600 limit before month is over? 

You can do either of the following;

1. Pay what you have already used up so you can free up the credit limit and allow you to subscribe to more buckets. Payment is available in many ways: through Smart Store, online banking, Smart Money, etc.
2. You can always apply for a higher monthly limit. Smart will just require some additional documentation from you.

Rates when not on Postpaid Buckets

When you are not subscribed to any of the Freedom Plan postpaid buckets, the following rates will apply:

Voice calls per minute (to Smart, Talk ‘N Text – P6.50
Voice calls per minute (to other networks) – P7.50
SMS/MMS to all networks – P1.00/SMS
IDD per minute (to any country) – US$ 0.40
International texts (to any country) – P10.00/SMS
Mobile surfing – P10 for every 30 minutes

Current Promo for New Freedom Plan Subscribers

For new Freedom Plan Subscribers up to January 15, 2013, you can enjoy a 10% rebate on the first 6 months of your subscription under the following conditions:

1. You have a paid bill of at least P300
2. You paid your previous month’s bill completely

Rebate is applied on your next bill.

How to Apply

1. Just visit any Smart Store.
2. Present just one valid school or company ID.
3. Pay a P250 application fee.
4. You get your Smart Freedom SIM on the spot. Within 24 hours, you can begin availing of the Freedom Plan.

While the initial target market of the Freedom Plan is yuppies in their 20s to early 30s, on a tight budget because they are just establishing their careers, I already see that there are other markets that will want this kind of plan. Senior citizens who may be living on pension are also on a tight budget and want to stretch their load and cap it at a predictable amount.

I am eager to test this plan for several months and see how this would fit the budget needs of my own kids, some of whom are fresh out of college and fall within this target market.

How does the Freedom Plan sound to you? 



Cignal brings the clarity of satellite digital transmission to your TV

The age of digital TV is upon us and in the Philippines, the second largest and fastest-growing pay-TV provider, Cignal, is in the forefront of digital transmission via satellite, guaranteeing the widest coverage and the clearest TV signals for the best viewing experience available.

Analog vs Digital

Analog TV transmission was always a victim of the elements. Remember the days of snow-like interference on your TV sets? Well, I’m old enough to remember that. Over the decades, that improved with the introduction of cable TV. TV signals became so much clearer. Gone was the snowy look. But because the TV signals still traveled through the cables from the cable provider’s transmission center to homes, bad weather always meant intermittent disruptions of signal and not-so-clear reception.

Cignal showed us a diagram of how their transmission works, using the power of satellites. From the content providers, a satellite downloads the TV programs to Cignal’s Uplink Center. From there, it is beamed again to a satellite which then transmits the signals to the satellite dishes in subscribers’ homes.

What is the advantage of digital transmission?

* Coverage is nationwide, including remote locations – Unlike signals transmitted by cable, which limits the geographical accessibility by subscribers in very remote locations, Cignal’s transmission can penetrate non-cabled areas, coastal waters and mountain regions. 
* Signal is not weather-dependent – Static interference and disruptions occur in cabled transmission. Water can seep in, cables can be downed, etc. But satellite transmission continues even in bad weather, ensuring continuing service to subscribers.

Here’s a slide that Cignal showed us illustrating more advantages.

So far, Cignal has the following High Definition (HD) channels out of about 64 channels (including Standard Definition or SD channels) currently listed on their flyer.

Cignal offers both postpaid and prepaid plans as follows:
POSTPAID
1. Plan 590 – 44 digital channels (40 SD, 4 HD)
2. Plan 990 – 53 digital channels (45 SD, 8 HD)
3. Plan 1290 – 60 digital channels (48 SD, 12 HD)
4. Plan 1590 – 64 digital channels (49 SD, 15 HD)
PREPAID
1. Pack 250 – 14 digital channels
2. Pack 390 – 24 digital channels
3. Pack 590 – 44 digital channels (40 SD, 4 HD)
For special events, they also have Pay-Per-View options.
For more details, visit their site at www.Cignal.tv. Or call 244-6251 (Cignal 1).

TEDx comes to Xavier School on Feb. 18, 2012

Xavier School is celebrating its 55 years in existence year-long. And one of the highlights of its celebration is the inaugural TEDxXavierSchool event which is happening this Saturday, Feb. 18, right in the Xavier School campus.

Just as a backgrounder, TEDx is an independently organized TED event which operates under license from TED. TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. At TED talks, the world’s thinkers and doers are given 18 minutes to talk about their passion. TED speakers have included Bill Gates, Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Gilbert, Sir Richard Branson, Benoit Mandelbrot, Philippe Starck, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Isabel Allende and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown.  These talks are provided free to the global audience at TED.com. In fact, there is a TED app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch that allows you to view the videos on these devices.

In TEDx events, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. Just recently, my friend Jay Jaboneta, was invited to France to share about his Yellow Boat Foundation at TEDxMontpellier. But this TEDx event is close and dear to my heart because it is happening in the heart of my boys’ school. I am so proud that Xavier School is leading the pack when it comes to the use of technology in academe as well as in other pioneering ideas like this one.

In the heat of preparations…
(taken from TedxXavierSchool Facebook page)

The TEDxXavierSchool theme, “Innovation built on tradition”, will be a half-day event to explore ways in which we innovate based on our history and our own experiences. 
Innovators scheduled to speak in person at TEDxXavierSchool include:

Raynard Raphael Lao — a Xavier High School student, who is also a champion public speaker at both local and regional competitions 
Brian Maraña — International Programs Coordinator of Xavier School who has transformed the way students learn from the world 
Tony Meloto — Founder of Gawad Kalinga, providing countless homes to the homeless and building them into communities, and speaker at the World Economic Forum 
Dodie Ng — Games and apps creator who also founded a robotics organization and team for the youth while also being a Xavier High School student 
Mark Ruiz — Co-Founder of Hapinoy and Founder of Rags2Riches, providing social business enterprise and microenterprise development as a living means to some of the poorest people 
Brian Tenorio — Internationally-acclaimed, New York-based designer who has altered the way development is done through Design

Here’s a teaser video for TEDxXavierSchool.

For more on TEDxXavierSchool, follow their Facebook page and on Twitter via the hashtag #TEDxXS.

Credits:

Co-chairs for the TEDxXavierSchool event are Galvin Radley Ngo, Coordinator of Xavier School’s Operation NExT (New Experiences with Technology), and Jessica Demegillo, Technology Integrator at Xavier School. Martin Gomez is the primary licensee for TEDxXavierSchool. This event is organized by Xavier School’s Operation NExT department, Club NExT student organization, and the Xavier School student Media Team. 

3D Vizion: 3D without the glasses

Do you love to watch 3D movies but hate having to don those red and blue glasses? Join the club!

My kids don’t particularly like 3D glasses either. We donned them when we watched Avatar and while the ones we got were the expensive, sunglasses type, they were heavy. Besides, if you already wear glasses, how can you put another pair of glasses over your glasses?

Now, think of what this company did. Imagine that instead of putting those 3D glasses over your eyes, they put a giant pair of those glasses over your TV screen? And now you can sit in the comfort of your home or watch similar screens in advertising walls, glasses-free? Well, if you already wear glasses, you need not take them off. How about that?

In a nutshell, that’s what 3D Vizion has done.

Taking a ground-breaking technology that uses the best of high-definition 2D technology and the latest in 3D technology, it came up with a platform that uses glasses-free 3D screens. While TV screens are flat, glasses-free 3D screens redefine one’s viewing experience. The screen is now transformed into a living playground that emphasizes colors and redefines the depth of field. Everything comes alive.

Over the years, the influence of TV has diminished as more people now turn to the internet and even YouTube for many things that used to be TV’s monopoly. By introducing 3D screens, interest can be drawn back to TV. Advertising can be that much more interesting.

According to Katrina Bantug, President and CEO of 3D Vizion, this product is so revolutionary as of now that 99.8% of the world has not yet seen these screens. Their company has caught the attention of advertisers, most of all, because of the audience-gathering potential that it shows. Katrina says “A US study discovered that when used in a mall, the sales of the brand featured in the glasses-free 3D screen went up at least 12% in addition to the store reporting a 34% increase in consumer traffic.”

Katrina Bantug

Bloggers were treated to a wall of 3D screens that played several commercials in a loop. I would have wanted to post here what it looked like but apparently, my videocam could not replicate the effect of the 3D screens. Suffice it to say that we were all awed at how commercials seemed to jump out of the screen. We watched an iPhone turn on its base, coins seemed to jump out of a treasure chest, a cartoon clip, a forest path, and many more come alive on 3D.

Another surprise was finding out that this company is a fully-operational Filipino firm. Why the Philippines and not some other more developed Southeast Asian country? Katrina answers back, why not the Philippines? Truly, why not!

Naturally, as of now, advertising costs on 3D screens are more expensive than regular advertising on LED screens. But Katrina says that it is not just a matter of comparing pesos with pesos; rather, the added attraction of watching a product commercial on 3D translates into more sales as their study shows. And economies of scale are sure to bring these costs down over time as more companies discover the drawing power of 3D screens.

3D Vizion is founded by Katrina Bantug, Mohan Kulkarni and backed by DEMIKK Holdings, Inc., represented by Ruben Tiu. For more information about the company, its products and services, contact Susana Eslava at (02) 695-1111 or (02) 706-7999 or visit their website, www.3dvscreens.com.

Vibe: Vibal Foundation’s e-Bookstore

The first e-bookstore in the Philippines has launched. Vibe, a project of Vibal Foundation, launched recently and was introduced to bloggers at a gathering at the Filipinas Heritage Library.

Vibe is the e-bookstore’s name as well as the name of the reading app that is downloadable FREE on PCs, Macs, Android devices as well as on iPhones and iPads.
Vibal Foundation’s goal was to make available to the reading public the widest number of newly published, out of print or public domain book titles, including magazines and newspapers. This is good news not only for academe who will have digital access to many books that have long been out of print but Vibe is also a way by which budding authors and bloggers can get their dream book/s self-published in cyberspace. And earn from it as well.

What is Vibe?
Vibe is a universal reading app that displays both flat and interactive material. It has functionalities built into it that can be found in several reading apps like PressReader (e-newspapers), Zinio (e-magazines), Apple’s AppStore (storybook apps), Kindle and Apple iBooks (ePub books).
What platforms will it run on?
Mobile and tablet (iOS, Android), PC (Windows 7) and Mac (Leopard+)
What kind of books will Vibe carry?
All kinds of digital books (flat, enhanced and interactive)
What advantages does Vibe have?
Publishers can reduce time to market. E-books can be launched simultaneously with its print version. Digital versions can be substantially cheaper and yet publishers save on paper, printing, distribution and marketing costs. There are also more affordable reading options like limited-time licenses where readers read material that lapses automatically within an agreed period of time (like 7 days, 14 days or one year). Textbook publishers can package electronic textbook versions with tablets and sell these directly to schools with the content pre=loaded.
What differentiates Vibe from other e-bookstores like Amazon Kindle, iBooks, etc?
Vibe is for Philippine readers and publishers. Amazon Kindle and iBooks require a US credit card as its main payment method so that prevents many Philippine citizens from purchasing Philippine titles from the store. Vibe, on the other hand, accepts payments through Globe GCash, Smart Money and other e-services such as load wallets and pass-a-load. At the same time, since Vibal Foundation has direct accounts with Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks and Barnes and Noble Nook, Philippine publishers can still deploy their e-books to the international market.
Why is Vibe attractive for bloggers and writers?
You know how hard it is to get a book published in print, right? You need a good book agent, lots of luck to get a publishing house interested in your writings, and you need to have a minimum quantity of books printed. With Vibe, you skirt all these constraints and publish directly in cyberspace. And you earn a good share of the proceeds (70% to the writer, 30% to Vibal).

Why should Moms be happy about this development?

As a Mom who had kids going to school with very heavy bags, I was always concerned about the effect of this daily weight on their shoulders. But now as more publishers opt to transform printed textbooks into digital form or produce entirely digital content, it will not be long before kids will simply be bringing a tablet to school, reading from it, taking tests with it and learning interactively.

Tin Mandigma of Vibal Foundation took us through some of Vibe’s features. It will not just be an e-reader for flat books but it will eventually have storybooks that are interactive as well as textbooks that use multimedia features. 
Tin Mandigma
Here’s an example shown by Vibal Foundation President Gas Vibal of how music will eventually be taught via Vibe:

Watch out for Vibe in the coming months as more and more books are made available in different formats. It is exciting to see e-readers becoming a more visible mode of academic learning as well as a tool that brings publishing access to ordinary bloggers and budding writers.

For more details, visit www.vibebookstore.com

Samsung MV800 – a multiview, self photo camera

You know how hard it is to get a self-photo, right? In most of my blogger events, we always end up asking other people to take our photo with our camera or someone from our group has to be the one behind the lens.

The few times I have tried to take a self-photo with my digicam, my photos would get half my face, come out crooked and look so awkward.

About two years ago, we marvelled at the new Samsung digicam with 2D view technology which had a second frontal display screen. What a novelty it was back then as friends who had it showed us how easy it was to compose self-photos exactly the way we wanted the shot. The camera could also detect a smile, taking a picture just as you grin.

Last November 4, Samsung introduced the Samsung MV800 – a multiview camera – at a media launch. The MV800 can be rotated all the way to 180 degrees to catch important events from any angle.

Here are some features of the MV800:

A 3.0″ touchscreen display features different apps you can launch
with the touch of a finger. No knob twisting anymore.
See that sign on the side? A whopping 16.1 megapixels!
And what is that – a 45 degree angle?

Top view

At 90-degree angle
At 180-degree angle
Side view at 180-degree angle

Schneizer-KREUZNACH 26-130mm lens,
5x optical zoom, 5x digital zoom

My self-photo

And here’s more.

  • Magic Frame – 12 fun, background templates as well as ability to customize one’s own
  • Picture-in-picture – insert one image with another
  • Smart Filter – 14 artistic efects like Water Paint and Cartoons
  • Funny Face – bend, stretch and manipulate pictures by dragging to distort faces in funny ways
  • Storyboard Maker – arrange photos, choose layout, and see your story unfold
  • HD recording
For more detailed specs, visit www.samsung.com/multiview

The Samsung MV800 retails at PhP 14,990 and is available at leading camera shops nationwide.

Otterbox is now in the Philippines!

The first time I heard of Otterbox was from my friend, Carlo Ople. And I did not hear of it — I saw it in action. In a dramatic way. Because to prove how sturdy it was and how much faith he had in it, Carlo made a video where he dropped his Otterbox-encased iPad from a sofa onto the floor. Yes, Carlo is crazy.

But, what do you know, next thing I know, Carlo invites me to an Otterbox event. It’s now available in town through Tenkie Box!

As they say, if you’re going to spend precious money to buy an expensive gadget, why scrimp on its protective casing, right?

Otterbox is available in 4 variants and for a wide variety of devices – Apple, Blackberry, Motorola, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Dell, and HTC.


1. Defender – this series is a multi-layered case completely enclosing your device and is rugged enough to withstand any environment.

2. Reflex – this series features an innovative drop, scratch and bump protection inspired by the crumple zone of a car. Unlike the other variants that feature double cases that enclose the device, the Reflex cases have an upper and lower part that fit when combined.

3. Commuter – this series is stylish but features a sleek and tough case that prevents potential damage. The device is first enclosed in a silicone skin followed by a durable plastic case, front and back.

4. Impact – this series is the low-end Otterbox model but is still durable with a compression-molded silicone skin that absorbs impact and deflects bumps and dings.

I thought only Carlo would have the guts to throw his Otterbox-encased iPad around but at the event, guess what! They threw and juggled their personal iPhones around. See for yourself how confident they are about it.

So, which Otterbox variant is for you? It really depends on how active your lifestyle is.

Those into extreme sports, are athletic, or just want the ultimate protection should consider the Defender. If you think it is too bulky (my first impression when I saw Carlo’s encased iPad), then you can choose from any of its other lines. True, the Otterbox Defender, the thickest but most rugged-handling of the 4 variants, may appeal more to the guys but I heard that some ladies actually prefer it because it gives them the most protection for their valuable gadgets.

In my case, I chose the Commuter case for the iPhone to give to my husband as he just keeps his phones in his pocket and runs the risk of dropping it on the pavement. Because it is the plastic case which is outside, this is the best variant for him as it easily slides in and out of his pants pocket.

To find out where Tenkie Box can be found, visit their website HERE. When you order online, they deliver free of charge within Metro Manila.

bpi-160th-tattoo-stick

BPI’s Limited Edition 160th Commemorative Tattoo (winner posted) Stick + a Giveaway

 (UPDATE: I asked a BPI branch manager and her staff to select the winner. So firstly, thank you to Ms. Helena Tiu of BPI-Wilson branch!!! And *drumroll*, the winner who gets the BPI 160th commemorative Tattoo stick is — Joyce Rivera Mauricio! Congratulations, Joyce. I will be contacting you directly.)

Last Thursday, an intimate gathering of bloggers at Cafe Mary Grace in Greenbelt 2 met up with BPI and Globe people for the launching of the BPI 160th Commemorative Tattoo Stick to mark 160 years of the Bank of the Philippine Islands’ existence as a financial institution.

bpi-160th-tattoo-stick
(photo courtesy of Globe Tattoo website)

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