USSD or otherwise known as Unstructured Supplementary Service Data is a protocol that allows mobile phone users to interact with a remote application in real-time without an internet connection. The use cases for USSD Apps range from conducting polls or surveys, voting, online payments, banking, insurance, and e.t.c.

Many people confuse USSD with SMS, yet the two are vastly different. SMSs are non-interactive and can be saved on a phone, but USSDs are interactive and cannot be stored. Simply put, USSD is a transaction, whereas SMS is a message. USSD is in real-time, whereas SMS is simply a text message sent to a mobile phone. A good example is the USSD M-PESA menu by Safaricom when you dial *334# on your keypad. 



Is USSD obsolete?

With the abundance of Smartphone Apps, you’d think it would be. Despite its simplicity, USSD is one of the few fully inclusive and ubiquitous mobile technologies available particularly in emerging markets like Sub-Sahara Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda).


USSD Advantages

  1. USSD works on all phones notwithstanding the device platform (Android, iOS, Symbian, and others)
  2. USSD doesn’t require one to have an internet connection.
  3. USSD Applications are user-friendly, they can literally be used by anybody.
  4. USSD Applications are highly interactive as the user instantly sees the responses to their requests.
  5. Very economical.


USSD Disadvantages

  1. The most evident flaw with USSD is its drab, text-only user interface, which lacks any graphic elements to provide visual signals or improve aesthetics. However, for people who are new to the digital world, this may be advantageous, since a simple interface may be easier to comprehend.
  2. Data sent over USSD cannot be encrypted, hence it is viewable on the back-end.


Symatech Labs is a Software Development company based in Nairobi, Kenya that specializes in Software Development, Mobile App Development, Web Application Development, Integrations, USSD and Consultancy.