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Thursday, March 21, 2019

It’s Thumbtom


It’s an App

I usually use photo editing apps or social media networks or content publishers, but, I stumbled upon this app through a friend of a friend who knows the founder, a South African technology entrepreneur: Grant Reynolds from Cape Town.

It’s called Thumbtom, and it’s different, and it may be a be the next biggest advertising, crowdsourced, Groupon-ish app to grow out of Africa, or it may be one step too far. I thought I’d give it a try.

What is ThumbTom

Thumbtom is the app that let’s you earn airtime, or other discounts when you swipe to open your screen. Sounds like fun! You earn points every time your open your screen.

Think of Thumbtom like a layer over your lock-screen home page, that’s the place where you swipe or input a code to open your phone, this new Thumbtom layer acts like a second lock-screen, which includes an advert or promotional flyer.

You do have a choice though, if you open left you’ll be re-directed to the advert’s page or promotion, if you swipe right, you’ll be able to open your phone like always and go about your business.

Ads are Spam?

I don’t think it’s fair to make out that the ads that you see appearing on your lock-screen are spam. When setting up your Thumbtom account, you’ll be able to select different interests and preferences, making your experience with the ads more appropriate, similar to Facebook’s algorithm that only let’s you see ads appropriate to your interests.

The ads themselves are interesting in concept. Grant and his team have made a point of ensuring each advertiser attempts to create appealing adverts, so they don’t come across as just the flyer you get on the side of the street. Most advertisers have adhered to this philosophy and make an effort, some don’t (Takealot) but most do.

The Toms!

When you swipe you get points called: “Toms”, which you can spend on anything on offer in the app. Right now, it’s a lot of airtime. Which for me sounds amazing! Free airtime, all you need to do is bare with the ads and open your phone a million times a day, like I do.

According to Thumbtom, there will be other offers like store discounts or vouchers, as the user community and advertiser base grows. In theory, this is awesome, I could potentially get a free KFC meal from dealing with ads and opening my screen! But wait…

I miss my Lock-Screen

To get the benefits of using Thumbtom, you need to sacrifice your personal lock-screen image. For most people, this isn’t a problem, who cares what’s on your lock-screen if you’re getting free stuff daily.

I personally do though, I miss my lock-screen image that I spent a lot of time capturing and editing, but on the other hand, Im extremely competitive, and getting Toms seemed to drive me to make more points!

The entire experience can be a lot of fun, but at some point, it can be very tedious or invasive. That’s a choice each user is going to have to make. I stopped using the app for a week and came back to it, I may stop it again when the ads get lame, but I guess thats the nature of any ad based platform.

Android and Fingerprints

Bare in mind the device you’re using especially if you have a fingerprint scanner to open your phone like me. My Huawei Mate 7 doesn’t like the app interface as much as a simple swipe right, but Samsung devices are much more applicable. Im sure it’s a hardware issue they’ll iron out.

It’s an Android Only App!

The android only app means that the designers were thinking about the broader African market and wider market adoption. Most Android devices operate quite effectively with the app, and makes the experience more seamless. But, not so much with my Huawei, which made me sad, but, points!


Ladies and gentlemen. Will I keep using the Thumbtom app? No, I have very little inclination to keep running back and getting free airtime, it seems like a lot of effort and the app’s user experience is a little finikie and feels complicated, I would go for something very minimalist.

Is the app evil for bringing ads to our lock-screen? No, not at all! It’s a great idea, and at mass, can benefit your lifestyle a lot! It is at the end of the day, free stuff, but, it’s also more adverts.

Let’s just hope the advertisers adhere to the guidelines of Thumbtom and make an effort to make better, more appealing adverts and imagery.

If you’d like to test out Thumbtom yourself, download it on your Google Play store here

Written by

Editor of Milled.co.za