Hello dear reader, it’s me again with another Operator Innovation post.
The series has been terrifically well received — thank you once more to all the executives from around the industry who’ve complemented us. And hello to the chaps from o2 Innovation who, almost every week, point out that they’re working on something very similar. I do hope this is the case — o2 is historically well regarded for innovation. Do you remember Genie Mobile? Utterly fantastic. In recent years, the company’s BlueVia development team has been leading the charge for developer access to operator APIs. So I’m expecting good things from the o2 Innovation team.
Before we get started, I need to deliver a tip-of-the-hat to the team at Orange who pulled the Film To Go service out of the bag this week. Very good indeed. (Find out why I think it’s rather smart.)
Right, let’s get started.
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Last week I wrote about wanting one number for all my calls both incoming and outgoing. Right now I have five smartphones on my desk, all ‘live’ and active. Managing their various identities is quite a challenge.
When it comes to SMS, though, it’s even more of a minefield.
I can redirect my calls to one voicemail system, or one follow-me number. There are plenty of shit-but-good possibilities with voice.
It’s a total fracking nightmare.
SMS is still the king — and I do mean king. Even in today’s app economy, SMS still has a priority. It’s still the medium that we all fall-back to, isn’t it? You can arse around with Facebook Chat, Google+ Huddles and even email, but when it comes to needing to get a message to someone, beyond making a voice call, you have to use SMS.
This is because SMS breaks through.
We all have confidence in it’s delivery (despite the fact the operators still cannot assure delivery to anywhere near a decent service level).
It’s built directly into the operating system of every single device.
It works the same on every phone. There is ALWAYS an inbox. There is always some kind of alerting function built in.
It’s international. There is universal compatibility whether you’re in Timbuktu, the Maldives or London.
As Apple are fond of saying, it just works.
And the 160 character limit is not a problem. Again, most devices support multiple-message length transmissions.
(BBM, because of it’s lack of cross platform support, simply doesn’t cut it unless you KNOW the other person has a BlackBerry).
So what’s the problem?
Well, first of all, if you have two or more devices, managing your SMS messages is a flipping-fracking-flucking nightmare. It’s simply impossible. I have come across one or two ‘forwarding’ apps that you can install — they’ll then forward any messages received to you. But this completely screws the return path functionality. You can GET the message, but you can’t easily reply to it. And even if I have forwarded all SMS from my BlackBerry to my iPhone, when I reply, I’m going to get tons of ‘Who is this?’ messages in return, because of the different phone number.
It’s not just about the users with multiple devices though.
Even if you just have one phone, the ability to be able to archive, review, reply and create text messages from your desktop, iPad, iPod Touch, laptop or browser, would be really, really smart. Sometimes I just don’t want to write stuff on my actual phone.
Archive my SMS in Google?
Why can’t you copy every SMS that I receive into Google and attach an ‘SMS’ tag to it? This is precisely what Hullomail does. They send you a copy of every voicemail you’ve ever received. Your voicemail is actually stored IN your Gmail. It’s fantastically useful. It certainly doesn’t have to be Google, but I’d go so far as to suggest that if you’re a multi-geography operator, it’s highly likely that Google would do the development for you as long as you assign them one bod to help with the integration. Likewise I suspect Yahoo would be delighted to offer true SMS integration into their email client as a bonus.
And whatever happened to the ability to send a text via an email? I know some operators still offer this. But why was this facility switched off for so many? I loved this. It was a quick way of getting 160 characters to someone’s phone via the medium of email. Some bright spark decided that it might cannibalise revenues, eh? Idiots. Utter idiots. Don’t worry. They’ve probably either left the company or been promoted to CEO. So it’s worth a look again. I do know that lots of operators have moved to offering the facility via MMS. But.. eww, it’s just so badly implemented.
Real-time device SMS Synchronisation, anyone?
Indeed, if you’ve got a moment and a few million quid of development money, I’d like my SMS messages to be synched across all my devices. Why isn’t this possible? Why hasn’t it been done? Come on!
SMS from the desktop
I want to be able to SMS from my desktop. One bright spark has actually made this work for you if you’re an o2 customer. You can text from your phone’s number using Text Deck Pro on the Mac. But you can’t receive. There’s no inbox. I want to be able to browse all my SMS messages. I want to see what I’ve sent and received since the start of my relationship with the operator. Don’t even consider telling me that this is ‘logistically difficult’, Mr Operator. Just stick them all in Google if your 1TB SATA hard disk solution isn’t good enough.
SMS: The ticket to relevance for operators
Just like the phone number I depend on for my voice calls, SMS is also your ticket to continued relevance. Lose this at your peril.
And you know what, that’s precisely what every single over-the-top player is trying to do. They’re all iterating fast to try and remove our reliance upon SMS. You just need to look at what Apple’s doing with iMessage and Google’s G+ Huddles. Once you make the username (Facebook, iCloud/Apple, Gmail) the unique identifier — properly — the operator is literally moved to a place of irrelevance. Just the bandwidth, thank you very much.
I’d very much like to see operators working on methods to solidify the position of SMS by extending the technology all over the place. First of all, I need to be able to see the back archive. Second, I need to be able to access and write messages from some browser/app. Wouldn’t it be neat to see the Vodafone logo on my Apple desktop? Third, you need to let me do smart things like sync and archive into Google. And I expect to be billed for the privilege. Maybe it’s a quid a month. Maybe it’s a ‘come on’ to get me to swap to a higher range of price plans. Can you imagine going out to market and asking people if they’d like to archive all their SMS messages for £0.50 a month? Folk would love it.
The SMS Mobile Application
I’d LOVE to be able to download the Vodafone SMS application on to my Three iPhone. I’d just have to verify my account and boom, I would be able to get ALL the SMS I normally receive on my BlackBerry via my iPhone too. And I’d be able to write messages from the iPhone via the app that get sent out using my primary Vodafone number, not my iPhone number. This would rock. Voda could send me a push notification of SMS to my iPhone. The integration on an Android phone would be even better.
Back to reality, eh? The fact that I’m actually getting excited over something so mundane, so easy, so SIMPLE to implement, geez it’s depressing.
Thus ends the fifth Operator Innovation post.
[Note: o2's Bluebook is due a mention. Just a brief mention. You sort-of got this working, folks. Sort-of. But to my utter annoyance, you really didn't go anywhere near as far enough. Come on. What about a proper refresh, eh?]
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Check out the other posts in the Operator Innovation series: