It’s time once again for the Operator Innovation post. I’m delighted to report that the series has been gaining substantial attention from a host of senior mobile industry executives.
To these executives, let me say this:
1. I love you all. In a proper manly way. Without your continued efforts and those of the industry, I recognise Mobile Industry Review would be pointless. And I wouldn’t be able to get off a plane in the Maldives and still be able to send and receive email.
2. I know a lot of you are actually innovating. I have received quite a lot of email from executives pointing out that there is *some* innovation going on at their respective operators. I do try and highlight this routinely here on MIR, but if you feel I’ve missed something, then please email me.
3. Thank you everyone for your emails on the subject. If there’s an area you think we should explore with this series, drop me a note and let me know.
4. Yes, it’s possible to hire me and my cohort of innovation brain surgeons. Drop me an email, tell me what’s challenging you, and I’ll mail back with some ideas about how we might engage.
As always I’m firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week’s “sell me a MacBook Air” post generated a ton of comments and mail. I think this week’s one will get a lot less response. I’m afraid I’m looking at an exceedingly boring issue this week.
But I think I’m right to say it’s something you, dear reader, would like fixed tomorrow.
I have more than one phone.
So do you. Yes? I think the last MIR survey revealed most of the readers had at least 3 devices.
The chances are you have a work mobile, a personal mobile — and since the audience are rather geeky, you probably have at least 2 or 3 personal phones.
Let me set the scene to lead up to the problem statement. I have a BlackBerry Bold 9780, soon to be replaced with the gorgeous 9900.
I also have an iPhone 4 running on 3UK.
I routinely carry a BlackBerry Curve too — this is required for some daily consultancy that I provide.
I also have an iPhone 4 running on Orange. I use this one as a secondary iPhone, for testing things, for media playback and sometimes as a back-up iPhone.
The Nexus S is my Android device du jour. This is the one I use to check-out Android gubbins. It usually runs on one of my Vodafone contract SIMs. I also have a top-of-the-range HTC Windows Phone running on my o2 sim.
This, then, is me.
I rarely begin a ‘work day’ without carrying at least 3 phones. My absolute minimum is my Bold and the iPhone. Despite what Apple and RIM wish, I really do quite enjoy the separation and I find that each device has it’s plus points. I can get through a ton of email (and do a lot of messaging) on the Bold. The apps and the media management on the iPhone are fantastic.
I don’t always like to carry both phones. Or all three.
Indeed, sometimes I like to walk out with just the main iPhone in my pocket.
Other times, I feel in the mood for the Nexus.
Sometimes if I’m popping out to the shops, I’ll just slip the Bold into my jacket.
That’s the background.
Now the problem statement: Which phone do you call?
Each of them has a different number.
This is a total arse for me.
I have each handset directing to HulloMail for voicemail. So if you call me on one of the phones, the chances are I’ll get your voicemail notification irrespective of what device I’m carrying.
The real issue for me is: Which phone does my wife call?
We’ve got a little baby. Well, a toddler. And I am a parent. I need to be responsible. I need to be contactable.
So when I leave the house to pop to the shops, I have been finding myself automatically saying, “I”m on the iPhone” or, “I’m on the Nexus”.
This makes me feel better. But then it winds up my wife because she usually doesn’t bother to remember what I’ve said. She’ll phone my main number — running on the BlackBerry — and if she’s lucky, she’ll get through.
If I took the Nexus S, I’ll never get her call.
Managing incoming calls when you have multiple devices is really annoying.
It gets even worse when you try and place a call. If I’m calling from my Nexus S, most people don’t pick up. The call goes straight to voicemail as they don’t recognise the number and — mostly — my friends don’t have time to take calls from numbers they don’t recognise.
Some of my friends sensibly save my number as Ewan2 or EwanNexus or something like that.
I am then driven to distraction my frustrated friends calling Ewan2 or EwanMain or EwanNexus and not being able to get through to me.
“I didn’t know which one to phone,” is the complaint that winds me up chronically.
It winds me up because I haven’t dealt with it.
And further, it annoys me because the mobile operators are generally oblivious to this issue.
Oh, I could have every phone automatically divert to a single number. I could spend 5 minutes configuring my ‘live’ device every time I leave the house. That would be the sensible option.
Indeed, what I should probably do is give all my fiends a fake mobile number that diverts to whatever phone I’m currently using. I’ve tried this. It does sort-of-work. Except, the whole thing falls apart when you try calling people because they don’t have your number.
The solution is ultra simple. Mobile operators can easily implement a system that identifies your current live device (I wouldn’t mind clicking a button or an option to set this manually) and then route all calls to that number. It would also be possible for the operator to route your outgoing calls through a particular defined identifier.
Of course when I’m using multiple operators to power multiple phones, that complicates matters. I would be prepared to restrict my communications to one operator, if they could offer me some kind of phone number fidelity service.
Give me one number, but make it work on multiple SIMs?
So when I make a call, my friends see my main number calling?
And make every device I use ring — and when I pick-up on my iPhone, stop ringing the other ones?
This is eminently possible.
It’s just not implemented.
It would be a great way of ensuring fundamental loyalty.
The good news is that this last bastion of operator control is begin eroded slowly.
Google Voice, for example, is slowly approaching a total fix for this. I was rather impressed to see Sprint integrating with that (more information). The Sprint/Google Voice solution is almost there.
I’m highly disappointed that the operators haven’t recognised the value of enabling some kind of ‘one number for voice calls’ functionality. Give me five sim cards, all responding to the same number — and all sharing the same minutes/texts/data bundles. That would be amazing.
[By the way, last week using the Huddle function on Google+’s iPhone/Android platforms, I was able to abstract the operator completely out of my communications. Instead of functioning as a primary route to me through their mobile number, I just used the operator as the bit-pipe. Google was my identifier and my comms platform. I was able to successfully communicate with my peers across a full day using Huddle. Sometimes I used my iPhone. Sometimes I used the Nexus S. Sometimes an iPad or laptop. Interesting times.]
What do you think? Would you like to see this feature offered by operators? Or do you think it’s far too specialist a need?
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Check out the other posts in the Operator Innovation series: