On the face of it, the launch of a range of low cost smartphones, including the iPhone 5C, is simply about bringing smartphones ‘to the rest of us.’ Look a little deeper and it becomes clear that the whole model of ‘subsidizing’ handsets is evolving. Post paid customers became used to signing up to a contract for 12 or 24 months in exchange for a smart smartphone at a decent price. More recently, in a world where there are device upgrades and new releases every few months, two years is simply too long.
The trend is to move to looser contracts, and to make the device an integral part of the transactions that will drive revenues for the operator. In essence, the customer is subsidizing his own device. The more the customer uses his mobile device as his ‘first screen,’ his way of sharing services; keeping in touch; purchasing goods; managing his finances and supporting himself with Real-time self care, the more revenue the operator reaps. The device becomes part of the transaction and in exchange the customer can upgrade his device as often as he wishes.
The challenge is that as all of the customer’s life becomes focused on his mobile device, so too all of his passwords, security procedures and contact lists migrate to the device as well. Security must be robust yet intuitive and the device must play host to a secure yet supportive environment for the customer’s requirements. At the moment, there are a host of password solutions and easier and easier to use apps to help the customer manage all this securely and easily but that is only half the issue because they live on the device.
The critical point is that if the handset manufacturer and/or the operator is persuading the customer to upgrade every few months, then all of the customer’s apps, card numbers, passwords and contact lists must be able to be moved quickly, easily and securely from one device to the next. The nightmare of transferring all that information, all those apps and all those contacts manually must become a thing of the past.
The obvious solution to this is to use the cloud to store the customer’s information, passwords and contact lists. This pushes the responsibility on to the operator to manage the essentials of the customer’s life and deliver it to whatever device the customer is using.
Moving identity management, authentication, and payment into the cloud puts a premium on real-time policy control and billing. Once a user is identified, their entire device experience should appear on their new disposable phone. User security has to be a priority, but mobile operators also want to ensure that they can enable access to services and purchases seamlessly, in exactly the same way that they did on their previous device. The goal remains to be able to offer exactly the services that the customer wants at the time that the customer wants them.
Real-time policy control and charging are the tools to control user identity, security and purchasing through whatever device an authenticated customer happens to be using… however often they choose to move to another device. As operators understand the need for real-time and rapidly adopt real-time functionality, they must also consider the needs of the customer in a disposable device world, and think ‘cloud’ plus real-time as part of the solution.