Google is famous for a couple of things. First, search. Second, innovation. Tying together a number of different components of their innovation streams hint at a new direction for the company – one which could substantially change the way we use our phones. What they’re not famous for is selling cheap phone plans. However, considering recent developments, Google may well be about to do just that.
Google has always been interested in playing a part in the phone market. They produced ‘Nexus’ devices for many years. They even bought Motorola for nearly $13bn, writing it off for $3bn a few years later. In September of this year. Google bought HTC. From now on, they will be in the phone hardware business again, selling Pixel Devices.
Google’s Project Fi is a unique project which they run in the USA. Fi allows them to operate as an MVNO, a Mobile Virtual Network Operator.
Their stated aim for the project team is to inspire innovation among the phone companies they work with. Some of the features of Fi are undeniably that. With a SIM from the Fi team installed, your phone will attach to and make calls over WiFi when in hotspot coverage, when it’s on the cellular network, it will use either the Sprint or the AT&T network – whichever has the strongest signal (!) and if you don’t use your data, it’s refunded to you. Having worked in telco, I can tell you, these are innovative ideas, for sure.
Google is sensitive to the fact that they make a lot of money from the search side of their business, working with phone company carriers around the world. They don’t want to stop that by aggravating those phone companies. As such, this seems like a genuine demonstration rather than an attempt to move into a situation where Google acts as a phone company.
Google didn’t invent the eSIM. In fact, if we had to credit any of the technology giants as a driving force behind the eSIM, we’d give the honors to Apple who has been a factor in pushing the eSIM to market.
The eSIM or embedded SIM is an electronic version of the SIM cards that have been in phones for the last 30 years. eSIMs make the process of signing up to a phone company much clearer. Users don’t need a physical SIM swap to change carriers. They simply select a new one from settings (on their phone) and the SIM profile they need is downloaded over the air.
eSIMs are already part of the market for phones. Apple released one in their Apple Watch 3 in September 2017 (just as Google were acquiring HTC.) It’s highly likely that 2018 will see a slew of phones and wearables containing eSIMs released, potentially starting with the Samsung Galaxy flagship release which is usually in March.
Google made another interesting step at the release of it’s latest Pixel devices. This year’s products contained the eSIM. Google has adapted their Project Fi app to include neweSIMsfacilities provided by the Pixel and physical SIMs. The app makes it super easy to move between phone plans and operators, bringing to reality the experience the eSIM can theoretically generate.
Datally is in its early days. It helps you ‘understand, control and save data. It provides recommendations on how you could use fewer data. It helps you manage real-time data use. So, for example, if your phone is downloading a lot of stuff in the background, it’ll notify you so you can stop it. It’ll point out whether you’re near a wifi hotspot so the heavy lifting can be done off the cellular network.
For jo average with a prepaid phone plan the world could look very different in a couple of years time.
Imagine a future, enabled with these Google tools. Your Pixel phone uses Datally to reduce your phone bill. If you decide you want to move, you simply tell your Google Assistant to change to Sprint at the end of the month. Since Fi’s cheapest for you, you get your unused data refunded at the end of the month.
The eSIM is, in many regards, just the final step in the digitization of telco. Google is great for digital products. These facilities may well be built into Google devices (or even all Android devices) by the end of the decade.
Consumers will benefit enormously from the automation of the fix to their problem. No-one really checks their data like their bank account (although they should.) But if Google is prepared to do it for you and make it easy to move carriers when you want to, everyone will do that.
CEO and Founder at Mighty Shouts.
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