Turning carriers into dumb pipes
The current rumours about Google's Android plans suggest that the company will be launching Nexus devices from all major device manufacturers directly from it's own Play Store in a bid to bypass carriers and subsequently bypass the carrier testing that causes the widely despised version update delays. This is great news for people who like to buy their devices outright and quite frankly I'm all for anything that takes carriers out of the equation.
There's a question i ask myself every month when the dreaded phone bill comes in, why do i pay for calls and messages when i call and message my friends for free elsewhere?
When iMessage was announced i thought "Yes! This is it, Apple is trying to replace SMS, it's finally dead!", but it turns out that wasn't the case. One company can't replace a service available on any network and any phone with a closed service - especially when it's only available on only one brand of phone. It's great for people with iPhones (in theory) but when it comes to messaging everyone else they were always going to fall back to SMS.
Bearing this in mind i want to suggest one thing, merging Google Talk and Messaging, automatically using Talk where available. This is the same sort of route as iMessage, and obviously wouldn't on it's own replace SMS, but it's a start. The next step would be the major players (Google, Apple, Microsoft & carriers) coming together and setting a standard for a messaging service to replace SMS once and for all.
Google Talk on the web is already capable of voice calls so i don't see why it couldn't be integrated into Android, using the same method of automatically calling Talk where available, lack of good network coverage may require a fallback to network calls, one of the reason SMS & network calls cant be completely scrapped just yet. But again i would like to see a standard for VoIP calls on all future smartphones.
What this would mean for phone contracts
Due to the heavy reliance on network calls and texts i wouldn't expect it to change anything anytime soon, but if we get to a stage where the majority of us are communicating through an internet based service then hopefully we'll be seeing 'data-only' plans, which would provide the carriers with an opportunity to evolve and create new types of contracts. Surprise, surprise, i have a suggestion...
Phone contracts are a hassle, sometimes you pay something for the phone, sometimes you don't but either way we are roped into mostly 2 year contracts, which means for 2 years we're stuck with the same phone. I don't think this really suits this day and age because new versions of phones aren't released every 2 years, take the iPhone for example, a new model released every year for coming on 6 years. The Nexus phones - released yearly. Within a short amount of time our devices feel dated.
A new contract model
I propose contracts be more flexible, so here's what i'd like to see:
A model like this would work just as well for tablets. If Google could work with carriers to provide this themselves through the Play Store then they could really establish themselves as a device retailer, and we may even see some 'brick & mortar' Play Stores on our high streets...
This post originated on my blog in May as a wish for what i'd like to see from Jelly Bean.