Light Reading

SK Telecom Gives Dialing a Makeover

Sarah Thomas
2/27/2014
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BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- SK Telecom was not only the first operator to reinvent how voice calling sounds with its voice-over-LTE launch, but it is also the first to reinvent how it looks with its new dialer for Android. (See South Korea Hears First 4G Voice Service.)

SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) is calling the dialer makeover, T-Phone, the first innovative dialer built by an operator, which is probably a fair statement as the native interface has remained static even while fancier over-the-top alternatives have emerged. Silver Ryu, the manager of SK Telecom's product planning division, also told Light Reading at MWC that it's the first time an operator has worked this closely with handset makers -- Samsung Corp. and LG Electronics Inc. (London: LGLD; Korea: 6657.KS) -- to develop such a service.

T-Phone Calling
Silver Ryu, manager of the product planning division at SK Telecom, shows off T-Phone, the carrier's reinvented Android dialer.
Silver Ryu, manager of the product planning division at SK Telecom, shows off T-Phone, the carrier's reinvented Android dialer.

T-Phone has a much more fun, accessible appearance than your standard dialer. Some of the new enhancements include widgets for the top 12 people called on the home screen, call forwarding, and a dashboard to keep track of voice minutes and data used.

T-Phone is an open platform, so the carrier is working with third parties to continue to enhance it. One of the early examples is a spam feature, which Ryu said a developer built using SK's APIs. When an unknown number calls, a ranking will show up indicating how likely it is to be spam. At the end of calls, the user is asked to rank the caller to help make this more accurate.

SK has also integrated its T-Map, which Ryu said is the most popular mobile navigation service in South Korea, so that when a call is received, the phone automatically searches the T-Map database of one million companies and stores to display their information directly on the contact page.

Ryu said SK Telecom developed the dialer to, first of all, show telcos can do innovation, and, more importantly, prevent customers from churning. An ultimate goal, however, is to monetize it. SK Telecom is already working on offering retailers and restaurants opportunities to market themselves by, for example, having a picture pop up when they call a customer.

The South Korean operator plans to license the software for its dialer to other operators, who are bound to follow suit. It's a sleek design, an improved experience, and a potential way to make money without charging customers. But, more importantly, they'll follow suit because where SK Telecom goes, the rest of the world typically follows -- albeit, months, even years, later.

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Moderator
2/27/2014 | 10:27:56 PM
Re: Looks good
@Carol I would be happy to have a spam filter. I don't get a lot of phone spam but it would still be nice to get less.

I wonder how often email spam filters are used to silently (and permanently ) ignore incoming messages from former friends or exes.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 6:05:57 PM
Re: Looks good
There are actually a handful of phone number forwarding systems that allow you to block incoming calls based on phone numbers and whitelist/blacklist spam settings. Interestingly, not many telecoms offer these features. It's usually offered by various VOIP services. 
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 6:02:53 PM
Re: Looks good

I've never had good luck with voice dialing. You see it catching on?

I have never seen a voice dialer that was better/faster than my fingers. It works (sometimes) if you only have a few contacts that you dial frequently (and they all have distinctly different sounding voice tags). But once you know two contacts named Dave Something (or Jenn Something), the accuracy gets annoying.

Has Siri really "caught on" for anything other than its novelty? I'm not sure Google Now is that useful either... Maybe I'll be wrong. I do remember when Google had its 1-800-GOOG-411 service, and that was okay, but not exactly a replacement for dialing. Voice menu systems are really only useful when you can't use your hands for some reason (like maybe you're driving).

SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 1:06:27 PM
Re: Looks good
Haha, good point, Carol. I wonder if there's reprocussions for a company that gets a bunch of spam ratings. Hopefully they would block that number for you. It's surprisingly hard to do on your own.
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 11:22:14 AM
Re: What Sparkle said...
Yeah, that was interesting and helps make it a much more integrated experience. I wonder how willing the handset makers are to doing stuff like this. Is is that the operators haven't asked before?
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 11:03:49 AM
Re: Looks good
I don't use voice dialing myself -- I sitll use my VOIP phone in my office for most of my calls. But if I was remote a lot I would. I find it much easier to use my Bluetooth headset than holding phone to my ear. If my Bluetooth is unavailable, I much prefer the speaker. Again, I suffer from fat finger diseases.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 10:41:45 AM
Re: Looks good
Based on the description, this is something I would use immediately, espeically the spam feature and the frequent dialer buttons. 

You have to wonder, though, if the spam reporting feature wouldn't quickly become a popular way of gaining revenge...

 
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 10:16:42 AM
What Sparkle said...
Also interesting here is the cooperative development between the carrier and the device maker to do something that for now seems fairly unique.

Ok, I confess, I just wanted to have a post with the subject line "What Sparkle said..."
SarahReedy
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SarahReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/27/2014 | 9:54:49 AM
Re: Looks good
Yeah, I really liked the look of it. And, they said the 10 names/numbers on the home screen get called 80% of the time. 

I've never had good luck with voice dialing. You see it catching on?
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 9:48:19 AM
Looks good
From the photo, it looks like a larger "keypad" than others, which will certainly help those of us with "fat finger" disease. But with voice dialing beocming more prominent, I wonder how much uptake this will really have.
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