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 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