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Explanation of SMART’s Netphone Project: It’s not one phone, neither is it a single OS. It’s much more!

Written by Jayvee Fernandez

WARNING: This is a very long post.

TLDR: SMART has just revamped itself. It is now a social network composed of all its subscribers, services and establishments.

Before reading this, you may want to check out two links:

SMART announces Netphone

Additional Netphone Prototypes

And then read even just the first paragraph in italics:

HTC ChaCha may also be part of the Netphone Project

On Twitter, friends have chimed in asking what operating system it runs on. Others have also said that since this is a smartphone (the photo shows the Netphone Android 2.2. device), it might be expensive.

I myself thought the same things before leaving for Barcelona. Initially, I thought that the Netphone was a “skinned” device with SMART branding similar to how HTC embeds the Sense UI on top of Android.

I was heavily mistaken.

The Netphone is not a single phone. It is a complete line of phones. And in the hopeful future, all phones issued by SMART will be a ‘Netphone.’

On the web, I read comments mentioning that the prototype Netphone tablets and mobiles were ZTE units. This is true! ZTE is a Netphone partner. But as you read above, even HTC is jumping into the bandwagon.

The goal of the Netphone Project is to create a telco-centric ecosystem powered by SMART in the Philippines. Whoa, nelly, what does that mean?!

Let’s define a few things: currently, “ecosystems” are platform dependent: you have Apple’s iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android and its many versions, Microsoft Windows Phone 7, RIM’s odd Playbook and BlackBerry apps (they aren’t cross-platform compatible), Nokia’s Symbian S60 and S40 (they’ve scrapped this in favor of Windows Phone 7) and the latest player, HP’s webOS which seems to be making a killing on paper.

The problem today is that there are just too many environments. As a developer, it’s extremely difficult to choose what to develop for. Angry Birds for iPhone and Angry Birds for Android isn’t the same app. You can’t put a Honda engine inside your Toyota.

SMART’s Netphone Project aims to unify all their devices, whether entry level, mid range and high end smartphones to have the following services:

Global Address Book
There will be two address books inside the Netphone: a local address book with your contacts (synced the way you usually do depending on your OS) and a global yellow pages of SMART subscribers who have signed up with the Netphone (it’s stalker time!). Of course there will be privacy settings!

The Global Address Book will include a listing of establishments (i.e. the Jollibee app) that will allow store owners to add features to their establishments, such as a one button click to open the Jollibee Delivery app built into the phone.

For bloggers for instance, beside their name, they can have their blog’s RSS feed. So it isn’t just your name and number — it’s all the things you do contextualized to the web. In a way it sorta is like how Windows Phone 7’s ‘People’ app works but you don’t need to be a part of Facebook to use it.

Chat
Like BlackBerry Messenger, all Netphones regardless of OS will have unified chat allowing you to message your contacts. Receiving messages will be free. Sending messages will have costs. SPECULATION: It should be cheaper than SMS.

Email
Bite sized email for those who can’t afford — reading the header is free. Opening it will have additional charges.

SMART Money
This will be the Netphone’s payment gateway to eCommerce. For instance, aside from COD, ordering from Jollibee allows you to pay using SMART Money.

In the future when you buy a phone with SMART regardless of the brand, it may even be a Netphone.

I attended a panel with Bong Mojica sitting in and he said that in the Philippines, an “app” is just another form of a service. So whether you deploy via SMS, or widget or web, it’s the same service with varying degrees of experience. With the Netphone deployed, feature phones (i.e. entry level phones) and smartphones will have access to the same services, probably with different user interfaces.

WAC: Why this is all possible (Wholesale Applications Community)
This is a good time to be a developer. Imagine an app just once over and having it deployed across the entire SMART network. Do the Math – sell an app for PHP 50.00, keep 30% of downloads from 5% of 60 million subs. Kahit 0.5% OK na! Wow.

SMART is a founding member of WAC, an organization of telcos and suppliers that allow for mass deployment of applications into different platforms without having to rewrite anything. So even the Jollibee app will work 100% on a Vodaphone network on some other phone platform so your OFW dad can order Jollibee for his kids anytime he wants.

That being said, it makes sense to see why Android is the leading platform being used for this. Hopefully, future devices such as RIM, webOS and Windows Phone 7 will open up to the global WAC initiative. Good luck if Apple even bites into this — we highly doubt. Perspective: It isn’t just SMART that’s doing this — sure, they’re one of the founders but so many other organizations and telcos around the world already have a stake. Exciting.

P.S. And no I’m not kissing SMART’s ass. πŸ™‚ In all honesty, they have something good going with this. if there’s a way for the masses to appreciate 3G, this is going to be it.

About the author

Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

35 Comments

  • “This is a good time to be a developer. Imagine an app just once over and having it deployed across the entire SMART network. Do the Math – sell an app for PHP 50.00, keep 30% of downloads from 5% of 60 million subs. Kahit 0.5% OK na! Wow.”

    Bibigyan nila tayo lahat (60M subscribers) ng netphones? Wow nga!

  • Hmmm.. From reading the description, it actually looks like an updated classier version of the SMART services menu which we now have with our current SIM Card.

    This could have been better if like blackberry, you can subscribe to unlimited data accounts for a certain number of days.

    I am currently on blackberry because of their BIS. I can talk to my friends via bbm, or if they don’t have Blackberries, I can chat with them via YM. I also have access to FB and Twitter. All for the affordable price of 300 for 30 days.

    Now, if SMART will be providing the same services using their netphone project at the same rate, then this will free me of my Blackberry bonds. Yes, I cannot dump my blackberry for other phones atm because of this service. Though Nokia offers something similar through OVI (unli YM, FB, Twitter ovi apps), I still feel that it is not the same.

    Netphone can be such an awesome project, but may just fall short if we still end up with a pay per service system. True connectivity entails no limits, masarap ang feeling ng being connected all the time: sending chat messages everytime, and catching up with friends via FB and twitter anywhere.

  • hey messie! spot on! you got it.

    here’s something though. the fact that you mention you’re using a blackberry puts you in a different segment. the netphone is primarily going to be marketed to the masses — these people do not use smartphones, neither do they use 3G. this gives them an incentive, and the prepaid market is more accustomed to bite sized information, hence the billing method of “tingi” and not unlimited.

    also, for power users like you and me i’m pretty sure SMART will have their own plans (i.e. i spend 1200 a month on bottomless internet on my phone). there’s something for everyone! note that i dont represent SMART. i came here to observe and the insights are just my speculations. maybe someone from SMART can chime in? πŸ˜€

  • I can’t wait to be a developer too @arvin super laki kikitain talaga, esp na pag napakaganda ng app mo like angry birds and others.

  • Thanks for the clarification Jayvee. πŸ˜€ I’m not really a power user, pero I really do value being connected all the time. And my budget allows me to pay P300 for 30 days, as a matter of fact, that is cheaper than the 15/day sulitxt or 20/day unlitxt. It works really well if you have lots of friends with BB or mobile YM, you can save a lot by chatting with them instead of texting them. πŸ™‚ And the FB and twitter is a big big plus too.

    Now imagine if netphone can also do this. I think the netphone is more comparable to BIS, which is a service feature, rather than a phone line or a mobile OS. From what I understand, pretty soon, smart will be including this in their sim pack features (so parang Smart Services ++ nga =P ). But I do hope it can cater to everyone using cellphones. Mas okay siguro ang kita pag ganun, saka if everybody is using the service, everybody wins di ba? More costumers for Smart, and a bigger network for people to talk/interact with. If ganung rate din tulad ng BB Social, then mas madami ako makakausap if I use netphone instead of BIS. If ito pa nga ang case, then even if I’m on my Blackberry, I will just be using Netphone if it will allow me to talk to more people.

    Ayun ahehe

  • @messie kasama ba twitter sa BB social ng smart? yung tropa ko kasi nagsubscribe dyan fb, ym, bbm windows live, myspace icq at aol, walang twitter…

  • @sir Jayvee, can I have po a hint kung kelan ko po makukuha yung prize sir?hehe.d pa kasi nkareply yung globe.hehe d ko alam anu pa gagawin q, kya ng ask nlg ako d2.hehe.thanks po.

  • @Jerry, Smart and Globe parehong 300 for 30 days.

    Yup, kasama ang twitter. You can access twitter and FB via their respective blackberry apps.

  • the 300 per 30 days is for BB Social only ha. This includes Chat services/apps + Social Network apps.

    BB Mail is for 300/30 days din. Pero it only has push e-mail and chat services.

    To get unlimited web browsing via BIS you can pay 999 (30 days) for Globe, i’m not sure for Smart.

  • @messie one more thing po so kung yung blackberry ay me twitter app na when you subscbrie to BB social, yun nalang ang gagamitim? hindi siya magkacount as 10/30mins kasi yung smart nun nagsend ng service bookmark walang twitter eh

  • Jayvee is correct. Basically smart is developing the netphone service to cater to the masses. If we are to study the Masang Filipino’s behavior in buying, you maybe surprised everything boils down to two major categories, unli Service and Tingi Tinig system. πŸ™‚ That is why in the eload system and unlimited promos are such a huge hit. I believe the company is trying to start something big here, ika nga ng presidente ang battle cry ng smart ay INTERNET for ALL! Netphone is just the first step towards that goal, by offering affordable phone capable of bringing mobile internet to the masses. πŸ™‚

  • If subscribed ka na sa BIS or sa BB Social, (make sure na all caps na iyung GPRS/EDGE/3G mo) you can access twitter via the Twitter app. don’t go to twitter using your browser para walang data charges πŸ™‚

  • guys, here is a complete list of WAC members as of today:

    http://www.wacapps.net/web/portal/membership

    As you can see, this is pretty strong!

    it will give you insight on what devices will be WAC compliant =) as you can see, Sony Ericsson, HTC, LG and Samsung are already part of the initiative so we may expect phones from them to be psrt of the Netphone project.

    Messie: There is also rumor that BlackBerry will be part of this.

  • @Jerry Unfortunately no, foursquare is not accessible via BB Social. (For now! let’s cross our fingers! =D)

    @Jayvee wow! Awesome! Pwede siguro pag wala akong load pang register sa BIS, then I can just go tingi mode with Netphone! Definitely something to look forward to πŸ™‚

  • @messie pwede! haha i can only speculate. i think SMART has a really good product / service up their sleeves and it is being shared with other telcos around the world. if you see the list, i don’t see globe or sun. hm.

  • I do not think it is a matter of WP7 or RIM’s OS opening up to WAC software. WAC software is supposed to be cross platform? If not, it is not WAC.

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