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Sprint Product Chief Touts “Open” Approach to Voice, Apps, NFC

Sprint updates developers on its 2012 plans for phone and tablet technologies.

Hundreds of app and software developers gathered in Santa Clara, California, Tuesday to hear about the features that telecom carrier Sprint wants to see on the phones, tablets, and other devices that will connect to its network in the coming year.

During the keynote, Sprint product chief Fared Adib stressed the company’s "open philosophy". Adib proceeded to give several key examples of the philosophy--both in existing programs and planned ones.

One example, Adib said, is Sprint’s partnership with Google Voice. Last spring, Sprint began letting subscribers merge their phone numbers with Google's calling service. Before that, users had to get a whole new number for Google Voice and could not use their regular cell phone numbers. Ultimately, Adib says, Sprint made it easier for users to access a far cheaper way to make international calls.

“For the first time a carrier gave up one of its crown jewels,” Adib said, referring to carriers’ long-held exclusive ownership of phone numbers, and in a looser sense, voice revenue.

Open Spectrum?

Sprint’s “open philosophy” refers to the type of technology it will use to transmit data as well. In March, PCWorld rated the company as having the slowest 4G speeds of the big four telecom carriers. But, over the summer, the carrier paired with LightSquared in an effort to push forward LTE, while also pushing LTE development with Clearwire, Sprint’s WiMAX partner.

At today’s conference, Sprint hyped its multi-modal chipset, which supports both WiMAX and LTE in one device.

Sprint ID to Play Bigger Role

Adib also mentioned that Sprint was working on a way to help consumers discover apps without Sprint preloading the app on its phones. "Developers approach us every day saying, 'We want to preload our app on your phones'. But customers have been complaining about what they’re calling bloatware."

Instead, Sprint indicated that its Sprint ID pack, a personalized profile that suggests apps, might play an even bigger part in the carrier’s promotion of independent developer's apps.

Near Field Communications (NFC)

As the first carrier to debut Google Wallet on the Nexus S 4G (which is built with a special NFC chipset and secure element), Sprint said it hoped developers would find ways to make the hardware a hit with the general public--from using NFC as a pass to get into the movies, to paying for parking, to signing in at office buildings.

Although the technology isn’t perfect yet, partnering with Google for the wallet app gave Sprint a low-commitment way to learn about the technology. (Google did a lot of the testing and promotion of the app, with Sprint acting as the wireless carrier partner).

"We’re learning from this," Adib said. “We’re trying to answer questions like ‘what do you do when it’s the end of the day and your battery dies and you still need to make a purchase?'"

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