Mobile

Sprint launches **Me to kill all phone numbers: awesome, smart, and totally about to fail

Sprint has launched an innovative new service that could replace long and hard-to-remember phone numbers with simple names.

The service is called StarStar Me, and plays off the unique * character on phones that activates special features via “star codes” such as *69 to return the most recent call. For StarStar Me, pressing the star key twice followed by a name will connect you to that person.

For example, you could dial **John, if I was a Sprint customer set up with the $3/month option, to instantly connect with me. And you can do it whether or not you’re on Sprint — callers can also be Verizon, T-Mobile, or AT&T subscribers.

StarStar Me is an innovative service and a step in the right direction.

Why, really, should any of us have to know, or even have to save into our mobile devices, a long, complex series of digits in order to connect to another individual? It’s an archaic holdover from the early days of telephony when telephone numbers were actually a code that related to your physical location on the grid.

Moving to a system where identity supersedes specific details of technology is a good thing.

It’s what Apple is doing with iMessage, tying multiple modes of connection (emails, phone number) to one person, and delivering a message regardless of which device it actually arrives on. Google has been doing something similar for years with Grand Central, now Google Voice, which ties all your phones together with one number so that, regardless of whether you are using your mobile phone, office phone, or a temporary SIM with a different number while traveling, friends and colleagues can contact you with one number.

Eventually, these models should take the next step, similar to Sprint’s StarStar Me service: remove the number and simply tie an identity (name, username, handle) to a variety of accounts: some cellular, some email, some other communication modalities. But an identity system cannot easily be federated between multiple islands of corporate groupings.

That’s one reason why Sprint’s StarStarMe will have a tough go.

StarStar Me is provided by a mobile marketing company called Zoove, the “exclusive provider of StarStar numbers for the largest wireless operators in the United States.” You can bet that mobile giants Apple and Google both want to own identity and are not going to support a relatively small mobile marketing company’s identity system. Not when Apple has iMessage and Google has Voice, as well as possibly an iMessage/BBM competitor.

Even though they are not carriers, they may have a better chance of succeeding because identity is more than a phone number, and StarStar Me — being carrier-centric — is oriented primarily around phone numbers.

More challenges include the fact that Sprint will be charging $3/month for the service, meaning that you can have a simple identity … but it’ll cost you $36/year. I think that’s a non-starter for most consumers, and that identity should be baked into the platform. In addition, the service is voice-centric, lacking an SMS story beyond being configurable to automatically send a text message to a caller when you’re busy, and not even touching email.

StarStar Me sounds great. Someone needs to bring our islands of identity together in a comprehensive, universal way … or provide a DNS-like identity service that connects them all.

I just don’t think it’s going to be StarStar Me.

photo credit: Adam Foster | Codefor via photopin cc

Hat tip: TechCrunch

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