Australia’s estimated 20 million Android users can now trade seconds of eyeball time for phone credit thanks to a local innovation.
This week, cheap telco Lebara teamed with Melbourne-based startup Unlockd to offer $20 worth of gigabytes a month to anyone willing to view adverts when they unlock their phone.
One of its inventors predicted the idea could one day subsidise “a significant part” of our phone bills, or maybe even an entire low-end plan.
“Everyone is looking for a better deal,” Unlockd CEO and co-founder Matt Berriman told The New Daily.
“Data consumption continues to go through the roof, so the ability, especially in the youth market, to be able to use more data on games and consumption and viewing of stuff they like without having to ask mum and dad to continue to foot an increased phone bill we think is going to be an attractive opportunity.”
An expert said she was surprised nobody had tried this payment model in Australia before.
“Advertised-based usage is a time-proven model in a number of industries – television, newspapers, online media, web apps on mobiles,” tech futurist Shara Evans told The New Daily.
“I certainly do think there are demographics where getting an extra data allowance could be very useful, especially people who really do need to use more content than they might otherwise have the budget for.”
How does it work?
Customers who sign up with Lebara and who download the Unlockd app will see a targeted app every third or fourth time they unlock their phone.
For now, the trade-off is $20 worth of data. Soon, customers will also be able to deduct that amount directly from the cost of their plan.
The ads, which will take up the entire screen, can be dismissed after one second.
Unlockd claimed the ads could also include content helpful to the user, such as news articles and discount offers, not just ads spruiking full-price products.
Lebara runs on the Vodafone 3G network and rivals Amaysim as one of the cheapest of the small telcos, which resell access to the bigger networks.
It claims to be one of the fastest growing of these resellers in the world.
Is this the future?
Ms Evans predicted that budget-conscious phone users, especially those on pre-paid plans, would be attracted to the option, but warned that many Australians find ads annoying.
“There are a lot of people, me included, who just don’t want to see advertising,” she said.
“If it’s something that pops up when you just unlock the screen that you can immediately dismiss, that’s probably not too bad.
“There needs to be a balance between what the advertisers gain in benefits and what the consumers lose.”
Ms Evans doubted whether the big operators like Telstra, Vodafone and Optus would ever offer the technology directly.
Consider your privacy
Consumers should be wary of privacy intrusions, Ms Evans warned.
According to Unlockd, adverts are targeted based on the user’s age and GPS location and the time of day.
“One of the things I would want to be very wary of as a consumer is who’s getting information about my location and what other apps and other things I might have on my phone,” Ms Evans said.
“At the back end, a consumer would need to know who has access to my data if it’s being shared. I think Lebara would need to be very transparent about how your data is being used.”
Mr Berriman said the ads were no more intrusive than the popular social media accounts – which he said was another reason to sign up.
“We think consumers are now smart enough to know that the Facebooks, Instagrams and Googles of the world are making a lot of money off them without getting a value exchange.”