Remember those family calling circles, where you had to put a few of your closest pals (and parents) in a special circle, and calls to them wouldn’t count against your plan allotment? It was a pretty terrible scheme, but it may be coming back. A patent has been found, detailing how Vic Gundotra and the Google+ team imagine their circles feature would work with carriers. It’s a bit complicated, but has some interesting potential.
Using circles, one of the only Google+ features that set the social layer part from others, the preferred calling circle would come back, along with the rest of your Google+ circles. Those in your special “preferred” space could potentially be contacted without counting against your plan minutes, or possibly even your data cap.
Via owning a Google-approved Android device, users are automatically Google+ users by virtue of having a Google account. This scheme would have a multi-pronged attack, wherein Google+ gets people engaged and carriers get a bit more control and ways to coerce you into throttling down your data and/or voice consumption by choosing only a few special people to chat with sans plan usage.
Of note is Google’s interesting relationship with carriers over the years, with Verizon essentially turning their back on them — a stark contrast to Sprint bending over backwards to sidle next to the search giant. Google has toyed with the idea of creating an MVNO now and then, and is rumored to roll out an Android Silver program at some point.
Android Silver is said to ask that carriers offer up store real estate for a kiosk, and that staff be specially trained in how to sell and service the devices. The question has been “what’s in it for carriers?”, but this specialized Google+ contacts management idea may just be it.
Google gets an “in” at carrier stores, and carriers get to bring back a program that once coerced us into using less calling minutes. Though calling has reached a bit of a plateau, giving way to data, there is still depth to this plan. With VoLTE on the horizon, your call minutes will soon become data-based. Even if you make a call with VoLTE, you’re using data minutes (which is why capped data plans are a really bad idea).
With this proposed Google+ scheme, we would get to choose a few people to call for free, and by virtue use less data on a VoLTE plan. Google gets to play nice with carriers, and those carriers get to bring back a scheme used to corral us long ago. It’s an interesting scheme, and could be the only way carriers would be interested in any Android Silver program.