Is it possible that everyone will soon be able to get free cell phones? That’s exactly what Bizo CEO Russell Glass is predicting.
Glass donned his futurist glasses and looked into the near future on Bloomberg Television’s”Market Makers” show. Hosts Olivia Sterns and Scarlet Fu asked him to look into his crystal ball and make some guesses about the top tech trends of 2014.
Glass was happy to oblige. He offered some very interesting opinions about the future of free cell phones. And please note that he was not referring to Lifeline, the free government cell phone program. The following transcript of that interview begins with Glass suggesting something completely new — advertising supported free cell phones — that may make it possible for everyone to get a free cell phone and free monthly service.
HOST: You think a big trend next year is going to be advertising on your smart phone’s home screen. That sounds like a nuisance. What makes you think that’s going to be a hit?
GLASS: Let’s hope I will be a little more accurate than those predictors you had on earlier. I think it is going to happen and I think the big trend we’re going to see is that if you think about these devices there’s about 1.2 billion of them are out there. And this home screen on this device, we look at it about 100 times a day. So that’s over 100 billion impressions of opportunity that marketers aren’t touching today. And I think we’re going to start to see that come, but like you said, it can be a nuisance and so what I think is going to happen is that they’re going to provide a free cell phone. They’re going to provide a free service for those people who are willing to show ads on the phone.
STERNS: So a totally ad-supported, free handset?
GLASS: Completely ad supported. And we’ve seen something like this with Amazon. Amazon has a Kindle right now that you can get for $50 less than you get otherwise if you will let them show ads on the home screen. It’s just taking that to a whole other level.
FU: What kind of demand do you see for something like that? Have people even broached the idea of wanting a smart phone where they’ll be advertised to on a constant basis?
GLASS: Yeah, there are a few companies out there thinking about it. Locket is one of them, which is based in Manhattan and they’ve got an application that allows you to serve ads on the home screen. The problem that Locket has is that it’s pennies. So you can earn five cents a day or something like that. It’s just not going to be enough to override the quote-unquote nuisance that we’re talking about. But, you know, if it’s fifty or one hundred dollars month that you save just to show highly-relevant ads on the phone I think that’s something that people would be willing to do. I mean, that could be a thousand dollars a year, which is a lot of money for a lot of people.
STERNS: Russell, I know you’re also big on wearables. It sort of feels like it was a big to-do when Google Glass first debuted, but that kind of fizzled out, and then we saw a few smartphone watches, or smart watches, but I’m not sure I want one. Why do you think 2014 is going to be the year for wearable tech?
GLASS: Right. Let’s start with Google Glass, right? Google glass is a great concept, but you look at an — a robot or an automaton…
STERNS: It’s not a good look.
GLASS: …when you’re wearing them.
STERNS: It doesn’t even look good on Sarah Jessica Parker.
GLASS: Yeah. Exactly. But my feeling is the capabilities of that, for example, Apple just filed for a patent for a heart monitor embedded in the device. Right? That kind of capability, when you can have the device on you, it is monitoring different things in your body at all times, and it is giving you accurate information without having a phone in your pocket or have your purse handy, I think that is something we might be ready for. And I think Apple, probably about a year ago, hired the former CEO of Yves Saint-Laurent in order to start to think about what these things could look like, to make them more fashionable. So I think we’re going to see a very fashionable watch, maybe the iWatch, come out from Apple next year that will be a category changer.
FU: OK, we’ve heard that before. We’ve also heard that there’s always some next big thing coming out from Apple. Will 2014 be the next big Apple product that will disrupt the world and change everything we know?
GLASS: I think there are two Apple products that will hit in 2014 and will change everything. One is the Apple watch and two is the Apple TV.
FU: Ahhhh, but we have heard that.
GLASS: I know we’ve heard that, we’ve heard that. But here’s the thing: I think that Steve Jobs was working on this right before he passed away and that has been reported on. I think Apple has finally gotten this right, and they have practicing, and they’ve been using their sling box capability. They’re going to integrate that with a great screen, and it’s gonna be one of the most exciting TVs you’ve ever seen. Just an example of what i think it will do. You’ll be able to watch a show and have a Twitter stream right next to it, and interact with that Twitter stream as you’re watching the show right on the TV. I think that is just an example of what this television is going to be capable of.
FU: So this is media network embedded in the display. So here’s the question: We’ve been hearing about this for so long and nothing happened over the last one to two to three years. Does that tell you that there are some difficulties Apple is having negotiating with content distributors, content creators?
GLASS: I’m sure there’s some of that, but I think what’s going to be different about this TV is it’s not only going to have the internet capabilities, but it’s also going to have broadcast. So I think for the first time we’re going to see it come together in a way that’s using existing content with internet content. I think, actually, the challenge that Apple has is more of a manufacturing one. How do we get the manufacturing right at a price point that consumers are going to be willing to buy? That is what has taken them as long as it has to put something on the market.
STERNS: Apple TV sounds great, but I will see it when I believe — believe it when i see it. I think we really have to get to the point with Apple where we begin to see new products coming out of the pipeline that Steve Jobs actually never touched. I also wanted to ask about Twitter, which obviously has been surging this week, even though it is selling down five percent today. You say it is revolutionary, could be like the printing press. How is that possible?
GLASS: Yeah, it might be a slightly different take on this, but if you think about the printing press, before the printing press, a handful of people got to read the book or see a newspaper. The printing press allowed that to be mass-produced, so more people got to see it. They get radio, and the radio changed communication, and again, because you and millions of people that had access to real-time information. TV turned that into pictures. Twitter, I would say, for the first time is a fully-public interaction we’ve never seen before. It’s the first time, real-time, we can interact with each other in a public way. You know, they call the internet town square, and in a public way we can see what’s going on. We’ve seen what happened with the Arab Spring, with the other revolutions and other massive groups of people using Twitter to communicate. I think it is the future of of communication. I saw the downgrade today of Twitter shares, and while that might be interesting short term, I think long term Twitter could be the next Google.
FU: OK, this rise will be accompanied by the peak of Facebook. Does this mean that Facebook’s platform will be less desirable than Twitter 2014?
GLASS: No doubt in my mind. I think we’re already starting to see the teens leave Facebook. I think the problem Facebook has is that it has a very closed platform and you have to be a part of that platform. You have to understand and want to interact with that platform. Twitter is wide open. So anyone can participate at any time. I would actually argue that content is being consumed today by people using Twitter, and they don’t even know they’re using Twitter. Information is coming in in a way that they are getting access to, even for a Google search. Facebook doesn’t work that way, and I would say that we have seen the peak of Facebook’s top popularity.
HOST: Thank you.
Free cell phones for everyone. And that includes you. Not just older, refurbished phones, but the latest smart phones. The only catch is that you have to see an occasional ad on your home screen.
We hope Glass is correct, because it can’t happen soon enough for America’s needy, America’s unemployed and underemployed, and America’s elderly.