Earlier this year, Google quietly published a “Device Lock Controller” app to the Play Store. It’s a way for credit providers to curtail the functionality of a phone that’s being financed if payments are missed.
Update 11/7: We now have more details about Device Lock Controller, with Google explaining to XDA that Kenyan carrier Safaricom has been using the service since July of this year.
Today, Safaricom is launching “Lipa Mdogo Mdogo” (“Pay Bit by Bit”), a financing plan designed to make it easy for Kenyans who lack access to credit to purchase a new Android (Go edition) smartphone and pay for it in affordable installments.
In cases of missed payments, the lockout occurs in three stages:
- On the fourth (4th) day after the repayment deadline, Safaricom will lock the device, limiting your use.
- Should you continue to default, on the 7th day, you will be barred from all outgoing calls and SMS.
- Should you default for 30 days, you will be blacklisted and disqualified for subsequent device loan facilities and your details will be forwarded to the CRB.
Device Lock Controller enables device management for credit providers. Your provider can remotely restrict access to your device if you don’t make payments. If your device is restricted, basic functionality, such as emergency calling and access to settings, will still be available.
This app is presumably mandated by carriers or first-party stores that offer financing on purchases. It’s not clear if this is pre-installed or something that retailers will ask customers to manually install and set up as part of the payment plan.
A screen explains how the “provider” can also “Download and install the creditor app,” and “Disable debugging and user management features” that presumably could be used to circumvent these measures.
Meanwhile, users can dial emergency numbers, while retaining the ability to take “Incoming and some outgoing calls.” The emphasis is on “some,” with communication presumably limited to the carrier. Meanwhile, you can access the full Settings app at any time, as well as back up and restore your data.
It’s not clear who is already using Google’s Device Lock Controller app, but there are only 10+ downloads today. For example, Fi just announced a phone subscription program. It could be for the Google MVNO or intended for all interested third-parties.
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