Earlier this year, Google silently published its “Device Lock Controller” app to the Play Store. It’s a way for credit providers to cut down on the functionality of a currently funded phone if payments are missed.
Updated 11/7: We now have more details on the Device Lock Controller, with Google explaining to XDA that Kenya’s Safaricom carrier has been using the service since July this year.
Today, Safaricom is launching “Lipa Mdogo Mdogo” (“Pay by bit”), a sponsorship scheme designed to help Kenyans who lack access to credit easily buy an Android smartphone. (Go version) new and pay for it at an affordable installment price.
In the event of a missed payment, locking happens in three stages:
- On the 4th (4th) day after the return period, Safaricom will lock the device, restricting your use.
- If you continue to default, on Saturday, you will be blocked from receiving all outgoing calls and SMS.
- If you fail to pay your loan in 30 days, you will be blacklisted and disqualified for the next facility loan and your details will be transferred to the CRB.
Originally June 11: Device Lock Controller (via APK Mirror, XDA) was released on June 15 and last updated October 10. According to Play Store description:
Device Lock Controller allows device management for credit providers. Your carrier may restrict remote access to your device if you don’t make a payment. If your device is restricted, basic functions, such as emergency calling and access to settings, will remain available.
This application is presumably authorized by service providers or first party stores to provide financing on purchases. It’s not clear whether this comes pre-installed or something retailers will require customers to manually install and set up as part of a payment plan.
A screen explaining how “vendors” can also “Download and install creditors” and “Disable user debugging and management” can be used to circumvent these measures. .
Meanwhile, users can dial an emergency number while still having the ability to make “Incoming calls and some outgoing calls”. The emphasis is on “some”, with communications presumably limited to carriers only. Meanwhile, you can access the full Settings app at any time, and back up and restore your data.
It’s not clear who used the Google Device Lock Controller app, but there are just over 10 downloads today. For example, Fi announced a program to register the phone. It may be open to Google’s MVNO or be open to all interested third parties.
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