Orange will install freebie mobile security suite Lookout on every Android handset it sells and bundle premium access with selected tariffs.
As part of the deal, the EE-owned mobile operator will sink some cash into Lookout, but both companies are adamant there's more to this deal than bundling software. From early next year, Android smartphones sold to EE customers in the UK, including T-Mobile, and Orange customers in France, Spain and Slovakia will come loaded with the antivirus kit.
Operators routinely stuff software onto handsets, particularly if the application vendor is prepared to cut the mobile network a slice of its revenue. Lookout charges $3 a month for the premium service so there's potentially considerable income to share, but we're told that's not the point of this collaboration.
Orange will offer Lookout Premium to customers on specific tariffs; all customers will at least get basic services such as malware scanning, cloud backups and the ability to locate a lost phone - the software even sends details of its last known location just before the battery dies. Only those on the right contracts will get photo backup space and the power to remotely wipe a phone as well as checking every URL for phishing or other nastiness.
The URL checking is becoming standard practice on desktops, but Lookout tells us that 40 per cent of its premium subscribers have clicked on a dodgy link subsequently blocked by its software. Lookout insists it keeps no records of which URLs you tried to visit.
Exactly which tariffs will get the premium treatment Orange isn't saying, but nonetheless bundling antivirus packages is an interesting additional service from a network operator. Mobile networks are keen to extend their offerings beyond access, and their brands can engender trust thus making security products an easy sell.
But Orange (and EE) will need to bundle the premium version in a range of tariffs, otherwise this deal is just more free bloatware that tries to upsell the user while spawning websites devoted to getting rid of it. Orange will need to walk very carefully to prevent that perception, bearing in mind how many fixed-line and mobile providers have failed in the past to persuade customers to accept bundled freebies. ®