RE: Why Don’t Smartphones Have A “Guest Mode”?

A recent article on TechCrunch asked why smartphones don’t have a ‘Guest Mode’ — a way for someone to unlock your phone and access essentially a ‘fresh’ install of the OS with limited permissions.

Guest Mode would be a nice first step, but longer term vision it’s not about sharing your phone with other people, it’s about sharing your phone between different aspects of your life.

You have a work phone.  You have a family phone. You may even have a personal phone.  Of course they’re all the same physical device, but the way you use that device changes throughout the day. In order for one device to have maximum appeal, it should perform equally well in all cases. Smartphone technology isn’t there yet, and perhaps there are even some patents to be filed on this.

The concept of a Guest Mode should merely be the default mode of the device.  The interface shown to the ‘anonymous user’, or what Chrome calls ‘Incognito’.  Here is the ultimate unlock screen:

whenever you enter your pin
the corresponding identity emerges.
not entering a pin is the equivalent of ‘guest mode’

It’s similar to how TrueCrypt’s advanced privacy features work.  There’s no telling how many different identities are actually present, or what PINs should be used to access them.

Now switch out the concept of entering a ‘PIN’ and imagine an extremely rapid way to login to your iCloud account.  There are a few hundred million iPhones out there; and now I can log in to any of them.  It’s the iPhone as a thin client. All you need is enough bandwidth to make it seamless.

I’m not saying everything is running in the cloud.  The device’s local storage is used as a cache for binaries and personalization data. When you go to launch Infinity Blade, for example, the latest version is probably already cached on your local flash (based on your usage patterns).  As the program launches, it checks iCloud to see if  there are any saved games (which you might have played on a different device) that need to be downloaded.

The vast majority of the data that currently occupies your flash storage, as LTE networks mature, will move into the cloud. As this happens, systems like iCloud will increasingly become the central hub for all the data your apps are ‘getting’ and ‘setting’.

A major benefit is the ability to firewall your work account from your personal account. There’s a large market in securing corporate data, and the smartphone is big part of the problem. I might not mind intrusive corporate software locking down and monitoring my iPhone as long as it was only running under my Corporate user.  When I switch over to my ‘Home’ identity, it should be like I’m holding a completely different iPhone. The corporate overlord is gone, and I’m free to fling birds at pigs to my hearts content.

Another benefit is that instead of ‘Guest Mode’, the next time I ask to borrow your phone, I could be logging in as myself.