in Innovation, Mobile Phones

Device morphing

20070327N93.jpgIf I look at what a mobile phone is today it’s very difficult to say that is only a phone.

It is a phone when you are making a call. It’s a camera when you are taking pictures. It’s a camcorder when you are shooting a video. It is a television set when you are looking at a video stream. The list is long.
The main issue is that the phone remains the same from an hardware standpoint and the same is for the user interface.

In some way there should be the possibility to change the aspect of the phone and the behavior of the user interface depending on what you are doing.

Let’s look at some electronic consumer devices. Not professional or prosumer devices, just the basic ones. They have usually few dedicated keys ergonomically positioned, simple user interface, fast access to the device configuration and functionalities. Also the mighty Apple iPod behave the same way.

Every single consumer electronic device has found the better approach in terms of hardware and user interface in order to make it accessible to the vast majority of customers.

That same paradigm should apply to mobile phone. Depending on the functionality I am targeting the phone user interface should morph and the same should happen, where possible, to the hardware.

If am using my mobile to shoot a photo I would like to have all the option available just like in consumer camera, if I am listening to music I would like a dedicated user interface for that application. Application skinning is not enough. It’s a combination of hardware, software and device behavior that need to be changed to address the needs of the new users of these multi purpose devices.

Some manufacturers are moving in this direction. Just look at some of the Nokia products (N93 just to say one) or some of the Sony Ericsson products.
That’s a trend that should not be dropped. I think that it is the way to move if we want to make the life of out customer easy.

How can we accomplish that?

Just a few ideas:

  • take the best user interface from existing consumer electronics devices and replicate in the phone.
  • take the best hardware solutions available and try to make them fit in a mobile phone.
  • use technology to solve the integration issues.
  • think different.

Why do I blog this? I think this will be a key issue in the next few years. We see mobile phone functionality increase over time but we do not see the same evolution in the access of such functionalities. At the end of the day who said that the mobile phone needs to look like a mobile phone?