I use a Blackberry Pearl and a variety of applications (primarily Google’s Mobile Suite and IM) for navigation and communication. While the interface is still limited it’s easy enough to communicate with a dispersed team or clients while in the field.
We have all been subjected to the onslaught of media surrounding the iPhone. It is, without a doubt, a beautiful and capable device, that is changing the cellular carrier and handset industries. With it, Apple is taking a leadership role in an era of mobile computing that is in it’s infancy. Their tactics in the media are worth mentioning, as they will come to affect us all eventually. There are are a few interesting aspects of this new era in computing that are rarely mentioned in articles or blog posts that I feel are some of the most important of these changes.
Teaching A Lesson
First and foremost, with the accompanying media campaign, Apple is teaching us how to use, and why we should want, a smartphone. Not just an iPhone, but access in general is what they are advertising. Anyone who does a side by side comparison will recognize the ease of use and what I’ll call the fluidity of the iPhone, but with a little effort there are several devices that can achieve the same level of access. Several of the iPhone commercials show off the capabilities of the iPhone by simply demonstrating this access, and that’s good for the industry as a whole, as widespread understanding of these capabilities is something that is missing among the general public. People know how to text, but the mobile web is something else entirely. Of course, this will all change over the course of the next 2-10 years as the interface evolves, which brings me to my next point.
With this device, Apple has taken the lead in defining the general interface for the next iteration of the mobile web. Eventually our devices will be capable enough to handle anything the web throws at it, but in the mean time there are a few design paradigms that are evolving based on this single device. The general layout and functionality of pages is being rethought, not just for screen size, but for viewing and entry as well. The great thing about all of this is the intense analysis of human interactions with technology that’s going on around it. We are getting to a point where the technology is adapting to us more than we’re adapting to the technology.
This is a critical point in how we develop touch controls for devices. There are currently only a few gestures in the Apple touch lexicon, but as the devices evolve along with their capabilities this will change. Apple is literally defining how we will interface with our devices across the board. Frankly, that doesn’t worry me, because I think they are on the right track and are listening to feedback. But will other companies adopt the same conventions that Apple uses? Will they be able to without licensing or getting sued? These are important questions that will play out over time, as more and more touch based devices come to market, and more users become familiar with the controls/interfaces. Using a chubby finger to navigate is now a consideration most web designers will need to address at one time or another.
With the next version of the device presumably ready to be released there’s an entirely new crop of customers who (myself included) that are about to get on board. Some of us have been waiting for the kinks to be worked out before diving in. With the further development of Android and Symbian, the future looks bright for the mobile market. I’m excited about the direction and look forward to the coming “endless summer” where technology allows me to work whenever, and from wherever, I want.
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About: Aaron Smith is the owner of Mixotic LLC. Aaron started his own business after seeing so many of the businesses he had worked for struggling with their technology, trying to figure out what tools to use, how to use them, and how to train staff. He believes that companies that don’t explore new technology solutions give up a competitive advantage.