There is no question that the iPhone has revolutionized the smart phone market. With the recent release of the 3G, Apple has managed to create one of the most pleasurable experiences for users of any electronic device while being responsive to issues from users re: the first generation iPhone (at least re: GPS). However, I’m still astounded that Apple has yet to offer one of the most important features that BlackBerry users have taken for granted for years: copy – or cut – and paste when editing email or other documents on the handheld.
Gesture-based interfaces are looking like the next new thing. One of the key features that iPhone aficianados love to show their friends is the multi-touch feature that allows them pinch their fingers or expand them to scroll and
manipulate images on the screen. And, companies like Sony Ericsson, Samsung, LG, and Motorola are coming out with a number of new “iClones” that offer similar software-based interfaces.
Anyone that caught some of CNN’s recent coverage of the primaries (“The best political team on television!”) couldn’t help noticing Wolf Blitzer and other commentators showing off their gesture-based interface (called Perceptive Pixel) to manipulate the state maps in order to further confuse viewers re: the evening’s voting outcome. Wolf, we know Tom Cruise (in Minority Report mode), and you are no Tom Cruise.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is focusing its efforts on their Surface technology which is to be available in hotels and casinos but isn’t promising any tabletop (or PC) gesture-based interfaces for consumers until 2011.
However, with the introduction of the new MacBook Air, Apple has introduced the first multi-touch applications for the plain old PC (using the touch pad rather than the actual screen). And, last summer Apple filed a patent to expand their multi-touch interface into a host of other uses including copy, cut, paste and other common editing operations. Get ready to start seeing more of these gesture-based interfaces introduced into Apple’s product line.
It will be interesting to see how these new soft interfaces will change the way we all conduct every-day PC-related tasks once they go beyond the hipster iPhone crowd and into the mainstream. It’s already clear that software-driven interfaces (like the iPhone) will soon be replacing the clunky hardware of the present.
And, as these interfaces become more widespread there may be a host of new user experience issues to consider, especially for older users or those handicapped with arthritis or other muscle ailments that affect dexterity. Will people be divided into those who can “pinch” and glide their way through an interface and those how are stuck with that old mouse and keyboard on their desk/laptop?
Sources/Fun and Games:
Why get a Macbook Air to start using multi-touch on your PC? Try it remotely on your Windows or Linux PC – for free (works with iPhone and iPod Touch):
See CNN’s “Magic Wall” (and watch Jeffrey Toobin try to impress the ladies!):
Microsoft Surface – “the coffee table that will change the world” !!!: but when can I use it on my PC?
Design guru Bill Buxton explains it all: a multi-touch history
Jason Harris at Gigaom gives you the 411 on new soft mobile interfaces, including Google’s Android: http://gigaom.com/2008/02/29/why-2008-is-the-year-touch-will-revolutionize-the-mobile-market/
The positive buzz continues for Apple as a new study by m:metrics shows that iPhone users are significantly more likely to use every type of media on their phones when compared to other “smart phone” users. This includes watching mobile TV/video, accessing social networking sites (e.g., Facebook), and performing a search or viewing news/other Web content. And, iPhone users are more than 3 times as likely to use their phone to listen to music when compared to other smart phone users.
While this should generally be no surprise to anyone on the planet that has read about, heard about, seen, or used Apple’s “must have” appliance, it does raise some interesting questions that aren’t really answered by the press release (competitors take note).
The author of the press release casually passes over the contribution of “the attributes of the device itself” and emphasizes AT&T’s unlimited data plan as a key contributer to the increased use of media content …
“While the demographics of iPhone users are very similar to all smartphone owners, the iPhone is outpacing other smartphones in driving mobile content consumption by a significant margin,” said Donovan. “In addition to the attributes of the device itself, another important factor to consider is the fact that all iPhones on AT&T are attached to an unlimited data plan. Our data shows that once the fear of surprise data charges is eliminated, mobile content consumption increases dramatically, regardless of device.”
While it makes sense that the unlimited data plan could contribute to increased use (who passes up the all you can eat buffet?), the recent New York Times article nor the press release really mention much about the interface or user experience other than the fact that widgets for Google Maps and YouTube seem to drive usage of those apps.
It would have been great to know more about the “why’s,” for example:
1) How much of iPhone’s media usage can be attributed to the user-interface itself? Not just the content widgets but the unique aspects of iPhone’s touch screen, screen size, etc.?
2) Conversely, is the lower incidence of usage by other smart phone users related to problems/issues with their phones’ interface?
3) How much of this usage is driven by self described “early adopters,” i.e., those who are predisposed to using rich media in the first place?
4) Is the iPhone driving usage or the other way around: what percentage of users are “first timers” – i.e., their iPhone usage is the first time they’ve used some of these media applications on a smart phone?
5) How much is attributable to users accessing content via WiFi vs. AT&T’s network (many users have complained about the slowness of AT&T’s network)?
6) And, importantly, do these numbers represent claimed usage or as m:metrics promises in its About section, “actual mobile content consumption?” (According to The New York Times the results are from a survey of more than 10,000 adults. Did the researchers sit over the shoulders of all 10,000 people to make sure they were using the applications claimed?) How much of claimed usage can be attributable to overstated usage? Look, if I shelled out $500 for a phone and someone asked me if I was using all the cool stuff that came with it I might be embarrased to admit that besides the music, I haven’t really gotten around to using all that other cool stuff.
Claimed usage or not, these are impressive numbers and represent a cold slap to Apple’s competitors. Now if they can just open up the phone to other wireless providers …
You can always listen to “Blender” (the Collective Soul album) but will the iPhone blend?:
Fun with iPhone’s SDK (just released in Feb):
Can you use it as a hot plate too?