With all the increasingly complex smartphones on the market, this intentionally simple cell phone caught our eye. Users are able to design their own phone and pick which contacts they would like to be preprogrammed, making the OwnFone a safe and affordable way for parents to stay connected with their children.
This summer I went on vacation with my backpack, laptop, tablet and smartphone in tow. Beyond the obvious neurosis revealed by such behaviour, it was a great opportunity for some self-observation. From a personal perspective, I wanted to see which device came out on top. But for all that I accomplished with three devices, I carried far too much intelligence (and weight).
My iPad very quickly surpassed the rest. Whether I was checking emails, consulting maps and websites or playing games, it became clear that the tablet reflex is the most “natural.” My phone was also quite useful; I used it to take pictures, make phone calls and send SMS. Aside from serving as a safe place to save the pictures I took, my laptop stayed in my bag for most of the trip; it took too long to boot up and was difficult to use in the absence of a table. Although they are one of the finest inventions of the 20th century, laptops should be retired to the Museum of Obsolete Technology.
Given that I take my iPad and smartphone on most of my travels, I dream of a truly seamless integration between these two devices.
The photos I took on my phone should instantly be available on the big screen of the tablet, even when I have no Wi-Fi or 3G connections. I should be able to make phone calls with my iPad via the SIM card in my phone, just as I should be able to move applications from one device to another with a simple drag and drop. There are probably many other functions that could be invented to take into account the fact that my devices and I form a coherent ecosystem. Although many things are possible, they unfortunately aren’t seamless at all.
Bluetooth 4.0 has the potential to change all this. Without getting too technical, it will allow enabled devices to be in constant contact with each other within a 10 to 60 metre range all while consuming little power. While this was already possible via the cloud and previous versions of Bluetooth, it couldn’t run in the background and would drain the battery.
A tablet enabled with Bluetooth 4.0 will know if the paired phone has taken a new photo without any action performed by its owner. The tablet will become a TV set constantly waiting for the orders of the phone that would act as a remote control. Or, it can be used as a joystick and the tablet would become a console. One could reply via the tablet in the middle of a game to a SMS message received on the phones. The more we imagine applications for this new technology, the clearer it is that devices won’t continue to be independent.
Apple gives us a clue on when this could become real: in iOS 6, which will soon be launched with the new iPhone, Bluetooth 4.0 devices will have the ability to talk to each other in the background. This should motivate the imagination of “multi-devices” developers…
Read more from Jean Pascal at A Nos Vies Numériques.
I recently had the privilege of attending the An Event Apart conference in Washington, DC. Throughout the three days, there was one overarching theme: We need to be thinking about mobile. While I came into the conference expecting to gain a better understanding of Responsive Web Design (RWD), I came out of it with an even better appreciation for how we should approach mobile, content strategy, and their relationship to one another.
Mobile doesn’t mean a smaller screen – it’s simply another medium. Instead of trying to make content fit on mobile devices, we should be focusing on the content itself. Just because it’s displayed on a smaller screen, doesn’t mean we have to limit the content or lessen the user experience. In the US, more than half of mobile consumers access the Internet via their mobile devices; for some, a mobile device is the Internet. “[By omitting content] we’re treating mobile consumers as second-class citizens,” said Karen McGrane, Managing Partner at Bond Art + Science.
McGrane’s talk really struck a chord with me – we’ve been approaching mobile the wrong way. Before we even begin to think about components and layout, we need to consider our mobile content strategy. If we’re taking out content for mobile, then why was it there in the first place? A mobile-first approach forces us to re-evaluate our content and focus on what’s best for our users.
We’ve reached a point with technology where we no longer get to decide which device people use to access our content. This is precisely why we need to make our content better. If our content is great, it will transcend platforms.
When we create content, we shouldn’t be thinking about it living on a single platform; instead, we need to think of it as something independent that can be used in different ways (through APIs, etc.). The focus shouldn’t be on the final output, rather on its accessibility. Separating the presentation-layer from the content-layer will be difficult, but it’s a way of thinking we should all be adopting now. Only after doing so should we start thinking about design as an enhancement to the content.
To bring this method to an organization, the people and processes will have to change. Having separate mobile and desktop teams is the wrong approach as it creates an unnecessary divide. We need to have the entire team on the same page and work with the goal of bringing great content and experiences to all of our users. Luckily, there hasn’t been a better time than now to fix our processes and workflow.
In the words of McGrane, “We need to start doing mobile right, right from the start.”