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THOUGHT: How much Smart Phone do you need?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 25.07.03 - 10:34:57 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 6892x
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As you know, for some weeks now I'm selling the Windows Powered HTC Tanager here from PPCW.Net and the experience I made during these weeks are impressive. Mostly I wonder how much Smart Phone, features and PC functionalities a cell phone should/could include making a user happy but not overstraining him.

I'm working in the GSM industry since 1993 and therefore I grew up with terminals. While my first cell phone - a Nokia 1011 - was a great phone those days, it was - compared to today - a dumb machine. It was good enough for making and receiving voice calls but I even wasn't able to call my mailbox; simply because in these days the carriers hadn't voice mail systems in their networks… :-)

Then we got SMS - first as notification for new voice mail messages (MT = Mobile Terminated), later we was able to send SMS messages from one to another handset (MO = Mobile Originated).

After we went through the SMS hype (which is still a growing business) we went to introduce WAP (yes, I was part of WAP as the product manager and business developer for WAP at O2 and it's nothing I have to excuse for ;-) - I believed in WAP and still believe in it. PDA formatted web sites are nothing different but the technology wasn't mature enough (we had no GPRS which makes WAP more convenient today) and the industry introduced a small part of WAP only; something really useful WTAI (Wireless Telephony Application Interface) which increase the comfort of making and receiving voice calls was never introduced, unfortunately) and this was the phase for me where I started to realize that the GSM industry is introducing technologies and services the user isn't used to use.

Today, we have MMS, i-Mode, Vodafone Live, T-Mobile T-Zones, O2 Active and smart devices like Microsoft's Smartphones or Nokia Series 60 and I really wonder how much off all this stuff is really used by customers?

In fact - and that's an interesting experience - I get a lot of feedback from PPCW.Net i-Mate users who ran into troubles with functionalities of their Smartphone. For instance first time switching on the i-Mate. Since it is flashed with the latest ROM switching on might takes some time and it needs several reboots to initialize correct. If you interrupt the phone during this phase it crashes and you have to hard reset it. While hard resetting a Pocket PC or even Smartphone isn't that big deal for gadget geeks, MVPs or Microsoft employees, the normal user isn't used to hard reset a GSM phone.

Also the mass of functionalities seems to completely overload a user; best example is my girlfriend. While she is a complete GSM fan (she even doesn't have a fixed line at home but her mobile phone only) all the features, functionalities and different GUIs makes her such nervous, that she is currently using 20 % of all features only.

What I'm not wanted here is to complain the Microsoft Smartphone platform or even the Nokia Series 60 platform (I gave here - just for comparison a Nokia 7650 and she ran into the same problems). No, the simple question I ask is how much features a user want to have today and if he is really using all the futures he asked before. Also I wonder how much a user expects a PC in his phone and how long it takes that users find it normal to have such intelligent and feature rich devices in the pocket.

What is you experience with that kind of feature and smart phones? Do you own one and why did you bought it? Do you use all the features you have asked for/the phone offers you or do you reduce your smart phone to a normal cell phone at the end of the day?

Cheers ~ Arne


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Posted by greenmozart on 25.07.03 - 16:19:20

I think for the normal user it has everything to do with the UI.  Anyone NOT in the group you mentioned (enthusiasts, MVPs, gadget-freaks, etc) is usually too scared or ignorant to know what lies beneath the screen they happen to be looking at.  If the UI is written well it will be easy for them to find what features are available to them without having to dig through the menus.  Of course, this doesn't do ANYTHING to convince them to USE these advanced features, but at least it puts it in front of them so they can decide for themselves without having to get a degree in computer science.  smile

Posted by jctune on 25.07.03 - 18:42:33


You're right on.  My wife is looking for a new phone.  All she wants is something that makes calls - that's it.  After I got my smartphone, I spent about 1/2 an hour showing her everything it would do.  Nothing excited her until I showed her the fact that I could have her picture pop up when she called - then she was convinced that it was worth it.

I think that the bottom line is that everyone has a different need for their phone.  For me, it's the need for one device with good PIM functions and wireless capabilities (as I'm on the road a lot).  So the difficulty for hardware and software vendors is this.. do they create one device with all the features, knowing that each customer is only going to use 20% of those features (albeit a different 20%), or do they create 10 different devices that do different things (which seems to be Nokia's model).

The difficulty as well is enterprise support.  I'd love to use the exchange server sync functionality, but the only wireless provider my company supports is the blackberry.  If my wife could ditch her blackberry and get the same functionality in her phone, she'd probably do it in a heartbeat (too bad the existing blackberry phone's form factor is poor).

Posted by greenmozart on 25.07.03 - 19:48:43

Coming from an IT perspective, I know I'd rather develop lots of apps for one device rather than one app for lots of devices.  If all I had was one platform to work on then I could concentrate on building valuable and diverse applications instead of spending all my time designing various devices to run those applications separately.  That also benefits the market as it gives the consumer a choice of applications they can choose to install or run without having to buy a new device because theirs doesn't support the app they want.  Seems like the only logical choice from a consumer standpoint - although I'm sure the manufacturers <cough>Nokia</cough> would prefer to reap the profits from selling all those devices instead of letting the software developers get a piece of the action.

Posted by M. Lawrence on 28.07.03 - 18:29:24

Coming from a power user perspective, I agree the UI is key.  The top UI must be simple to use and allow the user to access the basic functionality quickly and easily.  But the smartphone for me is about a mobile office.  I love my laptop, but when I have to run to meetings, and pass in and out of airport security, it is much easier having to carry only a phone, than a laptop.  Give me the Ora keyboard, and I can type up meeting notes on the plane or at the airport lounge to be downloaded to my computer later.  Give me the ability to review smaller excel and power point presentations, and we are really in business.  What I need as a power user is full Outlook functionality in a phone.  That includes notes, e-mail access, and all the features currently integrated.

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