Tag Archives: UX

Don’t be fooled – The Race for Mobile Dominance

When the US elections were taking place, there were a number of topics which caused the US public to either get really annoyed, or behind in support, however some of these topics were perceived as smokescreens to get people to invest their time in one matter, whilst the offending party was forging ahead with their real agenda.

Much the same can be said about the state of today’s mobile phone market. The announcement of the Samsung Galaxy S4 is anticipated mid-March 2013 and there is debate about the next iPhone (iPhone 5S). In either case, much conversation has focused in on the hardware specs and screen size.

What’s really important

Whilst having a processor that’s capable of handling function, storage memory sufficient to accommodate photos, videos, apps and music and form that allows the phone to be both of a quality build, handled comfortably and screen size appropriate to needs there are a couple of really important things to consider:

The Operating System

Given that we as consumers appreciate and are more critical of the User Experience (and User Interface), having an operating system that looks and feels intuitive and can be adaptable to your own use of the device is essential. Neither Android nor IOS are yet there, with IOS being somewhat now overdue a UI/UX refresh and Android being plagued by layers of OEM fluff (e.g. MotoBlur, HTC Touch) to confuse the user experience.

Another example of this shortcoming is being able to share to your preferred social network should just be an option, regardless of network. Typically being able to share content from an IOS device to Google+ is more difficult than Facebook – but why is that? I as a user prefer to be able to define my social networks, not be constrained.

[UPDATE: Andy Parry brings the Ubuntu mobile OS to my attention – see this – this is exactly what i’m talking about how the UX should be more like]

The Phone

I’ve mentioned this before; the mobile phone needs to be revamped totally in the experience; not only a good sensor, but also the ability to create more useful metadata such as learning different faces so that it would be possible to then retrieve all the photos of Uncle Dave (person metadata), taken in Chicago (GPS metadata) last Autumn (time/date metadata), near Sears Tower (GPS metadata).

Also the actual holding and storage of a phone needs to be considered; I like the iPhone 4/4S for its compact size, yet it still manages to deliver a solid feel and also very view able screen.

The battery life

It’s all well and good having a powerful phone with an amazing screen, but it’s totally negated if you don’t have the battery life. I feel almost certain that the maximum brightness on phones, whilst very appealing, is hardly used by many due to the battery consumption – effectively rendering it a sales medium. When we start to have efficient batteries and components that consume them, then we have a truly adoptable phone.


Of course, this is skimming the surface, but the point is, don’t be fooled by the processor power etc. Think about the application of the phone to you. Would having a Galaxy S3 vs. S4 make a difference  Maybe, if you’re an avid photograper. However if you’re just browsing facebook, youtube, etc. it may not be of discernible difference (depending on the battery life)… case in point I have an iPhone 4 – initially a temporary phone until the iPhone 5 came out, but after due consideration, cost and features were not quite enough to upgrade for upgrades sake, based off my use.

User Experience (UX) and the Car

Technology has crossed the barrier of the few to the many, where mobile phones now have the ability to take a picture, access the internet, contact someone else anywhere in the world using a variety of methods (text, IM, voice, VOIP); televisions now come Internet ready and video/audio streaming is becoming the norm. Even the terminology has gained acceptance in everyday – MP3, streaming, torrents, IM are all terms that are heard and understood more and more.

Yet many of these technological advances would have had a harder time gaining traction if it wasn’t for User Experience (UX).

Apple – The UX company

Apple Computers is a leading UX company – not just through their software, but through everything they do:

  • Marketing – Apple started in the music and high-end art / marketing groups and slowly propagated through those channels (where as Microsoft went to the Business market). The channels chosen are more exclusive – i.e. you have to have a good product, otherwise you fail quicker – but conversely, you will be held with respect if your products do hold up and the user experience is great.
  • Products – Having owned several Apple products myself, it’s clear that Apple takes great pains to make sure the product won’t fall apart the day after your warranty runs out. From the iPod, iPhone, iPad and Mac ranges, everything exudes quality.
  • Support – AppleCare is a huge success with its’ userbase because they offer straightforward replacement/repair should things go wrong, There’s less of the fine print that goes on with many other warranties, so that when things do go wrong, you don’t have to face getting past a policy or person in order to get things working again.
  • Interconnected – If you own several Apple products, you’ll notice they’re designed to work with each other (or at least that the idea). Got iTunes? (in theory) Your iPod, iPad, AppleTV can all work from one iTunes repository. You can stream content from your Mac computer to your AppleTV…

UX in your Car

As you can see from our Apple example, User Experience permeates everything they do; it’s not an extension of their products and services, it’s part and parcel – there is no separation. In order for the general public to accept a more leading edge technology based product, it must have great user experience and Apple undersands this more than most.

However when we look at the typical car, User Experience has not taken the same strides; That’s not to say there haven’t been advancements and considerations, but they’re more from the extension of the car, rather than being part of the car.

Simple Things Make All The Difference

Take for example heated front windows – if you’ve ever had a car with them and have found yourself in the middle of winter with a frozen windshield, you’ll know how thankful you are that you either don’t have to get out and scrape the window, or sit there waiting for the car to warm up in order to clear the window. I had one a 2002 Ford Focus, yet my current cars (Ford Mustang and Mazda Tribute) do not (and it wasn’t even an option for the Mustang – and I don’t believe it was for the Mazda either). You would think that 10 years on, car companies would have grasped that these types of features would be standard as part of a total User Experience. You can also extend that into other “extras” such as heated wing mirrors, boots/trunks and doors that open and close themselves, climate control, self-adjusting seats/steering wheels, etc.

When you also consider that many people now have their cell / mobile phone as an extension of themselves (it’s always there, always connected, always referred to), that the car should be considerate of this fact and be linked up to the phone – That is to say,  when the driver sits down and plugs their phone into a dock (wouldn’t it be great if docking stations were one size fits all including the connector!?!), or connect via Bluetooth (or similar) it knows their preferences for seating, climate, wing mirrors, the radio presets they favoured, the playlists they liked and connected them so they could make handsfree calls. Not only that, but it would be intelligent enough to use GPS, weather and traffic reports to help the driver understand if there would be any delays etc. and offer alternatives.

“My car already does that”

There are after-market players looking to solve some of these things, but there is no interconnectedness between any two manufacturers. Equally car manufacturers are looking at some / all of these types of additions, but rather than considering the User Experience, they’re addressed as premium extras.

Whilst I believe that there needs to be a premium model line for certain extras, there is no reason why some common user needs aren’t addressed as standard on many cars. And it isn’t just limited to the electronics of cars; simple things like seatbelts that don’t require you to reach back, oil filters and spark plugs that are easily accessible (I had a Buick that had to be hoisted up to access 3 of the spark plugs), folding seats that don’t require you to work out how to use them, storage capability that is well thought out, how the car adapts to you (and feels connected to you) etc should all be part of the Car User Experience. The car manufacturer that acknowledges that is one that will succeed over the majority.

Who Are The Players?

Right now there are a few to watch out for; for total quality vs feature it’s limited to a handful. The one that really stands out for me is Ford Motor Co.; they have worked significantly on the quality of their car and with the introduction of the Ford Sync they lead the way with in-car features. Kia and Hyundai are also making significant advances in their products, but neither has yet to completely adopt the right approach.

That being said, I don’t believe one car manufacturer has yet to embrace UX across all aspects of its’ products. It won’t be long until the public starts to demand a new standard of motor vehicle which integrates with other devices and adapts to the driver/passengers. Time will tell how the motor industry adapts to the new way of thinking; let’s hope given their lack of progress with the internal combustion engine that UX doesn’t face the same trials.