Beyond the smart phone

Rob Borley
on 13 September 2011

Following on from last weeks post from Kev about how the size of the device really does matter I have found myself considering how I actually use my devices. While I was aware that use of my laptop had changed since I started using an iPhone I was quite surprised to realised that my usage of my iPhone had radically changed since I started using an iPad.

The arrival of smart phones and, more specifically, “Apps”, has led to the usage of mobile devices expanding far beyond even what happened with the initial arrival of the camera (feature) phone. Walk along any high street in any town and you will see people walking along, head down, tapping an a screen. However, it is emerging that while you can use your smart phone for many things, and that there is indeed an “app for that”, you may not want to use your smart phone when you have a viable alternative.

Smart phones are now number one

Smart phones, for the first time, have now out shipped feature phones. They are well and truly mainstream tech. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to not buy a smart phone. It’s the default sale. Smart phones are now, simply, mobiles phones. Everybody will soon have one. You might think, therefore, that getting you services onto a phone is a must. But there is a newer arrival that is complicating the landscape.

Tablets (such as iPad) have put a huge dent in the sales of other types of PC. For many light computer users they are a viable alternative to a PC while other, heavier users, are looking to augment their PC with a tablet. As one such user I own a smart phone, a tablet, and a laptop PC and I have found my usage of each device has changed as a result.

When I first started using a smart phone I used it for everything. Web surfing, email, social network, games and reading the news. I found that it was much more convenient, not only when I was out and about, but when I was at home. Rather than turn on my laptop I could use my iPhone. It was better suited to some tasks that others; writing long emails could be a pain for example, but it was so much more convenient that using my laptop that I put up with it. Not any longer.

Now I have a tablet. My iPad is much better suited to reading and writing email or taking notes in a meeting. Surfing the web on the sofa is a breeze with my tablet and would choose this experience every time over the inconvenience of switching on my laptop or the small screen of my iPhone. Reading books or magazines, again, is now a job for the iPad. The iPhone is now reserved for tasks when mobility is all important. Tweeting, posting photos, reading news, yes, but only on the move, maybe on public transport.

One device does not fit all

From one device fits all we have started the journey towards the use of specific devices being dependent on task and context. It is no longer good enough to simply publish a smart phone app. We need to think a little more deeply about it.

My three devices have three very specific roles. My laptop is the work horse. Writing serious documents and any kind of creative work where I will be doing something for an extended period of time. My tablet is for day to day use. Reading, writing quick messages, taking notes, etc. My smart phone is used for convenience while on the go. It’s becoming increasingly important to know and understand these device differences. Your apps can be tailored for each context and for each task. Apps for smart phones, tablets and increasingly desktop / laptop PCs with the arrival of the Mac App Store and forthcoming Windows 8 Market Place mean that you can tailor the experience for each device. Not only is your tablet not just a big smart phone, it’s also not a small PC. They are different, and need to be treated as such.

When considering app development for your organisation you will, of course, start with a smart phone in mind. However, it’s worth being open to the possibility this may not be the right device for your customers.

Cross device winners and losers?

Do you have any thoughts on tablet apps that should have been redesigned when imported from the smart phone? Or have you come across any great examples of smart phone to tablet conversions?


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