What's next for the mobile UI?

Industry's wisest heads ponder. We take notes.

What about other users?

There was much collective chewing of the cud over what would happen to the rest of the market - the 80 per cent of people who don't buy flash touchscreen bling. This poses a bit of a problem for designers - these are really phones that also do a bit of data. (Or none at all). By contrast an iPhone or an Android phone is a computer that does a bit of phone. Would everyone succumb to the touchscreen? Not if they were only interested in making phone calls.

INQ_Chat_3G

INQ's Chat is already a Facebook phone, and bears the Zuckerberg seal of approval

INQ has been linked with reports that it would create "appliance"-style devices based around a particular service, or use. A few weeks ago it was Facebook. More recently rumours have circulated that INQ is creating a Spotify phone. (Hutchison, which owns INQ, has invested in Spotify; INQ's CEO sits on the Spotify board).

Ken Johnstone didn't comment, but there's a precedent. The Japanese market already caters to service-branded or appliance style phones, and a few attendees thought it might be tried here, to unlock a few more pennies of value from punters who are fans of a service, but find the mega-touchscreen devices overkill.

For my part I thought fashions might be cyclical. Today, there's terrific consumer excitement about smartphones - so much so, that punters are prepared to overlook issues such as battery life and call quality. It's all shiny and new. But I for one have forsworn the picking up any of the current generation of smartphones - amazing as they are - because of battery life and call quality issues. Not one model has a compelling feature over last year's iPhone 3GS, and for phone calls I've reverted this battered old Nokia.

One participant quoted research which showed that 60 per cent of iPhone users never downloaded an app. If people get more stroppy about demanding the smartphones do the basics, things could get complicated (for the vendors, not for us).

Industry attendees agreed that battery life was only going to become more of an issue. The telcos had encouraged us to pick up cheap 3G dongles - only to throttle back when we actually started using them. One mobile network executive said games were the biggest sleeper issue. Games would only become more bandwidth-intensive.

At around this point Healey pulled out something from his pocket, as a reminder that network speed is every bit a "user experience" issue as eye candy.

His other phone was an iPhone, but because it was on the O2 network, and the O2 network sucked, the iPhone may as well be one of these half the time.

A UPG

This is a UPG created by Stuckist artist Richard Conway-Jones. UPG stands for useless palm gadget.

For all the talk of appliances, there are so many everyday things that are still impossible or really hard to do on a mobile. Like shopping, or sharing music legally. A bit more design effort to optimise the phone around one of these (say shopping) might pay dividends.

That's if Apple hasn't got to it first. Apple does of course occasionally claim to have invented something that's been around for ages - like video conferencing. But it also has a knack of cracking on, and implementing something the rest of the industry sits around and talks about for years. And Nokia, yes - I'm looking at you. ®

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