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User Experience Design for Mobile Gadgets

The global mobile phone handset market is about to undergo a major change during the next five years, providing handset vendors and component suppliers with opportunities to reshape consumers' understanding of mobile devices, mobile computing, and mobile connectivity, according to an In-Stat market study.

Four key factors that the high tech market research firm expects to shape handsets in the coming five years include the trailblazing Apple iPhone; alternative wireless networks, such as Wi-Fi and WiMAX; mobile video and television applications; and more corporate account subscriptions.

"These influences will have a powerful effect on the design of mobile devices, as well as the semiconductors and applications used in them," says David Chamberlain, In-Stat analyst.

I believe that the future direction of "integrated media" apps on mobile devices will be significantly influenced by user experience and user interface designers that apply ethnographic research techniques to uncover the remaining usability barriers that inhibit device adoption.

Based upon my own consulting work with researching mobile phone device configuration and management issues, I acknowledge that we were trapped in the early-adopter stage of market development -- crossing that chasm to mainstream users is long overdue.

The transition clearly requires fresh thinking. The prior design tweaks and adjustments that were made to multimedia phones and smartphones haven't met many users needs. The iPhone launch opened the door to an environment where designers can finally free themselves from prior constructs and re-imagine the device previously known as a mobile phone.

That said, what we really need is truly "open platform" mobile gadgets that will push the limits of on-the-go communication and entertainment possibilities -- from an applications perspective -- and thereby enable independent software developers to explore this new frontier. The Apple iPhone is a notable milestone at the beginning of this new journey, but it's not the destination.

In-Stat's market study found the following:

- The iPhone introduced a number of technologies that were not yet common in mobile phones including touch screens and acceleration and proximity sensors.

- Both business and consumer users are expected to drive development of dual-mode cellular/Wi-Fi handsets.

- Deployment of mobile broadcast networks (e.g., DVB-H and MediaFLO), as well as other sources of video for mobile devices, will require changes to handset applications, semiconductors, and displays to provide the best viewing experience.

- WiMAX could lead to a new generation of "open access" networks and associated devices that combine cellular phone and Internet functions in new creative ways.

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