Mobile and movement matters

flickr-ipods recharge

Summary: Location-aware applications continue to be one of the biggest growth areas for mobile scenarios. Putting motion into the mix will bring about a fresh round of innovative solutions

So the new iPhone announcements this week have been met with a resounding ‘meh’ from tech pundits and Wall Street. Whenever people start saying Apple has got it all wrong, there’s usually some valuable titbits in the details. And whilst a lot of focus has been on the colourful new iPhone 5C range that appears to be merging with the iPod Nano, the interesting innovation is unsurprisingly in the more expensive iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 5S includes a new capability called M7, a ‘motion coprocessor’. A motion coprocessor can track and log the motion of the phone with minimal battery use. This is significantly more efficient than the current methods that require apps to be running continuously in the background to record activities. Instead, it becomes possible for apps to simply read the log files when they are launched. Whilst the focus is on the impact to fitness apps, that’s just one narrow market. The world of work is increasingly going mobile and being able to adapt alerts, feedback and notifications based not just on location but also on current movements opens up new possibilities.

Whilst a lot of people talk about the visual and physical design of Apple devices, what impresses me more is the thought and detail that goes into designing everyday interactions.  An example I frequently give is that, when you are on a phone call, the simple act of moving the phone will reactivate the display with the keyboard displayed. It’s a simple thing. The chances are, if you are moving the phone away from your ear to look at it, you are talking to an automated system that requires you to key in something. If the display remains in sleep mode, you have to first activate it. On my previous phone (running Android), you had 2 buttons to pick from and a 50:50 chance of cancelling the call instead. The devil is always in the details.

Location-aware applications continue to be one of the biggest growth areas for mobile scenarios. Putting motion into the mix will bring about a fresh round of innovative solutions. And I am guessing we can expect to see the hardware move beyond the mobile phone to wearable devices, if/when Apple finally produces the long-rumoured iWatch. Google is already heading down that path with Google Glass. Yes, other companies have recently announced smart watches. But I’ve yet to see one a non-geek would want to wear. Apple continues to be the leader in designing for the mainstream and ignoring the technical and financial experts who think they know better.

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Flickr image at the start of this post: The Operating Table kindly shared by Blake Danger Bentley. I was looking for something to symbolise extended battery life but this was far too fun to not use instead

Mobile relationships and lifelines

Mobile use in Kwali

An interesting article over on the Harvard Business Review blog network, looking at the rising use of mobile devices for providing healthcare and financial advice to women in developing countries. One of the challenges faced – how to build relationships using a medium that involves non-visual clues.

And a great soundbite explains how one company is tackling traditions that can inhibit the use of mobile phones for women in some cultures:

“A lot of big organizations will say we need to get every woman a phone. But it’s not that simple. Women can get in trouble for having a phone — what we’re trying to do at FrontlineSMS is to make phones such useful tools that it becomes a financial liability for the family to not let the woman have a phone.”

I can’t add much to the article and recommend reading in full. Sharing it here because I love stories about new technologies making a positive difference in the world.


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Flickr image ‘User Testing in Kwali’ kindly shared by The Reboot