Have you looked at your mobile phone today?


This is a pretty simple question. Did you look at your phone today? In other words, did you use it for something else other than making phone calls? What did you do? Did you just look up a contact in order to make a phone call? Did you check the time? Did you get or send an SMS Message? Did you take a picture? Did you view a web site? Did you play a game?

I always make the distinction between "looking at" your phone verses simply saying "using" it because it helps define the area that I'm mostly concentrating on. There are voice services and VoIP opportunities out there, I just don't know much about them (except for the little that I've written about here). What I'm mostly interested in is what happens when people are looking at their phone. This is the core of the "Shibuya Epiphany" right? So it's an importnt distinction to make.

At the end of the day I ask myself these questions above. Lately I haven't been looking at my phone much and it makes me wonder why not. I can make excuses like I've been at my desk more and haven't needed to use my phone, or there hasn't been a specific mobile context which demanded the use of my phone. This may be true, but I don't need much of a context to use my computer do I? I can browse the web, check email (my primary uses lately), write, play games, use IM, or a whole host of other apps. I can and do spend hours on my computer without needing any sort of excuse or context to do it. Television is also like this. I can sit down at my TV and spend hours, and I don't need to be much more than "in the mood" to watch television. What makes this connected multimedia device in my pocket any different?

I've got what is arguably the most powerful mobile phone in the world in my pocket. It's a 3G device with a variety of communications and media capabilities, yet it sat there for the past 72 hours with nary a button press. In *my* pocket. Why? Obviously there are other devices and offline activities (sleep, mostly) which are competing for my loving attention. And honestly there's also really a dearth of apps and content for the phone - I've played with most of what's available already (but that hasn't stopped me with fiddling with all that stuff before). But I think what the real reason I haven't used my phone is this idea of context.

Mobile phones still need that killer app which takes out the need for context. They need to get to the point where they are less devices that you use while out and about, and considered more destinations in their own right. In other words, the current crop of apps are mostly created with that "mobile context" in mind. So you could say I haven't looked at my phone lately because I haven't been moving much. This is wrong. It's limiting a platform which can potentially do anything that a small computer with broadband access can do. The person who comes up with the app that compels a person to use their phone without considering the fact that it's a phone is going to have a killer app on their hand. One could argue the opposite, that mobile phone apps *should* only be used in the mobile context, but I think that's too narrow minded.

Anyways, these are my thoughts on a daily basis. If you're developing mobile products or services, you have to ask yourself the same questions if you go a few days without messing with your phone. Why? And what can I do to change that?


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