Archive for January, 2009

The inauguration last Tuesday was a historic moment for the nation. We were excited to be able to experience it on our mobile devices in addition to the usual (TV and web streaming) means. We viewed a live stream of the event on the iphone via a new application called Ustream. While the app performed reasonably well under what I can only assume were challenging conditions, the results still suggested that mass live mobile streaming isn’t quite ready for prime time. Here are some of the highlights and lowlights of the mobile experience:

+ The app downloaded quickly, and worked
+ The picture was clear
+ Sound quality was good
+ Multiple streaming options were presented
+ We were able to connect to the CNN stream even when the web version wasn’t accepting any more watchers

- The app required frequent screen touches or it would time out and lock the phone.
- As the oath approached, the stream stopped running smoothly, and began buffering.
- During the oath, the app actually crashed. Had we not also been streaming the event to laptops, we would have missed the whole oath. Continue Reading »

This week’s Carnival (number 158) is posted at VoIPSurvivor, and features our “Future Directions for Tactile Feedback” article. Other highlights from this week’s lengthy carnival post: a list of ‘mobile 2.0′ resources from mjelly, and a compelling post on the importance of UI frameworks to innovation, from Vision Mobile. It’s a huge and diverse Carnival this week.

Peter Odum

Future Directions for Tactile Feedback

A variety of devices currently on the market provide simple forms of touch feedback, but none is an unqualified success - they all lack some aspect of physical experience, a correspondence with the way we actually interact with the world. Current tactile solutions fall short either in reconfigurability or in pre-interaction feedback. This pre-interaction feedback would provide the physical feeling of a button which the user can press or not, rather than just a tactile confirmation that they have just pressed that button. Reconfigurability would allow physically felt controls to change with the content of the display. In short, it’s easy to make static physical buttons, but not to make them disappear when not needed. And it’s easy to provide a physical sensation after the user interacts, but not to provide buttons that can be physically felt *before* the interaction is committed.

Several tactile feedback solutions have been proposed, explored in concepts, and in some cases brought to market to try make tactile feedback more realistic.

Continue Reading »

These two BBC stories are a pretty interesting read, especially in tandem:

Smartphones drive mobile markets
“There is no doubt that 2008 was the year of the smartphone… The last 12 months has seen the launch of iconic devices such as the iPhone 3G, Google G1, Blackberry Storm and Nokia N97. ”

New phone features ‘baffle users’
“The complexity of modern mobile phones is leaving users frustrated and angry, research suggests… Some 61% of those interviewed in the UK and US said setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts… Compiled by mobile firm Mformation, the survey found 85% of users reporting they were frustrated by the difficulty of getting a new phone up and working. ” Continue Reading »

// Using your thumb to press doorbells? You’re part of the new vanguard.

People over 25 tend to use their index finger to ring doorbells. But the BBC reports that amongst the younger generation wherever texting is prevalent, the dominant finger used for this task has shifted. “Where texting is happening they use the thumb,” Anand Chandrasekher, head of Intel’s ultra mobility group, told BBC News at CES.” This pattern suggests our overall physical behaviors can and do shift as our habitual interactions with technology change.

// Asia-Pac to have 564 Million 3G subs by 2013

A new report issued by Frost & Sullivan in Singapore finds that “there were an estimated 5.2 million mobile broadband dongle and datacard users in Asia-Pac (18 countries) in 2008, with corresponding billings of over US$1.3 billion.” By that date, a third of all broadband connections are expected to be via 3G dongles. The report goes on to suggest that the region’s 3G subscriber base will top 564 million by 2013, to make up about 18 percent of all mobile users. China and India make up the bulk of the expected increase, as prices continue to decline and technological factors improve.

// In the mobile world, you can catch the inauguration from anywhere

Regardless of your politics, the presidential inauguration tomorrow is a historic occasion. With this in mind, Lifehacker has compiled a comprehensive list of sources of information and actual live streams of the inauguration festivities tomorrow, including numerous websites and some phone-specific resources. See the full list here.

Peter Odum

Carnival of the Mobilists No. 156

This week’s Carnival (number 156) is posted at, and features our “Designing for Travellers” article. Other highlights: “First, Do No Harm”, a great article from Little Springs Design reminding designers that features meant to delight one set of users can often harm the experience for others. Well worth a look.

Peter Odum

Mobile User Insights: Design for Travel

Travel changes what we ask of our mobile devices

Traveling isn’t the same as being mobile. Being ‘mobile’ is routine. The commute is all about everyday mobility. Traveling by contrast is about changing your personal context, sometimes radically. Travel changes how devices get used. A recent trip I took to Chile yielded some particular insights about mobile devices and travel.

Continue Reading »