by Robert Seaton (published on Code Project October 21, 2011)
October 19, 2011
I read an interesting interview with Matias Duarte, Androidís head of user experience, this morning. The article was pretty good, but thatís not what I want to talk about. This is what I want to talk about:
ďWhat we heard from everyone we talked to in the study was that they love these things (smartphones), they are a part of their lives. Theyíre incredibly passionate about them. They canít live without them. That was awesome. But we also heard a lot of things we didnít like to hear.Ē
This makes me sad because I feel like Iím supposed to love my smartphone, and I donít.
See, Iím a geek Ė or a nerd or a technologist or what-have-you Ė and my life is fundamentally centered around interactions with computers, but hereís the thing: I donít really a give a shit about my smartphone. My relationship with my smartphone is just plain shallow, decidedly so when compared with how I feel about my desktop or MacBook.
Actually, you know what, I hate my smartphone.
Before you start foaming at the mouth, gentle reader, my smartphone is running Android and not iOS, but Ė before owning an Atrix Ė I owned an iPhone 3G, and I hated that, too. This isnít about iOS vs Android. I hate them both.
Now, Iím not saying that my smartphone isnít useful. It is. My computer, though, isnít just useful. It changes the way I interact with everything. If I felt the same way about my computer as I do about my Android device, I would be thinking ďwell, at least I donít have to use the phonebook to look this up.Ē
I love computers, but hate my smartphone.
Itís not that I donít know how to use my smartphone. Itís true that I donít know the full potential of the device: all the touch gestures, useful applications, power user stuff, but, really, what is there to it? You can call people, browse the web, take photos, send text messages, and play Angry Birds.
The block that I have is: I canít do anything useful with a smartphone! I canít do work with it. Text input is just a huge pain and the screen is too small to do any useful reading. Itís portable, sure, but Iíd always rather use a PC or laptop than a smartphone, if given the option.
When Iím sitting on the couch, I donít pull out my smartphone. I open up my MacBook. When I want to browse the web, I use my MacBook. If Iím going to do some writing, like this post, I donít use my smartphone, I use my MacBook. When coding or listening to music, I use my desktop.
I do use my smartphone to browse the web, on occasion, so thereís that, but itís whenever I donít have my laptop or desktop handy. I only interact with one site at a time, and itís just not very pleasant. It feels very limited, not at all empowering.
The rest of the ways that I interact with my smartphone, theyíre all social and, as an introvert, it just doesnít hold a whole lot of appeal for me. My text messaging skill and finesse, especially when compared to my typing ability, itís pathetic. I hate trying to input text on the device, especially complex passwords: what a pain!
The least excusable failing of Android and iOS, Iíve realized while writing this, is that I canít move from what Iím working on with my MacBook or desktop and then to my smartphone. That would be great, even if the transition between form factors would maybe be a little awkward. Imagine if you could just resume your browsing session on your laptop or desktop from your phone.
After all, the desktop and laptop markets, theyíre going to go the way of the workstation (and the dodo). They might remain in certain niches but, fundamentally, those markets are going to be disrupted by more portable options. The desktop market is already disappearing, cannibalized by laptops. Thatís why IBM got out of the PC market.
Weíre going to keep the laptop form factor for a while, I believe, but I think that theyíll just be shells that you plug your smartphone into. The keyboard as input is still the best tool for the job, thus far, and there will always be a market for devices with screens larger than 4.2Ē, so it doesnít make sense for that form factor to disappear.
Thatís where Android and iOS should be headed: integration with the OS, empowering users, providing the means to create meaningful works on these devices. Computing isnít just consuming media and talking with your friends!