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Has mobile reached its limit?

By , on March 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

Beeper. Flip phone. Sliding keyboard (R.I.P. my sweet Sidekick). iPhone. Skinnier iPhone. Bigger iPhone?! Blackberry. Tablet. Fablet. iPad. Surface? Watch?

From throwbacks to current industry leaders, mobile devices have transformed modern day communication.

While undisputed as our go-to, on-the-go tools, mobile might be hitting a wall when it comes to doing real work.

What do I mean by real work? Editing more than a tweet. I’m talking about large text bodies where the implications of a single typo are quite serious.

There’s certainly a psychology to working on your phone, where the realities of circumstance dictate the type of work that can be accomplished. For deep thought, mobile is never the preferred choice, and it almost always conveys a certain level of inattention. So is it a vicious circle? We do bad/less important work on mobile because it’s mobile and a little bit…harder? Maybe.

It’s also interesting that many people prefer working with a mouse over a laptop track pad. On the far end of that spectrum, many visual or user experience designers employ styluses to gain greater precision over their work. Some people hate styluses, others love them—it’s a personal preference. And, preference is important to acknowledge here—doing work is not the same for everyone, so there might not be one solution for everyone.

However, there are a few, ingredients at play—human hands, styluses, computer mice, keypads, touch screens and other buttons. Now consider size. Mobile in its current form is always going to be smaller compared to the old laptop-connected-to-large-monitor setup.

These devices blur the line, but don’t solve the problem by addressing why bigger (combined with more physical dexterity) seems to be better. Devices are inherently limited by their own forms—so how can we move beyond form to extend a device’s reach. Projection? 3D printing? Make everything out of screens?

Enter the Apple Watch, “the most personal product apple has ever made.” You’ve already read about it. But, the Apple Watch presents us with an even more fragmented communication landscape where emojis and texts (initiated by voice command) are deployed more interchangeably than ever before.  This will be yet another example of a smaller device reducing communication elements to their more basic forms (while further accelerating frequency of sharing). But we run into the same problem: reading, editing and exchanging dense content across devices. The Apple Watch certainly doesn’t address this!

Solving this problem is a massive opportunity. How can you tell there’s a lot at stake? Mobile devices are getting larger and smaller at the same time, revealing a clear disagreement on what’s working. Brands copy other brands when one really, obviously nails it. That isn’t happening any more—the market is getting over saturated by duplicate products with overlapping feature sets.

Mobile might have reached its limit right now, but its future is up for grabs.

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Categories: Industry News