Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone: One Man's View

A look at the pros and cons of the iPhone ...

"DDJ: We're here with Scott Silk, president of Action Engine.

Scott, as head of a company that's been involved with mobile applications in the on-device portal space for several years, what's your 30,000 foot snapshot of Apple's iPhone?

SS: One look at the mobile data features of the iPhone reveals that Apple took many of its usability cues from the On-Device Portal (ODP) companies that have been optimizing mobile application usability for years. The first thing users see when they turn on an iPhone is an ODP into a handful of widgets, the mobile applications that deliver pre-packaged rich content. Widgets set the iPhone apart, and they will be key to the iPhone user experience.

DDJ: What are some of the iPhone advantages?

SS: The iPhone homepage establishes one central on-device portal for accessing all of Apple's rich content and standalone widgets. By establishing a consistent look-and-feel across all of the iPhone widgets, Apple elevates its brand. No matter which widget they use, users get the same user experience, navigation, and look and feel. The on-device portal approach enables Apple to "own" the end-to-end user experience on the phone.

By letting users drag-and-drop-and-touch, Apple eliminated as many keystrokes as possible to discover and access rich content. This, I believe, is a smart move, considering a simple music download from a carrier portal can take 18 to 39 clicks to execute. That's a huge usability hindrance as most people abandon such activities after six clicks.

To further ease data entry, iPhone widgets also connect with the Personal Information Manager (PIM) software on the phone. This enables users to quickly email or text content to a friend. They can grab addresses from their contacts and use them inside widgets to reduce data entry -- a key feature of any on-device portal application.

The iPhone also remembers recent requests. Search for stocks using the stock widget, and the requests will be stored, eliminating the need to reenter the same information later. Similarly, by offering personalization features in the widgets, Apple prevents repeat data entry.

When the iPhone displays content, an "action bar" at the bottom of the screen provides further options for using the content. (e.g., find an address for a restaurant, then map door-to-door directions to the restaurant, then get current traffic conditions.) Okay, maybe it's not called an "action bar" -- that's what we call ours -- but it's cool. Nice job Apple!

Finally, iPhone will offer music, streaming video, podcasts, movies, YouTube, and more. Nobody does multimedia better than Apple, and dedicated applications are the best way to deliver these services."    (Continued via Dr. Dobb's)    [Usability Resources]

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