Drawing conclusion from the actions of a single individual is not very good research, but draw your own conclusions from this little anecdote.
My boss at work till very recently owned a Nokia N95 – despite all it’s gee whiz features, he primarily used it for two things – phone calls and taking photos of his 1 month old son. I don’t think I ever saw him use the web-browser, GPS or even the music player.
A few months back, he went back home to India for a holiday and his N95 was stolen. His relatives convinced him to pick up an iPhone as a replacement. Overnight, he becomes a geek.
I meant that last sentence. A few weeks in, he starts regularly pulling out his iPhone at lunch to check the Sensex via the Stocks Widget (( I remember all the geeks who reviewed the phone initially wondering why Apple has put this “dumb” thing in)). He would do this despite the fact that he did not have a data plan and was using the Pay-As-You-Go service – which is incredibly expensive!
Next, he asks me how to unlock the phone after he upgraded to the 1.1.3 firmware. I google around and send him a few links, but figure it’s too technical for a non-techie like him. A few weeks later, he shows me his “upgraded” iPhone – not only has he upgraded to 1.1.3 and unlocked his phone, he has scoured the Web for iPhone applications that would unlock the functionality he really wanted – digital zoom in the camera and MMS. But along the way, he had found other applications that were just “neat” – a converter that could use the Web to get up to the minute exchange rates, games that use the accelerometer and a photo editor. He also tells me he’s actively considering getting a data plan, since he’s using the Net so much now.
There are few things that really struck me from watching this transformation:
1. The importance of putting functionality front and center in mobile UI – Looking up things on the Net with the iPhone is one click. Finding the browser on the N95 would involve navigating a menu tree 4 levels deep. It’s no surprise that a lot of people never use the N95 as anything but a phone.
2. The killer app for data on a mobile phone is not a single app – it’s the whole package. If data usage is seamlessly built into the whole OS and offers a compelling benefit to the average user, they will buy in. (( Ref: The iPhone’s market-share of the mobile browser market ))
3. Not so much a conclusion as a prediction – The iPhone App Store is going to be HUGE – and it’s going to take off much much faster than anyone thinks. My boss is the classic average IT user – comfortable with office productivity applications and basic internet usage and nothing else. Yet, he spent hours searching for applications to get more out of his iPhone. Now he’s told there is a way to easily search and install apps on his phone – with no fear of bricking his phone. I guarantee you he would have pulled out his credit card before you can say “legal iPhone apps” 🙂 . Multiply that by a few million and you can see Apple declaring another monster quarter for revenue and profits.
Recession? What Recession?