Shaping The Future: Six Characteristics Shaping Mobile Experiences
Historically we’ve considered “mobile experiences” to be experiences for consumers on the move. For instance, I consider the Sony Walkman to be my very first mobile experience. I created mix tapes and consumed them whenever, and wherever I wanted. Suddenly the experience of listening to music was no longer tethered to a speaker and an outlet, but was now completely independent of time and place. This transformed experience engaged both the creation and consumption of content.
Fast forwarding to today, most people think of mobile experiences as interactions with smartphones or tablets. In the last year this notion has begun to change dramatically and today we are at one of those critical mass moments where the old isn’t necessarily dying, but rather being redefined.
Our understanding of mobility has developed as we’ve discovered the possibilities of technology and how we can take part in shaping the future — a future where there is unlimited potential in how we as humans connect with the world around us.
Today we are consuming more data than ever before and we’re more connected to ourselves and to our communities than at any other time in history.
Thanks to AT&T, young children can now be tethered to FiLIP, a smart-watch that keeps kids and their parents connected to one another by giving them the ability to text and call one another. We are so incredibly connected to each other and to the things around us. We can close our garage door when we’re not at home. We can start our cars simply by having our keys in our pockets. My appliances can alert me when they need my attention. My watch can tell me the time (seriously it can), but it can also tell me when my next meeting is or that i’ve been sitting too long or even give me recommendations for a better night’s sleep based on my sleeping patterns.
Whether we see it or not, the foundation for the future is already here. So as we try to navigate the oncoming rush of new design challenges, it may help to take a step back and have a look at six identifying characteristics that are shaping the future of mobile experiences.
- Context Aware: Mobile experiences today are contextual in nature. This means that mobile apps can respond to environmental conditions such as place and time (location awareness) while giving you relevant and meaningful content that is contextually appropriate.
- Consumption vs. Creation: For the most part, mobile experiences are digital experiences that are consumed by the user and are very task or goal oriented. The very nature of mobility suggests that digital experiences are more about the consumption of content, and less about its creation. A simple example of this is the iPod Nano. All of my content — from playlists to podcasts — are created on my laptop, but the consumption of the content happens away from the computer, independent of time or place. Perhaps we can use Fitbit as another example. All of the setup happens on the computer, similar to the Nano. But what is unique about this interaction is that the technology is gathering the content for the user, which allows them to focus on their activity. In this scenario, consumption serves as an invisible catalyst to the experience since the user focuses on the data intermittently and intentionally.
- Changes Mental Models: Mobility today gives us the ability to change the way we share, exchange, engage, capture, and consume our experiences. A great example of this is Google Glass. Glass changes our perceptions — not only of the world, but also how we interact with it.
- Inherently Social Yet Personal: The new fabric of mobility is tightly woven into how we live as human beings. We live in a tension between being social and being private — constantly striking a balance between being introverted and extroverted. A great example of this is the app, Spotify. While you’re listening to music, Spotify is sharing your current tune to your followers. However, you have the option of entering into “private session” mode where your music is hidden from friends and family, making the experience more personal.
- Location Awareness: We are now living in a world of shared spaces. Today it’s no longer about a single device, but rather multiple devices sharing space and information, which allow us to engage in richer experiences. iBeacons are a perfect example of this. You see them being used in Museums, helping to provide additional content to patrons. Retail spaces also use iBeacons to push incentives to shoppers as they walk in the door. It’s about hyper-local content. We no longer need to search for information, insight will meet us where we are.
- Ability to Synchronize: Technology allows us to seamlessly transfer an experience from one device to another. An example of this is Apple’s Handoff feature which allows you to start a document on your iPhone and then without saving it, pick up where you left off on your iPad or another device. The future of synchronization between devices will permeate everything from our watches and appliances to our smart TV’s and cars. This is the “Internet of Things” — this ultimate cohesion that seamlessly caters to our experiences of living within a digital age.
Experiences today and in the future will continue to be a symbiotic relationship between man, machine, and environment.
These six characteristics are the building blocks for a future in the making and will infuse themselves in every experience with which we are engaged. Whether it’s fashion or entertainment, education or athletics, they will be embedded within our social contexts but controlled by our own personal appetites.
The future we are envisioning is happening now.
No longer are we confined to singularity but it’s the multiplicity of touch-points that carries our experiences on and meets us where we are at — that’s the vision for tomorrow. Where the relationship between man and machine begins to blur as our environments begin to speak into our story. And over time, these stories will become richer and more immersive as the technologies around us become smarter and more powerful. Today we are redefining what it means to experience a world that’s constantly on the go.