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September 11, 2014

A New Perspective On The User Experience

Posted by Suryaprakash K. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:42 AM

Tim Stevens talks about the new Apple launches  [Source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0bltI5uGPU]

Apple users are a dedicated group. They remind me of automobile aficionados, whose magazines are largely dedicated to sneaking into corporate proving grounds and snapping photos of next year's model on the track. In that same spirit, Apple fans are always trying to get sneak peeks at what the company has in store for them. They are very vocal about what kinds of features next year's model should have, or the power under the hood, or the overall design.

Savvy enterprises listen to their consumers. Just as something as mundane as the cup holder came out of drivers requesting that their favorite car companies install secure places for their cups of coffee, computer manufacturers depend in part on the desires of their consumer base. That's why I was floored to see the size of the new iPhone 6 Plus. It's more than just a smartphone. It's what's known as a "phablet," and it means that Apple is now treading in waters in which it said (until quite recently, in fact) it would never be caught.

The newly debuted Apple iPhone 6 and its cousins, the hotly anticipated iWatch and iPhone 6 Plus, is each remarkable on its own merits. But it's the iPhone 6 Plus that truly distinguishes itself because of its 5.5-inch dimension. We all talk about the supremacy of the "user experience." Yet Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, took the hallowed user experience term and turned it on its head. He said that his team at Apple started by creating a business model that centered on their personal interests instead of on the user experience. "We love this kind of problem," said Cook at the press conference. "This is exactly what Apple does best."

I was completely taken off guard, frankly, during the press conference when Cook outlined a difference between personal interests and the user experience. Up until that point, I would have told you that they were one in the same. But Cook set me straight. He forced me to rethink completely about what the user experience is all about. Perhaps the best example of this distinction is the size of the new devices. A new feature known as "reachability" on the iPhone 6 lets the user press the home button twice and minimize the screen so as to get the entire onscreen. Plus, you can operate the keyboards on both horizontally.

Mind you, up until recently, Apple resisted such user experience trends. There were some in the company hierarchy, including the late Steve Jobs and Tim Cook himself, who didn't quite see the value in creating increasingly larger screens. They were attempting to define the user experience as something that you could wrap your hand around - literally! But personal interests turned out to be a lot different. It turns out that we're entering the age of the "phablet," a hybrid tablet and smartphone. Personal experiences dictate that people tend to want larger, clearer screens, even if it means having to use two hands to operate them. Apple has resisted the trend up until this point, largely, I think, because market rivals such as Samsung, Sony, Nokia, and LG were the first to seize upon it.

Think about your personal interests. They probably involve using your mobile device for consuming information and entertainment. I suspect you consume a lot more than you did on your mobile just five years ago. The act of consuming and reacting to information does indeed become easier if a larger, clearer-to-read screen is involved. (Does anyone besides your grandmother carry a flip-phone, for example?) That's probably why one technology analyst reported that shipments of devices with screens larger than five inches grew by 369 percent in the first quarter of the year. This year is also the first time globally that "phablets" will out-sell conventional laptops.

An Intel executive explains this phenomenon: The rise of the "phablet," he says, is because global consumers are getting younger and those younger consumers want to use their devices to browse, share images, and chat via video. All of these activities are facilitated by the slightly larger smartphones that Jobs and Cook once said wouldn't fly in the marketplace. Now add another aspect to the phenomenon: In the rapidly growing emerging markets, a "phablet" is often the best of both worlds. Why buy a smartphone and a laptop when one, affordable "phablet" will do?

So, as we consumers "kick the tires" on these new models, Apple has been very careful to appear uncompromising in quality when it comes to the enlargement of its fleet of mobile devices. It would never want to be seen admitting that it was wrong about consumer sentiment regarding the user experience. That's why the company has delineated the very meaning of it. A personal interest not only forms a user experience. When it comes to the new family of Apple iPhone 6 products, it downright trumps it.

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