[Myth] Mobile Devices Are Constrained Desktop Computers


There’s a feeling we get sometimes that designers consider smartphones to be nothing more than small desktop computers, and so constrained that they are not very interesting to design for.

But mobile devices have many capabilities that desktop computers do not have. These capabilities enable new kinds of behaviour, and allow for new variants of users’ tasks to be supported, for example location-specific variants. Some of the capabilities of smartphones include:

  • Location detection
  • Multi-touch sensors
  • Device positioning & motion: accelerometers
  • Orientation: direction from a digital compass
  • Gyroscope: 360 Degrees of motion
  • Audio: input from microphone; output to speaker/headset
  • Video & image: capture/input from a camera
  • Dual cameras: front and back
  • Device connections: through Bluetooth between devices
  • Proximity: device closeness to physical objects
  • Ambient Light: light/dark environment awareness
  • NFC: Near Field Communications (RFID etc)

Mobile devices have unique capabilities and characteristics that enable new user behaviour and allow for innovation and differentiation.

In addition, there are more subtle qualities of mobile devices that change the nature of users’ behaviour. For example, smartphones tend to be shared less with other members of the family than do desktop computers, laptops and tablets. Also, mobile devices allow for privacy of location. In other words, with a mobile device, a user can go to places where they are not likely to be seen or interrupted by co-workers, by family, by friends, or by others.

Source: Neo Insight