Situational Design — The gadget fits the setting

Coveting Thy Neighbor’s Cell Phone – Products – MSN Tech & Gadgets

“One reason Asians and Europeans have high expectations for innovation and sexy designs when it comes to cell phones is that they live in densely populated countries and must rely on public transportation.

“If you spend an hour on the train every day, then you will want a cell phone with the latest functions,” says Franklin Chang, a research scientist who has worked in Germany and Japan. “If you are in your car, you aren’t going to be spending your time playing a game on your cell phone.”

This is an interesting notion from the point of view of product design. The degree of attention a user gives to the product determines the appeal of functionality, user interface and design. The iPod, which is held up as a classic example of design innovation and simplicity, spends most of its time in the user’s pocket. You don’t have to look at it to use it. A Treo, with its multiple functions, email, and browser, is designed to be stared and poked at. Great for a train rider, useless for an auto driver unless they have a death wish. Notebooks are generally touched all the time. One doesn’t play much off of them other than an occasional DVD on a plane trip. The rest of the time it’s mouse-mouse-mouse/type-type-type.

Anyway, interesting article on why European and Asian cultures tend to get more sophisticated and innovative gadgetry before Americans. Blame it on the car.

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

0 thoughts on “Situational Design — The gadget fits the setting”

  1. By that logic, New Yorkers’ tech would differ from those in LA.

    Or, perhaps, that there are national STANDARDS (sound familiar, Uncle Dave?) for cellular in most of Asia and Europe. Korea has a single cell standard and technological improvements in the underlying network are pushed by the government. Meanwhile, we’ve got a few different techs (GSM, CDMA, etc) which means lots of redundent capital, a whole host of different phones, and a slower trickle of features. Some companies will take the capital risk (Sprint with WiMax) while others sit back and wait to see how it shakes out (or Verizon with FIOS).

    There are also significant culteral and pricing differences.

    The US went to fat cell plans early (2000 minutes for $100) while lots of Europe stayed on pay per minute. Made it MUCH cheaper for the kids — the poorest but most tech savvy — to SMS. Texting rules in Europe because it’s cheaper than calling. Calling New York from California on Cingular can be free if both phones are on Cingular. Calling Denmark from Spain is not.

    Not to mention, Europe and Asia actually have some of the most dominant makers. Nokia, Samsung, LG…throw in the single standard and advanced networks and advanced features, which demand sexy designs, come naturally. PCs, on the otherhand, are US dominated. From Intel to Apple, the good ole USA leads the way — with perhaps a Chinese company we shall leave unnamed who purchased a laptop division from an American company.

    Standards which gives them more advanced but regulated technology, a la carte pricing, and the presence of local companies as leaders in the field is why cell is so big over the ponds. Motorola is just coming back from the edge of oblivion after Samsung ate its lunch but it still needs a whole host of different models with different technologies (EDGE/EVDO, etc) just to launch a US model.

    Public transportation has nothing to do with it. The Dutch ride bicycles. Ever try using a Treo on a bike?

    Plastics, Benjamin, plastics…

    I mean, standards, David, standards…alphabet soup of GSM, CDMA, TDMA slows things down.

  2. ..yes, and by the same token American cars should be better than European or Japanese cars because Americans spend a lot more time in them, which manifestly they are not.
    More seriously, the key issue seems to be pricing. The initial and dominant pricing model in the US was you paid to RECEIVE a call. Hence you had every incentive to turn your phone off and not use it until you really needed to. Euro-GSM pricing made payment icumbent on the initiator, hence there was every incentive to leave your phone on an use it for receiving calls, making calls, playing games, checking your mail, etc.

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