I have a confession. I don’t own a smartphone. I’ve been a mobile developer for 7 years having started on feature phones, prior to the release of the first iPhone, to the current day smartphone. Yet I never made the leap to own one. As a mobile developer on smartphones, how do I justify not owning one? Ultimately, I have come to realize that it just doesn’t appeal to me enough and looking around I realize I’m not alone. A recent article on TechCrunch summarized the market share of feature phones vs. smartphones. Smartphones global market share is only 27%, North America at 63%, and Europe is 51%. Other regions are in the teens.
Why hasn’t the rest of the world joined in? I can’t speak for others but I can tell you why haven’t I joined. A big factor to this remains to be the cost of most smartphones and necessary data plans. Carriers and manufacturers play a big part in this. Mobile users in Canada are constantly reminded that we pay the most in the world for our voice and data plans. But what can we as developers do to help accelerate adoption? Start by thinking about the apps that we’re building and who are we catering to. How dependent is the app on having network reception? Is it data intensive? Will it run on older/slow models? How does it make someone like me feel?
There are millions of iPod Touch users, Android users that don’t own the latest and greatest, tablet users without 3G. Are these people being served? Are all these users deeply engaged in social media like Facebook or Twitter? Does your app work while offline or does it make the user feel crippled? Does the app make me ignore my friends while I’m at the bar? I’m an iPod Touch user and these factors make a big impact on how much I like or use an app.
Not addressing these concerns in your app makes a user like me feel neglected and even unwanted. So many apps are always compelling me to share everything and stay connected, to point of making users like me feel like these apps are not for me. Always reminding me that certain features won’t work without a data connection will make me feel like I’m being punished. The constant reminder that I am not the intended audience only deepens my feeling that I don’t need a smartphone.
There is no doubt though that within the next 2 years, I’ll be making the move to the smart world. Until then I remain dumb about it. I wonder though when I become a smart user, will the apps be designed with me in mind or will I have to change my habits. Those app and services that have been accommodating to me from the start will be the first ones I continue to support after I switch.
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