Design for Mobile: Mobile Diversity

by September 23, 2010

In his presentation on Mobile Diversity: the coming Zombie Apocalypse, Mobile UI Design Lead at Google Scott Jenson talked about the impact of multiple devices on mobile apps and offered some potential solutions to the problems we'll encounter soon. Here's my notes from his talk:

  • Native apps vs. Web apps on the desktop is not really a debate. It’s more of a well-worn path. On mobile a lot more people get animated about the choice. This is likely because is that there is so much innovation on mobile right now.
  • If you want to get closer to the metal, build native apps.
  • Default thinking: Throughout the history of technology, people have applied what they were doing yesterday to the new thing of today.
  • Anything that was tied to WAP died a terrible death.
  • The native app advocates tends to be the no-nonsense, we need to “get things done” crowd. The Web app advocates tend to be more excited and optimistic.
  • Because of speed enhancments in JavaScript, there’s a lot of discussion on where the mobile Web will go. But no matter how good Web technologies are, you still have to live within a browser. It’s an OS within an OS.
  • In consumer touch points, Web apps need to be equal cousins to native apps. This goes beyond icons on the home page. We need Web apps in the task switcher and running in the background. A lot of mobile innovation is going to happen in background processing.
  • A native app is a lot more than just the look and the feel. Many things matter. Like the way in which data is stored on the mobile. In a native app, most of the data is stored on the device. In a Web app, most of data is stored on the cloud. With HTML5 , can do this with cache manifest and local storage.
  • Gmail uses local store on iPhone. It even launches faster than the native app. This is because the iPhone’s Web browser is always kept in memory so it launches right away. On Gmail, not only is the data stored in the cloud, so is the state.
  • It’s useful to be reminded about how powerful the cloud is. It can be transformative.
  • We are not really embracing what is happening. The cost of a system on a chip capability is falling rapidly. The ability to have a smartphone is constantly falling in price.
  • Soon you will be a “collection of devices” man. Not an Apple man or an Android man. In the 80s you aligned with an operating system, then got you apps for it. Today, you pick your app, then find devices that support it. The idea of a monolithic company making all your devices is becoming more absurd. Apps are becoming more important than devices.
  • Apps put a lot of pressure on the user. They need to figure out which one they want, install it, and then actually use it (long term use is rare).
  • Once you realize a lot of problems are about information access –the app model doesn’t hold up very well.
  • “On demand” apps is a generic idea. When you are in an area– can we have a discovery protocol for finding relevant app content? Have a peek at what’s available around you and decide what you need.
  • Objects we want to interact with are ultimately more important than apps.