How We May Use Cell Phones
Stan Michael Wiechers, 05.April.2009, NYC.
Have a look in your closet or suitcase. You have multiple shirts, jackets, sweaters and a decent amount of socks and underwear. Depending on the occasion, the weather, the time of day, the mood, how well you slept or other conditions you choose a configuration of your clothes. If you slept bad you might choose your very soft sweater, a favorite since 10 years; if you feel super stellar and had a good morning workout you might put on a real modern combo you just got last week. If you have an important job interview you will surely put yourself in clean, respectable clothes. Or maybe you have a date so you will put yourself into something interesting or mysterious. This is not to say that these changes of mood are only reflected in your clothes, of course your whole mannerism is different as well. But that is not the point. Point is, you choose your clothes in anticipation of things to come.
Now imagine for a second a world in which you have to choose a single style that you must wear without mercy for a year straight. What does that kind of relation to an object remind you of?
... its your beloved Cellphone ...
Once chosen, you most likely have to stick with it for a long time. You take it everywhere and use the same phone for all occasions. Whats wrong with that? Nothing really, our phones are born of studies to determine the most popular features for a certain demographic. That's how most consumer goods come to life. For you as a customer there is always a compromise, a device will fit most of what you desire but not everything. And that is not all, some of your selection criteria are transient and mutate over time; one day you wish had mini projector build in with a very big qwerty keyboard and the other you wish you had one of those real small phones whose battery can last for a week. A super rare Maywa Denki phone shows off your style at a nightclub but its no good to the meeting with your landlord as he might get freaked out by the screaming pulsating exterior color. At the sober business meeting that involves your whole team you don't want to draw attention with your device, you want to blend in and be a team player, isn't that the reason you are wearing a suit?
The holy grail of the phone universe is still one device that does it all: Phone, Music Player, Route Planer, Web Browser, Still Camera, Video Camera, Chat Client , Compass, Projector, Office Document Viewer, FM Radio, Game Platform, e-book, Travel Guide, baby monitor, Waterproof, biometric security, Ultrasonic Mosquito Defense, Heart Beat Monitor, Lie Detector, etc . Still, we know how that can end with features galore that confuse and are hard to find when you need them the most.
So, why don't we have multiple phones? Why can't we just take the one that fits our mood or the occasion, same as we do with our clothes? Can we not do that already? Certainly you can: just sync your phone first with your laptop or server (this usually doesn't include your media, call list etc), open the back of your phone and take out the batteries to get to your sim card, do another phone surgery and insert your sim card to the new device all the while making sure you keep track of each small piece for the next time; not what we call a seamless transition. There is no guarantee that the sim card even works and can be considered a violation in your terms of usage. Imagine somebody telling you that combining your D&G shorts with your nike sneakers is a violation of the terms of usage punishable with 5 years in style prison.
Now, simply take a phone in your hand and start using it. You already do that with scissors, cameras, pens, notebooks, silver ware, and books. You don't think, you just start using it. You have a drawer with your favorite devices and take the one you want for today. As easy as that. How do I tell the phone that today is its day? One way would be signing in with your user name and password, the phone you used in the past gets deactivated. Or if the phone has a fingerprint or iris scanner I could use that for signing in. How about wearing a piece of jewelrey with an RFID chip embedded to reprogram the phone when touched by your ring. Your virtual SIM-card. That would be great since you probably wear the jewelry all the time just like the key to your apartment. You need to have some security measures for your devices so that not everybody can touch them and take them over. That might require a list of people allowed to use your devices such as your friends. Using a pen as an analogy again, you ask your friend to use his pen to make notes if you need to. Or ask your brother if you can have its car for the weekend. If you should need to borrow a friends phone to use and access your data for a while, why not?
Lets discuss some of the consequences of an approach like this. A new richness in form and functionality where design doesn't need to meet the neutral ground but can go in all kinds of directions. Manufacturers could sell even more phones with the barrier of the one to one relationship broken down. And it hopefully will open the market to new niche manufacturers.
1. photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/perspicacious/3228112810/
2. photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattpelletier/2497284219/
"How We May Use Cell Phones" by Stan Wiechers is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at http://www.merkwelt.com/people/stan/how_we_may_use_cell_phones.html