Sunday, July 15, 2007

iphone and the business user

There can be no question about iphone's success with the consumers- the mass market. The evidence is out there everywhere. The real test of iphone's success, however, will be the adoption rate of business users. This segment of the market is important keeping in mind that they are the ones who will patronize the entire iphone ecosystem (the software add ons, accessories, and the lot). Strengthening of the iphone ecosystem is critical to success of future products that are going to be developed by Apple. More products can be developed using the same platform sharing many of the same features.

Studies of adoption rate of iphones in business cummunity is, therefore, of interest to many. On this note, Elina Malykhina of information week wrote an interesting article about signs of adoption on the iphone in the business cummunity. Though the article discussed issues faced by business people like inability to install third party software, it remained optimistic about iphone's prospects with the business community.

In a follow up article, William Gardner of information week reported on a usability survey conducted on iphone by Chicago-based usability consultancy User Centric, Inc. The major highlights of the usability survey are listed below:

Major strengths of the iPhone's user interface

  • Participants found the Visual Voicemail feature to be intuitive and useful.
  • Participants compared text entry using their iPhone and their previous phones (which used multi-tap for text entry). Overall, participants found that text entry was much easier on the touchscreen soft-keyboard of the iPhone compared to standard multi-tap text entry.
  • Most participants used the landscape (horizontal) view while searching for a website (The New York Times.) The horizontal soft keyboard was definitely preferred over the vertical keyboard orientation.
  • Selecting and playing a song using both the vertical and horizontal views was easy for participants. Participants also commented that the 'Cover Flow' navigation feature was a very engaging feature.
  • Making an outgoing call with the iPhone was easy for all participants.
    Participants also found that receiving a phone call on an iPhone while listening to music was seamless. They found the interruption of the music and transition to a call to be very smooth.
  • Saving a number as a contact and recalling that contact for a phone call was straightforward.
  • Answering a phone call while in SMS mode was also straightforward. Participants found it helpful to be taken immediately to their message after the call had concluded.
  • Most participants found it easy to take a picture and email it from the iPhone.

Primary difficulties with the iPhone interface

  • Participants uniformly found text entry SMS and email to be difficult. They were frustrated by the forced use the vertical keyboard and the lack of visibility for editing the middle of a word or sentence.
  • Many participants found Google Maps difficult to use on the iPhone. They experienced issues with the fine-motor control required to pan accurately in different dimensions in Google Maps and predictably zoom in and out. It was unclear to participants how much they needed to adjust the size of their "pinch" gesture to zoom in and out with the control that they wanted.
  • Participants were often frustrated with their Web browsing experience and hoped that this would improve dramatically with an upgrade in network capability. The lack of Flash and Java capabilities during Web browsing was considered a detriment to basic Web use.
  • Finally, participants were surprised (and somewhat annoyed) to discover that horizontal text entry was available only in in the Safari browser.
It reamains to be seen if the difficulties with iphone will limit the business adoption. However, It must also be noted that since most of the problems are software based, a fix should be available in the near future. Is apple listening?

No comments: