- Since my last post in which I gave my opinion on the role of non-iPhone devices (e.g. Blackberry, Windows Mobile, etc) in the convergence of digital signage and mobility, many of you have asked me to provide more detail concerning the attributes of a true convergent-ready device. Although I listed many of these in my latest white paper, perhaps a little more detail would be helpful. Keep in mind that I reference the iPhone throughout this discussion as I believe that it embodies the essence of the convergent-ready mobile device. Other handset manufacturers would be well served to incorporate all of these attributes in their products.
- A Common Form Factor: To look its best, content must be optimized to a handset’s particular screen characteristics (e.g. size, aspect ratio, resolution, etc.). Since content providers have historically had to optimize and/or repurpose their content to fit a broad array of handset screen sizes and resolutions, the economics of delivering content to a multitude of handset form factors has not been workable, which in turn has stifled growth. The iPhone addresses this issue by allowing content providers to create content for one form factor with one screen size, one screen resolution and one screen aspect ratio.
- An Intuitive User Interface: Apple has created a user interface that appeals to techies as well as techno-phoebes. Studies suggest that this is one of the key reasons that the iPhone has captured such a large share of the smartphone market in just two years. An intuitive user interface is critical to facilitating a connection between the phone and digital signage.
- A Large High Resolution Touch Screen: The success of a multi-media handset is largely dependent on the size of the screen on which the media is played: The larger the screen, the more pleasant the viewing experience. By making the iPhone’s screen touch-enabled, Apple has been able to preserve device real-estate for the screen as opposed to robbing screen real-estate for buttons and switches. Many other handset manufacturers are also following Apple’s lead and are manufacturing devices with a high resolution touch screen.
- WAN/LAN/PAN Wireless Connectivity: The iPhone supports all common wireless communication standards. 3G/Edge data protocols for Wide Area Networks (WAN), WiFi 802.11 data protocols for Local Area Networks (LAN), and Bluetooth for Personal Area Networks (PAN). This means that iPhone applications have the flexibility to choose from a complete range of wireless network alternatives in order to use the network that best suits the application.
- An E-commerce Centric Usage Model: The iPhone was designed from the beginning as an e-commerce platform. Secure and seamless integration with the iTunes store for content and application purchases have made the iPhone the preferred platform for safely making electronic purchases. This is essential for a convergent-enabled device as the user must have ready access to the application that supports the convergence of signage and mobility.
- Geo-Positioning Capabilities: The iPhone has a broad range of geo-positioning technologies built in, e.g. Satellite GPS, Cellular Triangulation and WiFi-based positioning. This gives iPhone location-centric applications the flexibility to work inside or outside.
- Carrier Commitment to Data Plans: Apple’s alliance with AT&T demands that every iPhone must be sold with a data plan. For the application developer, this means that they can count on every iPhone having wireless access should their application require it.
- Tight Application Integration: Apple has implemented strict programming standards that require programmers to conform to a specific set of API’s. By insisting on this approach, Apple has restricted some creativity but it has preserved a strong degree of application interoperability. This means that applications will function well together and can even leverage the feature-sets of other applications more easily.