The bright face of iPhone parenting

The other day my 2 year old son suffered a surprising recurrence of separation anxiety.

Usually he waves me off to work for the day with a kiss and a hug but this morning he really didn’t want me to go. 

Something was different this time. In the past, it was me he was going to miss. This time he didn’t want me to take my iPhone away for the day.

Shock, horror! Toddler addicted to iPhone! Parent supervises children between tweeting and emailing! Technology is so evil, right?

Well, you tell me. The reason he didn’t want me to go to work with my iPhone is because he had such a great time the previous evening learning about numbers and letters thanks to the great applications from Montessorium. (No, I’m not on commission – I just love, love, love their applications and the amazing learning experience they’ve provided for my son).

Old School, meet New School

My son has been using my iPhone since he was about 8 months old. Firstly to listen to nursery rhymes (he now knows and sings more songs that I ever knew, including the second verse of Twinkle Twinkle – who even knew it existed!), he has great fine motor skills honed by playing with Peekaboo Barn (his first iPhone application), later followed by a selection of the great apps by Duck Duck Moose (we started with Wheels on the Bus but our current favourite is Itsy Bitsy Spider). My son can find The Wiggles, Pingu and Peppa Pig episodes on YouTube on the iPhone unaided (although, I hasten to add, not unsupervised).

It’s been with these Montessorium applications that I’ve really been in awe of the power of technology, good design and passionate teachers as I’ve watched my son, already quite interested in numbers and letters, become almost obsessed with them.

Not only does he only ever want to play ‘the numbers game’ or ‘the letters game’ on my phone, the whole world has become his playground as he’s suddenly found himself surrounded by numbers and letters that mean and do different things and create all kinds of new meanings in his life.

Meet him this week and there’s every chance he’ll ask you ‘what’s your number?’ (code for: how old are you – we’re still working on manners!) or ‘what’s your letter?’ (which means, what letter does your name start with).

Better still, as the apps are aimed at children slightly older than him, he needs help with parts of them, creating a beautiful opportunity for social learning mediated by my iPhone.

Everyday he’s creating a more compelling use case for me to buy an iPad without waiting for the second generation to be released. And, as I have a second son rapidly approaching the 8 month mark, he’s also creating a compelling reason for my husband to ‘need’ an iPhone – have two boys, need two iPhones.

Sure, everyday I try to be disciplined about not constantly checking email and Twitter over the heads of my children but I’ve found that by relinquishing the device to the kids and letting them become addicted to learning, it seems to work out very well for all of us.

iPhone – now *this* is a revolutionary interface


What a great follow on from my previous rant on mobile UI – go read Steve Jobs’ overview of what he thinks of the current breed of mobile phones and how fun they are (not!) to use, and what Apple have done about it.

This *has* to be the most lust-worthy device on the planet at the moment. I’d trade my Nokia N73 in a heartbeat for one of these.

What’s so cool about it?

  • it’s beautiful. When was the last time you saw a beautiful mobile UI? (I can hear you saying ‘never’ from here). The interface design is sexy. Lustworthy. Typical Apple.
  • it’s gestural. There’s one button, a home button, and your fingers do all the rest of the work. Check out the ‘slide to unlock’ in the image above. Forget millions of tiny buttons – you have the interface you need at the time to do the job you’re doing (because this puppy is a phone, an iPod and more!). Forget styluses – they’re a pain in the neck and get lost all the time. Fingers are the input device of the future.
  • it’s aware. It has sensors that tells it whether you’re looking at in in portrait or landscape mode and it adjusts accordingly. It knows when you’re using it as a phone and shuts off the interface. How clever!
  • It does all the work for you. Sometimes it’s the simple things that count. Having spent hours and hours configuring and setting up my new Nokia N73 to utilise all the stuff that’s installed on it and some of it’s capabilities. How much easier is the Apple approach where the device does all the work for you.

Oooh! and that Google Maps integration… I love it. Why didn’t we think of that already?
For a long time, usability and design people have been debating about whether or not people want ‘convergent’ or multifunctional devices. Is it possible for one device to be able to do many different things well? Or will a device always be primarily one animal that has some capabilities in other areas.

Apple has just made that debate completely redundant.

And the crazy thing is that the whole approach is so incredibly obvious. Look at the task that the user is trying to achieve and design the interface to support that. By removing the nightmarish restrictions of the hardware and replacing it with one big, responsive screen, Apple has shed all of these restrictions and with it, all the things we thought to be conventional about mobile phone design.

Sign me up. I want one now.

The only thing I’m a little sad about is how much of a fuss Steve is making about patenting all the cool things they’ve developed for this phone. More than 200 patents.

That’s not very caring, sharing 2.0 is it? (Of course, Apple shareholders might see this somewhat differently).

Check out the keynote for yourself at Engadget (brilliant live coverage, well done!)

(image credit to Engadget also).

So – what do you make of the iPhone?

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Yahoo! Go 2.0 shows how far mobile UI design has to go

Yahoo Go 2.0

Have you seen the Yahoo! Go 2.0 interface yet? I have, although only on my laptop as their mobile beta is currently full… I’m on the waiting list.

Yahoo! are very excited about this interface. Here’s how they describe it:

A revolutionary design. Yahoo Go! is the first application optimized for the “small screen” of a mobile phone that truly makes it easy and fun to access the Internet. Everything about the Yahoo! Go interface is designed to be both visually stunning and give you what you want with the fewest clicks possible.

At the core of the UI is the ‘carousel’ at the bottom of the screen that allows you to switch between the various widgets or applications (such as email, and the typical content streams – news, finance, sport etc.).

The carousel could hardly be described as revolutionary, as it is obviously inspired by the Mac OS UI.

More interesting, I think, is the design of the mobile search and the customisation of content sources.

The mobile search actually sounds pretty clever. Not only have the designed the search results in a way that is more useful for the mobile user:

oneSearch includes more actual content in your initial results than any other search—all grouped by subject matter and relevance, so there’s no sea of links to wade through like with a PC search.

The search engine also has location awareness – both awareness of where you are in the application AND physical location awareness. Now this is getting sexy.

oneSearch improves results based on both where you are in the application and where you are in the real world. For instance, launching a search for “eagles” in Sports will return results for the professional football team first. Similarly, searching for a movie will yield showtimes in your local area.

Ah, can it be – finally – location based services coming to a handset near you! I’ve waited a long time for this!

Content customisation looks as though it allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds to your phone using their interface. Very nice (although probably not so new). So you can choose who provides your news rather than live with whoever Yahoo! has their content deal with.

Another nice looking feature aims to remove the need to type URLs (hooray! this is no fun at all on a mobile).

Yahoo! Go also makes it easy to get to other websites. Simply type in the name of a website you want to visit (like eBay), and oneSearch returns the link to the website. Click the link and you’re there.

Having recently upgraded to a reasonably current handset (review coming soon!), I can confirm that the mobile user experience remains, as it has been for some time now, utterly rubbish. It’s as though all stakeholders are conspiring to make things as difficult as possible – from the product design of the hardware to the installed software to the internet content and design. There are frustrations and errors to be made at every turn.

So far, most compliments have to be paid to one or two browsers that are invaluable in making the internet a vaguely hospitable place for the mobile browser. Yahoo! Go 2.0 will hopefully also make the overall experience a little more palatable.

At the end of the day though, it should be a massive wake up call to us all that Yahoo! borrowing an element from the OS user interface and transplanting it into the mobile environment could be considered revolutionary.

It seems ridiculous to me that it has taken this long for any kind of innovation to areas like search interface for mobile and eliminating URL entry to occur. Sure, I know it’s a technical nightmare to develop for mobile… but it’s outrageous that little seems to be happening to increase consistency across handsets and browsers and operating systems.

*deep breaths*
With any luck I’ll get a Beta invite sometime soon… stay tuned for reports on what it’s like to actually use this interface.

Have you used the Go 2.0 interface yet? How’d you find it?

Finally giving into Twitter…

Twitter Logo

People have been talking about Twitter for a while now, and at first it held little appeal to me. I mean, exactly how publicly do we *really* need to live. Are people *really* interested in that level of detail in each others lives?

Well… maybe, maybe not. But I’m finally going to give Twitter a proper go, for these two reasons:

Firstly – I think it’s something to do with the brevity/wit relationship that means that reading what people write is often genuinely amusing. (I’m definitely going to have to work at Twittering better)

Secondly – the immediacy is second to none. I thought I was getting behind the times when I’d let my RSS reading lapse for a few days or, heaven forbid, a week. Now just by not being in the Twitter chain I’m missing out of stuff. Not missing out is a powerful social driver. So, I’m in.

Question is – who else out there is Twittering now? Want to be Twitter buddies? Promise I won’t Twitter to often or too boringly ;)