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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Technophobes are useful indicators.....

We all know (or are) gadget-lovers and early adopters. They are the people with the coolest devices, playing around with new services and generally enjoying the whole experience of geekery. It's sometimes very tempting to extrapolate from these people to the rest of the market.

To be honest though, often these people are exceptions, not examples. It's sometimes more instructive to watch the behaviour of the laggards and late-adopters.

This post is about a single personal example, so obviously it's not appropriate to assume that it represents a cross-section of the entire marketplace. Nonetheless it's an interesting case study.

I have a friend of mine who is essentially a mobile Luddite. She still uses a three-year old RAZR, on prepay, almost entirely for SMS and the occasional phone call. Doesn't use the (very low res) camera. Hasn't been interested in content, Internet access and certainly not smartphones. Ignores most voicemails. Often is out of battery, call credit, or both. She has derided most phones with QWERTY keypads as being ugly.

She usually tells me off for spending too much time checking email or the Internet on my own phones at inappropriate times.

I sometimes use a question of hers at conferences, to shock attendees (usually themselves "enthusiasts") into realisation of how the real world thinks: "Is Orange better than Vodafone? They have a pretty pink phone & I'm tempted".

It's worth pointing out that from a PC point of view, she's technically savvy. She uses a Mac with software like Mathematica for calculating equations for fluid dynamics, Facebook, Myspace, iTunes and so on.

But until now, phones have been phones. SMS devices, with a secondary voice function.

So I was pretty staggered when she suddenly (a) declared a liking for iPhones, (b) declared a desire for mobile email, and (c) said how impressed she was by the ease of using Google Maps and getting directions on a handset (an iPhone, in particular).

To me, that's more of an indicator of the growing mainstream demand for, and adoption of, smarter devices and mobile applications than any number of enthusiasts.

It's also an indicator that handset vendors and operators seriously need to get their heads around better ways of dealing with prepay subscribers who don't want monthly subscriptions.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Hah - Exactly my own experience, in fact.
I've also just transitioned from an ancient RAZR that I mostly used for SMS, to an Android phone for email and mobile web. I guess there's a big contingent of techno-savvy-mobile-luddites about to be tempted by phones that actually give us a credible web experience.