MobileCamp Brighton

This weekend I attended MobileCamp Brighton, thanks to the organisational skills of Dan W and hosted at The Skiff. It was a great event, and despite not costing a penny the quality of the speakers and topics far outshone those at most paid for industry events.

The focus of the event was Mobile, and talks and discussions primarily focused on mobile apps, how to devlop them, platforms we should be aiming for and future potential audiences.

Here are a few interesting snippets of what took place…

Natural UI

Flash Lite developer Carin Campanario from TUI showed us an interesting RSS widget which will be running on all Nokia N97 phones. As it is its an interesting design, focused on images rather than text and navigated using a gestural interface.

What was especially interesting however were Carin’s ideas on using some of the new Nokia S60m 5th edition API’s to access the accelerometer and camera.  She proposed turning the device on its side to navigate between items, and turning the device toward and away from you to trigger the text to appear and disappear. When bringing the device toward you the text could zoom in, and when moving it away, zoom out.

I’m not sure the technology is ready to manage all of these ideas efficiently, and lots of thought would have to go into not accidentally triggering them, and for who the features are aimed at (users who find it difficult to use touch might be ideal), but these ideas show real innovation.

One thing I like about ideas such as this is they help the app on the phone to behave more like a natural object, rather than something inside a phone. If we think of each image as a an object, lined up in a row with the others on a supporting structure, when the structure is tipped, the objects will naturally fall. Sam Machin took this one step further – proposing that the future of mobile development lies not in simply advancing technologically but in creating natural UI’s. I fully agree.

Mobile usage in majority world countries

Priya Prakash – formerly at Flirtomatic, gave a fascinating talk on mobile use in India. Will be checking out her panel at SXSW for sure. I was especially interested to learn about the blind guys who sit by the road operating as location aware data sources – you can ask them where the nearest cafe, payphone etc is – no need for a phone. Another popular behaviour is to leave messages with a local shop keeper and collect yours later – real life voice mail.

Encouraging ‘normobs’ to use Mobile Apps

The night before the event I spoke to a few of my friends about their views on mobile apps. I couldn’t find anyone who said they would be interested in downloading a mobile app of any kind, as they either weren’t interested, thought their phones weren’t good enough, didn’t know what mobile apps were, or were worried about the data charges.

I presented these rough and ready findings to the group, to spark a discussion based around the issue. The general feeling was that uptake in the UK could be increased by making apps more viral, and more easy to download for people without an iPhone or a G1 – i.e. from the phone, or even by text. Another issue I believe to be a major blocking is networks and app creators not being clearer on what the data charges might be relating to the app. We need to put people at ease.

F**k the iPhone

Terence Eden from Betavine spoke about the obsession developers have with developing for devices such as the iPhone and Android despite these being far from the most popular in the UK. He identified the Nokia 6300 as one of the most popular devices on the market, and one few people develop for.

One of the reasons people go for the iPhone is because its relatively easy to monetise. However, its hard to create quality apps for, and becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed in a flooded market. Conversely with the new version of Flash Lite its easy to get an app packaged for Nokia devices, and with the upcoming Nokia App Store potentially making it easier to monetise, perhaps the future lies in targeting more popular devices.

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