Why the single mobile device isn’t possible

A true story (all the stories I tell on this blog are true – it’s just this makes the story more dramatic) – I was standing in the kitchen washing the dishes last night whilst watching the television.

I find this to be the second most therapeutic place in the World – the first is in the shower (for more information about why we seem to think clearer in certain positions but never at our place of work, read Future Minds.

Anyway, back to washing the dishes, and I saw the new Sony Xperia Play advert shown below.

This got me thinking the same thing as the R&D guys and girls in every handset company in the World – what is the perfect handset/ mobile/ slate device? By perfect, I mean “what device will take over from all the other devices we own?” I remember conversations in the late 1990s when I worked at the Finnish Telco Sonera (for accuracy, I worked at a subsidary called SmartTrust – now part of G&D, however these conversations took place with the parent company) where we discussed more than 100% penetration of handsets in the World (i.e. more active handsets than people).

Why would people want more than one handset? Because you’d have a super smart/ fashionable one in the evening, an email device with QWERTY keyboard during the day, a sporty/ waterproof one on weekends and so on.

I remember hearing that the market research teams at Nokia (despite the recent bad news I’d recommend anyone with any technology interest to visit their amazing corporate headquearters in Finland) kept hearing that their users wanted tiny phones and massive screens; they wanted as few keys as possible and full QWERTY layouts; they wanted the simple, original, ‘flat’ Nokia menu and a gazillion functions on the phone. The users wanted the impossible – mutually exclusive functions.

After I’d finished the washing up (we have a large family and had guests that evening – these things take a while), I sat down and caught up on some recorded TV – Secrets of the Superbrands: Fashion when the penny dropped.

We won’t be able to have a single device because of the following factors:

  1. Fashion – too many of us want the latest new shiny (or distressed as I learned on the Secrets programme) thing, for the sake of having the latest new thing.
  2. Best of breed. I use the toaster because it makes the least mess; I use the microwave because it makes hot chocolate quickly and without getting a saucepan dirty; I use the oven to roast chicken because I imagine it’s going to taste nicer than the small microwave/oven (and I’m worried all future hot chocolates will taste a little chicken-ey).
  3. We want change. I like love Dairy Milk. But every so often I’ll have a Flake, or a Twirl or a Wispa. Think of your favourite yet balanced meal – why don’t you have it every night?

And for these reasons I don’t think the single device to take over our wallet, mobile phone, laptop and paper pad is ever going to come along.

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