Personalization Is A Vision

She and I talked about her new phone as we had lunch. She motioned to the phone that she doesn’t like getting calls at certain points and moved to put it in her purse – slightly protruding just in case an important call came in and her attention could grasp it. I mention that I am the same, however, I like that I can (and do) flip my mobile over when I want to ignore a call. Se loved that feature, but what caught her eye wasn’t the ignored call, but the design on the back of my phone which looked familiar.

My phone uses a custom “skin” from the folks at SkinIt. I went to using these a few years ago when the drab color of a silver (gunmetal) Palm Treo just looked old. I was beyond using a case, and so I wanted something that would protect the device as well as communicate a message. Despite some initial issues with how durable it was, it was something that stuck.

I went back to SkinIt when I got the N97 and wanted a means to personalize my device, but also play with QR Codes and my mobile web server in a different way than normal. For a guy trying to craft a personal “brand” separate from a professional (MMM) one. It worked, and for the most part, I have had little reason to do something different. But, I noticed, and even remarked, making a device as easy as possible to personalize is a missed opportunity – or too many times left to the accessories makers.

The ideal means of personalizing a device is more than a skin, case, ringtone, or theme. It is al of these, and some contextual awareness on the side of the device. Something like that one scene in the Nokia Morph Concept video: before the woman leaves the table, she snaps a picture of her purse and the device asks if this should be the device wallpaper. She says yes and now has a mobile that matches her purse – this is basic psychological marketing. Make it fit something already personalized.

My friend spent the next few minutes asking herself what would make a good skin. She thought about sports teams, colors, animals, and other items. She was certain about things that should not be a skin, but could be part of a wallpaper or theme. She started thinking less about the device as an appendage, and more like something that has to conform itself to her personality. Its a slight switch, but one that has profound implications towards how we gain productivity or enablement from any kind of technology.

What if our only decision towards mobile devices (and their accessories) was to match it to our mood or clothing? The manufacturer that made that happen would truly be push in mobile into our use as something more than behaviors, but a means of scratching something psychological within us that sees complimentary elements, colors, and order as a natural part of ownership.

A friend once said to me, “technology is only relevant when it is personal.” How true that could be if there was a different vision behind and an easier means to accomplish what constitutes mobile innovation.