Thought: Swap My Computing UX

N8 on table w/coffee and comics

Perhaps this is part of the theme for 2012 that I need to get used to: that at some very simple level, I’m not all that impressed or fulfilled by the experiences offered by mobile devices, apps, and services. I’ve been pushing for something new for a while, and have literally been limited by lack of funds for making it happen faster. Still, I get these thoughts… just as the one that I had literally a minute ago. That might be worth exploring if the changes were to happen.

I started this year with just my Nokia N8 and the 1st gen iPad (16Gb, WiFi). Very solid, and for both, I started seeing the age of the hardware, not necessarily my abilities with them. I purchased the Lumia 900. And on the tablet side became the owner of a Kindle Fire HD. Lastly, due to a trade of the Lumia 900, I’ve also got in my possession the Nokia N950 (a developer-only device from Nokia’s MeeGo Harmattan platform). I’m somewhat content, but I’ve got a bit more of a flush in me.

The thought (as posted on Twitter):

Thing I was just thinking: swap the N8/N950 for an N9, swap the Kindle Fire HD for a smartwatch (Motoactv), add AirStash, explore alt UX

Seems like it doesn’t make much sense in light of the fun/successes had with the iPad and the stability that I continue to have with the N8, but let me explain a bit why I think such a drastic computing change might be a good thing. I’ll take it in parts.

Swapping the N8 (probably not the N950) for an N9

From a communications perspective, there is nothing that the N9 can’t do that the N8 isn’t already doing. The move would be primarily to tighten up how my mobile phone plays the role of a communications center for service accounts such as Google (2 accounts), Dropbox, my multiple calendars, etc. The N9 being a good bit more polished than the N950 here would allow me to keep the N950 for its intended direction, while also having a familiar-to-me beacon.

I’d lose the USB OTG functionality, so I’d need to replace my existing dual-partitioned USB memory key with something like an AirStash (that would also be dual-partitioned), and be sure to get a 64GB version of the N9 with matching space on the AirStash for backup/archiving purposes.

Swap the Kindle Fire HD for a Smartwatch (probably the MotoActv)

Here’s the interesting switch. I don’t know that I’m going to be able to get rid of my iPad (at least whenever I get it back from my lady). But, I’ve already seen with the N950 that I’m able to easily do some of the heavier computing tasks on the mobile that I had been offloading to a tablet device. Things like coding presentations, taking notes, and even drawing, I’ve found near-exact replacements for with the N9/N950’s MeeGo platform. I’d be essentially down to a 4in screen being my largest screen again, and that would be interesting. I’d also lose access to much of the Amazon content that I do enjoy having (will need to figure that one out).

The idea of replacing a 7in device with a 2.2in one is probably perplexing for some though. I’m interesting in going a good bit off-screen with computing. Spatial, contextual, and less attention-seeking. One of the things that I noticed in going from the N8 to the N950 was how the N950 was up to date with whatever I needed, without me needing to do more than turn it on. Yes, similar could have been done with the N8, but usually that meant having to manage several notification prompts, versus having that central area. With that central area, I was more intrigued with the computer closest to me spurring me into other actions like tracking my walking/biking, replacing loyalty cards with a watch-sized app/picture, and opening a few more experiments with augmented reality to get/pass information. I see the smartwatch as a neat component to this, and a device like the N9 able to program some of those environments as well.

The N950 is more computer than communicator. And because of its lack of major market appeal, offers me the incentive into making it into a server/platform for this kind of effort. The N9 would take the spot of the N950 in such, and then I’d have something to hack on in the background as needed. As for the iPad… I don’t know. Its a canvas still. I probably just need a simple OS on a white-box tablet and a few apps to handle the larger screen lifting. Then again, I might not. There’s a lot that can be done on a small screen when you ignore the physical bezel and just concentrate on the content.

The Alternatives

I’m deliberately thinking of staying closer to the MeeGo/Sailfish side of open source, rather than going Android. However, there are some similar options if I were to make this swap with a more Android tune:

  • The N8 and Kindle Fire HD would definitely be replaced with the Asus Padfone 2. As much as I can see the use of other devices, having just one computer to manage between a tablet and phone makes too much sense.
  • The addition of a smartwatch like the MotoActv would work here as well, and probably better as I’d get that integration between the Android phone and the watch, which runs Android
  • I didn’t see any apps to program NFC tags for the Padfone, but I know that Samsung has such for both the Galaxy Note II and Galaxy SIII. If i liked large phones, perhaps. I still can’t see being much larger than my N8, even though the N950 has shown me that 4in screens can be pocketable and not a nuisance.

There could be others. I’d imagine that at some point that RIM would consider some kind of watch or pendant-like accessories for their upcoming BB10 devices (if they were not thinking there, what’s up with that folks). Cleaner integration with a new Playbook works well in this kind of swap as well.

The Swap of Behaviors/Intents

The reason for doing this is that it would (again) force much of my computing to occur off of the “consumption” screens. I’d still be doing things like All Books and MMM, but I’d also be pressed into exploring those off-the-internet paths like what Google and BERG London did with the LAMP concept I recently watched (The Verge):

Its a part of that “I Am the Web Service” idea that I’ve been going down lately. There’s more to these devices than being notified about loose relational connections, updated lists, and very little opportunity to redesign data container formats and the workflows around them. I see that there’s a lot more that I should be unlocking and engaging in the world around me, let alone having a better chance of earning a living off of building these experiences. But, if I continue in the same black boxes and LED notifications that don’t press beyond the boxes themselves, I’ll never get there. I really do feel that we can do a lot more with this tech than we are. And at the end of the day, it shouldn’t be just about getting the shiny, but swapping what we used to think was productive to what is not only productive, but worthwhile, sustainable, and mutually beneficial.

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