The two use-cases of mobile

When working on a product spec a few years ago it occurred to me that mobile use-cases fit into one of two broad areas. Since then I’ve heard a similar pitch from analysts, mobile strategists and product managers the world over. Here’s my definition:

a) You know what you want.
You pick up your phone with a purpose. You want to call your Dad, text your girlfriend, check if BA285 has landed, locate for a recipe for Strawberry Daiquiris or find out what gynophobia is an irrational fear of. You know which app you’re going to use and your aim is to get the task completed as quickly as possible. Search may be your friend, you may have an app for it, or perhaps you love the mobile equivalent of that desktop site you’re always using.

b) You don’t know what you want.
You’re bored and don’t/can’t smoke so you need something to occupy your hands. You confirm you still have no email, scroll randomly through your phonebook, play snake/tetris/bejeweled, check facebook for the 20th time, look up last nights soccer scores, browse the top 25 apps, watch some movie trailers, or find out which TV star has the worst hair. You might hit the carrier homepage, browse a portal (web or app), perhaps navigate directly to a popular news site.

So there you go. Do you know what your users look like and does your product deliver on one of these two cases? It fundamentally affects product value as in case (a) you need to deliver exactly on your promise; while in case (b) you just need to be fun. You’re striving for an excellent product either way, but fun does not solve that pressing need, and a white search box does not keep idle fingers entertained.


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