I was thinking about another post I’ve wanted to write about switching from a paper planner (diary for the Brits) to an electronic one. One of the few interactions in which paper calendars tend to come out ahead of electronic calendars is entering an appointment. Mobile devices just don’t have text entry interfaces that can keep up with ye olde pencil (yes, that includes you, iPhone). However, when I’m sitting in front of my desktop, I enter events into Outlook—where the interaction is just as fast as the paper planner (click the day and time, start typing). My schedule lives in the cloud somewhere and is synced to my computers (home, work, laptop) as well, but it’s the iPhone that I associate with the physical object that is “my planner.” It’s the thing I carry with me, just like I did my paper planner back in the day. The iPhone is sitting in my pocket when I’m entering appointments into Outlook, and in this sense, it’s as if my desktop computer is acting as an interface extension to my iPhone. I use the comparatively rich desktop interface to modify information on my iPhone—modifications that I’m perfectly capable of making with the iPhone’s interface, but which are simply accomplished easier with the mouse, keyboard, and full-sized display of my computer.
This got me thinking that there are plenty of other interactions I have with my mobile device which would be much easier on my computer, like sending a text message or choosing a ring-tone. I spend a good deal of time every day in front of a computer with my mobile sitting in my pocket. What if whenever I was parked in front of the computer, my mobile used a wireless link (like Bluetooth) to forward interaction tasks to my desktop. I could send and receive text messages from a small ‘chat’-style application, giving my thumbs a break. I could highlight a phone number, maybe one I found online or one from my contacts list, and issue a command to have my phone dial it. By the time I fished it out of my pocket I’d be talking to the person I called.
No, this isn’t a replacement for a good phone interface. There’s still many hours each day that I don’t have a computer around, and good interface design makes a mobile device a joy to use rather than a pain. However, there are limitations to how good you can make the interaction and still expect me to hold the thing up to my ear or slip it into my pant- (trouser-) pockets. If I’m already focused on the computer, put as much the phone interface there as possible. It would allow me to integrate my mobile even more closely into my normal workflow, and prevent me from having to dig it out and put it back, making it much less of an interruption when I do use it at my desk.
Anyone heard of any software out there already that allows you to do this kind of thing (besides the example I mentioned with the calendar)?