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Nokia's Cellphone Anthropologist 100

Posted by timothy
from the cell-phones-need-louder-alarm-clocks dept.
holy_calamity writes "New Scientist have an interview with a Nokia researcher who uses anthropological methods to study how people use their phones. His work currently focuses on watching how people in emerging markets like Africa use their devices to inform designs. For example, after finding that in Uganda many people use one handset, they shipped a version with multiple separate address books. There's also a slideshow of Chipchase's research images."
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Nokia's Cellphone Anthropologist

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  • by lucas teh geek (714343) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:08PM (#23867073)
    my phone is pretty ancient so perhaps it's a common feature now, but multiple address books sounds like something that would be useful everywhere, not just Uganda. being able to separate work contacts, from social contacts and from old school contacts would be great.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by srothroc (733160)
      I think it's a common feature; it's not really touted as being "multiple address books", but rather as the ability to separate contacts into groups.

      I don't actually remember if any of my US cell phones had it, though I feel like they did. My cell phones here in Japan certainly do, though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by maxume (22995)
        My $30 junker phone has categories. I think it will do an arbitrary amount of phone numbers for each contact, but I don't know that many people with 2 cell phones...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Bandman (86149)
          I've had two blackberries so far, and both have the annoying habit of defaulting any phone number to the "work" field.

          It probably shouldn't make me as mad as it does, but it's a pain in the ass to have to retype every single number. If only there was an option to set "Default phone field" or something similar
        • I think it will do an arbitrary amount of phone numbers for each contact, but I don't know that many people with 2 cell phones...

          I don't think this is what he means. It's not "I have work, home and cell contacts for each person," it's "I have each person filed according to whether they're a work contact or personal contact or another category."

          My BlackBerry does this, and I love it. Switching between categories is a bit annoying though; I'd like to have up and down scroll through a list, and side-to-sid

          • By the way, this kind of functionality is what I'm looking forward to in Android phones. It will be great to be able to install my own address book app instead of relying on the manufacturer to do it the way I want, and to post suggestions in forums where people can see them and code them.

      • oh, I can label contacts with a group name, but the only functionality that gives me a custom ringtones for the group. there appears to be no way to view just contacts of one group apart from the screen where you add/remove contacts from the group which has no options for making calls or sending messages. the phone is an nokia 6230 i think
      • by melun (1165565)
        Vast majority of cellphones in Japan are equipped with password protected separate address books, hidden protected entries and so on...
      • by dwater (72834)

        i'm pretty sure he's talking about more than just groups.

        For example, Nokia's S60 already has groups, though I guess the way it works could be not as 'separate' as other implementations. To me it seems to work in a similar way to iTunes where it starts off in the 'library' and shows all contacts, but allows you to have 'playlists', which are the groups. It's really not separate address books.

        I wouldn't be surprised if he was alluding to having security per address book too...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      being able to separate work contacts, from social contacts and from old school contacts would be great.
      I picked up a $40 LG phone [huddler.com] at AT&T with their "pay as you go" plan a couple of months ago, and it has this feature. And not much else.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      my phone is pretty ancient so perhaps it's a common feature now, but multiple address books sounds like something that would be useful everywhere, not just Uganda. being able to separate work contacts, from social contacts and from old school contacts would be great.

      I suspect the Ugandan cell phones would have separate passwords to access each address book, something lacking in the western versions using groups.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by Dan541 (1032000)

      You may have the ability to "Group" contacts.

  • by HishamMuhammad (553916) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:19PM (#23867143) Homepage Journal
    Interesting to see the big players noticing the possibilities in the lower end [wikipedia.org] markets. In the so-called third world we often get expensive products that were designed for rich markets that don't even fit our needs (eg, videogames with network support when the actual services are not offered in our country). Hopefully we'll see more companies designing different products for different economic realities, instead of just dumping 5-year old designs here once they get "cheap enough for the third world".
    • by ashayh (636057)
      AFAIK, Nokia has been interested in the lower end of the market since the late nineties. They have had a 40$ phone in India for ages.
      • by Bandman (86149)
        India also has a $3000 car. Doesn't mean the western world will see it anytime soon. Especially here in the states, where our safety laws are fine with motorcycles, but ban automobiles with bumpers lower than a standard height.
        • by Miseph (979059) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:17PM (#23868619) Journal

          Yes, damn them for forcing automobiles to not be death traps at a relatively small dollar cost.

          Why not bitch that your seat belt restricts your movement while you're at it... we'll just pretend that paralysis isn't such a huge restriction on movement too.

          The real reason that India has $3000 cars and we don't is that it simply costs more to manufacture and sell a car here than it does in India, no matter what features or devices are included or required. A single US dollar is simply worth more in India than it is the US.

          As for motorcycles... I've known paramedics who just assume any motorcyclist who gets in a crash is likely to be an organ donor by the time they get to the scene. They probably should be illegal on safety grounds, but it's just such an unpopular proposition that it will never fly.

          • by gaspyy (514539)

            The GP was referring to Logan, which is a reasonable car in terms of safety. It doesn't have GPS or park assistance, but it did score 3* on European safety tests.

            • by funfail (970288)

              I believe it was Tata Nano that was under $3000. Dacia (Mahindra) Logan is more like $5000.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LucidBeast (601749)
        Cheap phones make the money, smart phones make the news.
        • by pimpimpim (811140)
          I guess so, because in Germany it is very easy to find mobile phones without a camera still. I just bought a 20 euro prepaid one from nokia. They even sell the e-ink motorola mobile phone out here, but I must say that is unfortunately crappy, especially since writing an SMS is hell, or going through any kind of menu structure by ticking in codes that resemble advanced vi ;)

          I am a bit sad, though, that they do put in a radio in mine, instead of something more useful like bluetooth. I guess radios are dead

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Jellybob (597204)

            especially since writing an SMS is hell, or going through any kind of menu structure by ticking in codes that resemble advanced vi ;)

            Awesome, where do I get one? And does it support all the features of vi, or just a subset? ;)

            iIl c u l8r:wq
        • by Ilgaz (86384)

          A cheap phone having a non buggy J2ME (Java) can do wonders these days. A good example is Opera Mini.

    • by grcumb (781340)

      Hopefully we'll see more companies designing different products for different economic realities, instead of just dumping 5-year old designs here once they get "cheap enough for the third world".

      In my little corner of the Developing World, this is exactly what's happening. The local telecoms monopoly has just been ended, and the newest entrant has offered up a cash bond to deliver mobile telephony services to 85% of the population in a country with incredibly difficult geographical features.

      Obviously, t

  • Stale Contacts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperdave (969942) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:26PM (#23867211) Journal
    One feature I'd like to see on a phone (I don't have one, so I don't know if this exists or not), is a date of last contact field. I hate phoning someone that I haven't spoken to in a while only to find out that their number has changed. If I had a list of who I hadn't contacted in a while, I could either touch base, or wipe their name.
    • Re:Stale Contacts (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nbert (785663) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:07PM (#23867525) Homepage Journal
      Haven't seen any phone featuring this deliberately. I think it would be also kind of neat to have a plugin for xing or plaxo, which simply updates your contact's numbers whenever they change it, so you don't even have to think about this.

      I'd also appreciate a provider field also fed by an online service. Over here people can take their mobile numbers with them when switching providers. Sometimes I'm calling someone with the same operator code in the assumption that I'm using the 1000 minutes I can talk for free calling people on the same mobile network. Of course I could ask whenever I'm calling, but it would be way more convenient to know before I dial...
    • by maxume (22995)
      Are you also this guy?

      http://www.defectiveyeti.com/archives/002539.html [defectiveyeti.com]
  • Market Research? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:28PM (#23867227)
    This sounds like market research at a global company, not anthropology.
    • by Gewalt (1200451) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:50PM (#23867411)
      Agreed, and its amazing what happens when any company pays attention to market feedback instead of telling consumers what they want.
    • by EMeta (860558)
      Remind me again what the difference is, when the market research is being done by the methods described in the article?
    • by joearf (209047)

      Call it market research or call it anthropology - I think it has the potential of suiting both purposes fairly well.

      I was working for Nokia when the NY Times Magazine article about Chipchase's [btw: I love his name. It reminds me of an old game that used to come with Windows 3.1 - or maybe early Win95] work was published and I really wanted to reach out to this guy and see if there was any possibility of coming to work with/for him, but at that exact same time I got deeply invloved in a project that was eve

  • TEDTalk (Score:4, Informative)

    by JustinOpinion (1246824) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @08:36PM (#23867315)
    For those of you who prefer video, here's Jan Chipchase's TED talk [youtube.com], which covers similar topics.
  • Perhaps I'm spoiled by my Japanese phone, but since I got my first one 4 years ago, I could specify what "category" a contact falls under and separate them thusly. I always had Work, Foreigners and Japanese for convenience. And, of course Delivery. Is this not the same thing?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ztransform (929641)

      When I visited Tokyo in March I was amazed just how much more advanced the basic mobile phones are in Japan compared to the top level phones available in Western societies.

      Almost all Japanese mobiles have large screens, built in dictionaries for translating between English and Japanese, and have cameras that can 1) read in universal square barcodes that represent web addresses and 2) can read text from a distance.

      I wonder if the study also takes into account the different ways societies as a whole use t

      • When I visited Tokyo in March I was amazed just how much more advanced the basic mobile phones are in Japan compared to the top level phones available in Western societies.

        Almost all Japanese mobiles have large screens, built in dictionaries for translating between English and Japanese, and have cameras that can 1) read in universal square barcodes that represent web addresses and 2) can read text from a distance.

        I wonder if the study also takes into account the different ways societies as a whole use their phone - from the tightly networked gang cultures, to the highly individualistic.

        What I thought was striking about Japan is the way that user interfaces are more complex, but there are more features. People use phones as PC substitutes so they want email, MSN, web access and so on. Also compared to the UK how the typical consumer is a 25-35, female and quite willing to learn to use geeky, user unfriendly phone features if that is the price to find a boyfriend.

        And they are slim and basically fucking hot too.

        God I miss Japan.

      • Wait, please don't say "Western" societies... Say American society... European society has very advanced phones as well....

      • I think you should take a look at the top end nokia phones. I spent the last four months in Japan, and I have to say I saw nothing there that could beat my N95 in terms of features. Sure, some had a bigger screen or a tv receiver, but overall I had absolutely no desire to switch.
  • I just watched a dozen or so images of Nokia phones.
    However, as I'm already a fully-hooked E61 geek, I was able to focus on reading the mildly interesting captions instead.
    So there!
  • "Anthropologist" (Score:5, Interesting)

    by vision4bg (1121033) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @09:28PM (#23867691)
    Wow, this article just really rubs me the wrong way. Any professional ethnographer worth their salt would see a myriad of problems with this guy and his 'research'. I guess that what happens when you apply for a UI job and end up doing usability research. I am shocked that he finds basic things as multiple SIM card adapters as interesting as he does. These have been around for 10 years and are common in first world countries as well. That plus the bland "phones could be designed to work better" conclusion (taken verbatim from the article) makes it obvious how Nokia have lost their way since their highs of the early 2000s...
    • by dave1791 (315728) on Friday June 20, 2008 @12:18AM (#23869039)

      Perhaps these conclusions would be obvious to a professional ethnographer, but you don't find many ethnographer is mobile phone design teams.

      It is not unusual for devs to not really understand the actualy usage patterns of their products in the field. The people creating the products often lave limited or no actual contact with users. The contact is mediated through product managers or "product definition" people, with a loss of fidelity. This happens for a couple of reasons:

      1 - As soon as someone has a contact number or email address in development, that dev becomes the go to person for everything, even if it is unrelated. So companies try to shield their developers from the end users to enable them to remain productive.

      2 - Devs are not often well versed in the company line and might say things about roadmaps and whatnot that the company would rather not have said.

      Incedentially, I agree with you, but that is the lay of the land.

  • Personally I have only one phone, but I have seen many people with a personal phone and one paid for by an employer. Instead of having to carry (and charge) both phones, it seems to me a useful function would be having the ability to have multiple phone numbers reach the same phone.
    • by PPH (736903) on Thursday June 19, 2008 @11:39PM (#23868759)

      It must exist. I've seen one of those old Mororola bricks that had multiple line capability years ago.

      Technology dosn't move backwards (Windows Vista excepted).

      • all nokia phones I ever had can do 2 numbers / 1 phone. just hold the # key until a "2" icon shows up - it means that you switched to line 2.

        the problem is that the telcon may not support it.

        • that is... 2 phone numbers on the same SIM card
          • by PPH (736903)

            My SIM card (AT&T) has room for 4 numbers (under Settings | Phone Status | My Tel. Numbers). Like someone else said, the service provider may not support this. Some used to, back in the old brick days.

    • by trouser (149900)

      My brother ordered a phone online. Plays music, video, games, etc. The feature that appealed to him was 2 SIM card slots. Personal and work phone accounts both accessed through the same device. Clear indication on screen of the account receiving a call. Easily call via either account. He has it configured to automatically divert the work number to voice mail outside office hours.

      Chinese. Brand I've never heard of. Happy Joy Laughing Monster Phone or something like that. I could ask him, but what's the point

    • by dhakir (1132425)
      There are adapters you can buy on ebay, but I've been told that having 2 SIM cards plugged in drains significantly more battery. That could be a reason mobile makers don't do it.
  • It seems like a much better solution would be for Nokia/Symbian to fully open up their O/S and allow 3rd party applications access to the same APIs as the native apps, in the way that Google Android promises to. That way, local developers and vendors could add features relevant to local conditions, and guys like this researcher would hardly be needed.
    • by sznupi (719324)

      And how is that different from the way Symbian is currently open for devs?

      On my phone I have already different phonebook and camera app, both installed by me. I also toyed a bit with different sms app (threading of messages, Gmail - style).

      • by jaiyen (821972)

        And how is that different from the way Symbian is currently open for devs?

        On my phone I have already different phonebook and camera app, both installed by me. I also toyed a bit with different sms app (threading of messages, Gmail - style).

        I think it's different in a few ways.

        1) The apps you're talking about are only for S60, most Nokia handsets for the lower end are S40 and apps for that are limited to sandboxed J2ME ones (so, pretty much only crappy games).

        2) Even for S60, development is far from open. On the newest S60v3 every app has to go through the Symbian Signed process for each release - slow and $$$. That only gives you basic permissions too, for anything more advanced (e.g. connecting to the net) it's more involved still.

        3)

        • by sznupi (719324)

          1) Well, yes, but you were talking about Symbian. S40 isn't Symbian, it's...limited/lower resource interface for low-end phones.

          2) You can also self sign.

          3) I'm not sure how something much better than original apps counts as second class citizen. But what do you mean by replace? Well, I can't delete the original ones, but the new ones can take over button shortcuts, operate on the same db of messages/contacts and so on.

          Your SMS app would be possible since you have acces to messages db kept on the phone. Not

  • Since safety and security is my business, the GPS feature is of interest to me as is the Cell Phone Stun Gun which, although does not function as a cell phone, is greatly appreciated if one finds themself in a vulnerable situation. http://officialsafetyandsecurity.com/ [officialsa...curity.com]
  • by hcdejong (561314)

    So at least Nokia gets it. Question is, why doesn't everybody else? The design of a mobile phone (or any complex gadget for that matter) should START with studies in HCI. All too often gadgets end up being a maze of features stacked haphazardly together, with no thought on ease of use whatsoever.

    • by Tony Hoyle (11698)

      So at least Nokia gets it

      Have you *seen* Symbian?

      All too often gadgets end up being a maze of features stacked haphazardly together, with no thought on ease of use whatsoever.

      Ah yes.. I see you've used an N95.

  • I bought a very expensive high end cell phone in 1999, just before the Y2K "disaster" was supposed to happen. Then I had to buy a 2nd one because it didn't work in Moscow. I've never had my U.S enabled phone activated because why do I need it? Where is the anthropology about people who have no use for being callable 24/7?

    There are such things as email, message recording machines (or telco company equivalent options). Why do people need to be available 24/7? Where is the study about people who have no p

  • by Shag (3737) on Friday June 20, 2008 @06:18AM (#23870695) Homepage

    I've been to Uganda (and Kenya) a few times, and there are some things I'd like to see in the US.

    1. Basically all phones are sold unlocked, from the cheapest to the most full-featured.
    2. A SIM card, usually with an hour's service on it, costs about $1. (Pertinent to the article, I have friends who have 1 phone and multiple SIMs - one for work, one for personal use)
    3. Reasonably priced prepaid service is widely available.
    4. Incoming calls don't cost money.
    5. International texts are at most twice the cost of domestic ones.

    In Uganda - and a lot of other developing countries - people are a lot more likely to have mobiles than landlines anyway. If you've got electricity, and cell coverage, that mobile is pretty handy, since the telco will want an arm and a leg to actually run wires out to your place.

  • " My first job out of university was designing software for an economics project, but I realised that I didn't know what I was doing, so ... "

    So this guy couldn't understand economics, but he cuts it as a big with designer?

  • Two sim cards (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Weezul (52464) on Friday June 20, 2008 @07:40AM (#23871197)

    I'd love a phone that supports two sim cards. :(

  • Great.
    Why don't they employ their anthropologist to study how everyone gets irritated by the stupid ringtones - particularly when they go off in public places. How about having one that ... oh, I dunno.. makes a noise like a phone?
  • In the U.S., it seems like people mostly just use their phones to piss me off while I'm driving. Nothing like being on a single-lane highway behind a dump truck going 50, passing it, and then getting stuck behind some dick (who is generally leaning on the window of his car with the cellphone in between the glass and his head, like it's some heavy fucking burden) going 40. All of this in a 60 mph zone.

    They're completely oblivious until you pass them, at which point they'll start honking and/or throw on th

  • Let me get this straight: in North America, it's called "Market Research"; in Africa, it's called "Anthropology"?

    - RG>

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