The question of design, mobile apps and device we have discussed before in this blog. The recent Mobile World Congress held in Barcelona recently again touched on this subject. Smartplanet columnist Reena Jana wrote an interesting piece from observations made at the conference called Three mobile design trends worth watching. That list is:

1) Boundaries are blurring between tablets and phones.
Were they very large phones, or were they small tablets? Huawei’s Ascend P2, for instance, sports a 4.7-inch screen; LG’s Optimus G Pro’s is 5.5 inches; and ZTE’s Grand Memo’s display reaches across 5.7 inches.

2) Design is a key ingredient when creating emerging-market devices and services
Clearly, there are large, potential new audiences for mobile technology in resource-constrained communities. And as competition heats up for them, attractiveness will play a role in winning attention

3) One word: services
Attendees at the Congress were paying attention to services perhaps just as much as they were paying attention to hardware’s capabilities or the technical details of software.

This merging of the boundaries between smartphones with tablets raises many design challenges. It also begs functionality questions. Clearly there is a divide between mobile apps built for 7-10″ tablets and those for smartphones. The larger screen size provided by tablets, allows for a wider array of GIS tools to be made available. The portability and limited screen size of traditional smartphones lend themselves well to simple GIS tasks like basic data collection, or geo-notification apps such as provided by geofencing technology. A richer set of mobile apps can be provided on tablets. For example WebMapSolutions have been creating mobile versions of widgets currently available in the ArcGIS Viewer for Flex and making them available on the iPad. What is use-able on a 4″ smartphone and on a 7″+ tablet respectively is easy to define. But as 5″ and even 6″ devices are launched, so this functional divide becomes less clear. We may end up with apps for 4″ or less smartphones, another richer set for 4″-7″ devices, with the most functionally complex mobile GIS apps reserved for 7″ plus. It will be interesting to see how things evolve.

See Jennifer Riggins more in-depth report on the Mobile World Congress called In Barcelona, constructing smart cities

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