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Welcome to a 'One-Screen-Doesn't-Fit-All' World

Adam Korbl, Chief Product & Marketing Officer at Glide (www.glide.me)
06.09.16
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The days of the 'standard size' smartphone are behind us. Apple's iPhone SE will not be the last time we see a device manufacturer offer a smaller screen size to accommodate changing consumer behavior. The trendsetting device manufacturer has also made a clear indication that increased adoption of the Apple Watch is a priority. Be it on a wearable device, a smartphone, or a tablet, today's consumer wants a seamless mobile experience that fits his or her individual lifestyle.

Since smartphones became necessary to our daily lives, consumers have followed manufacturer trends in search of the perfect screen size. As screen sizes continued to grow, consumers continued to purchase the newest models. While Android-supported smartphones always offered some choices, the iPhone 6 and 6+ release was Apple's first attempt at screen size customization.

Now it's clear that the power to dictate the most popular screen size is in the hands of consumers. Today's mobile software needs to account for how the user experience will translate across the Apple Watch, Kindle Fire, moto g, iPad mini, Microsoft Surface Pro and iPhone SE - to name a few. On the other hand, are all options created equal?

While the mobile universe contemplates what the perfect personal tech device looks like, the pressure of designing for one-size-fits-all has shifted from the device manufacturer to the software developer. Here are three considerations for engaging mobile users in this era of diverse device options:

  1. Get Used to It! The smartwatch is here to stay and will become ubiquitous in the coming years. It follows the evolution of technology from the bulky and intrusive interfaces of the first PCs to a minimalist way of interacting with our digital world. It is inevitable that, at some point, your wallet, keys and phone will all be rolled into one product on your wrist. There will also continue be a market for tablets and phones of all sizes for the foreseeable future, despite tablet sales starting to stagnate.
  2. Keep it Fast & Simple: The smaller the device, the more stripped down the interface should be. Yet, there's a huge leap between the smallest mobile phone and a smartwatch because the size of your wrist only allows you to focus on one thing at a time. Being successful on the smartwatch means the user spends as little time as possible in the app. These are drastically different considerations than when developing for a Galaxy S7 or even an iPhone SE.
  3. Continuity Matters: The daily consumer experience is a multi-screen experience. Even if preferences are trending towards smaller screens, between work and play, we all need to switch devices. For this reason, it is important that developers not only create an experience that is unique to various screen sizes and devices, but that each of these unique experiences provide continuity so that a consumer gets what they expected when switching between different screen sizes in the same app.
With diverse device size options comes a whole new slew of ways to engage with and target consumers depending on the style and screen size they prefer. For example, messaging on the smartwatch makes a lot of sense; however, texting is difficult on a small screen with your relatively large finger. When it comes to smartwatch communication, 'tap and talk' messaging is the future because it's fast, easy, natural and accurate compared with text-based input or dictation.

With that said, by learning about and creating the ideal experience for every type of device, the limits on what can be done on our mobile devices will fall to the wayside.

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