Stuart O’Brien is editor of Mobile Entertainment, the journal of reference for the mobile gaming and content industry.
Marek Pawlowski: How did you become involved in the mobile business and what’s your role at the moment?
I’m currently the editor at a mobile content trade magazine called Mobile Entertainment. I started off in the publishing business eight years ago writing boring management reports about various media industries, then fell into journalism quite by accident and eventually found my niche in mobile.
What does the term ‘mobile user experience’ mean to you?
Can I get to what I want quickly. If I can’t I’ll invariably give up and not bother again, which is often the case. And that’s coming from someone who¹s supposed to have a reasonable grasp of how all this mobile technology works – I dread to think how many ordinary punters are put off using mobile content services because of the bad user experience.
How important do you think it is to have direct exposure to end customers when developing new mobile services?
It seems to me that direct exposure to end users is what every content provider wants. Whether they’re prepared to deal directly with the customer when things go wrong, however, is another matter entirely.
Who do you think has overall responsibility for user experience in the mobile telecoms industry – operators, handset manufacturers, application developers?
In the on-portal content world the buck clearly stops with the operator it is their logo at the top of the monthly bill after all. In saying that, everyone needs to play their part, whether that’s the video producer making sure their clip is watchable or the handset manufacturer ensuring the user can access it quickly.
What was your first mobile handset and what do you use these days?
First phone was the ever-reliable Nokia 3310. That handset was indestructible. Right now I’m flicking between a Nokia N70 and an N91. The former has a great camera and the latter has better quality music playback than my iPod.
Which services do you use most often on your mobile?
I probably surf the mobile internet more than I make calls (I have no friends). Rarely does a day out go by without checking the BBC’s mobile sites for a bit of news and all the football transfer gossip. I sometimes use Google search too.
Do you think the industry should be moving towards a business model which enables each user to feel as if their handset has been designed for them as an individual?
Personalisation is crucial for most internet-based content services, so it makes sense for mobile to go the same way. Of course personalisation doesn’t necessarily equal the erosion of the service provider brand, which is what I think many people in mobile fear.
For example, on my PC I can populate my ISP BT Yahoo’s browser and homepage with content from my favourite websites and stuff I’ve generated myself, so I use it as a ‘base’ before going off elsewhere when I need to. There’s no reason why operators can’t do the same for the mobile internet.
What combination of handset design, mobile services and customer support would represent your ideal user experience?
That’s a tricky one, as it depends on each use case. As a music fan I’d like a device with optimised audio functionality, with a built-in store to purchase individual tracks, albums, CDs and concert tickets from, all charged to my monthly bill or some other account without the need for pesky premium SMSes. Of course, the service would have DRM that enabled me to transfer songs freely between the device and a PC, which would in turn make clunky and potentially confusing ‘dual downloads’ a thing of the past.
What’s the most bizarre use of a mobile device you’ve discovered recently?
We came a cross a mobile hair-loss magazine recently. The mind boggles.