Young adult phones: A major phone manufacturer creates new systems for the young adult market

One of the world’s leading cell phone manufacturers asked InContext Design to help them better understand the young adult market. As cell phones moved to being indispensable tools for this age group, the manufacturer wanted to better understand how these devices fit into people’s overall lives and what they could deliver—beyond basic telephone and text message service—to help capture this market.

Challenge

  • What are the key activities, social relationships and information needs of young adult early adopters?
  • How can current and near future cell technology help youth perform their life tasks and become more connected with their communities?
  • How are young adults accessing and filtering their information; what kind of “just in time” and “just in place” information would be valuable?

The client knew they were looking for more than minor extensions to existing services—they wanted innovative solutions that would create new markets.

Delivering Results

The team responded with specific design solutions addressing different aspects of the youth market, showing how diverse technologies could coordinate to deliver integrated support of the social networking so desirable to these users. InContext’s solutions included modifications to the cell phone itself, altered ways of using ad-hoc wireless networking, integration with larger devices, and integration with internet portals:

  • How to leverage 3 different form factors and screen sizes to deliver consistent social networking support
  • How to capture social groups and make them available with the push of a button from diverse devices
  • How to handle the constant “Are you okay?” worries—and also the mutual nagging that is part of this social interaction
  • How to integrate physical places into the social network, letting stores and meeting sites (such as bars) be actors in the community safely and without annoying the users
  • How to leverage and support young adults’ interest in collecting and sharing information
  • How internet-based social portals could extend the social network maintained through users’ portable devices—indeed, this project predicted the success of social networking sites such as Facebook and mySpace

This project gave the cell phone manufacturer insight into where this market would move over the next 5 years, and how this critical market segment—the next generation of adopters—would use their technology.

The Process

cellphone2Because cell phones are personal life tools, fitting intimately into a person’s self-image and needing to integrate seamlessly with their daily tasks, the manufacturer knew traditional marketing techniques would not give them the insight they needed.

InContext designed a market study to propose solutions that would leverage the cell phone manufacturer’s unique technology. Since the manufacturer was not American and they wanted better penetration of the US market, the whole study was done in the US. InContext used Contextual Inquiry to conduct in-depth observations of 10 young adult’s lives, meeting them for the work/evening transition and observing periods of leisure and work. InContext investigators accompanied the users on their life activities and discussed their attitudes, needs, and ideas during the interviews. InContext used these interviews to identify friends and relatives who could also participate in the study.

This in-depth study revealed new aspects of the users’ lives and attitudes, and showed key differences between this group and older cell phone users.

  • The young adults sought continuous connection to their peers. They were part of many social groups and wanted to maintain connection to those groups
  • This population is highly mobile and active, and expects their technology to travel with them—and they expect their friends to have mobile technology as well
  • These young adults seek constant stimulation. They seek out information and multitasking to avoid boredom
  • Having just recently left their families of origin, this community worries about safety. They want to know where their friends are, and their families want to know where they are

Based on these findings, the team began to see a huge unmet need to support this population in their desire to maintain a constant web of interconnections with their peers—using coordinating and communicating devices to help accomplish this.