Sonntag, 13. Dezember 2009

Apple, please add adaptive navigation and context-awareness!

My iPhone keeps on filling itself with apps (I wonder how it does that :-D) - some of them get removed directly after install if I don't like them, others are getting my favorites and again others I know I will use them in the future, probably when I don't have wifi or a good reception available, but I just don't need them now. You know about which type of apps I am talking about: white pages, hotel booker, dictionaries, traffic information, converter tools, etc.
Some of them are really useful, but I only need them at a certain time once, or over a certain period of time (mostly for some days or sometimes weeks) - but they still clutter my iPhone - and even more: new apps are added behind them, whether the newly installed app will become one of my favorites or not.

Now this is nothing new and exceptionally specific to the iPhone, we can also see this with webpages and/or information within webpages, also. I might check on eBay 10 times a day if I want to bid on something. But then again I might not use eBay for weeks if I don't want to bid on anything.

It's some sort of situational correlation.

Now with the iPhone,
  • the situation might be that I am currently travelling in a foreign country - let's take France for example, I would need my french dictionary often and definitely my other dictionaries are more or less useless while I am travelling - so are the apps I have for public transportation schedules in Germany.
  • the situation might be, that I have a certain task to do - search for a suitable name of an yet unborn child for example - I don't know if there is an app for that (there probably is!), but it definitely gets used less frequently once I found a name or the child was born.
  • the situation might be, that I am at home - in which case I probably will use my computer to check my newsreader or do some instant messaging instead of the according apps on my iPhone - but I might be still interested in my games or the birthdays of my contacts.
  • I am probably less interested in booking a hotel when I am in a 50 miles range to my home.
  • I probably won't need my compass when being at home.
  • etc.
For all of these cases, there are some keywords which might lead to an answer: context-aware computing, adaptive navigation and situational applications.

Now why do people use none of these keywords together in one sentence with the iPhone? It seems like a perfect candidate for such technologies:
  1. My iPhone has the ability to know where I am.
  2. My iPhone has the ability to make a good guess about which language I prefer.
  3. My iPhone (probably) has the ability to know whats on my mind when I checked for a baby name in the [put a name here] app, the thousandth time this week.
  4. My iPhone has the ability to know, that I didn't use this nameless application with the hideous icon within the last five weeks.
I want my iPhone to act accordingly.

Now in order to let my iPhone do this, there are some requirements.
  1. Some sort of  matching, using evidence sources to find out where exactly I am (what my current context is) - like MarcoPolo does it for example.
  2. Some sort of awareness how often which application is used and in what context (see 1.).
  3. Some sort of mechanism to adapt the navigation dynamically (e.g. re-sort and/or hide my apps) based on 1. and 2.
Those three requirements would allow for a full-fledged context-aware computing on the iPhone.

Example

By default my iPhone screen looks like this:

Lets make the assumption, that:
  • A is my text messaging app, which I use wherever I am.
  • I am currently at home and I definitely do not need apps I to L because they do something I can do better at my laptop and my laptop is currently also started.
  • I definitely don't need my car navigation, which is B.
  • There is a game R which I bought at the beginning of this week and have played this for some time when being at home.
Then the iPhone screen could look like this:

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