Merged web interfaces...idea #49/100...
I often imagine a phone interface that is simply a search-box, as bare and stripped down as the Google front page.
Most of the time I would be entering search strings based on names. However, unlike a search engine, there would be no need to hit "search" or "return". I imagine that the search "results" would appear below the box in real-time as I typed the search term, just like some devices do already (6600, Blackberry etc.)
However, the names would actually be stored on the web, not on the phone. I would have a personal address book and I could also belong to shared address books. Of course, data would have to be cached, otherwise delays would be too great compared to a locally stored book. [Updated books (via the web) would have already been downloaded pre-emptively.]
Why isn't this available? Or is it? Why do I have to bother with the idea of "synchronisation"? And why isn't it possible to have the search box for contacts as my home page on the phone? After all, the most common action done with a mobile phone must be contacting someone (text or call).
What else could I do with a search box? I could type in a command, or something related. For example, I type "ring" and I start to get entries in the results area to do with ringing, ring tones etc. Some of these "links" would be local, like "adjust ring volume", "change ring tone". However, when I select "change ring tone", the options are web-based. The search box would enable me to find tones quickly, but there would be a mix of local (installed) and remote (uninstalled) tones.
As operators released new services, they would appear in my results, like "ring back tones" (if this isn't already supported).
In the coming all-IP world of 3G, once IMS has arrived, increasingly mobile services will all be web-driven. Changing call-forwarding or rings-till-diverted settings won't be driven be some obscure dialing string ("1124" or whatever), it will be an option on a web (WAP) page.
With many features, the user won't be cognisant (nor need to be) of whether it's a phone-based function, or a server (network) based function, or some mixture.
I like the idea of a search-box interface. One of the problems with mobile phones and services in the evolving 3G era is increased complexity. There will be so many possibilities.
Perhaps with careful design of a search interface and results ranking, both service discovery and usage will become not only more manageable for users, but more profitable for operators. Even now, there are perhaps lots of mobile services that we simply don't know about, unless one dares to hunt around on the operator's website. I'm a great believer in the "bump into effect" which says that you are more likely to use something if you bump into it, than if it is tidied away in some corner, real or virtual.
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