Mobile Devices

February 20, 2013

Getting a 'Handle' on Mobile Phone Usage

How many mobile phones are in the marketplace today? There are so many different models from a variety of manufacturers on so many carriers that it can make your head spin. Each mobile phone has its own unique display, leading mobile users to hold their phones in a variety of ways. One UX professional decided to measure what similarities there were across how people use devices, determining just how it is that phones are being used.

Steven Hoober conducted a study to determine how people hold and use their smartphones. For program and app developers along with phone manufacturers, this information becomes very relevant for future applications and design ideas (although these insights stand to be quickly destabilized by the flexible screen models that Samsung unveiled at this year’s CES—if embraced, these models could potentially change everything that we know about mobile phones).

There are basically three different ways people use their mobile phones: one-handed, cradled, or by using both hands. The typical methods of holding phones have changed, largely due to the onslaught of touchscreen phones on the market and the size of some of the newer models of mobile phones, such as the Samsung Note II. These days, it is fairly uncommon to see the two-handed rapid tapping that was common in the days of Blackberry’s reign.

In Hooper’s observations, he noted forty percent of mobile phones users were passive users, which means they were using their phones for talking or listening to music, without inputting data or accessing apps found on their phones. Of the remaining people observed, one-handed users accounted for 49 percent of the users, the cradle style of use accounted for 36 percent, and the last 15 percent went to the two-handed users.

Knowing this information about how customers hold their phones and interact with it will help developers in designing next-generation phone and more importantly, where to place shortcuts on the mobile phone’s screen to make it easier to access for the user.

Edited by Jamie Epstein

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