Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Beware the Normob, for they are many and they are right

Normobs, normal mobile users, are everywhere. They make calls, they text, that's it. They're not interested in mobile browsing, watching TV on the go or anything else the product managers at the network operators believe is the next big thing.

Ewan at SMSTextNews posted about the standard of handsets he was seeing people using while he was in LA : Welcome to LA, home of the crap handset.

While I to have concerns over the sartorial crimes committed in the name of mobile phone protection I also think this observation is an important one for the mobile industry.

I am not a Normob. I have 2 phones, an N95 and a Blackberry. I change them when I want. I am technically savvy. I don’t pay my own phone bill. I should be a product manager’s dream. However, I’m not a big mobile Internet user, I’m not interested watching TV on my phone and I find mobile applications irritating.

It’s easy to get carried away with sexy new services but these services are generally used by early adopters who actually enjoy that they are difficult to use or that the experience is sub-standard. The problems provide a barrier which in turn makes these services exclusive.

Only if you can surmount the hurdles, understand the technology and have the patience of a saint can you be part of the select group who can experience this latest new thing. These are not the attributes of the Normob.

What the Normob wants are services that are useful and that fit in with their daily lives.

I don’t have a problem with early adopters. They are a key group in the development of any technology. Without them testing, trialling and reporting, new services would never get off the ground.

The problem I have is with the crazy valuations and exponential business plans that accompany them. As if somehow getting adopted by the majority is the easy bit, a given if you’ve tapped into this geeky niche.

I’m sure some of these applications are excellent and that they fulfil a need, however temporary, in their target audience. But until the Normob is using them, they remain interesting rather than ground-breaking.

1 comment:

Steph Marshall said...

I am a total Normob and it feels great to say it! I am a texter and a caller and nothing more with my mobile. I always opt for the handset that works quickly, easily and isn't overloaded with apps and doesn't call people when it's in my pocket. I live with an avid early adopter and I have to laugh when it takes ten minutes for his phone to load up and then it crashes. Vital though this is to R&D, I have to say with some passion, that some things should just work and not be covered in annoying technology, just because they can. I consider myself to be pretty technically savvy, but hate the thought of needing to use something in an emergency and having to go through menu options and apps to get it to work. To sum up my rant: I need convincing of the benefits of additional mobile services.