Knockoff or Coincidence, Redux

Geez, I think we’re going to have to add a specific forum to this often recurring theme!

I saw this Frog case study today on “mobile simplicity”

In the mobile industry, it might be said that functionality and usability are worlds apart. New applications go undiscovered in the face of traditional functionality: address book, direct calling, and SMS text messaging. Flawed UI designs force us to scroll, click, and type our way through a variety of menus to perform even the most basic actions. The interface is simply too complicated to encourage discovery of higher-level capabilities.

Alltel Wireless came to frog to counter this trend. > The company envisioned a world of seamless connectivity between consumers and the information they want most, and tasked frog with generating viable new business concepts that would accomplish this goal.

To understand the values, needs, and aspirations of consumers in the mobile space, our analysts pored over Alltel user research and conducted in-store interviews with retail managers and customers alike. We then broadened our assessment to the trends at play within the industry. Newcomers to the mobile space indicated a growing emphasis on customization, user access to personal media and online data, and social networking capabilities. In each case, a trend that had begun in the online, PC ecosystem was making the jump to the mobile handset. > We began looking more closely at digital content trends at large, considering how Web 2.0 concepts might be applied to the mobile space.

Just as desktop widgets had provided PC users with simple navigation in the face of expansive content, frog and Alltel set out to create a platform for widgets in the mobile space. > The platform, “Celltop,” would provide a shortcut to users’ top content, from personal stocks to the SMS inbox, from local weather to the latest sports scores. Rather than forcing consumers to scroll menus, type search terms, and await connection, Celltop would bring this information to a user’s screen with one touch.

Each Cell offers a half-screen column of graphics, text, and imagery - the color, order, and content of the Cells fully adjustable by the user. In order to provide the simplest possible access to vital information, the application stores a user’s location and preferences, updating relevant Cells upon access. All screen types, layouts, nomenclature, fonts, and animations were designed and documented to provide high-fidelity graphics and clear, on-brand direction to the user. All controls and interaction patterns were developed to guarantee maximum usability, establishing consistency across Cells, regardless of the individual content.

To ensure that Alltel would be the first major wireless carrier to introduce a widget dashboard to the mobile device, we set an incredibly fast timetable for implementation, moving Celltop from design to delivery in just twelve months. > To do so, our team facilitated close collaboration between industry players, including the OEMs that manufacture the devices, QUALCOMM, which manages the relevant programming technology, and Motricity, a content provider that aggregates online data for the mobile platform. Phone calls, emails, and meetings occurred on a near-daily basis in order to facilitate information exchange, prioritization, and trouble-shooting. In some cases, physical handsets were shipped back and forth, with modifications made by each party.

frog also engaged the services of our partner company, communications software leader Aricent. Aricent’s existing knowledge of mobile application development allowed us to validate ideas more quickly, undertaking design, development, and testing in a fully integrated manner.

The first iteration of Celltop was released on the Samsung u520 in January 2007, > with immediate attention from the technological community.

Additional Cells are already in development for release later this year, including media access points, location based services, and more.

Now take a look at Motorola’s “Screen3”, launched two years earlier,
(and for which a patent was issued with my name listed as an Inventor:)

Motorola is introducing a new push technology for mobile phones called SCREEN3. SCREEN3 is an end to end content management solution for managing server content and connected mobile clients. > With SCREEN3, content can be categorized into channels and then delivered to subscribers via their mobile devices. The data automatically appears along a ticker like display on their mobile device’s home screen. Users do not have to click on any button or launch any application to retrieve content.

The real goal of SCREEN3 is to keep users’ attention. There have been plenty of studies that show a person’s attention span falters the more they have to click. By providing data continuously to a phone, a user no longer has to go anywhere to retrieve data - they just sit back and watch.

Cingular Wireless is the first network operator to offer Motorola’s SCREEN3 technology. SCREEN3 is featured today on the Motorola V557 for purchase from Cingular Wireless and will be available on a variety of additional Motorola handsets over the next several months.

The only difference I can discern is that:

  1. the Frog solution involves ‘one click’ where ours involved ‘no click.’
  2. the Frog solution came out 2 years later, initiated by Alltel, where the Motorola solution was picked up by Cingular


I didn’t read the details posted above, but I’ve always wondered about electronic device interfaces. It’s probably agreed that among cellphones, Nokia has the most user friendly interface design for traditional button interfaces, but why can’t others do it?

I guess there are only so many ways to design user interface mapping because they are, after all, designed according to human’s common logic, therefore it’s hard to create something new, unless of course if alternative technology is available.

This then leads to copy right problem. However, from an user’s stand point, I don’t care about user interface copy rights. All I want is an interface that is user friendly. I sincerely wish that ALL companies can have good interface designs.

Perhaps instead of competing, the one with the most successful design should open itself for licensing. That’s my wish.