I'm here at the "After the iPhone: Q&A" discussion at Mobile Entertainment Live! The discussion centers around iPhone's impact on the cellular industry, looking at both the new features and user interface innovations Apple introduced and also the increasing use of mobile handsets as all-in-one entertainment and communications devices.
Motorla's Global Director of Experience Planning, Parrish Hanna, is talking about the new ROKR U9, and they just world premiered the new commercial for the handset, featuring Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. He's talking about switching modalities in a device - using add-on software and hardware to customize the experience on a device to suit a soccer mom on the one hand, and a CEO on the other. Parrish is showing the Moto S9 Bluetooth headphones, which let you place/take calls and listen to music in stereo from a compatible musicphone.
Parrish is joined onstage by Mike Wehrs, VP of Evangelism for Nuance Communications (who thinks of these titles?). Nuance is primarily known for their text and speech recognition software for mobile phones. Mike is talking about iPhone's user experience - the gesture-based multitouch navigation system, in particular. He's now showing a demo of a Nuance-powered handset solution that lets a user browse through a cell phone's features by way of a 3D, animated user interface backed by predictive-text enhanced searches.
Mike's point is that user experiences need to be more intuitive and compelling, and that it needs to be easier for users to find the "forgotten features" buried two or three levels deep on their handsets' menus. He's also saying that graphics can be used to make the process of finding and using those features more efficient and compelling at the same time. His demo is kind of cool, but it really reinforces the fact that iPhone's user experience is really head and shoulders above anything else geared for the mass market. Sure, a geek/power user would be interested in a Linux-based Motorola or Windows Mobile handset with a new 3D UI ... but it's just a layer on top of a system that, at its core, is too complicated for the mainstream user to enjoy.
For as cool as iPhone's form factor and feature set is, it may well be its ease of use and "human" UI that really sets it apart from the pack.