Kids Mode on Tablets and Smartphones

Kids Mode is sorely lacking in the smartphones and tablets available today. I see no reason why that is, and it’s very simple to implement if the vendors could be bothered. In this post, I present a trivial model that would go a long way in improving the situation.

If you have a young child, as I have, you might have encountered situations where you wish your smartphone or tablet had a Kids Mode. Somehow this simple-to-build feature is totally absent. Some of the consequences, as I’ve experienced, include:

  • in the middle of a game play, the child is presented with a popup dialog asking to purchase an extra game option. Obviously the kid has no idea, this is a frustrating interruption.
  • your kid, trying to get on with a game session, would randomly accept whatever is being asked, thus spending your money with sometimes terrible consequences
  • while playing a game, a gesture may be accidentally triggered, taking the kid away from the game they were playing. Another frustrating experience.
  • a notification may randomly just pop up, typically from another app, which clearly isn’t relevant in the context.

Had the tablet and smartphone makers considered this need, they would have built in simple features that game developers (or any app maker targeting a young audience) could implement. Here is a very simple example of how that could work technically.

A simple object model
A simple object model

With this in place, the system would provide an API to game developers so that they can read in the settings and take them into account. Additionally, the game developer may add game-specific control, a limit that (would be deemed acceptable) parents could set when they install the game for the first time. If the defined cap is reached, the app or the system would require a password for changing the limit, and even that could be made optional and silent, to ensure the child enjoys an unfettered experience.

Such a super simple feature would save lots of frustrations. In fact, I think someday this could become regulated if lots of people start complaining about the situation.

I read in the rumour mills that Apple was planning to introduce a Kids section to their App Store. It made me wonder, why stop half way? why not build a pervasive model that can help  even more? These companies could get even an intern to build such a feature in no time, and eagerly encourage developers to adopt it. Clearly, if someone made a good app they won’t need any sneaky way of making more money by trapping young people (the way it feels right now if nothing is done to manage it). I thought about this issue earlier, but now I had an excuse to blog about it.

With iOS6, is Apple opening up its platform wider while its competitors move to close theirs?

Developers, Apple may be calling out to you by intentionally punching holes into iOS6, holes that they clearly know users prefer to see filled quickly. Interpreting things this way, I think Apple is taking a page from Google’s playbook rather than handing them users on a plater. It’s about increasing the Developer mind-share.

There’s a lot of talk about missing features in iOS6, reactions range from disappointment to outrage. Google Maps is the clearest example,  the native app that shipped until now was working fine and didn’t need removing, so why has Apple taken this step, how could this even make any sense? This would be a counter-example of my post on Feature Debt.

As I look at it from an innovation management point of view however, I think Apple may actually be opening up its platform more to developers in select areas. Every missing feature should be jumped on by developers, for example everyone is now able to build a more accurate navigation to the locations that are relevant to their application. That’s how I interpret Apple shipping a clearly incomplete Maps application with iOS6. At least that’s what it inspires me.

Following this line of thought, I would see Apple’s move with Maps as an offensive to Google – rather than handing them a hand. Sure, a child knows that Google Maps is outstanding. But if you’ve been paying attention, Google’s strategy is to get people to build more and more feature on their platform, hence deepening developer dependence on Google. If Apple makes it possible for developers to build more essential features on iOS, they are playing the same cards that Google and Microsoft are playing. So this would be an offensive move. It’s about increasing Developer mind-share.

Just a thought.

An iOS UI overhaul beckons

It looks to me that Apple ought to revamp the iOS Safari popup menus, especially the sharing and bookmarking menu. The current implementation can’t scale any further yet there’s a need to add more sharing options in there. This post is my guess.

I was looking at the sharing-bookmarking menu of Safari on my iPhone, clearly Facebook is going to be in here at some stage, perhaps one other. But the problem is that there is no room left. So, either Apple won’t expand the feature, which I doubt, or they’d have to redesign it, which I’m inclined to think. My guess would then be, away with the drop down menu concept, a new slider (up/down, left/right) would be much nicer and scale better. Would that be too radical?


Possibly a turning point for the Android platform

Google buying Motorolla may be a crucial point in their move for curating the Android platform. The platform fragmentation may thus gain pace, giving Windows Phone a much needed indirect lift.

Here is a kind of move that I’ve been expecting to happen for some time: Google CEO Larry Page explains reasoning behind Motorola acquisition (spoiler: patents). If Android momentum were to be (at least partially) helped by its positioning, uniting some of the players that might have been losing out to the iPhone, then one of those parties would want to wriggle themselves out of such status quo some day. That’s a thought in my mind since the introduction of the Android platform.

This move by Google may be adding to what I see as (an understandable) confusion building up around the Android platform. If Android fragmentation should accelerate, then Microsoft’s Windows Phone is set to score some points.

UPDATE: After reading tech news about this topic, I think this article from AllThingsD is well worth checking out (be sure to also read Kara Swisher’s post, linked in the same article): Google’s Motorolla buy has Wall Street selling.