So, the iPhone 4S was launched yesterday in a flurry of media attention to a world that was expecting the iPhone 5 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-15172238). And what does this mean for the world of learning technology and it’s current obsession with mobile learning?
Smartphones are already prevalent in the marketplace. Apple broke the market wide open and still commands a voice of authority, but it’s not the only player in town and it will have to work hard to maintain position. Developers are already taking leaps and bounds in creating innovative educational Apps we are already starting to see differentiation, with some Apps only being released for the tablet devices, with slim versions (or even no release at all) for the phones.
Like many people, i expected a new device to be launched, possibly a new ‘lightweight’ model, a mini iPhone, or maybe a SIM free design? But no, the changes are a longer battery life and various new software features, all exciting enough, but nothing revolutionary. Which, i suppose, is what we should have expected. The sheer complexity of bringing these devices to market, the reputational risk that Apple suffered last time it launched a new phone, all of these factors indicated that a refresh was more likely than a relaunch.
Mobile learning is not really about technology (although this is what people are procuring). No, it’s really about experience and the learning journey, which may be facilitated by technology, but which is not the result in it’s own right.
A new handset will not deliver this experience: developing the right methodology for the production of learning experiences and understanding the usability issues that surround it are what will ultimately lead to success.
So for the time being, i’ll stick with my iPhone 4, as well as exploring some of the ideas that the Android phones make possible. I have no doubt that Apple will retain it’s lead for some time to come, but there is no doubt that the other players are bringing credible devices to market that are starting to play in the same space. Things that once differentiated clearly are now more foggy. A key question will be whether developers commit to single devices or manage to crack the challenges of cross platform development. In the battle between XBox and Playstation in the games console market, different key titles aligning themselves to one or other platform has been a significant factor.
The mobile phone market in the UK and US is largely saturated already, so we may see more of a move towards the Asian and Indian markets, with features and forms that suit them better, as both these markets are still growing strongly.
Technology may only be part of the answer, but i was still hooked to the news yesterday in anticipation, so i suppose that having the right shiny new toy still counts for something.