Loving the Sticky Point-of-Sale Differentiator.

by Peter_vdL Motorola 07-23-2012 04:14 PM - edited 07-23-2012 09:57 PM

Some people say it’s old hat, but in case you didn’t hear it yet, last year was the crossover point for mobile devices versus PCs.  In the last quarter of 2011, the number of smartphones and tablets sold exceeded the number of PCs sold.   Smartphones are now replacing PCs, not supplementing them.

The key to the trend is the continually-improving software/hardware that powers smartphones. Motorola Mobility just announced the ATRIX HD (available from AT&T for $99, with contract).  The ATRIX HD has an 8 MP camera as well as a smaller front facing camera.  It has a Gorilla Glass HD720-sized screen and a Kevlar back case.  It has 4G data connectivity, which is up to 5 times faster than WiFi.  It brings 1 GB of RAM to a two core ARM CPU running at 1.5 GHz (the Qualcomm Snapdragon).  And all this in an ultra thin case.  For $99.  

That’s more capable hardware than some older laptops have.  How do you showcase these capabilities to non-technical shoppers at the Point Of Sale?    You need something breathtaking and different, but which is also easy to find, run, and understand.   This was the challenge taken on recently by Motorola Mobility’s homescreen team - come up with something that shows a clear difference with other phones and makes the product stick in shoppers’ minds.  In short, design and build a sticky Point-of-Sale differentiator!

The homescreen team was well placed to take on this mission, as they own the first screen that you see on unlocking the phone.   They could write a demo app, but you really want something that’s immediately visible, and that suggests a widget is needed.  The Android documentation tells us that “App Widgets are miniature application views that can be embedded in other applications (such as the Home screen) and receive periodic updates.”     Common examples are a clock, a widget giving local weather, a music player showing title info and pause/play controls.


Figure 1: the new circle widgets

The homescreen team wanted to “swing for the fences” with their widget, and you can see the results in Figure 1.    Our first “naturally shaped” (non-rectangular) widget, the circle widget uses Open GL, fed from a scene engine above it.  Each circle widget has rich effects like animation, transparency, and rotation, and uses hardware acceleration.  Out of the box, the three circle widgets show date/time, weather, and battery level (perilously run down to 11% here, but being charged).   The circles can be rotated, tilted, flipped over and configured to show e.g. voice mails and notifications.    Our new products also have additional UI effects that aren’t in the basic Android framework, and I hope to blog about those at a later date.

The new widget is currently available only to apps from Motorola or preload partners. But if there is enough interest from third party developers, the API could be considered for publication at some point in the future. It was a big effort to implement this level of functionality, involving 2 dedicated developers over several months, a shader expert and an Autodesk Maya consultant, plus testing and support staff. The team tried to get the majority of the work done in the design tools, rather than the software development.  I think they succeeded very well. And that’s what it takes to create a great big sticky Point-of-Sale differentiator.

You don’t have to make this level of investment in software.  Simpler widgets are simpler to get working.  What widgets have you created for your apps?   

Peter van der Linden
Android Technology Evangelist                                                

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