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Designing Mobile Phone for Rural India – The ‘Steampunk’ Approach

AdaptivePath conducted a study around the mobile phone usage habits of rural India users and has some interesting findings to share:

  • many non-literate research participants ignored the screen when using mobile phone.
  • Rural users would leverage their spatial memory and gestures by memorizing patterns (i.e., pressing a button three times, remembering the patterns of numbers) or ask for assistance in dialing a number from a family member.

In short, most of the mobile devices sold in India were actually made for Urban/Western users and pose a usability challenge for rural users.

Typical rural users rhyme with devices that have strong physical interfaces (for instance, trucks, jeeps, motorcycles etc) and hence, Adaptivepath came up with a design that makes a mobile look ‘hacked’ (and not sleek)

AdaptivePath researcher suggests following features/functionalities that are most needed:

  • Calling
  • Texting (using voice to text or with assistance)
  • Music
  • Camera* (desired)
  • Microphone
  • Speaker
  • Airtime
  • Battery Level

Each function maps to a single button and contains buttons like start/stop/scroll wheel (inspiration from radio) and this is how the phone looks like (they call it steampunk owing to it’s physical interface):

What’s your opinion on this approach? Share your thoughts.

Read AdaptivePath’s blog entry.

Also watch this video on Adaptivepath’s suggestion to help illiterate save contact information (QR codes).

Pic credit

Also see: Mobile Phone usage of Indians – Flirting, Porn | Mobile VAS subscribers in India – Insights/Prediction

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