What’s on your home screen?
There’s a nice article by Austin Carr at Fast Company about a conversation we had a couple of weeks ago in New York about how we’re thinking about whether consumer mobile apps can become really big. The starting litmus test is, essentially this: does the app merit a place on your home screen? I don’t really mean my home screen, although I pay attention when new apps find their place there (doesn’t happen very often). I mean my dad’s home screen, and my wife’s, and my mom’s, and my electrician’s, and whoever.
There are 20 slots on an iPhone or Android home screen. Lots of other pages and folders, but those 20 slots are what we pay attention to the lion’s share of the time we have our noses pressed into our phones. And it’s not really 20 slots. Phones come with apps already installed — maybe the phone, SMS, calendar, notes, camera, music — already taking up space. So you’ve got a free area of maybe ~6 spaces, and then another 10-15 apps that you’d have to take off or put into a folder to replace.
Instagram was able to completely replace the camera for me — a triumph of network over utility. (Which, incidentally, is what I think *always* happens, and why things like Google Docs, which seem like such toys, end up being so important.) So Instagram got a prime slot.
Twitter (Tweetbot), Facebook, Tumblr, Reeder — these are new pieces of functionality and a lot of real estate to give up (4/20!), but they’re how I stay in touch with my world, so they’re there.
SMS, Phone, Settings, App Store, Safari, Mail: built-in apps I use every day.
3 folders of things I use often but not thatoften, Simplenote, Hipmunk, USAA, stuff for my house, etc.
I use Pocket and Dropbox every single day to collect and triage stuff I want to read later — these are 2 apps that live “between the screens” more than on any single device.
And LinkedIn’s new app with built in calendar integration I’ve been liking a lot lately, plus Calvetica’s information density replaced the built-in calendar for me.
It may seem like a shallow filter, but I think it’s deeper than it appears. It’s a proxy for a bunch of different consumer decisions: do people want to use the app? Is it useful? Is it sticky? Is it engaging? Is it important enough to displace something else I used to think was important?
An interesting new emergent trend is that with notifications getting better, lots of apps can be engaging and interactive without living on the home screen. Voxer, Highlight, others are like this. (I’ve lately been turning most of my notifications off, though, since I find that they’re more distracting than I’d like — trying to live more in my outbox than my inbox, so to speak.)
And it’s interesting (to me at least) to look at the differences between what’s on the home screen on my phone versus my tablet. Kindle, Weather, Newstand all get slots. Instagram, SMS, (and phone) all absent.
Anyway, one way to think about things in a world of increasingly constrained attention and real estate. What’s on your home screen?