A phone's design may be the first thing that attracts consumers, but its user interface (UI) is what keeps mobile users coming back to the manufacturer, according to an LG Electronics senior executive.
Speaking to ZDNet Asia Wednesday at the imbX conference and exhibition, John Park, LG Electronic's vice president and head of new business, noted that a phone's UI has become a key differentiator for mobile users who are increasingly demanding more feature-rich phones, but need these devices to remain easy to use.
Park said: "More people care about the UI now. It is a global phenomenon, not Asian."
This focus is now propelling the momentum surrounding mobile applications and services, he said. Smartphones, previously only found in the hands of business users, are currently sought after by consumers who also want their mobile devices to handle e-mail, surfing and other such features, Park explained.
Mobile social networking, for example, has become a top demand for non-business users, he said. "They want to [be able to network], too, without having to read a user manual," he added.
"Phone design is important, but when you turn it on, that's what differentiates the device from the rest," he said.
Working with Win Mobile
Park further highlighted LG's decision to beef up its partnership with mobile OS maker, Microsoft.
Both companies last November signed a preliminary agreement to engage in strategic collaboration, inking a deal weeks later at February's Mobile World Congress to bring 50 Windows Mobile handsets to market by 2012.
As a result of the partnership, LG expanded its Windows Mobile team to some 400 engineers. Microsoft's own Windows Mobile team, stationed on LG's premises in Seoul, will also grow to 100 engineers by the end of 2009, from its current size of 10 to 15, said Park.
Sanjay Chheda, Microsoft's Greater Asia-Pacific regional vice president for consumer and online, said this would allow LG greater access to Windows Mobile's core code base located in Redmond, U.S., so it can offer "deep customization" on the OS, specifically for LG's S-Class UI.
Park said Microsoft is opening up to more feedback from its partners, and related how he attended a meeting in Redmond where he was introduced to an early preview of Windows Mobile 7. At the meeting, he said he was asked to send LG's engineers to work with Microsoft on its development. "This is different from [what Microsoft did] before," said Park.
Chheda said: "The time is right for [Microsoft and LG's] partnership because smartphones are going to the broader user group...and taking off in diverse markets. A smartphones might be the first device users in emerging markets use to send an e-mail or surf. [Smartphones] are a way for us to deliver computing devices to this [demographic]."
LG unveiled a string of handsets sporting its new UI at the CommunicAsia exhibition held at the imbX show this year.