Entertainment needs make Indians come up with innovative cellphone uses

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Washington, Apr 17 (ANI): Entertainment seeking Indian mobile phone users can devise new and innovative uses for them, if they have sufficient motivation, say researchers.

Researchers also found that entertainment could be seen as a necessity for the media-consuming public and not merely a desire.

Last summer, Thomas Smyth, Ph.D. student in the College of Computing at Georgia Tech, was working at Microsoft in Banglaore, India, when he was struck with an idea.

"As you might expect, Microsoft employs a lot of people to maintain the building, so one day we called a couple of them into a room and asked them, 'What do you do with your phones,'" said Smyth.

After a few interviews, the researchers set out to the lower-income neighbourhoods and interviewed about 30 people on how they used their mobile phones.

They found that most people, in addition to calling and texting, used their phones for transferring media files via Bluetooth.

"To send a text message on your phone, for instance, it takes three or four steps. If you've ever transferred something on your phone with Bluetooth, you know it takes 15 to 20 steps. So for people whom you might not expect to have a lot of expertise in this area, the motivation to transfer music and video files to be entertained seems to be enough to turn these complicated user-interface obstacles into mere speed bumps," said Smyth.

Some people watched films on their phone, listened to music and recorded lecture notes in school.

"Of course, there's the one where the guys would use Bluetooth to transfer data with the phone in their pockets while they were doing side-by-side work on a construction site," said Smyth.

Others removed their microSD chips and use them to transfer files.

"Some people would swap those around, or they would have several microSD chips in their wallet, because that's a faster way to transfer stuff. There was no end to the kinds of things people would do," said Smyth.

The researchers discovered that their interview subjects had constructed elaborate systems to obtain, view and share their entertainment content.

However, other types of content related to areas that are typically identified as "needs" by researchers and aid practitioners, such as healthcare or education, did not show up in Smyth's study.

And the multimedia-capable phones aren't cheap in India-they often cost more than a month's salary, yet people said they save for long periods to buy one.

"Maybe we're putting too much weight on these usability barriers and it's just more a question of motivation," said Smyth.

The study will be presented at CHI 2010, the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, being held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. (ANI)

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