INTELLIGENT WIDGET RECONFIGURATION FOR MOBILE PHONES: INTRODUCTION(1)

People are becoming increasingly dependent on mobile information devices. With increased pervasiveness of wireless connectivity and technology advancements, the smart mobile phone is progressively taking on more important roles to process, collate and delegate information. A contemporary mobile handset typically comes with many integrated features, which previously were available only on desktop PCs or laptops such as internet access, email, word processing, and video viewing. An increasing number of mobile phones are also equipped with additional hardware like sensors to extend its capabilities e.g. the accelerometer in the Samsung Blade S5600v, the motion recognition sensor in the Samsung S310, the proximity sensor in the HTC Touch Pro 2, and the Nokia 5500’s tilt sensor that supports novel game genres. Together with better processing power, these mobile phones have become mini multimedia computers proffering support for an increasing spectrum of new applications and features.

However, these technological enhancements to a mobile phone also herald a new set of user problems. As the number of supported widgets increases, widget management becomes increasingly complex. Locating relevant or interesting widgets becomes a chore as the user interface gets cluttered with irrelevant widgets. In a recent study, most new mobile phone owners indicated that they were adverse to using new services that were confusing or difficult to access. Contemporary mobile phones address these problems partially via screen organization tools like window managers, widget toolbars or multiple home screen pages or scenes. Usage of these tools requires proficiency with the mobile phone’s key controls to be able to correctly and efficiently re-organize the screen’s application widgets. For example, in the HTC Hero, each scene must be pre-specified by the user with appropriate widgets for different contexts e.g. work, travel, social etc. and are non-adaptive.

When changes occur over time in a mobile phone user’s lifestyle and/or roles, new applications may need to be downloaded, existing applications may be upgraded or older applications rendered obsolete. In such cases, manual widget re-organization would have to be performed repeatedly with the above tools. This can be both tedious and time consuming.