By Philip Elmer-DeWitt
February 15, 2008

The best thing to come out of this week’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has to be David Benjamin’s account in
EE Times
of a “blue-ribbon panel of human behavior and technology experts” struggling to understand the success of Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone.

You would have thought that the title of the panel — It’s the User Experience, Stupid — would have told the experts all they needed to know.

And according to Benjamin the panelists did agree that the iPhone — 77 percent of whose users described themselves in a market survey as “very satisfied” — represented a model for other mobile handset makers to follow.

But the fun starts when they try to apply the lessons of Apple’s success. Benjamin writes:

One direction, advocated by Lucia Predolin, international marketing and communications director for Buongiorno S.p.A. of Milan, Italy, is to manipulate users by identifying their “need states” — including such compulsions as “killing time,” and “making the most of it” — and fulfilling them subliminally.

Adobe’s [Anup] Murarka [director of technical marketing] proposed a more technological approach to improving the user experience, satisfying the mobile phone subscriber through better interface design.

Sarah Lipman, co-founder and R&D director for Power2B, suggested an almost mystical solution, somehow tapping into users’ “neural networks” to navigate a mobile phone interface “using touch and pre-touch input.” (link)

Lipman, to her credit, gets the money quote of the session:

For users, “the content is the core,” said Lipman somewhat ruefully, “and we have to get out of their way.”

For the rest of Benjamin’s report, see here. For the discussion it has sparked, see Techmeme here.

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