Today we live in a socially connected and mobile world. Hundreds of millions of people around the world log on to social networking sites to connect and share with the people they care about. In the US alone we sent over a trillion text messages in 2009. Although the millennial generation's use and dependence on mobile phones continues to grow, many want a device that's more tailor-made for them.
A little over a year ago we set out on a journey to discover what this particular generation wants from a mobile phone. We invited people to come on the journey with us, building a "mobile think thank" over 2,000 strong, and growing, called Project KIN.
The goal was to find out what they loved and hated about their current phones, and what could be better about the mobile experience.
Here's what we discovered along the way:
The phone is the glue in the social life of the millennial; it is their lifeline to the world. It's the first thing they look at when they wake up, and typically the last thing they look at before they go to bed.
This generation relies on their phone as "the centerpiece of their social life". More than a wallet or keys, it's the one thing they will return home to get.
Yet, despite how important the phone is to the socially connected generation, we heard time and again that they are "looking for something more me". They want easier ways to share stuff like photos with their friends and keep up with their social networks.
The millennial generation interacts differently with different groups of people. First, there are the "favorites" -these are the best friends or family members that they call or, more often, text. One teen in Miami explained, "My family isn't very technologically advanced, so the majority of our connectivity happens over our cell phones, both talking and texting." Then there are social friends, with whom the generation keeps in touch with primarily via status updates on social networking sites like Facebook, but don't frequently call or text. Finally, there are colleagues who are typically communicated with via email, but not folks they interact with commonly via social networking sites.
We also learned that when this generation loves something, he or she will first tell friends through a Facebook post or Text. It's also critically important for this generation to have a creative outlet and technology enables them to create and share their voice and vision like never before. In fact many of these youth are publishing their own records, films, books and photography online, using tools like Flickr, Garage Band, Final Cut and other tools.
It was incredibly insightful to understand how the socially connected generation characterizes their relationships, and how they prefer to communicate and broadcast information out to the different people in their lives.
When you lose your phone, you lose your life. We were pretty shocked to learn just how frequently this generation loses their phone and how frequently it gets lost in bathrooms. And since the phone is such an important part of their lives, the loss of their device brings on a lot of anxiety. What would you do if you lost all your contacts, your photos and texts? It wouldn't be pretty. The community really made it clear that the backup experience for their phone is critical.
What's in your bag? During Project KIN we asked people to tell us what kinds of devices they carry in their bag, purse or pockets. As you might expect, the socially connected generation carries quite a few - from cameras to music players to phones. People wanted a device that could do what all of those things in one package
The final thing we heard loud and clear from the community is that they really just want to have someone listen to their opinions. This is really important to them as many in the socially connected generation don't believe that major brands listen to what they want or need in their lives. Their desire to have an outlet to express their views, to be heard and for their opinions to mean something is incredibly important to them. As we developed the KIN phone, we kept this in mind throughout the entire process. Our goal was to deliver a phone they wanted, and we hope we did just that.