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Seeking the one-armed man

Anne K. HalsallAnne K. Halsall, product designer
30 upvotes by Joel Lewenstein, Emilya Burd, Jesse Lashley, Quora User, Spencer Chan, (more)
Obligatory Twin Peaks reference.

So I am the proud owner of a new iPad Mini, and there's a little bit of a story behind how I came to be one.

When Apple announced the Mini, I was both excited and disappointed. Excited because I actually found the Nexus 7 to be a remarkable little device and I was happy to see Apple taking on the mini-tablet form factor. However, I was quite turned off by the price, and when I played with one I found it a little clumsy. "Meh," I said. "Now that I think about it, I just don't see the need for this product in my life." And I was right; I walked out of the store and didn't really miss it.

Flash forward nine months to February 2013, when a little bundle of joy arrived in our household. Suddenly my relationship with my computing device changed dramatically. My partner observed that for the first three weeks of our son's life, I didn't touch a computer that I couldn't use with one hand. That meant my laptop and iPad collected dust in the corner while my iPhone was practically glued to my hand (and the baby was glued to the other).

Finally he went out one day and, despite my objections, came back with an iPad Mini, which immediately became my primary computer.

I reflected a bit on how I could have been so wrong about this product. What I realized was that before I became a parent, I never really thought about the one-armed people of the world. And by that I simply mean the people who, because of their work or the circumstances of their lives, don't have much of an opportunity to use any device that requires two hands.

Once you start looking for these people you seem them everywhere. And I think they are a very important segment of mobile consumers. These are people who don't use software unless it's on their phone. They don't use devices unless they are small and light enough to be operated one-handed. Parents of small children certainly fall into this category. So do people with active jobs who are often standing or traveling. Even people who can use regular computers have one-handed moments; taking a smoke break, eating a sandwich, holding on to the strap on a bus.

Take some time today and look around for these one-armed wonders. You'll probably see more of them than you might have expected, in a variety of contexts. If you're interested in mobile products, these folks are basically a captive audience, and I think there could be some interesting opportunities there.


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