The multi-device era: From smartphones to beyond


We have entered a world of multi-device experiences. Our lives have become a series of interactions with multiple digital devices, enabling each of us to learn, buy, compare, search, navigate, connect, and manage every aspect of modern life. We spend more time interacting with devices than with people, and we often interact with more than one device at a time.

The number of connected devices has officially exceeded the seven billion mark, outnumbering the people on the planet. This inconceivable quantity not only attests to the growing role of these devices in our digital lives, but also signals an increasing number of devices per person. This multi-device usage sets the foundation of a product ecosystem.

In looking at the world of online apps and electronics today, we can see a type of ecosystem emerging. In this system, we see smartphones, tablets, laptops, TVs, and other connected devices – all interacting with one another and wirelessly sharing data. These interactions are shaped by the different ways in which individuals use the content and services that flow between devices, in different contexts, en route to their goals.

Benefits of the multi-device ecosystem

Long gone are the days when we confined ourselves to a single space; we now have the freedom to switch between multiple devices in all sorts of contexts.

For example, you can start reading the Kindle app on a desktop, continue on Audible on a smartphone, and pick it up on a Kindle device at night; track your movement on an Apple smartwatch and continue to follow your progress on an iPhone or iPad; or even check the power and temperature of your car using another device.

As a result of living in a multi-device ecosystem, our experiences feel more natural, fluid, integrated, and superior. We are empowered to control our environment and take better charge of our lives.

The 3Cs in ecosystems

There are many aspects of a multi-device ecosystem. Michel Levin, then a Senior User Experience Designer at Google, provides an excellent understanding of the relationships between connected devices. Levin’s eye-opening multi-device concepts focus on three fundamental design approaches, abbreviated as the three “Cs”:

Consistent – ensures that multiple devices provide users with the same content offering

Continuous – enables users to flow from one device to the next under different contexts

Complementary – simultaneously connect multiple devices. For example, you can connect your Xbox game controller to your smartphone or tablet

Together, the three Cs can form unique relationships between connected devices, just like Apple, Google, and Samsung. The design approaches can guide anyone involved in designing or developing a user flow encompassing multiple devices.

Importance of ecosystems

Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the adoption rate for connected devices is increasingly growing. For example, the introduction and subsequent usage of home smart devices, such as the Amazon Echo, are empowering people to interact with brands and services on any platform or device flawlessly.

The ever-growing multi-device ecosystem serves businesses as a bedrock for omnichannel strategies. Organisations – small or large – can target new and existing customer segments with products or services that interconnect.

Furthermore, businesses can harvest behavioural data from multi-device interactions and use them to drive personalisation. For example, Amazon’s recommendation algorithms curate content that meets people’s needs, providing them with relevant shopping experiences.

Example of an ecosystem

While each device has its own strengths, Samsung integrates these capabilities into an intuitive ecosystem. By offering seamless connectivity across devices, the ecosystem helps users accomplish more with greater ease. Amongst the greatest ecosystem competitors is the Samsung Galaxy Ecosystem.

On top of Galaxy apps like Samsung Health and SmartThings, there are so many others in the new Google Play Store. Furthermore, the Samsung One UI Watch user interface is deeply integrated with other Galaxy devices and provides consistent connectivity between Galaxy Watch 4 series and Galaxy smartphone. Samsung also confirmed that One UI Watch will be available for Galaxy Watch4 on the new, unified platform it jointly built with Google, bringing performance enhancements, a more seamless experience between the watch and Android smartphones, and access to an even greater number of applications. Samsung further revealed that its upcoming Galaxy Watch4 will be the first to feature the new unified platform and One UI Watch.

Samsung is also working with Google to enrich their foldable ecosystems with popular apps and services. For our third generation of Galaxy Z phones, Samsung has lined up even more partner apps that make the most of the versatile fold-out format. From hands-free optimised video calling with Google Duo and watching videos in Flex mode on YouTube to multitasking in Microsoft Teams, our foldable ecosystem will offer a wealth of seamless and optimised experiences.

The upcoming Galaxy Z Fold3 5G and Galaxy Z Flip3 5G combines the very best that smartphones and tablets offer and delivers completely new ways of working, connecting, and creating, while the upcoming Z Flip exhibits an even more refined style, armed with more durable, stronger materials.

Further, whether you’re finding your keys with SmartTag or sharing a song with friends through Music Share, the Galaxy A52, A52 5G and A72 smartphones also help you plug into the Galaxy ecosystem with ease.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s music continuity feature lets you enjoy your favourite tunes and podcasts without interruptions. With just a simple tap, the function automatically switches your audio from your mobile device to a nearby speaker or TV.

Samsung’s ecosystem makes texting easier than ever before. Its hands-free testing, along with assistant Bixby, lets you dictate messages, freeing your hands to complete other essential tasks.

Meanwhile, Samsung’s ecosystem offers call and message continuity, which means you can answer calls with the Galaxy Tab S7 FE if your phone is out of reach. The continuity experience is also enabled within apps, so you can switch from your smartphone to your tablet, or vice versa, without restarting the app from the beginning. For example, this helps when you are browsing on a smartphone but want to continue what you are doing on a bigger display. With the Galaxy Watch Active, you can leave your phone in the bag and send messages right from your wrist.

Now with Galaxy Buds Pro and Galaxy Buds2, you can seamlessly switch between your Galaxy smartphone and your Galaxy tablet. Samsung developed a new Connectivity Framework based on Bluetooth Low Energy, or BLE technology, which allows audio to be communicated between devices that are nearby and connected to Galaxy Buds Pro, enabling a seamless experience.

Lastly, the tablet book cover keyboard can be used between Galaxy smartphones and tablets. Like other Samsung BLE experiences, Samsung’s exclusive technology delivers keyboard sharing experiences with secure device-to-device authentication and exchange of keyboard connection information.

What next for ecosystems?

We are in the midst of an important behavioural shift to a multi-device model; product design is no longer just about the desktop platform because there’s a prosperous ecosystem of connected devices that complements it, and that continues to grow.

The more we embrace the potential of an ecosystem by adapting the experience per device and building the required bridges between them (acknowledging the different use cases in varying contexts), the more we can simplify the experience on each device and provide an overall holistic experience that is greater than its parts.

At this point in time, the most important goal we should focus on is learning. We should explore and experiment with building multi-device experiences that can continuously drive us to create better products that are more intimately tailored to individual users’ changing needs. In this process, we need to encourage the open mind, inquisitive spirit, and broad thinking that are instrumental in taking the leap from a single-device approach to an ecosystem one.

The new multi-device world opens up many new opportunities to innovate – not only by looking into future needs and use cases that will naturally arise, but also through rethinking some of our existing design approaches to current challenges. The latter is where much of the power lies: Disrupting widespread perceptions and assumptions regarding what is possible in light of the new ecosystem possibilities we have.

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