Wanted: A Few Good Mobile Developers

Mobile handset makers are on the trail of the next hot smartphone, with features such as online social networking interaction capabilities.

A glance at some tech job boards shows the kind of skillsets in mobile development companies such as Nokia and Motorola are seeking: mobile social application expertise and Android platform knowledge, for starters.

Nokia has formed a new Innovate Design Experience Animate (IDEA) team working out of the vendor’s Palo Alto research center “to define and carry out research, design, and development focused on innovative user interfaces for mobile devices, and services to accompany them,” according to a recent job ad.

Nokia is hiring mid-level “Innovative User Interfaces Designers” according to the job listing at Coroflot, a career and community site that hosts individual creative portfolios and a database of job and project openings.

The demand could help speed the arrival of new devices centered on social interaction similar to the music-centric devices Nokia is pushing out.

Nokia’s team is focused on developing mobile devices, applications,
and services targeted three to seven year down the road — “beyond the horizon of the current product roadmaps,” the ad said. It is just one of several handset makers posting openings these days.

Google is looking to hire more interactive designers, as is Sony Erickson, Palm, and Motorola, according to Eric Ludlum, creative director at Coroflot. Don’t be fooled by one job ad either. He said it could represent a single available position, or a post for hundreds of job openings. Motorola would not comment on hiring plans and Nokia did not return calls about the new job openings.

Android expertise is in demand as well, given the arrival of the Google operating system, and the HTC Android G1 handset last month.

Ludlum said Palm, Research in Motion and Sony Ericsson have all posted Android and mobile interaction-focused jobs this year.

The popularity of Facebook, MySpace and other online social sites is driving mobile devices to welcome the socials to the handsets. Could this be an emerging new category? Not all analysts are pushing the theory.

“Certainly there is a crowd of folks, mostly youngsters, who are tied to social networking — some would even say addicted,” Jack Gold, analyst, J.Gold Associates, told InternetNews.com.

“But I’m not sure you can build a device specifically for that target audience. This kind of targeted device has been tried before if you look at the Disney phones, for example, always with less than spectacular results,” Gold said.

While Gold and other analysts agree that social networking may evolve into a popular smartphone activity, most doubt it’s the only feature users would want on a device.

“They want the phone to do other things as well, especially since they are paying substantial money each month,” noted Gold. “Now, if the phone and service was somehow subsidized and incredibly cheap, that could be different, but I don’t see that,” said Gold.

Yet Motorola sees potential in mobile social networking features. A new Motorola job ad for a senior staff interaction designer, posted on Coroflot and Motorola’s job site, notes that the handset maker is looking to “recapture its Moto” in hiring for the vendor’s soon to be spun-off mobile division that Motorola is calling “the world’s largest startup.”

The senior staff interaction designer role — one of 19 Android-related job listings at Motorola’s site — is for the company’s Consumer Experience Design (CXD) team that is working on a new “Android Social Networking Smartphone.”

The ad notes that CXD wants “passionate designers to help pull the company toward our inevitable future of highly connected, social experiences.” The Interaction Design Team builds applications that include multimedia, calling, connectivity, messaging and productivity aspects.

A Motorola recruiter, who requested anonymity, wouldn’t comment on number of open positions on the team, but that Motorola has established a 50 million dollar budget for its Android platform development work.

Company recruitment materials state Motorola is building the “best Android device ever” and indicates social networking as a prime aspect in design efforts.

But whether social networking could put Motorola back on top is a big if, said one analyst.

“Motorola seems to be aiming at a variety of new targets, and if they can hit one or two it could make all the difference,” Jeff Kagan, telecom analyst, told InternetNews.com.

“But social networking is only important for a sliver of the market, though if it works well could be a big success in that segment.”

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