My most hated mobile apps, pt II

To continue my mobile pet peeves series: One of the advantages and disadvantages of working for Nokia is that people have Ideas. And they want to share them.

While many of these ideas are cool, there's one recurring thing that rings my bozo meter: The Key That Solves Everything, aka The Silver Bullet Of Mobile User Interfaces. You see, a lot of people think that phones are difficult to use. And I can't blame them - they can be a real pain in the ass sometimes; even the simple ones. The great idea is that all of their problems could be solved by adding just one extra physical button to the phone! You know, you just press it and it solves problem X!

Unfortunately, problem X is different for each person. Some people just want to have easy access to email, some people want to have the clock jump up, some people want it to collect your shopping list from your wife, some people want it to paint your house blue, call the police and call your dog by dirty names, and... well, you get the drift.

Now, what do you get if you build a mobile phone which has a dedicated button for each functionality? Yup, you get something that looks vaguely like a VCR remote control designed by Philip K. Dick from HELL! And still people would moan "but you got a button for Y, why not X, it's as important as Y!"

There are a lot of ways to make mobile phones easier to use. Hardly any of them involve adding more buttons. Buttons tend to scare people. Loads and loads of buttons make some people curl away in a corner and whimper, and that's not a pretty sight. Look at the Apple remote control - they got rid of almost all the buttons, and have now only six to control a vast array of functionality. And people think that is good.

(Oh, by the way, I fear we caved in under the pressure: The new Nokia N-series phones have a multimedia button, which you can theoretically make do whatever you want... So please stop about this already. Pretty please?)

Part III


I like this series already! :-)

--Burana, 30-Mar-2006

I think part of the problem is that most phones are *just so damnably slow*. I press a button an in a second or two it does something. This thing can put out 30fps of crapoJava, but it takes 2 seconds to open a menu.

So natural thought is 'if only i could have a direct button'..

And that clock you mentioned? It's the screen. Can't see a thing on that color thing. I'm considering switching back to blacknwhite lcd screen phone just to see clock without searching for light button (incidentally, i'd like to see if i've missed any calls too).

--psi-, 31-Mar-2006

Unfortunately, the natural thought is wrong, since most of the CPU time is used in doing everything else except processing the keypresses. So a dedicated button would appear just as slow... But I share your pain. Some things are taking way too much time right now.

Yes, colour screens have a way worse contrast without the backlight than bw displays. I noticed the same thing when I got my first colour screen phone. There are even OLED (I think) displays out there which are totally dark if there's no light. But they look gorgeous when you turn the light on...

BTW at least on most Nokia phones you can turn the backlight on by pressing the power key, even if the keypad is locked.

(Thanks, Burana! More is to come ;-)

--JanneJalkanen, 31-Mar-2006

Well, configurable buttons? The best thing with my phone are indeed a couple of direct buttons, but that's lucky: they match my needs. AND then there are the two configurable buttons with which I take care of the rest. :)

Alas, for me the problem is that there are no good enough phones out there. GRRH. N-Gage (first) used to be the best phone, with enough features. Alas there is hardly anythin matching it. Well, N-series is finally catching up, with their own quirks: no more universal (mini)USB, proprietary connectors and whatnot. Eh, and healthy price tag for us mere clients! :)

Oh well, perhaps my grandchildren will finally start to get fast, useable, feature rich multi-communicators. :)

--Tommi Korhonen, 31-Mar-2006

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"Main_blogentry_300306_1" last changed on 07-Apr-2006 17:23:57 EEST by JanneJalkanen.