Wednesday 24 March 2010

Nexus One: touch screens do not solve all problems

When I first learned about Android and iPhone, it was fascinating to see, but I didn't leave my old Nokia phones before I saw somebody demonstrate to me, that it was actually possible to operate these phones with one hand. My Nexus One is still mostly handled with one hand, meaning that I don't use multitouch pinch-to-zoom much, even though it is available, instead I use the zoom buttons on-screen.

However, I still cannot type on my Nexus One with one hand, without looking at the on-screen keyboard. Also, physical keyboards produce higher typing speeds than on-screen keyboards, so the current solution isn't optimal. Also, the Nexus One only has 3 physical buttons: Volume, Activate and the trackball. Everything else requires you to look at the phone. This choice is not optimal: while handling the phone in an unlocked state, you may easily adjust the ringer volume by accident (!), so there are applications that restore the ringer volume, in case you do this. Also, it takes much more time to activate and unlock a Nexus One, than to unlock a modern Nokia phone. The phone is great, no doubts about it, and Nokia is seriously behind these days, but there is still improvement to be made.

In a recent CNet review of the Kindle and the Nook, the reviewer gave Kindle significant more points on usability, mainly because it had dedicated buttons to support the operations that the user did most, whereas the Nook's touch-screen was not as easy to operate. Considering, that we get more and more devices, it is also fair to assume that the devices get more and more specialized, meaning that it will become increasingly easy to identify frequent operations that should be supported using special buttons, and that the best devices will get more physical buttons. Who knows, maybe we will see bluetooth remote controls for Android phones, that enables you to do calls and write SMS messages without taking the Android phone out of your bag. I would buy one.


FrancisR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I don't see devices becoming more and more specialized, though. I see them becoming more generalized.

In the beginning, there was the cellphone, and you could make phone calls on it. And there were digital cameras for taking pictures, and there were PDAs for general computing at a very small scale. Now we have all three in one device.

Early video game consoles played video games and that's all. The recent generation also includes all sorts of Internet features, including web browsing. My brother's Nintendo DSi even has a built-in camera! (Now he has two, because his phone also has one!)

Stuff like this is happening all over the computer industry, and I don't see any good reason for the trend to suddenly reverse itself.

Lars D said...

We don't increase the number of devices in order to have 3 Droids in our pocket instead of 1 - we do it because we will perceive the need to have more devices, for different purposes.

A Google Nexus one can be used as a car radio, navigation system, TV, games, MP3 player while jogging, party jukebox etc. However, it is not the optimal device for any of these purposes. The optimal device for each of these purposes would not be optimal for any of the other purposes.

You can use the same clothes for jogging, working, sleeping and dining at a restaurant. But, for some reason, people buy different clothes for the different purposes. Gadgets will go that route, too.

Jolyon Smith said...

"maybe we will see bluetooth remote controls for Android phones, that enables you to do calls and write SMS messages without taking the Android phone out of your bag."

This was a joke, right? Tell me it was a joke....

What is the point of a device to operate a device ? Just use the actual device! Or would you then want a remote to operate the remote so that you don't need to take the remote OR the phone out of your bag ?


Lars D said...

@Jolyon: No, it's not a joke. As HTC puts it: Their phones are not designed to be carried in a pocket.

Actually, such remote controls already exist, think of headsets. They exist in various forms, some have a button to pick up the phone, some have multiple buttons for volume adjustment etc.

Another kind of remote control for Android phones can be seen at - but this device does not feature "answer", "redial" or similar buttons that would be useful.

It should be possible to read and reply OK to an sms within 10 seconds (a $1 phone can do this), but it easily takes more than 10 seconds just to unpack a phone with a large touch-screen.