Friday, September 29, 2006

Jitterbug and the Cellphone Simplicity Derby

Achieving cell phone simplicity ...

“The movement for simpler electronics is still alive and well; after all, life is complex enough already,” according to David Pogue’s Simplicity Derby for cellphones.

Software Simplicity Score

To judge each phone’s UI, he created a Software Simplicity Score which counts the number of taps needed to 1) turn off the ringer 2) open the phone book 3) open the recent calls list and 4) see your own phone number.

(Is this is the best way to test a phone’s simplicity and/or usability? As Steve Krug explains, it’s not necessarily the number of clicks that matters, it’s how much thought each click requires that matters. Still, it’s nice to have some metric for comparing relative simplicity.)

The winner of the tap test was the LG Electronics VX3400 (Verizon). Ringer off: 1 step. Phone book: 1. Recent Calls: 1. See your own number: 4. Speakerphone: 1. The Motorola C139 (Cingular), on the other hand, requires 7 (!) steps to turn off the ringer.

... The Jitterbug

Most interesting though is the Jitterbug phone (pictured below), available from It’s billed as “a totally new cellphone experience.” (I refuse to include the exclamation point. I’m opposed to exclamation point inflation.) “Jitterbug is designed to be the best telephone a cell phone can be. Nothing more. Nothing less.”

Interesting backstory at the company too: Its first product was an SOS phone for seniors. It was an oversized, three-button phone powered by a AAA battery that could connect a customer with 911, a towing service, or an SOS operator who would place calls for customers. “We gained 25,000 wonderful and loyal customers and we learned a lot about what they liked and didn’t like about wireless service,” says Arlene Harris, now CEO of GreatCall. (Btw, don’t miss this adorable photo of the company founders. Wilford Brimley has gotta be just off camera cooking up some soup.)

The Jitterbug is also made for an older crowd. Or, as they put it, “the ever-growing baby boomer/mature market, those who want a simplified cellphone experience.” Old people aren’t the only ones who want a simple phone but, hey, gotta start somewhere.

What’s different about it? It’s big — “so big that when you’re on a call, the earpiece and mouthpiece are right next to the proper orifices of your head."    (Continued via Signal vs. Noise)    [Usability Resources]

The Jitterbug - Usability, User Interface Design

The Jitterbug


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