Tuesday, January 16, 2007

iPhone: Out of touch?

A summary of articles about the iPhone touch screen ...

Is a button-free interface really a good thing?

From Access 2.0's Paul Crichton:

"Apple's new iPhone has got people salivating about how sexy it is. However, it is hard to imagine anything that could make the iPhone less accessible than replacing the keypad with a touch screen -- a move that has interestingly brought quite a lot of praise for improving usability. That's fine while there is still choice in the market, but if this becomes the standard mobile, then what will that mean to everyone that has trouble using a touch screen?"

From Dan Saffer at Adaptive Path:

"I do have my reservations, however, mostly around, well, buttons. The new device has only one physical button, and while the simplicity and flexibility of having one/no buttons and only using 'soft' digital buttons is nice, I wonder how well that will work over time. As others have pointed out, 'non-mechanical buttons actually reduce the user experience rather than enhance it. Often because...static buttons are not used in a correct context and [they] lack two important things: tactile and haptic feedback.' I wonder if the iPhone will attempt to compensate for this, much like the Wii's controller slightly vibrates when you roll over a button. Without buttons, it's really just a smooth slab of plastic."

From Jason Fried at 37signals:

"There's an interesting tradeoff presented by the iPhone. While the phone can do more, and it's interface is fluid, in some ways it widens the gulf between human and computer.

"When you touch it, it doesn't touch you back.

"That may prove to be a good thing. It may prove that what we think we need we don't really need. The tradeoffs may payoff. But we've certainly lost the tactile feedback humans are used to when dealing with things that are right in front of us. Now the connection is simulated. Rich textures have been replaced with androgynous glass.

"How can you dial the iPhone without looking at it? How can you reach in your pocket and press '1' for voicemail? How can you orient yourself with the interface without seeing it? With a traditional phone or device with buttons you can feel your way around it. You can find the bumps, the humps, the cut lines, the shapes, the sizes. You can find your way around in the dark. Not with the iPhone."

From Roger Johansson at 456 Berea St:

"Whenever I use my mobile phone to write a text message or enter a phone number, the tactile feedback I get from the physical keys is quite important. It gives me that assuring feeling that 'yes, I did press that key'. Tactile feedback also makes it possible to operate a phone without looking at it all the time by feeling your way around the keypad, like when typing a text message while walking or during a meeting.

"I have two eyes that work reasonably well, so for me the lack of tactile feedback isn't a problem I can't overcome. But what about people who are not as lucky? If this phone is 'revolutionary', it should also work for people who can't see or are using it in less than ideal conditions, right?"    (Continued via Etre)    [Usability Resources]


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