Sunday, October 12, 2008

Apple's iPhone versus Google's Android versus Nokia's 5800

Google jumping to lead ...

"Having designed Motorola, NEC, and E28's touchscreen mobile phones for the past several years, I was excitedly curious to get my hands on the much-hyped iPhone. After six months of usage and discounting the volatile signal strength issue, I commend Apple on creating a platform that is highly usable. The iPhone achieves this through (1) a fast and responsive software system where the speed of the iPhone, especially in processor intensive applications like the photo gallery, sets it apart from many of its predecessors; (2) a touch screen with finger interaction in mind where interaction elements such as buttons and lists fit most human fingers; (3) sexy transitions that add visual aesthetics, but more importantly aids navigation of the interface; (4) placing buttons on the screen to abolish menus which often hide options; and (5) removing features in an industry that believes more is better.

However, it's clear that the iPhone is a first generation product and that the designers of the iPhone do not use text messaging frequently. Nevertheless, despite shortcomings which can be easily overcome with a new software upgrade, the iPhone is the cornerstone in Apple's strategy to not only dominate hardware, but the entire value chain of hardware plus software and content distribution.

While the iPhone has set the user interface design standard for not only the phone industry but all products ranging from TVs to X-ray machines, recent competitor product launches are beginning to seriously challenge the iPhone. One such challenger is the HTC Dream G1 running Google's Android platform. The iPhone influences on Android are certainly there, but Android (1) maintains a rather large virtual desktop metaphor where you can set shortcuts to applications, widgets, Web pages, contacts, etc.; (2) maintains an options menu where you often have to dig into "more options" to find what you're looking for; and (3) packs in more features than iPhone. Thus, comparing Android's usability to the iPhone, many basic users may still prefer the iPhone. However, given Google's rich (online) application suite, power users may prefer Android.

One scary thought is that unless things change drastically, Google is now very well positioned to be the Microsoft of the future. As more and more users (and their data) are assimilated into Google's growing web of online applications, the future looks great for Google's advertising model. Android gives Google the ability to cross over from the Internet world into the mobile world with much more ease than others such as Microsoft.

Finally, the latest contender to iPhone's kingdom is Nokia's 5800 with a touch-based user interface that is built on the Series 60 platform. While the Series 60 platform has probably shipped more units due to Nokia's strong position in the market, it also binds the interface design team with all of the luggage of the past. Some novel, top layer elements have been added such as (1) the media bar short cut from the idle screen; (2) your favorite contacts bar with multiple ways of communicating with them; and (3) touch-based interactions for Web page, etc. However, the Series 60's complexity caused by its number of features is quickly revealed as you dig into some basic operations such as sending a text message."    (Continued via Interfax China, Jonathan Li)    [Usability Resources]


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