The iPhone started a paradigm shift in mobile that led to a deluge of touch-screen devices, which differ only slightly in feature sets and overall experience. Marek Pawlowski of MEX writes a very detailed account how Palm went back to its ideological roots and to the blackboard to design a unique mobile device–the Pre. In some aspects, the Pre seems to make improvements on common features such as the ergonomics of the QWERTY keyboard:
The curvature of the handset improves the balance when typing, combating the “top heavy” feeling users complain of with standard QWERTY monoblocs like the Blackberry Bold and Nokia E71.
However, beyond some tweaks to existing models, there are three features that are truly revolutionary. The first is Palm’s dedication to web connectivity as the heart of the device:
Indeed, as the name suggests, webOS has been designed with web connectivity at the very heart of the platform… Users can add contacts from a wide range of sources, either by desktop synchronisation or from web services such as Facebook, and Palm’s webOS will intelligently combine them to ensure duplicate contacts are avoided.
This post about FedEx courier devices was just brilliant. I’ve often wondered about these onerous-looking contraptions, and how much training they must require. The mere look of them is not very enticing. Joe Pemberton’s recount of this encounter is a story to which we can all relate. How many times have we heard people gripe about the devices they have to use to do their job?
The BBC reports on a study conducted by Mformation, which reveals that of 4,000 people interviewed in the UK and US, 61% claim that “setting up a new handset is as challenging as moving bank accounts.”
The report reveals other details of the complexity users face, such as using various applications, browsing the web, reading email, and sending picture messages. Results include:
“Of those questioned, 95% said they would be more likely to use new features if the initial set-up were easier.”
“Some 61% of those questioned said they stopped using an application if they could not get it working straight away.”
“Having icons for all a phone’s available services at hand was better than burying them in a sub-menu …”
Mark Chu-Carroll, an engineer at Google who’s been beta testing the Google Android Phone for six weeks before it officially launched, wrote an excellent review of it on his blog, Good Math, Bad Math. He drew many comparisons and contrast to Apple’s iPhone, which serves as his primary mobile device.
In a nutshell, he concluded that “the software is excellent, the hardware less so,” but he was also quick to note that “the software is really late-beta quality. It’s lacking polish, and there are a few awkward points.” Mark went on to comment on the Android’s web browser, as he believes browsing capability to be a distinguishing factor for phones such as the iPhone and Google’s Android phone. He wrote:
Last month Nokia published a document (PDF) that presents examples of good mobile design based on the interaction design, easy-of-use, and visual appeal of the products. The set includes:
Here are a few screen shots from the document:
Although the analysis is quite subjective, I think the sampling is a good one. I have used quite a few of these products and agree that the overall interaction is pleasing.
In particular, I use the Gmail mobile application on a regular basis and find it very similar to the online experience in many ways. It is easy to search and see what I have read versus not. However, the one thing that truly annoys me is the need to confirm almost every action. For example, if I select a message in my inbox, I have to click again to say “open.” Additionally the convenient “undo” feature for deletion has not been ported over so I must also confirm that action. In later releases I hope to see these overlays reduced to make this application even easier to use.
Related to this one, Google Maps mobile is simply a must-have; I have navigated many a foreign domain with this handy and simple tool.
Another one worth mentioning is Opera Mini, which I use on my Blackberry Pearl. This application is one of the reasons I don’t feel that compelled to get the iPhone (among other reasons obviously as there are certainly a lot more features and hooks on the latter).
If you are interested in mobile, I would recommend reading through the document. As for me, I’m going to try out some of these other applications to see how they measure up. In particular I plan to upgrade to the latest Yahoo! Go to see if they improved the performance, which in my opinion severely impacted the user experience.
According to the Business Week, Americans don’t visit the same web sites on their mobile devices as they do on their PC’s. Websites such as craigslist and eBay, ranked at number 1 and number 2 respectively, gain six or more spots in the mobile realm than on traditional devices. The article goes on to explain the browsing habits for weekends versus weekdays, stating “On Saturday, Classifieds Rule.”
Other leaders behind craigslist and eBay include Facebook at number 3, MySpace at 4 and Walt Disney’s Go.com at number 5.
See also the accompanying slideshow: Where People Go on the Mobile Web.