User Unfriendly

The credit-card sized, user-friendly, minimalist phone is born

When I was growing up, shopping for toothpaste was a no-brainer: Grab a tube of Crest.

These days my drugstore in North Berkeley carries twenty-four kinds of Crest toothpaste. I'm familiar with the concepts of brand extension, competing for shelf-space, and even end-cap promotion, but this is absurd. I asked my wife to pick up a tube of toothpaste; she asked which type. I told her to pick the simplest one she could find, probably not the peroxide, baking soda, sensitive, tartar-fighting, cavity-protection, dual-action, multi-care whitening, cinammon gel, fresh citrus gel, extreme herbal mint, plus scope, or rejuvenating effects. Unfortunately, Proctor & Gamble doesn't make any Crest that's just plain toothpaste. Some idiot brand manager in Cincinnati has decided that you must pick your market segment before you buy your Crest.

Shopping for toothpaste is nothing compared to operating my new mobile phone.

My T306 comes with color display, contacts, downloadable games, exchangeable covers, e-mail , mobile chat, picture messaging, picture phonebook, predictive text input, polyphonic ring signals, start-up/shutdown shows, vibrating alert, high speed data (HSCSD, up to 28,8 kbps), MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services), WAP 2.0 and a downloadable User Manual that's a 1.5 MB file and 80 pages of instructions. The T306 also comes equipped with its own unique, funky programming language. Of course, like all miniaturized phones, the keys are too small to use unless your hands are the size of a baby's.

Want to try something scarier than the best roller coaster? Try to make a conference call on the T306 while barreling down the freeway at 80 MPH.

I have a message for the product design teams at Nokia and SONY: Less is more. Stop adding features and begin subtracting them. I'd rather have a phone that's easy to use than a phone that doubles as a game console. Let me show you:

The Internet Time Group Cardphone is the size of a credit card but has big, legible buttons. It has two functions: (1) making calls and (2) receiving calls.

The headset is tiny, wireless, and discrete.

The burnished titanium executive model has additional but optional voice-activated commands for things like dictation.

You program the Internet Time Group Cardphone from your computer, not using the keys and tiny phone screen on the phone. Most options can be set by clicking radio buttons on a one-page checklist. The Cardphone connects to the computer through the same wireless interface as the headset.

I appreciate how gizmos like the T306 are created. Competition breeds feature-creep. Also, the creators are geek engineers.

You've probably heard the story of the engineer who hears a faint voice while walking alongside a pond. Looking down, he sees a frog, who says, "Kiss me. I'm a princess." He puts the frog in his fannypack.

    "Why haven't you kissed me?" asks the frog.

    The engineer replies, "Look I'm an engineer at SONY. I program arcane features into mobile phones. I don't have time for a girlfriend, especially a princess. But a talking frog, that's kind of cool."

Posted by Jay Cross at August 2, 2003 11:46 AM | TrackBack

I'd buy that phone. That sounds like an excellent phone. I'd also buy that microwave, television, oven, fridge, etc.

Thanks for nicely articulating something I've been thinking for a while.

Posted by: Chris Dent at August 15, 2003 05:19 PM

nice site

Posted by: paris hilton sex at June 29, 2004 01:25 AM

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