Sans iPhone: The debriefing

~ 22 February 2008 ~

I survived. Although the wife pointed out that I “cheated” on a couple occasions by accessing information for a few contacts that weren’t synced elsewhere, I managed to make do without my iPhone for a week, swapping it for less capable devices such as the Sony Ericsson K750 and Nokia 6680.

I’ll be publishing something substantial here on an unrelated topic next week and therefore don’t have adequate time to do a full write-up right now, but I promised I’d share a few things I learned from the experience. Herein I keep the promise — unedited, unspellchecked.

  • Unless you’re a text-savvy teen, texting is an absolute pain with a numeric keypad, even with T9 (predictive text) enabled. My texting activity dropped significantly the last week. QWERTY keypads — iPhone or otherwise — are a necessity in my book.
  • No music. None of my other phones are set up to do music, mostly because it’s a pain to do so. I lugged around my video iPod as a replacement and it was apparent having a phone that also doubled as an iPod — a veritable iPod and not a ROKR gadget — was rather convenient.
  • iPhone’s screen performs really well in direct sunlight. A couple of my other devices were hardly discernable in direct sunlight.
  • The ability to lock or sleep the phone with one button (the top one on iPhone) is really convenient. Most others require at least two keypad clicks, and it’s usually a cryptic combination to try and remember.
  • I didn’t actually miss the browsing experience as much as I expected I would, perhaps because most of my phones are set up with Opera Mini, and a number of the sites I visit with a handset are mobile-optimized anyway. I did, however, do considerably less browsing, which may very well contradict what I just wrote.
  • Surprisingly, I found that having all menu options available from the home screen is incredibly helpful. Most phones require you to click a “menu” button to see these options, and even on some phones the menu option is not always intuitive. Further, having a screen large enough to accommodate text labels beneath icons is really helpful.
  • Two big takeaways: One, the week-long experience was clearly a reminder that handset manufacturers have spent far too much time on hardware research and development, and far too little time on software & UI research and development.
  • And two, and I shamelessly admit this, the “cool factor” or whatever you might call it is unbeatable with an iPhone. There’s nothing better than being in public, having white iPod earphones on, and suddenly taking a call only to see the other passengers on lightrail wonder why you’re speaking to yourself. I occasionally slip the iPhone out of my pocket to end the call, even though this unnecessary, merely to ratify that I am indeed a sane, and unabashed, consumer.
  • Finally, while the overall experience was much less satisfactory compared to the iPhone, I was reminded that most consumers throughout the world carry handsets just like those I carried. This is a two-edged sword for someone who’s both a consumer and a content provider. Consumers can expect the bar to be raised for all phone manufacturers since iPhone’s inception, which excites content providers, but in the meantime these content providers must cater to a broad spectrum of devices.

Experiment concluded. iPhone utility unequivocally verified.


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