Phones Getting Harder To Use Than VCR Clocks
from the hey-kid-show-me-how-to-use-this dept
Inevitably, every time a cell phone is released with some new feature, it’s met with a backlash of people saying “why would I want that?” It’s not too surprising — after all, the first cell phones were likely met by the same chorus, now they’re nearly ubiquitious. But apart from resistance to anything new, technophobia or even just general disinterest, one bigger problem remains for handset manufacturers and mobile operators: the lousy usability of the typical mobile phone, which seems to only get worse when these new features are tacked on. So even if they could convince users to give some of these new features and services a shot, they’re bound to be frustrated or disappointed by the experience and unlikely to try again.
The latest case in point is the LG “Chocolate” handset Verizon released this week as part of a renewed push to get people interested in its over-the-air (not to mention overpriced) music downloads. Mainstream reviewers have given pretty mixed reviews to the device, focusing on its ease of use, or lack thereof: the WSJ’s influential tech writer, Walt Mossberg, says “While the Chocolate may look like an iPod, however, it doesn’t work like one. In fact, as a music player, it functions like an iPod designed by a committee. It’s burdened by a ham-handed user interface and other failings that would get its designers fired at Apple.” USA Today’s tech reviewer also notes the phone’s similar looks to an iPod, but “that’s where the comparison melts: Chocolate is not as simple to use”. Mobile phones are never held up like iPods or other electronic devices as hallmarks of usability, something that’s not a new issue. But it’s one that doesn’t get much attention, since it’s far easier to just slap on a camera or an MP3 player without thinking about making it — and all the other functions — easy to use. There are certainly plenty of other obstacles to widespread adoption of advanced mobile handsets and services, but poor usability is a killer. It’s little wonder there’s so much interest in an Apple mobile phone.