Back in Black(Berry)
Most of you who know me know that I have been using an Apple iPhone. As the Marketing and Design Director for the World’s largest iPod & iPhone accessory brand, it was pretty much a prerequisite that I trade in my beloved BlackBerry Curve for an iPhone. So, on June 29, 2007 I waited for the lines to subside then walked into the local Green Hills, TN Apple store and picked up a 4GB 1st gen iPhone.
Since then I have had an on-again off-again love/hate relationship with my iPhone. After a year of exclusive iPhone use I’ve finally thrown in the towel and gone back to my old BlackBerry 8300 Curve. The lack of a physical keyboard on the iPhone was something that I never got used to. And, while I appreciate the aesthetic qualities of the iPhone’s interface, the sluggishness all those animated transitions in and out of windows drives me crazy. My BlackBerry’s dated UI is much more responsive and much more highly configurable than the iPhone’s. I am also amazed at how much better of a phone the BlackBerry is than the iPhone (in terms of sound quality and ease of use).
Steve Jobs says that the iPhone’s touchscreen interface is a superior design to the collection of fixed buttons found on the typical smartphone. After spending much time with both I disagree. I do agree that the touchscreen may be aesthetically superior and has functional value in certain situations as well. However, there are significant usability advantages to having fixed buttons that can be memorized and learned. My iPhone almost always takes more interactions to perform the same tasks as my BlackBerry. Also, the BlackBerry’s fixed keys and trackball more clearly map to the desired inputs/interactions while providing positive physical feedback. The iPhone’s UI is constantly changing and often similar inputs/interactions result in different outcomes at different times while interface elements are constantly changing their location on the screen.
I could go on for quite a while critiquing the iPhone’s interface but I won’t right now. My last complaint is that the iPhone’s physical form factor almost always requires two hands to operate. Used one handed, the thumb is required to steady the device in the hand and make input selections. This usually results in unintentional inputs and/or dropping of the device. I really fail to see how this is a superior design. Plus, all those dropped and dinged up iPhones are almost all wrapped in some hideous case or another…causing el Jobso much aesthetic distress, I’m sure. Maybe that’s why he’s taking a leave of absence?
Don’t get me wrong. I do think the iPhone is an excellent device for the average user upgrading from a RAZR or the like. However, power users with more than one e-mail account and usability geeks like me who demand more from their mobile devices may not find it is all it’s cracked up to be. For now, I’m just biding my time with my beat up old 8300 waiting for the new BlackBerry Curve 8900 to drop on AT&T so I can get me some sweet Wi-Fi and GPS action.
If anyone is looking for more specific thoughts comparing the iPhone with other smartphones like the BlackBerry drop me an email or hit me up in the comments and I will be happy to answer your questions.