Surprising Absolutely No One, Cell Phones Are Still Poorly Designed

by James R. Stoup Aug 18, 2008

Since new cell phones are launched every 4 to 6 months, all of the mobile phone companies out there have had at least two opportunities to create a product that can compete with the iPhone.

Ok wait, scratch that. I'm sorry, that isn't what I meant to say. Can I try that again? Really? Thanks., you guys are the best. Ok, here goes.

Since new cell phones are launched every 4 to 6 months, all of the mobile phone companies out there have had at least two opportunities to create a product that isn't a oozing boil scrapped of the posterior of a particularly foul smelling maggot. Sadly they haven't made much of their opportunities.

I understand that before Apple came along there wasn't anyone to show you the way, I get it. And I recognize that you fools needed Jobs to guide you down the path of cell phone enlightenment, but come on, can't anyone show a little initiative?

Here is the big question that I would really like to ask the CEO's of all the big cell phone makers: How can you have studied the iPhone for a full year and still not get what makes it such a great phone? You had an excuse when it came out. It being revolutionary and all, but what is the excuse now?

How many times have people said that the key to their success has been the intuitive user interface? So why haven't you listened? I think the biggest mistake has been that everyone looked at the iPhone and thought that "intuitive user interface" = "touch screen". That isn't quite right. The touch screen idea is an example of an intuitive user interface, it isn't a magic bullet that will fix all designed problems.

And that is what we've been seeing a lot of lately. Phones that are using touch interfaces as a coverup for their inherent design flaws. I think that the best advice anyone could give these companies would be to tell them to try and make a better phone first and worry about the rest of that stuff later.

Strip out the camera, the video recorder, the games, the MP3 players and all the other junk and try to just make a phone. Only this time make it as easy to use as possible. For example, see how many buttons you can get rid of and still have a workable phone. After all, if you can't make a basic phone that is easy to use, what makes you think you can create something that can compete with the iPhone?

What occassions this rant, you ask? Well, I'm a Verizon customer who's contract is up for renewal, as such I've been offered a discount on their wide variety of phones. Having examined most of them I'm quite disappointed. You see, as much as I like the iPhone, it just isn't for me. I don't want a smart phone. I don't watch videos on my phone. I don't type email on it either. In fact, I don't really even use text messaging. I just want a small, simple, durable cell phone and apparently that is something that's just too difficult for our current cell phone makers.


  • Looks like you’re the future buyer of Apple’s upcoming mini-phone.

    Bakari had this to say on Aug 18, 2008 Posts: 37
  • “You see, as much as I like the iPhone, it just isn’t for me. I don’t want a smart phone.”

    Then I must say, I’m confused about your complaints.  I have a low-end flip phone.  I open it, dial a phone number, and hit send.  I’m not sure how one makes this simpler or easier to do.  And they all pretty much do this.

    In fact, speed dial is even easier.  I hold down “3” to call my wife.  I don’t even have to hit send.  One button to call the person I call the most.

    Now, what makes the iPhone is the interface, sure, but it’s the interface to all that other stuff - the camera, the apps, the web browsing - all the stuff you say you’re not interested in.

    For me, I don’t have the iPhone because it’s still too expensive.  While my phone sucks at web browsing and takes really crappy pictures (although it does shoot video, which the iPhone doesn’t), it was SUBSTANTIALLY cheaper and didn’t require a $30/mo data plan.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Aug 18, 2008 Posts: 2220
  • Beeb,

    Just because I don’t want an iPhone doesn’t mean that I don’t want a phone that is well designed. Let me hit you with some examples. I have a fairly basic phone, yet the menu system is horrible. It is cluttered and unintuitive and makes finding some settings really difficult. The speakerphone is defective to the point of uselessness. The ability to record a voice memo takes 10 seconds and several steps effectively negating the point of having a quick and easy way to record voice memos. The list goes on. I don’t want a phone that plays movies, but I do want a phone that isn’t filled with unnecessary clutter. I really don’t think that is such an extraordinary request.

    James R. Stoup had this to say on Aug 18, 2008 Posts: 122
  • A voice memo is clutter as far as I am concerned.

    Parky had this to say on Aug 20, 2008 Posts: 51
  • One thing I’ve noticed about the phones Verizon offers is that most of them use Verizon’s own firmware.  You can’t really blame the cell phone makers for that.  As for the devices themselves, well, I don’t see anything wrong with them.

    ChaosAngelic had this to say on Aug 23, 2008 Posts: 1
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