A recent poll of 4000 people (which is probably enough) found that a majority of them felt that mobile phones these days are too hard to set up and too hard to use. I can see that, however I think the iPhone and G1 are doing things right. Even as someone immersed in tech 24/7, I was afraid to explore the capabilities of my old phones on Verizon.
Firstly, the interface was always just god-awful on the flip phones and candybars that I had, plus you couldn’t customize it beyond trading out a couple icons for your main screen. Second, it was never clear what would cost me money. Warnings popped up occasionally saying “this might cost extra!” or I’d find myself charged 45 cents for a PIX message later on. So I just gave up and used it as a phone, kind of like a huge amount of people out there.
One of the pollsters said something along the lines of:
As phones packed in more processing power, that computational ability could be used to anticipate what users were doing and help them find their way around the handset.
Do you know of any phones that do that? I don’t! When I put mp3s onto my microSD card, my little Samsung sure didn’t ask “would you like to set one as a ringtone?” No. This “anticipation” of users he speaks of isn’t some processor-bound limitation. It’s a UI thing, and we could have had good UIs years ago, but carriers have been pushing us toward buying their crappy ringtones and sending expensive text messages for so long that they didn’t think of how to improve the user experience. It’s certainly one of the reasons the iPhone has become so successful, even though it employs many of the same restrictions: it feels like it’s doing what you want, not like it’s letting you pick from 3 options.
Anyway, rant over. The poll sure shows how frustrated people are with phones these days, but the reasons for that frustration aren’t just by-the-by. They’ve been cultured for years and I don’t think anyone has asked a consumer once what would be better.