Ever since I bought the iPhone G3 a few weeks ago, I have been using it together with the BlackBerry 8830 that my office had provided me. Since human interface is one of my passions (social interaction is another), I have been discussing with friends & colleagues my reactions to the iPhone and how it compares with the BlackBerry and the Treo 650 (the predecessor of the BlackBerry on my belt). To get reactions from a broader audience, I thought I’d express them on a literal media such as a blog.
Before I start, I would like to clear up a question that I am sure is on your minds- why do I talk about the iPhone and related devices in a blog dedicated to social media? The reason is that I think that portable devices like the iPhone could transform the way we interact socially as compared with using just a desktop. These mobile devices are changing the way social media is being used- my social media contacts (or however you like to call them) are now available any time and from anywhere. This is a big difference.
Having toying around with the iPhone 3G, I came to regard the un-sexy-flat-brick BlackBerry 8830 as a truly Medieval device. I wear my iPhone on the right side of my belt while the BlackBerry is on the left hand side- right brain vs. left brain. Why is it so?
Apple folks know how to design an appealing user experience and interfaces. The BlackBerry developers have not developed an experience that would rival it (and I can’t wait to experience their new touch screen product to see if it is still true). But, the most important lesson for me was that there is no such thing as all good or all bad. The wonderful iPhone has its shortfalls too, and here are some highlights.
The Thick Finger Versus the Mouse & the Stylus. A great application called Twitelator allows users to read and post Twitter short messages on the iPhone. You use your fingers to scroll down, to reply to a message, or to go to a linked web page. This is a natural use of a finger and certainly it does not require learning a new skill. However, it is difficult to point to a web page and to actually activate the link using your finger. I find myself pushing my finger a number of times before the appropriate action takes place.
The web browser is another example. Have you ever tried to read the NYTimes on the iPhone? The pages look good, but it is quite difficult sometimes to use your thick finger to point to a link in a dense array of links. Moreover, it is easy to inadvertently move the finger over a link while scrolling resulting in the device bringing an unwanted page, interrupting your reading and your thoughts. To my irritation, it happens time after time.
The reason for it is that the design of the usual web page is geared for a mouse that has a much finer resolution on a large screen than of a typical finger on a small screen of a mobile device. Enabling the use of a stylus (like in the good old Treo 650) or redesigning web pages specifically for small mobile devices might alleviate this problem. As for the iPhone, a vertical scroll bar like in a Treo 650 might help too.
The Blackberry 8830, on the other hand, has a trackball. I find it is easy to move it around and control and aim it to a particular point on the small screen. However, the device does not have a vertical scrolling bar either making scrolling quite slow and tedious.