Follow up to 'Good-bye iPhone...'

My last post about "reverse switching" from an iPhone back to a BlackBerry generated lots of great comments that warranted a short follow-up.

Adam Richardson
Adam Richardson is the director of product strategy at frog design, where he guides strategy engagements for frog's international roster of clients, envisioning and creating new products, consumer electronics, and digital experiences. Adam combines a background in industrial design, interaction design, and sociology, and spends most of his time on convergent designs that combine hardware, software, service, brand, and retail. He writes and speaks extensively on design, business, culture, and technology, and runs his own Richardsona blog.
Adam Richardson
3 min read

My last post about "reverse switching" from an iPhone back to a BlackBerry generated a lot of great comments that I believe warrant a short follow-up (much shorter than the original post, I promise). I can't address all the comments, but here are a few thoughts.

For the record, in my post, I'm describing 3.1 software on an iPhone 3G.

Yes, the 3GS actually speed some things up, such as the camera; however, in my view, the iPhone's speed issue is not one of CPU horsepower, but because of its fundamental interface architecture. As I say in the article, the paned, step-by-step interface is "easy," but it puts a limit on how fast it can be used, simply because of the number of steps it requires to perform a task. Apple can speed the CPU all it wants, and it will only make a marginal difference to the key usability index of time on task (the amount of time it takes to start and complete an activity).

(As an aside, on the topic of doing great user interface with a low performance device, here's an old post I wrote about the UI design of the Palm. Palm beat the experience provided by Windows Mobile phones of the day, even though its CPU, memory, and screen were far inferior.)

As some point out, there are things that can be done with a jailbroken phone that address specific issues. However, I'm using a work-issued phone, so I'm not going to jailbreak a phone that doesn't belong to me. Besides, jailbreaking is something that only a tiny percentage of users will risk doing, or even know about. You may say I'm a BlackBerry power user (I don't really think I am; there are people who know way more about it than I do), but things like knowing one's way around the menu are way less geeky than jailbreaking.

Yes, I realize that I can get a rubber skin to cover the iPhone and make it easier to hold and less scratch-prone. But as a designer, that just offends my sensibilities.

  1. Why buy a nice-looking product and then cover it all up?
  2. If so, many people have decided they need to retrofit a portable product that by definition will be handheld and get beaten up, then the product has been designed incorrectly in the first place.

The "90 percent" of the time I spend on the iPhone is (or was) using e-mail, calendar, SMS, calls, in roughly that order. Does that mean I was using it in a way that Apple didn't intend? Certainly Apple first launched the iPhone as a consumer-oriented device, rather than an enterprise device. Apple knew it didn't make sense to take on RIM on its home turf, so it successfully used a Trojan horse strategy to get iPhones into businesses, relying on employee demand rather than convincing IT administrators.

But Apple has been including more enterprise-friendly functionality into the iPhone, such as Exchange support and remote-wiping if it gets stolen. So clearly, it is angling for the enterprise market. In the enterprise market, the balance of functional needs is going to shift away from watching YouTube to the type of activities I describe in my post.

On the topic of Web browsing, I just grabbed the beta of Opera Mini, and it's pretty darn impressive. The zooming in is not quite as good as Safari in terms of snapping to the width of the specific chunk of content on the page. But it offers some other capabilities the iPhone's Safari doesn't have, like caching pages for offline viewing. Heck, it even has a thumbnail view like Safari 4 on Mac OS X, or Firefox. Its speed, rendering quality, and tabbed browsing all seem comparable with the iPhone's Safari. It's definitely a big step up from the last revision of Opera Mini.