The Failure of the Smartphone Interface

I still don’t understand why people think that a stylus is a good thing, or that mimicking a Windows environment — designed for navigation by mice and other pointy things — is regarded as a worthy goal for mobile devices.

Take what Walt Mossberg, who has emerged as something of an expert on the new Treos, has to say about them in his mailbag (the URL isn’t a permalink, so don’t know how long it’s good for):

I have reviewed both devices, and I find that the Windows Mobile software on the 700w is considerably inferior to the Palm operating system software on the 700p. Too many common actions in the Windows version take more steps than the same actions on the Palm OS version, and often require navigating menus. You are likely to use the stylus more often in the Windows version as well.

I think in the near future we’ll wonder what the hell we were doing with our mobile interfaces. Why is it harder to answer a smartphone than it is to answer a normal mobile phone? Stylii were designed for sitting in restaurants and at desks, not when you’re standing in heavy pedestrian traffic outside Leicester Square tube trying to find someone’s phone number. Windows was designed for laptops, desktops, more or less anything with a flat surface and a mouse nearby, not for navigating on crowded trains or in fast-moving cars (especially when you’re driving).

Palm still looks good because it’s relatively simple as an interface. But it’s still looking dated, even while we’re still waiting for something better to come along.

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