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I like my Nokia Smartphone with all it’s buttons but should I stay or should I go iPhone?

December 16, 2011

I’m still surrounded by iPhone evangelists it’s starting to concern me, keep back I say, keep back!

I borrowed one for a couple of weeks to get used to it. Here’s some thoughts captured on how I got along, after the first 10 minutes and then after the first, second and third hour.

_After first 10 minutes_

My Nokia C5 has 24 buttons but this iPhone has one, no there’s a couple on the side, I think there’s five actually! The main thing is the super smooth plastic touch screen!

Ok slightly surprised myself it only took me a few minutes to twig how to slide my finger across the screen, listen to the sound feedback which includes speech and sound effects, then tap the screen to press buttons. Quite a nice feeling when you start to flow with it. Voice is smooth and clear although on the bus home, quite a loud environment, I needed to plug my ear buds in.

Easily got a mental picture built up of the icons on the home screen and did manage to go into Settings and have a skim around so I knew what was there, in that quick ten minutes on the bus! Admit to feeling a bit weird using this thing though. Wobbly in my hand, doesn’t sit like my C5, keep nearly dropping it. Refuse to use both hands…

After first hour:

Ok now I’m Feeling a tad frustrated trying to input text into a text message. The on-screen keyboard is fully speech enabled and supposedly accessible, but how much skill in my fingertips am I going to need to use this thing? All I’m getting is lots of letters flooding out of the loudspeaker, as I scrub my fingertip about trying to centre it in on the letter I want to type. I can’t find how to quickly check what I’ve typed so far and when I am in the edit box, I can’t work out how to hear each letter at a time and switch the focus to different points in the text. Deleting mistakes is driving me bonkers. There is a way but I’m having to experiment to find it!

So now I’m tapping and flicking my way around and think I might be getting somewhere… It is hard going and here’s why: Reviewing the text box containing what I’ve just typed, trying to get my orientation of the Qwerty when the phone keeps slipping in my hands, working out which fingers are best (both thumbs, one finger, two fingers…) and getting into a mess with where the cursor is and how to move it through the text letter by letter, is taxing me to say the least! Ok take a break…

After two hours:

Ok that’s me fresh back and feeling up for another session. The fingers are definitely a bit more nimble now I know what I’m doing, well that’s roughly speaking. Have started to successfully type, delete errors, clear text, hear back what I’ve typed by letter, word and line.

Enjoying flicking, tapping and two finger twisting, nice to have that freedom sensation in my fingers to quickly operate controls and all on a totally flat and glossy piece of plastic! Who’d have thought it. Typing is not fast though and I still cannot find a sweet spot for holding the device in place so I can maximise my spatial awareness of the Qwerty keyboard. Keys are so squashed up that really the only way to home in on the letter you want is to scrub around the area until you spiral into it. Some speed can be gained by releasing your touch instantly as you hear the right key spoken! Need another break though as this feels like a lot of fiddle to type a few lines that I can do so much faster on a Nokia numeric keypad. Time will no doubt tell.

After three hours:

Right, I decided to leave my keyboard practice so I could explore around the rest of the system and some of the Aps. I set up the wireless connection quickly , this iPhone thing makes it easy why isn’t everything with computers this easy?

So have now played about with the web browser, the iPod and the compass aps. Flicking and tapping my way along. I love the grid layout that everything seems to fall into. Now using the two finger twist turn to switch from heading to line to words nav on the browser, this is very nice indeed, I’m reading pages quicker I guess than on my laptop. Shame Safari doesn’t do Flash but apart from that it’s totally excellent. Got a bit stuck finding how to close aps though until I realised you have to physically press the Home button! Onto the music side, easy when inside the iPod ap to find tracks, they are set out in lists and you just double tap once you release your finger to play the item. Not so easy to hear the voice feedback when the music is playing though, although a nice feature is the way the music fades down when the speech is speaking, that definitely helps!

_Out and about_

iPhone is not great at all when I’m pavement surfing, with me streetpen in one hand and the phone in the other, holding it to my ear. My C5 sits fine in the one handed hold and even though texting / browsing live bus departure boards as I speed walk to the bus stop isn’t perfect on the C5, the iPhone is simply just bad for entering text / controlling the interface one handed whilst concentrating on the extra stuff I have to keep track of when on the move.

On a noisy road or street where the loudspeaker is harder to hear, trying to find the right letters on the on-screen keyboard is much harder to do because instead of the tactile feedback from the keypad with the iPhone you have everything pumping through the audio speaker, it’s a straight case of audio overload / cognitive stretch!

Even when I was standing still at the bus stop I just couldn’t get a short text fired off and that’s exactly what I want a mobile for! Fiddly scrubbing around whilst one ear listening out for the approaching traffic so I can pick up the bus in the soundscape in enough time to get the phone away and steal the front spot to get on…

On my c5 I easily fire off a text in this situation.

To be fair to the iPhone when not using the keyboard entry and just flicking the highlight through the screen elements, the iPhone Aps seem to be easy in fact very easy to navigate and use, even when walking along the streets with the phone in one hand. You don’t need to slide yor finger around listening out for objects to pop up, you can just flick one way or another wherever on the screen and the highlight does the same thing as tabbing through controls on the laptop. It’s a really excellent alternative way of interacting with the interface, very simple indeed, and as the interface is laid out on a grid it just works very nicely.

(This way of navigating in accessibility mode totally confuses the hell out of people watching you though, they get het up about me not having my finger on the right thing! Better they just don’t look really!)

_slipping and sliding_

Ok let’s not forget that there is such thing as wet rain, greasy fingers, cold, wearing gloves and lots of competing noise, all bringing out the downside of the iPhone device. Bending the touch screen design to work by touch and sound alone is clever but it has lost quite a lot of usability when in normal outdoor street conditions. I’ve also heard (and felt) a lot of people are not looking where they are going these days, and that’s a sign that it’s not just me being compromised by the interface design.


So after three hours of playing with an iPhone I have to say it seems easy as pie to use, but I definitely had to concentrate on getting to this point and not giving up in frustration! I vaguely remember first starting to type a text message on a Nokia phone with Talks about 8 or 9 years ago, and that took me at least three hours to master the business of pressing the number 3 twice to get the letter e, etc, , and so I guess it’s no pain no gain with these things.

So am I going to stick with my Nokia C5 or go for an iPhone? To be honest I want my mobile to be something that’s mobile, as in I can walk and use it without having to stop. Stopping is not good and I don’t want my phone putting the brakes on. So my C5 stays and I kind of like it even more now.

Oh and sorry iPhone evangelists – either you have a level of manual dexterity that I don’t have or you are happy to let your phone pull on your coat tails!


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  1. Thanks for this – understanding the subtleties of how you access content on iPhone and Nokia given what each phone has to offer is an angle I’d not thought of before.

    I love the audio overload = cognitive stretch reference too!

  2. Have you looked at smartphones with slideout keyboards? My eyesight is poor so I find my HTC 7 Pro to be extremely useful. I previously had the HTC Touch Pro II with the same set up. I also find Windows phone Tiles very easy to see and read.

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