Saturday, October 22, 2005

Why is cell phone software so bad?

Pogue asks why is cell phone software so bad?
Problems With Cellular Phone Software Design - New York Times

“I recently read your article about the ‘iTunes phone,’ the Motorola ROKR. You say that it uses the same operating system as the popular RAZR phone, but I do not know exactly what you mean when you state that the Motorola Razr's software design is ‘not, ahem, as universally adored as its physical design.’ If you have a moment to spare, I would appreciate some elaboration about the specifics of your observation.”

Good question. Just about everyone I know who has a RAZR phone complains about the software design. I’ve asked two of them why they despise it so much.

One person pointed out that you must create separate entries for "Bob cell," "Bob home," etc., which is a pain to scroll through.

Another says that the software actually crashes periodically, which is never a good thing.

I’d be interested in hearing from other people, though, about what they don’t like about the Motorola phone operating system. And other phone makes, too, for that matter!
I wrote him:

I've been through a few cell phones, and I agree the internal software is generally quite poor. My recollection has been that Nokia did
pretty well and Samsung quite poorly. My Palm (Rest in peace) based Samsung i500 is perhaps the most infuriating -- because it comes so
close to being right, but falls painfully short.

There are some fundamentally hard problems in designing this kind of software, but the biggest issue is that the utility and elegance of the software is not a factor in consumer buying decisions. Indeed good software may have a perverse effect of making a customer so content with their phone they are reluctant to buy a new one!

As long as consumers don't buy based on the usability of their cell phone, money spent on better and more elegant software is money down the drain. Nokia has never gotten credit for the elegant usability of many of their older phones.

So who should we blame? We have met the enemy ... and he is us.

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