When Gadget Lust Clouds Our Vision – A few thoughts about device UI

Link above goes to an interesting piece by Seth Demsey about some UI issues he has run into with his Moto MPX200 running Windows Mobile 2003 for Smartphones (same setup I’m using). I’ve experienced all of the issues he points out (phone vibrating in my ear, having to dismiss dialogs multiple times, etc.), but I guess I just take it for granted that Windows Mobile has these kinds of problems. To me, it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment or usage of the device, but then, I don’t think I’m a regular case. My somewhat fanatical love for gadgets, and my Smartphone in particular, leads me to overlook some of the shortcomings of the platform.

I have my limits, though. Several times in the past couple of years, I got fed up with the problems found in a couple of gadgets that I was otherwise enamored with.

First was the Danger Hiptop/T-Mobile Sidekick. My love of unlimited GPRS data usage for email, IM, and surfing made me overlook the fact that it was clunky to use as a phone, often didn’t ring for incoming calls, and had extremely limited expansion options. Finally, after about a year, the love affair was over, and I switched to a T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition. The novelty was intoxicating – same unlimited internet access for surfing and email, great integration with my Contacts from Outlook, and lots of available applications to play with. But it was even clunkier to use as a phone than the Sidekick, and had some serious stability and UI issues (worse than those that Demsey writes about on the MPX200). The Phone application would often hang or become very unresponsive. Other applications or modal dialogs would pop up and have to be dealt with while I was trying to make or receive a call. It required two hands to use, because of the touchscreen. After the same period of time, the magic was gone, and my wandering eyes fell upon the new beauty on the block – Microsoft’s Smartphone.

I’ve had my MPX200 for about 8 months now, and I’ve been running WM2003 for about a week. The Smartphone fixes most of the issues I had with the Sidekick and Pocket PC Phone Edition with regard to usability as a phone. It’s a phone first, and a data device second. Navigation is well thought out, and you can accomplish anything on the phone with one hand. These are the features that I trumpet to anyone that will listen about why the Smartphone is a great device. Sure, it’s got its issues, but what device doesn’t. That said, I don’t want to let the Windows Mobile developers off easy – I hope they listen to the likes of Demsey and others, and address the problems (UI and otherwise) in the next OS revision.

Because if they don’t, who’s to say that it will be compelling enough to evoke that old familiar gadget lust when it comes out…