I will admit that seeing the demonstrated functionality of the new iPhone from Apple has me very excited. Not just because this cool new rumor has finally come to fruition or because Apple has yet again dictated where consumer electronics fashion is going, but because I see us embarking on the threshold of a revolution in user interface design and mobile computing. I see this product and the demonstrated features within it as being possibly the greatest move forward in user interface design for devices in general. That being that this is all screen, no buttons. Buttons, as in mechanical ones that have springs and contacts, are now obsolete, wasted space. Only show the buttons you need at any given time, make them legible, and design them for maximum usability. A completely dynamic manual interface.
this article caught my eye this evening, and there were some quotes that I found interesting.
“Cingular executives I’ve spoken with say they anticipate people will change (mobile phone) carriers so they can buy an iPhone — I doubt that,” says Sascha Segan, chief mobile phone analyst for PC Computing Magazine. “People choose call carriers on (cell-phone) coverage, call quality and price — not device.”
Well yeah, that’s what they do now. But I suspect that will change. If given the choice between average coverage/sexy bit of iPhone kit and awesome coverage/yesterday’s tired old news, I think a significant number of vanity-focused and geek-struck individuals (that’s two categories, not one combined) will choose the former. I don’t think the idea here is to sell all phones to all people – certainly not at an over-$400 price point. The idea is to get this trend started and out the box. I am pretty sure that once they get out of the initial pilot consumer phase, that all the other carriers will jump on.
Also Segan wonders if North American users will give up phone keypads for touch screens. “Americans like the tactile feel of making a phone call, although touch screens are more popular and accepted in Asia,” he says.
If the interface is as fluid and intuitive as it seems on the demos, then I’m sure they will adopt it with ease. Again – this is about user interface revolution. Only show the buttons/options that the user needs to see at any given time. This is way more efficient than the wasted hard real estate of a numeric keypad or thumb keyboard. Americans may be more sophisticated than Segan gives them credit for and this UI is more intuitive and efficient than the last-millenium hardware interface paradigm.
“In a way, what’s not important is if Apple sells a lot of phones … what’s important is how the rest of the market will react to it,” he says. “For years, it’s been a huge problem of how to create a multimedia phone that is popular with users … with (iPhone’s) radical new interface that may be the solution to the problem. If so, you’re going to see every other manufacturer try to copy it.”
And then some. This is the key factor – creating a catalyst for change. I think that the iPhone is this catalyst.