Sunday, March 8, 2009

Shiny Plastic != Good Design

A colleague of mine kindly informed me that the audio quality of my mobile isn't that great and sometimes hurts my ability to effectively contribute on conference calls. So, I've been looking back into the wired age for that tool called the office landline. Who knows where it will lead?

Turns out Verizon offers "the Home Phone Reinvented." How lucky for me. Looks a bit pricey for a reinvention ($199), but hey, look at these features!

The circles with the plus signs on this "Design" screen show "reinvented" features such as VOLUME CONTROL! SPEAKERPHONE! CORDLESS HANDSET! and ELEGANT DESIGN! And personally, I can say that nothing says elegance like black fingerprint capturing plastic! Oh, and it has that current king of features: the TOUCHSCREEN!! How did we ever use phones before that?!?!

Now, not being one to be taken in by so much marketing sweet talk and high prices, I decided to burn a few fossils and head to my nearest Verizon store to experience the hype first hand. Plus it was a nice day to have the windows down. They had a phone, I mean Hub, all set up, but strangely minus the handset. But, no matter, there is really only one thing to report. On top of the joke of advertising decades-old features as reinvention, the touchscreen = suck.

Layouts changed illogically. Navigation across the top, bottom, and side was very confusing. Poor use of space all over. But here is the kicker about the actual "touch" part. Just one example. And I mean, come on, the iPhone as been out over a year-and-a-half. So, look:

See the slider in the middle? Yes, the one cutting the "h" of "Lunch" in half. First, it's not that wide; less than half my finger width. Second, I had to HIT, PRESS, AND DRAG the blankety blank thing like it was warped AC slider from a 1973 something or other! And I mean HIT! Kinda painfully! And sometimes I wouldn't hit it just quite right, though, and my finger would slide down uselessly. What a joke. If you're going to use a slider, at least do it well! And is the slider the best method? Why not swipe from, I mean, be inspired by Apple and use the natural motion of "rolling" the list up or down?

Ugh. It's not like these things are secret. You know, I have mostly liked being a Verizon customer. But this was just sad. And the Hub really could have been a kick-ass product, I think. A nice intersection of VoIP and mobile. But, once again, we have a clear example of what is wrong in so many of today's products.

I suppose I'll be looking at other solutions for my home office phone.

Still hoping 2009 can be the year of Good Design.