Concern for usability and ergonomics

Miguel A. Torres mikemex_ask3 at
Mon Jun 11 00:36:46 CEST 2007


Like many of you, I'm following the project with great enthusiasm. This 
will surely demonstrate companies in the sector that open source is not 
only a possibility, but probably the only real path to follow in the 
long term.

While the philosophy of the project is wonderful, the actual product 
that will reach customers - the neo1973 - is less than impressive. Not 
because of hardware specs, GTA-02 seems impressive already by packing 
almost everything except for a camera (which I personally believe should 
be included). My concern goes for the most basic aspect of any consumer 
product: usability and ergonomics.

I'm absolutely astonished on how this fundamental aspect has been 
largely overlooked by everyone. For example, the phone main interface is 
a touchscreen, yet the case of the phone wasn't designed to hold a 
stylus. While I'm aware that at this stage the phone is largely intended 
for development only, I think it is time to re-consider this important 
aspect of the project.

More concisely:

* Integrated keyboard and directional pads are not mere luxuries, but 
necessities. They allow for safe one hand operation while reducing 
touchscreen stress. Touchscreens are fragile (get scratched easily, 
develop calibration issues over time, etc) and direct finger use 
requires constant cleaning.
* To think globally. Asian languages use ideograms so it's reasonable 
that asian users find limited use for an integrated keyboard, but 
western users are the opposite. All administrative and technical 
commands (say, C++ code, Internet URLs, etc.) are written in latin 
characters and benefit greatly from easy typing.
* It is possible to include all in the same package. Palm's Treo line 
has been including full keyboard, directional pad and touchscreen in a 
very compact package for years.
* Over all, the philosophy should be to give the user options, allowing 
freedom to choice.

Treo is an excellent design in terms of usability. It's been designed 
with real people in mind. For example, it provides hardware volume 
buttons and a switch to turn the phone mute.

So I propose that the design should contain the following:

* Integral stylus.
* Integrated full keyboard (may be qwerty, but I've proposed a layout 
improved for single finger typing, see wiki).
* Integrated directional (five way) pad.
* Standard SD slot with SDIO.
* Switch for silent operation.
* Volume buttons. Maybe more configurable buttons.
* Infrared with short range / data and long range / remote control leds.
* A pair of extra leds that can lit with different colors for checking 
the status of the phone without having to turn it on.
* Make it more compact and light. It's a phone after all. (Neo: 
121×62×19 mm / 184g, Treo: 112x58x23 mm / 179g).
* Larger battery. Currently proposed 1700 mAh is still small. There are 
after market batteries for Treo with 2400 and even 3200 mAh capacity.
* A "coin" battery. This can preserve data in RAM in the case of power 
* Camera, as it has business uses as well as recreative. Low exposure 
time / high resolution allows for barcode reading and OCR operations, 
for example. Microsoft implemented a function in Windows Mobile which 
reads business cards. It is also very useful for detecting infrared 
light which is invisible for the naked eye in industrial settings.

The above is technically possible, it's just a matter of taking the 
decision to do what is best and not just yet-another-phone.

- Miguel.

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