Concern for usability and ergonomics
Miguel A. Torres
mikemex_ask3 at yahoo.com.mx
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
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.
* 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.
More information about the neo1973-hardware