Cell Phone Usability

By Deane Barker on May 29, 2006

Making cell phones simple is hard: Here’s an interesting article about cell phone usability. Apparently there’s a big class of people who are shunning complicated phones for simpler ones.

[…] the wireless industry needs [users] to be comfortable with advanced features and actively use them. As the universe of people who want a cell phone and don’t already have one gets smaller, wireless carriers are counting on advanced services to generate the bulk of new revenue in coming years.

[…] On one recent day, a trio of researchers watched through one-way glass and overhead cameras as a volunteer navigated her way through a prototype program that lets parents set limits on their children’s phone use.

The observers monitored how many steps it took for the woman to make the program work, how easily she made mistakes and how quickly she could get herself out of trouble. The results could be used to further tweak the program, said Robert Moritz, director of device development.



  1. I fully agree that there is now a huge hole in the market for simple, no-frill phones. Until 1 year ago, I still owned a mono-crome phone with no camera or any special features, and i lvoed it. It was very small and easy to use. I went to Europe for a year and dropped my US cell phone service, and just last weekend I came back to the US and created a new Verizon account and got a new phone. There was not a single phone in the entire store that didn’t have color screens and a built in camera – and they were all at least twice the size of my old phone. At first I wanted an old “do-nothing” phone, but they didn’t have any, so I settled on a nice LG with an MP3 player, 1.3MP camera, stereo speakers, all that. Now, truthfully, I am glad because I really do like the new phone. BUT, I realize that 90% of the people using these phones don’t use hardly any of the features. I’m a tech geek, and I’m still having trouble figuring out how to transfer pictures and music to and from the phone. But most people wouldn’t even attempt to figure out how to do it, and they need very simple phones that represent their needs.

  2. I still like the idea of the “Kosher Phone” (did I read it here?). It is a phone that was going to market in Israel. It’s great, no camera, no text, no music and it is reported to have at least 10,000 numbers blocked which offer undesirable services such as phone sex, etc. I would love to get one of these for myself…. just a phone. .

  3. My favorite phone I’ve ever had was from 2001. Monochrome screen, excellent ergonomics, commendable battery life, and durability far beyond anything on the market today. I keep it on my shelf above my desk as a little reminder that sometimes the simple solution is the most effective. If I wasn’t required to have a tri-mode phone and all that crap, I’d still be using it.

    Unfortunately the directory feature on it was never able to sort alphabetically, but I could organize phone numbers in ascending or descending order (?). I guess an alphanumeric sort routine was asking a bit much at the time.

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