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Going Mobile

Having only recently signed an 18-month contract on a Sony Ericsson P990i smartphone, I spent much of last week kicking myself. I wanted a slim black Apple iPhone, not the silver brick weighing down my jacket pocket. But this week, I’m not so sure. I love Apple products and Steve Jobs is the smartest American I know. Yet I’m wondering whether he might have overlooked something.

Having only recently signed an 18-month contract on a Sony Ericsson P990i smartphone, I spent much of last week kicking myself. I wanted a slim black Apple iPhone, not the silver brick weighing down my jacket pocket.

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But this week, I’m not so sure. I love Apple products and Steve Jobs is the smartest American I know. Yet I’m wondering whether he might have overlooked something.

Given an iPhone to test for just 10 minutes, PC Magazine’s Cade Metz says he had trouble using the on-screen keyboard. “At first, I typed with two hands – gripping the device on each side and tapping a thumb on each end of the keyboard – but I was only about 50 percent accurate. Then I switched to hunting and pecking with a single index finger, and though this was (slightly) more accurate, it was much slower.”

So what? Well, on this side of the Atlantic and in Asia, cell phone users are addicted to SMS text messaging. Here in the UK, more than half of users say they prefer communicating via SMS than voice on their mobile phones. And according to Airwide more than 80 per cent of wireless carriers’ global revenues are derived from texting, not voice calls.

The only true killer application in mobile is not voice, cameras, music, internet or video, but SMS, reckons Tomi Ahonen, a consultant, who advises handset makers and lectures at Oxford University. The only successful phones so far have had keyboards or keypads with actual keys because users prefer the tactile feedback. Going without a keypad is, says Ahonen, a bold, brave move for Apple.

“SMS is used by busy executives who carry a laptop briefcase in one hand and operate their phone in the other hand as they hustle from the elevator to the cab; and by college students who send secret messages to their friends in class, with the phone out of view.”

I agree with Ahonen that the iPhone needs texting ability that can be used single-handed, and without looking at the phone. But Steve Jobs has ample time during the course of my long, 18-month contract to prove me wrong.

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