Trends in the modern mobile phone industry continue to baffle those that have been paying close attention for the past 5-6 years. Why touch sensitive interfaces have become the norm is surprising, mostly because the technology has been around for so long, just ask Palm. I know that the iPhone is a good looking device and due to its design couldn’t really have that many tactile buttons. But what I don’t understand is why every other handset maker has jumped on the bandwagon and now everything is touch screen this and touchscreen that. 4 million units sold for Apple’s first foray into the mobile marketplace is a nice start but far from one of the best selling handsets of all time.
The main reason why I am not a fan of the touch interface is that I don’t want to be touching my screen with my hands, mostly because I don’t want to get it dirty or scratched. My goal with every mobile phone I own is to preserve the ability to see what is on the screen clearly and without distractive smudges that need to be wiped off all the time.
I am big proponent of clean lines and minimalism in regards to design but lets take a moment and realize its still a phone and not a piece of art. Unfortunately just like art, once a movement find success many jump on the bandwagon and attempt to recreate or just plain copy the original concept. Of course this tends to saturate the market and before long all phones start to look alike.
Change for the sake of change is also a dangerous road to venture down as well, case in point the Blackberry. They are now eliminating the scroll wheel, the single best mobile navigation device, on its new models. RIM’s decision to go to a joystick system is being received coldly and for good reason, the scroll wheel is perfect for one handed copy and pasting not to mention selection of multiple items which is essential on a mobile office type device. Reasons for the change revolves around aesthetic appeal and symmetry of the overall device. A case of form over function if I’ve ever seen one. RIM also made in my opinion the best keyboard ever for a smartphone (7730) and it has yet to appear on another model.
This is an amazing time for the mobile industry as all the features we have dreamed about for years are becoming standard. Phones now have great optics, fast data speeds, GPS, massive internal storage, MP3 and HD Video and the list goes on and on. With all of these advancements it would be a shame if everyone tried to emulate only one type of software instead of experimenting with innovative interfaces that could shape the mobile industry for the next decade.