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Consumers Look For More Utilitarian Cellphones 562

Posted by Zonk
from the finally-getting-over-the-shiny dept.
hdtv writes "The Associated Press has an article about new generation of US consumers, who shun the mobile devices packed with features in favor of simpler devices that get the job done. One would think that as cell phones evolve into cameras, e-mail readers, Web browser and music players, mobile users would be happy with the device that fulfills their digital needs, but according to AP, 'a J.D. Power & Associates survey last year found consumer satisfaction with their mobile devices has declined since 2003, with some of the largest drops linked to user interface for Internet and e-mail services.'"
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Consumers Look For More Utilitarian Cellphones

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  • one would think? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:40AM (#15419297) Journal

    From the slashdot summary:

    One would think that as cell phones evolve into cameras, e-mail readers, Web browser and music players, mobile users would be happy with the device that fulfills their digital needs, but according to AP, 'a J.D. Power & Associates survey last year found consumer satisfaction with their mobile devices has declined since 2003, with some of the largest drops linked to user interface for Internet and e-mail services.'"

    I, for one, don't think that. I also don't know why one would think that.

    There reasons one actually might think otherwise is nicely laid out in the article... As more functions are built in to the mobile phone, by definition the interface gets more complex.

    Heck, the desktop metaphor on the PC, ostensibly a device dedicated to the computing experience hasn't come close to perfection. And now the mobile phone industry is foisting increasingly complex devices with ever decreasing reliability on the naive public. And the embedded OS for some of these includes the not-yet-perfected-desktop-metaphor! WTF? It's nice to see there is starting to be some backlash.

    Aside from the increasing complexity/decreasing reliability debacle, the mobile phone consortium should never be forgiven for abandoning what they ostensibly started out to provide: mobile phone service. I hate using a cell phone, and I can't stand talking to someone on a cell phone, and I can still easily tell.

    It's an interesting industry when one of the advertising campaigns includes the boast: "fewest dropped calls of any mobile phone service". It kind of drives home what the mobile phone industry has failed most at, yet they continue to drive forward with other unnecessary and no more mature offerings.

    Part of effective marketing is convincing people they want something they don't really need, or convincing people they need something they don't really want. The mobile phone industry sure has come close to perfecting that.

    I don't hold out much hope, I've been using cell phones now for over ten years -- the service has declined, the quality has gotten worse, and somehow the mobile providers couldn't seem to be more proud. I'm glad they're not running airlines.

    • Re:one would think? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mattmacf (901678) <mattmacf@[ ]online.net ['opt' in gap]> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:57AM (#15419331) Homepage
      As more functions are built in to the mobile phone, by definition the interface gets more complex.

      I call bullshit. I'm not sure what "definition" you're using, but a given interface does not have to become more complex as functions get added. As a matter of face, added features can simplify a given interface. I can't think of something specific atm, but I'm sure you can find an example or two in Cupertino somewhere.

      I think the problem lies in the business model of the service providers rather than general ineptitude on the part of phone makers. I for one would be perfectly happy with a phone with a billion unnecessary gizmos, doodad, and whatnots, as long as there's a way to get them out of sight the minute they become intrusive. However, I think a lot of the clutter of most mobile phones comes from the exorbitant pay-out-the-ass-for-data plans that service providers are making a killing on. I doubt it would be difficult to design a phone interface that provides a "simple" mode that hides all unnecessary or obtrusive functions out of sight. But ask yourself the question, would it be as profitable?

      • by misleb (129952)
        I call bullshit. I'm not sure what "definition" you're using, but a given interface does not have to become more complex as functions get added. As a matter of face, added features can simplify a given interface.

        I think you are confusing functions and features. Certainly features such as voice activated calling (when it works) make a phone easier to use. Functions, on the otherhand, quite often make it more complicated to use... especially if you want to make them easy to access along side other functions.
        • by mattmacf (901678)
          I think you are confusing functions and features. Certainly features such as voice activated calling (when it works) make a phone easier to use. Functions, on the otherhand, quite often make it more complicated to use... especially if you want to make them easy to access along side other functions.

          Meh, I think the distinction between functions and features is a semantic one at best. What makes voice activated calling any more of a feature than a function? I realize that adding either can easily lead to

      • Of course it wouldn't be profitable. How many people look at (or get a chance to look at) the interface of a phone before they buy it? But the real reason my friends are switching back to their old mobiles is because their new mobiles crash constantly. But you don't get a proper chance to test for that before you buy, so there is no short-term disadvantage to phone companies for shitty design. And because there is no short-term disadvantage, all companies are doing it. And so by the time you're in the
      • Re:one would think? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Clovert Agent (87154) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @07:38AM (#15420013)
        Look at phone interfaces - they're definitely more complex. Just count the number of keypresses (or screens to progress through) to accomplish basic tasks - it's increasing all the time. But that's not real complexity: if you ignore irrelevant menu items then the interfaces aren't really more complex, just more clicky.

        But I don't really mind that, because most of the phone interfaces have some sort of "favorites" list to get more quickly to common tasks.

        What I do mind is that phone interfaces are becoming steadily less reliable. Interface crashes, slowdowns, sudden poweroffs - they're all now daily occurences, and it drives me nuts.

        The obvious answer would be to buy a phone without all the glitzy features, and when I asked for one I was offered a Nokia model for "businessmen who just want a great phone without the gizmos". Uhuh. No camera, no music player...great. But also no Bluetooth. A business phone that I can't interface my PDA and laptop with for dialup? Give me a break - they obviously didn't want anyone to buy it.

        No, I'm stuck with an endless succession of phones with more features than I want, shitty interfaces and steadily degrading reliability.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858)
          I own a couple of Nokia devices, of one persuasion or another, and the interfaces just amaze me. They feel like they're designed by someone who has spent a lot of time and effort learning about good user interface design - and then implemented by someone who can't read a specification document. Some things are really neat, like the way opening and closing the lens cover launches and exists the camera app. Some are monumentally stupid, like the way the up and down buttons are forward and backwards in the
    • by Mistlefoot (636417)
      I agree. I want a simple mobile phone that can text message. As seemingly does the average consumer. What does service start at for that? About $30/month? Add internet and you're now at $60/month so that I can what?

      I am fairly certain that people don't want to pay for phones with features that cost more and more money to use. And how annoying is to have 50% of your phones capabilities 'in the way' when you don't activate them.

      Imagine owning a car with a Radio or Cruise Control or whatever useful featu
      • Re:one would think? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by magicchex (898936)
        I share a family plan with my brother and mother. The base price is $60 for two lines, costing an additional $8 per additional line. This includes unlimited nights and weekends (which I believe start at 8 or 9 at night), and 1000 "anytime" minutes shared between the three of us. This also includes unlimited calling to T-mobile customers. My mother uses her phone mainly to speak with the two of us, so most of the anytime minutes are split between myself and my brother. This is plenty of anytime minutes and w
    • The article certainly fits in nicely with your comment, which goes along with the backlash we see here on slashdot every time a new feature-laden phone comes out.

      And yet the one hard piece of data in the article is this:

      Consumers last year paid $8.6 billion for so-called data applications on their phones, up 86 percent from the year before, according to wireless trade group CTIA.

      86 percent increase in a year. What a backlash.

      And then there's always the "usability expert," in this case one Roger En

    • my girlfriend's parents are looking at buying new mobile phones. One of the ones they are looking at contains (this is true, I'm not making it up):

      Ability to print pictures
      Adobe Photoshop
      a Movie Editor

      Although "just make calls" mobile phones still do exist (they're quite cheap, like the 3320, you wouldn't get one with a plan) I find that if I want a feature like bluetooth on my phone, I can't get it without including Adobe Photoshop in the deal.

      I think this is proof that the human race is doomed
      • The human race is not doomed. The features are fine, they just can't take away from the main functionality of a phone. Pull all the bells and whistles you want, just don't make the interface sluggish slow, etc..
      • by tsa (15680) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:55AM (#15419587) Homepage
        WTF??? I've always dreamt about Adobe Photoshop on my phone. Which model are you talking about? I want it! :-)
    • Re:one would think? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Total_Wimp (564548) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:20AM (#15419386)
      I love phones packed with as many features as can be packed. I've gotten a series of ever more complex cell phones and I've enjoyed each one more and more.

      But guess what, you're right.

      I'm not like everyone else. I've realized for a long time that the compromizes I'm willing to make for the features I want are not compromizes very many of my friends or family would be willing to make. I've gottent to the point that I won't even recommend a phone that I personally love if I think that the phone will be too frustrating to the person asking for the recommendation.

      So here's the deal. Why can't you have your simple phone AND I have my complex phone? Is there any reason why one of these should be "better" as opposed to "better for you" or "better for me"? I applaud people making their oppinions known to cell phone providers and manufacturers so more simple phones will be offered. All I ask it that you don't tell them to stop offering phones with the great features I want. Really, we can coexist in peace.

      TW
      • Re:one would think? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by MoonBuggy (611105)
        I'd just like to add a note of agreement here. I've said more or less the same on a few phone related topics now, but I'll reiterate: basic phones don't get the news coverage that the latest new feature-phone does, but they still exist. You don't hear about the latest model because more often than not there isn't one - basic has been perfected (Nokia 1100 IMO, but plenty of others out there) and it's already cheap. There's nothing more for the media to say about basic, so let them tell us about the latest (
        • by tmortn (630092)
          But due to that you also do not often get the best form factos. How much slimmer could a razr be if it only tried to be a phone ? Or perhaps the case could be made more sturdy since there would be less attempt to cram things in and thus more space for structural re-enforcement.

          The Nokia 1100 is a great functional phone don't get me wrong. But its a bit lacking in the style department. I am the last one to champion style over function. But that does not mean you cannot add some style once you have functional
    • What happens when you put a device full of complex, half-debugged network-facing code onto the Internet?

      Unless the OS does a brilliant job of sandboxing the apps, you have a security nightmare.
    • by xiphoris (839465) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:54AM (#15419456) Homepage
      Some well-put points. I think the problem is that instead of listening to consumers, they're trying to tell us what we need. Or perhaps they're just listening primarily to the MySpace crowd -- I don't know.

      FTA: One would think that as cell phones evolve into cameras, e-mail readers, Web browser and music players, mobile users would be happy with the device that fulfills their digital needs

      See, that's the thing. I don't have any digital needs that I want satisfied by a mobile device besides text messaging. And the phone companies seem to think that charging $0.10 per message is still reasonable somehow.

      I think the first phone company to start worrying about its customer's needs will be the Google of the phone companies. I mean, seriously, you hear stories about phone companies disabling features on phones they give to customers, such as uploading pictures to one's computer, so as to require them to purchase proprietary services that send the pictures to one's email through the phone network. Sigh. They just don't get it.
      • Re:one would think? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by adamjaskie (310474)
        Not to mention the half-arsed way they do all these functions. My cell phone camera is next to useless. It takes blurry, grainy pictures with no detail. It isn't a matter of a low-res sensor, it has to do with the shitty, tiny lens they used so that the phone would still fit in the pocket of some teenager wearing tight jeans. The FM radio (WTF?) in my phone is useless. It won't operate without a headset, because it uses the wires as an antenna. Of course, I use a Bluetooth headset. So the FM radio doesn't e
    • Re:one would think? (Score:5, Informative)

      by grotgrot (451123) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:58AM (#15419464)
      Incidentally the "fewest dropped calls" thing is a spin on poor coverage. After all a call can't be dropped if you can't make it in the first place! I think one of the biggest problems is how the carriers nickel and dime their customers. For example Verizon Wireless have been trying to prevent getting camera images over a cable and forcing you to do it over the air (for a price). Similarly they arbitrarily remove Bluetooth functionality to prevent users from doing things that VZW can't get paid for each time.
    • by Tim C (15259) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:21AM (#15419517)
      It's an interesting industry when one of the advertising campaigns includes the boast: "fewest dropped calls of any mobile phone service". It kind of drives home what the mobile phone industry has failed most at, yet they continue to drive forward with other unnecessary and no more mature offerings.

      I never fail to be amazed at the state of the mobile industry in the US, at least as portrayed on sites like this one.

      I live in the UK, and I can't remember the last time I had a dropped mobile call that wasn't directly attributed to completely losing phone signal (which at least for me, only ever happens when going underground on the Tube). Add to that some of the ridiculous pricing schemes that seem to be in effect (do you really still pay to *receive* calls?) and it's little wonder that everyons seems so pissed about things.

      For a country that (rightly) prides itself on its innovation and technical advancement, you don't half seem to have some things completely wrong...
      • by Dance_Dance_Karnov (793804) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:44AM (#15419565) Homepage
        england = 50352 sq miles USA = 3537441 sq miles...a little harder to cover.
        • Most mobile phone calls are between people that are less than 10 km apart.
        • wrong problem (Score:3, Insightful)

          by alizard (107678)
          In almost all of the rest of the world, there's a single GSM standard and frequency range... and a GSM phone can be used basically anywhere, going from one mobile telco network to another is seamless, from the user POV, it's one big network that's everywhere. (presumably until the user who does lots of traveling gets her phone bill)

          Here, the FCC said "let the marketplace decide"... and we have lots of big networks, but little interoperability between them and changine networks isn't a matter of changing a

      • Re:one would think? (Score:3, Informative)

        by ilyag (572316)
        Yes, in the US you do pay to receive cell phone calls. On the other hand, calling a cell phone costs exactly as much as calling a landline. If it's a local call, it's 0.00 dollars /minute. From other places/countries, it's cheap.

        All in all, it's a different pricing scheme that usually results in the same net charges for average use of the phones.

        By the way, I don't know about USA as a country that "prides itself on its innovation and technical advancement"... Maybe it does, but it is definetely not Japan.
    • by garylian (870843) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @08:11AM (#15420105)
      Bingo!

      I hate cell phones, too. But, I work from home, so I made a cell phone be my work phone, so I could run little errands during the day without interrupting my work, since I do technical support for an application. So, it is a necessary evil, and a godsend to a new parent when they want to make those quick shopping runs without the spouse and baby.

      However, if you look at these phones, I can't help but see a nice parallel relationship to PDAs.

      How many people do you know that bought a PDA, and walked around like they were important simply because they had it? PDAs became a status symbol to the tech crowd and the tech geek wannabes. From what I saw, over 75% of those that had a PDA didn't come close to needing one, but they pulled one out during meetings to make themselves look important.

      The cell phone has become the same thing, especially to today's young crowd. They simply HAVE to have one, and the more features it has, the cooler they are. Remember (if you are old enough) when the pager stopped being a drug dealer's friend, and became a status symbol? Remember how girls started coming up with stupid page numbers to indicate things, like 143 being "I love you"? Well, today's young people can't live without text messaging and a camera, plus internet access and 50 different downloaded ringtones.

      Lets look at some of the features on today's phones.

      Text messaging: I've only met one person over the age of 35 who used this. It seems to have the sole purpose of sending messages silently without tipping off teachers/administrators in a school setting. Apparently, passing a piece of paper with a hand-written note is too lame. Really, why pay extra to spend all that time "typing" that message in when you could say it in a few seconds? Oh, yeah... These kids burn too many minutes, and can't get to the point and end the conversation.

      Camera phone: If this is the best you can do for taking pictures, dear god are you hopeless. While the newer camera phones do produce better images than a webcam from a few years ago, those pictures are mostly stuck on your phone, unless you want to pay to transfer the file. Me, I'll stick with my real camera.

      Email/Internet: Ok, just another fancy way to hit kids up for silent messaging and stuff they really don't need. This isn't Blackberry, it's cheesy AOL/Yahoo! or whatever. And the amount of spam that tends to get through those accounts makes it worthless.

      So, to sum it all up, today's cell phone makers have targetted one audience, teenage girls. The problem is, they don't really make nice cell phones for the rest of us that just want a cell phone that can store numbers and speed dial them.

      Man, do I miss my last cell phone, that did just that! But, it started to lose reception because they were cutting back the signals for older digital models, so I had to upgrade. My new cell has a camera in it, and it is too easy to activate, impairing with my scrolling through numbers backwards. The only reason I got it was because all the simple "I'm a phone with only phone and phone # memory" phones were pieces of crap, or cost 3x more than the Nokia I got.

      So, let some phone maker come up with a nicely made phone that is just a phone for the non teenage girl crowd, PLEASE?!?!
  • You may have a better chance of success in RTFA if you get it from Yahoo.com [yahoo.com].

  • Just A Phone (Score:4, Insightful)

    by excelblue (739986) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:44AM (#15419307) Homepage
    The main reason why I have a mobile is so that people can contact me while I'm on the go.

    Anything else is extra and I probably don't need it. However, it does contribute to making the phone harder to use, easier to break (less reliable), and more expensive. Why would I want a device with everything in it as a cell phone when all I'm supposed to do is talk with it?

    After all, if I want all the extra features, I'd probably go with a PDA anyways. A cell phone only does the job half decently, and the features are just things that I can accidently use and incur a higher phone bill. It's not easy to use all of them, and it just makes it harder to just simply dial a number and go.

    Rather be carrying a compact digital camera, a real MP3 player, a real PDA if I really want all those features. After all, those do a way better job at it.
    • I have a mobile phone which its primary purpurse is to communicate via phone and sms. I also have fm tuner and mp3 player built-in not because I was feature hungry but because it saves pocket space - I don't want to carry another media player such as an ipod around.

      Although my phone also has a camera, I rarely use it except for when I see something interesting but other then that it is useless.
    • by raehl (609729) <raehl311&yahoo,com> on Sunday May 28, 2006 @04:14AM (#15419625) Homepage
      Why would I want a device with everything in it as a cell phone when all I'm supposed to do is talk with it?

      Cell phone companies can't charge you for sending text messages if all your mobile phone does is make phone calls. They can't charge you for downloading ring tones and wallpapers if your phone doesn't have those features. They can't charge you for uploading photos if your phone doesn't have a camera, and they can't charge you for downloading songs or email if your phone isn't also a music player and email reader.

      Cell phone companies want your phones to be feature rich so they can charge you for using those features. They'd much rather give you a phone that costs $50 more than forfeit all the money they won't get from you not using the 'premium' services if they gave you a $50 cheaper phone with limited features instead.
  • not surprising (Score:5, Insightful)

    by solistus (556078) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:47AM (#15419311) Homepage
    I've heard many people (including my mother, who is what normal people would call a geek) complain that interfaces are getting too complicated on newer cell phone models. Users are often required to press several buttons and navigate poorly designed menus to perform basic functions like searching an address book. Also, all the silly gadgets they're building into phones these days have a tendency to drain batteries rather quickly. Phones seem to be getting worse and worse at performing the tasks of, well, a phone. My latest flipphone has 3 IM clients, a camera, a few Java apps and tons of other random crap on it, but my old Nokia candybar model was actually better at the main tasks of a cell phone: making and receiving phone calls. Part of the reason why these new features aren't leading to higher customer satisfaction is the plethora of other digital devices many people now have. As not only cell phones but also music players (iPods in particular), sub-notebook computers, hell, even graphing calculators demonstrate, it's pretty trivial to build a whole lot of features into any device; however, most people only need one calendar, one address book, one music player, one camera and so forth. When every digital device tries to do everything, it just gets annoying. I've never used most of the functions on my cell, and neither have a lot of others. I'd rather have a phone that could do nothing but calls and text messages, but performed these tasks well, than my current model, which seems like the bastard child of a phone, a PDA and a camera.
    • Re:not surprising (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ItsIllak (95786)

      On the other hand - one of the things that comes with the new features is often new UI innovation

      Take for instance the Windows Mobile for Smartphones based phones... To get to an actual phone call I can do any of the following:

      • Dial the number manually and press send
      • Start to dial the number which will be matched from the contacts as I type - select from the decreasing list and press send
      • Start to type in the contacts name in a T9 type way (single press, intelligent alphanumeric matching) - select from decrea
    • Re:not surprising (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Linker3000 (626634) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @04:11AM (#15419617) Journal
      Amen to all that - I have an Orange (UK) SmartPhone running Micro$oft's OS and some of the most fundamental tasks require so many menu clicks it's unbelievable:

      Set the alarm: Start, 4 (settings), 9 (more), 3 (Date and Time), 4 x Scroll, Enter.

      Compare this to my previous phone: 'Settings' button, Date and Time, Enter.

      My old phone was also sensible enough to allow opt-out days on alarms so you could have a recurrent wake up for work days that didn't operate at weekends - now I get hit with a 6.30 alarm on Saturday and Sunday unless I remember to turn it off - and then I have to remember to turn it on again on Sunday night or be late for work!

      On one occasion I used my old phone to record someone threatening me in the street (I didn't need to use it as the incident calmed down) all I had to do was covertly hold down one button. This is impossible on the new phone as you have to look at and navigate the menus:

      Start...9 (More)...5 (Voice notes)...Record

      Mind you, my new phone could have also recorded video of the incident:

      Click camera button...Menu...Capture mode....2 (Video)...Capture

      Not exactly subtle and the act of me staring and operating my phone during such a tese moment would probably have got me clobbered! In any case, the last time I tried to record some video for fun, the phone refused ('Insufficient memory') and I had to reboot it to free some RAM for the OS. Picture the scene..

      Click...click...click...click...[Error]...Oh, wait Mr Thug, I need to reboot my phone, can you hang on for about 2 minutes and bear with me as I may need to take out the battery if the reboot hangs.

      There was some speculation that Nokia are (or were considering) relaunching one of their more basic models (the 6310i) due to popular demand.
  • Wireless reception (Score:5, Interesting)

    by misleb (129952) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:53AM (#15419326)
    What always annoyed me about the advances in mobile phone technology is that they never really improved reception. They add feature after feature. You can take and send photos. You can browse the internet, but you always manage to lose signal in the worst possible places. I used to live in a large metropolitan area and would regularly lose signal. I lived *inside* Chicago and I could barely get a signal in my own damn apartment. Is it because of the buildings? Maybe it'll never work right.

    I say screw all the stupid features. Just give me a phone that just works everywhere. I couldn't care less if it can take pictures, browse the web, or download movie trailers.

    -matthew
    • I suspect the reason you don't get very good reception is because the manufacturers are unwilling to make large phones with big aerials any more. If size doesn't bother you, some phones still have a sockets for an external aerial...
      • by BrokenHalo (565198)
        the manufacturers are unwilling to make large phones with big aerials any more. If size doesn't bother you, some phones still have a sockets for an external aerial...

        I would qualify that by suggesting an experiment. My LG U8120 works just as well (wrt both reception and battery-life) if I unscrew the aerial altogether. Which is why I replaced the standard fixture with a little stubby aerial, just to keep crap out of the hole.

    • by ItsIllak (95786)
      To be fair - for the most part that's a function of the transmitters, not the receivers as much! BUT - that said, I remember when I first had a mobile phone having to go out on the street to make calls - Inside most buildings in built up areas is fine now - probably simply a function of more masts and more power though... See the Fish [youtube.com]
    • by brianjcain (622084)
      You're a victim of multipath. In short: yes, it is the buildings. A few years back, all the rage for cellular infrastructure were micro/nano/picocells, appropriate for dense urban environments like Chicago. I suppose we could cite your case as an example that they're insufficiently deployed.
  • by sunwukong (412560) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @01:58AM (#15419335)
    I picked a Motorola V180 for the following features:

    - great battery life (easily a week with regular use)
    - colour screen
    - small screen on the outer shell
    - cheap (a few generations behind)
    - NO CAMERA (so there'd be fewer objections to its presence on client sites)

    It seems to be as good a flip phone as you can get without having a camera.
    • My v.171, even cheaper than yours:

      -cheap
      -NO CAMERA, no ridiculous frilles.
      -Crappy battery life (two and a half days if I don't use the phone). Incidentally, this model gets advertised as having an "extreme battery" and long life.
      -If you enter PIN too fast on startup, fails to logon, reboots (must reenter pin).
      -When battery is low, emits an annoying beep every minute. This beep bypasses the ringer settings, so if you're in a meeting and have the ringer set to vibrate or silent, it will beep at you anyway.
  • Well, I for one welcome 'useful' features on my phone, so long as they don't compromise the usability or quality of the primary function (to be a phone).

    The last thing I need it to be is an mp3-player and/or TV and further drain my battery. Ringtones I'm somewhat in-between with... the nice thing about polyphonics is at least you can tell your phone apart from others of the same make (it was quite annoying back in the day when you'd have 3 people with the same ringer).

    Other features do come in useful fo
  • Yep, it's just a case of marketing getting what it wants to sell, rather than customers getting what they want to buy.

    Personally, I don't want text messaging, so I don't pay for it... but, then again, I do, because Sprint won't turn it off, so people send me text messages at a cost of $0.10 each, because I don't have a "text messaging plan". And they charge that even when it's a spam message. Then only control I have over TM is whether or not I send one - there's no control over whether or not I get them.

  • Nokia 1600 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hotzeyboy (725567)
    I have a (gsm) nokia 1600 [nokia.com].

    It is probably the best mobile phone I have ever owned, for the following reasons:
    -It was cheap AU$99 outright,probably cheaper now, I don't worry too much about dropping or breaking it.
    -It has a nice colourful display that is easy to read.
    -It has a reasonable form factor, not tiny and not huge, not heavy and not too light.
    -It can send sms.
    -It can make phone calls.
    -It has a digital clock.
    -It can remember important dates and meetings.
    -The battery lasts *for ever* with t

  • Yes, it's a whole new generation of customers since ages ago, in 2003.

    Seriously, I want a phone that dials numbers and lets me talk to people. It should ring, vibrate, and tell me when I missed some calls. I can actually see the utility in having a camera in it as well, but that's just because I feel the need to carry some kind of camera with me and it's either that or as a separate keychain device.

    For the other stuff, I will use an ultraportable laptop/PDA.
  • Poeple wouldn't mind so much if it did all those things well. As it is now, the extra functions are merely toys and hardly funtional. In a lot of cases, businesses are putting the cabash on these picture phones. Theatures don't want picture phones either. Though I believe that's just paranoia since the so called quality of the pictures from a phone are dubious at best in such low lighting conditions.

    If any cell phone makers are reading, here is my request: Make a phone that has an excellent PIM with m
    • Seriously - have you looked for such a phone? The Windows Mobile based devices have contact databases that are very much like Windows Outlook. Many addresses - many phone numbers, dates of birth, etc.etc.etc... Of course, for a few generations of phones they've been improving in this regard - just don't try to save names to your SIM (and make sure you can sync it with your favourite desktop PIM!)

      See the Fish [youtube.com]

    • actually, most phones have a keyboard lock feature. They usually involve pressing a sequence of keys. Although, the last candybar phone I had (cough siemens) decided that a sequence of keys was too complicated, and made it one key, the # key sitting in the corner. Pure genius. I'd walk into work, and find my boss had been on the phone with me for five minutes.

      Thinking more about this topic, the fundamental problem is clear from the article itself. The debate is between Cell phone manufacturers and service
  • I'm still using my 5 year old Nokia 5100. I do like the look of the tiny clam shell phones, but they're too bloated with crappy features to be usable. There's no phone on the market now I've seen that I'd trade my old nokia for.
  • I'm the Opposite (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:16AM (#15419368) Homepage
    Why can't I buy a device that has freakin' everything? I'm serious, too.

    I want it to be a phone first, PDA second, and all the extras right after that. I want MP3s, FM radio, a decent camera (not a 5MP Nikon, but certainly not the crappy one I have now), bluetooth, WiFi, VoIP, and Windows Mobile 5.

    Is that too much to ask?
    • by DingerX (847589) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @02:30AM (#15419410) Journal
      Yes, yes it is too much to ask. Convergence is a myth, get over it.

      What you want is a tablet PC with a GSM card and a bluetooth headset.
      • Sorry, as a gadget lover I've seen tons of phones come close to being fantastically useful as the grandparent poster describes. However the problem is *always* in the frigging software. There is always some stupid bug (or six) which stops a phone fulfilling its advertised potential, but the manufacturer doesn't give a toss about fixing any of them because they're busy redesigning the next model (or six) with completely different interfaces, e.g. my Nokia 9500 [nokia.com], bought March 2005. Hooray! A phone, web browser, email client and remote SSH terminal with 80x24 screen! Wi-fi support at home! Amazing! Except that:
        • the IMAP email client is hopelessly broken, crashing at the slightest provocation (changing folders mostly!)
        • the web browser, for all its other limitations, doesn't do gradual page rendering (well it tries, but effectively it doesn't), and freezes the phone up while rendering a long page. Not good when you have a 14Kb GPRS connection;
        • the terminal works well (cough, third party software) but is hamstrung by the phone's refusal to change connection types if the first one you pick doesn't work. You have a 10 minute timeout or something so that if a wi-fi connection doesn't work, you can't immediately switch to GPRS without going for a cup of tea first.
        • (unforgivably, for Nokia, at least) if you missed a call and want to see who it was, you press "last call log" from the front panel and it takes 10-20 seconds of "Reading log..." on the screen before it shows you. A list of numbers! That's all I'm asking for! Totally maddening.
        • No reset mechanism except taking the battery out. Because it will never crash, oh no. Especially not in the middle of a busy street when you're trying to make a call and then have to find a quiet place to take the f--king thing to pieces...

        Now under normal circumstances, well, yeah you get bugs in software, we'll get them fixed! Except that you don't with phones. I had three firmware upgrades to that phone and none of those issues were solved. So I never really used it for email or web browsing unless I had a lot of time & patience, and it was very important to try to get a particular piece of info (still it was quicker calling the train times information line than trying to use the web site).

        But really there was nothing wrong with the hardware -- I could see that the phone could do everything that it advertised, but Nokia were on to greener pastures now that this phone was out of the door. All it would need (in any other software market) would be a programmer or two, 2-3 months and some willing "power user" beta testers to hammer out these stupid bugs. I mean god forbid they actually try to make a device with a market lifespan of more than about 12 months, with, you know, a user community and long term support plans. But just a bit more love on the software after release would make a huge difference.

        After a couple of terrible months with an HTC Universal [engadget.com] (lots of problems but the biggest one is that it's impossible to answer an incoming call more than about 20% of the time! Great testing guys!), like an idiot I'll have a Nokia E61 [nokia.com] on order soon. Maybe that'll work better :-)

        So no I don't believe phone "convergence" is a myth when the phone manufacturers get so darned close. It's their unwillingness to go the extra mile after the phone has been released and tested on a large scale which causes people to damn their gadget-phones as white elephants.

    • You can get most of that, if you're willing to sacrifice battery life. One of the HP smartphones or perhaps the Treo 700w do most of those things you mentioned, minus (as far as I know) the FM radio, and perhaps the decent camera (depending on how good you want it to be).

      Personally I'd be happy if I could get a phone with a monochrome screen (don't need colour), Bluetooth (for connecting to my Palm T|X where I keep most important data), and very long battery life. Skip the camera, the web browsing, the down
    • Just move to Japan... as long as you don't mind living in a 10 x 6 'apartment' you should be in heaven! ;-p

  • The new generation of US consumers? More like the old generation. In my office, it's always the 50+ crowd making the lame old joke "I'd just like a phone that can dial numbers and make voice calls real good," and "I don't need any of this new-fangled crap." Then they spend time complaining about cell-towers or another unrelated topic. A few years ago, the same people complained about show quality when the topic of HDTV used to come up. There seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding that totally
  • ...but instead of seeing ever more reliable, rugged, and functional portable phones, my carrier insists on delivering ever more complex devices that still don't do their primary function (being a phone) any better than cellphones five or more years old.

    I even wrote in my blog about this last year. [tijil.org]

  • by J-1000 (869558)
    I have no problem with more features, and regardless of satisfaction surveys, going with less features is probably not the answer. Take, for instance, the fact that there are plenty of outdated basic phones available that people skip on because they want something the new phones have. People don't want less, they just want to be able to use what they have. Forget metaphors, forget operating systems, just identify what the user wants most and prioritize.

    There are a few things that I'd like to see that might
  • I don't know if the group that posts on /. is biased or if this is a good representation of our population as a whole. But I am noticing that--by far--Slashdot posters want a simple phone. Myself included. What's up with these companies then? It's like the employees don't use phones.

    I didn't RTFA, but I read a similar article on Wired this morning. That one mentioned that the reason cell phone companies started making it so you have no choice but to buy a phone with all of this crap is because the comp
  • with some of the largest drops linked to user interface for Internet and e-mail services.

    While we're on the topic, which phones would people recommend for having good user interfaces?

    I'm on my second phone in about the past six years, and in both cases I've gone for the cheapest one on the shelf -- which in both cases has been a bottom-of-the-line Alcatel. Both have gotten the job done (I'm on a prepay plan and mostly just carry a phone so people can contact me, and sometimes for SMS), but I've found th

  • Problem is... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JanneM (7445) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @03:10AM (#15419494) Homepage
    Problem is, manufacturers and providers are offering simple, stripped down, easy-to-use phones. And very few buy them. Just like simple, functional, easy DVD players; simple internet terminals and so on.

    One problem is, simple phones aren't appreciably cheaper to produce since most of the differences lie in software, so the simple phones don't get a lot cheaper (and especially so when the phone is offered as part of a package deal).

    A second problem is the lure of features. We like long lists of features, _especially_ for technology we aren't too familiar with. After all, since we aren't familiar with it, we don't know what functions will turn out to be important, so better get as much ass possible.

    Third, even among us that want a simple phone, there creeps in a "that can also ...". Just look at the other comments to this story. I want a simple phone - that can also do good email, since I in practice use email more than speech. Oh, and having a radio on it is essential, so I don't have to lug around a second device. For other people, real email is pointless and radio is a waste - but they really want that integrated camera since it's such a convenient way to communicate (was it this part you wanted me to buy or was that one?). For a third person, having a Java VM for a steady supply of small games to play during their commute is critical, though they have no interest in any other function.

    So, you could not make a simple telephone with mass market appeal. You would have to make a whole series of phones, all with different combinations of features. Which of course in practice means making one or two hardware designs, and selectively disable stuff in software. But then, of course, the users can simply refrain from using the features they don't want; they'r enot going to pay as much for the identical hardware but with less functionality, after all. Which brings us right back to where we are now.

    On my phone, I have a web browser, music shop service, IR remote controller, OCR translation from English to Japanese, and probably a dozen other features I don't even remember. I simply don't use them, which suits me fine. It doesn't bother me that I have a set of icons I don't use, since the functions I do use - radio, email and sound player - are implemented well, and since I have them assigned on hotkeys, bypassing the need to ever delve into the interface itself.
  • I want a cell phone that:

    * makes calls
    * has a list of numbers
    * has caller id
    * has voicemail of some kind

    That's it. Well there is one other thing... I want it to be a wireless USB drive. That would be so useful to be able to go to any computer and type \\myphone\ and access whatever I had put on there. Without having to plug anything in, mess with cables, go through some service, etc.

    I couldn't give a rat's ass about learning how to edit word/excel documents using a tiny numeric keypad. Or watch movies
  • If their dissatisfaction is linked to the E-mail and messaging user interfaces of their cell phones, that tells you that they are actually using those functions; if they didn't want those functions, they'd just not be using them and they wouldn't complain about their user interfaces. So, they don't want "simpler" cell phones (in the sense of cell phones with fewer functions), they want "easier to use" cell phones.


  • I'm a big guy with big hands and big fingers. The buttons on most cell phones are too small. I often press 2 buttons instead of one. I can't read the display on some phones without my glasses.

    I was recently looking for a cell phone for my 82 year old dad. I asked whether any of them came with larger keys. His hands are as big as mine and his vision is worse. Unfortunately, there aren't any cell phones made like that. He tried the LG they were giving away with the service but he couldn't deal with it.

    It does
  • Imagine you bought a TV that can also record shows, make phone calls, plays your music CDs and all that jazz. Now imagine to get the TV to actually show a TV program, you'd have to click on your remote 'til the batteries are dead (or the show is over). Would you like that TV?

    Imagine you bought a car that has built-in TV and wireless internet, an automatic navigation system with voice input and 15 different sets of lights for different conditions, but to start it, you'd first have to spend about 10 minutes t
  • This is the same problem that so much technology suffers from, ie bloat. After the initial problems have been solved the manufacturers reach a point where the product is as useful as it's going to get before the next major leap in technology. In the mean time in order to get the same consumers to spend more money with them they pile on glitter that looks cool but actually isn't useful to most people, and in a lot of cases gets in the way of the basic functions. Instead of concentrating on what actually m
  • It's that old mistake that inventors keep making-- adding a digital clock to something does not necessarily improve it.

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Sunday May 28, 2006 @09:05AM (#15420272) Journal
    I think many consumers would be more accepting/willing to tackle a learning curve to use advanced features of their phones if providers quit trying to use them all cash "cash cows".

    I've been using PDA phones for years, and after my Treo 650 just got run over by a car after it fell off my belt-clip in a parking lot at work, I finally decided "Screw it!" and went with a regular phone instead. I got the new Motorola Razr V3c, thinking the thin shape would be a nice break from carrying around "brick-like" boxes as phones.

    The biggest shock I got was when I first went through the Razr's menus and realized practically *everything* was a "subscription-based" download. Want your phone to be able to play a game? Navigate through the "e-store" applet and pick one out that can be played 1 day at a time for 99 cents, or played for "flat rate" of $4.99 per month! Uh... wow.... I'm used to just grabbing some freeware or shareware Palm app and hotsyncing into my phone and being done with it.

    Then you get to things like emailing photos to other cellphone users. Ok, sounds like it might be cool, once in a while.... but WAIT! Did I sign up for that "unlimited photo-email" package on my plan? If not, I'm gonna get billed some ridiculous price for each little picture that gets sent out! Maybe I'll just ignore that feature after all.....

    Oh yeah... they said the Razr was compatible with AOL instant messenger! Ok, where's that in the menus? Oh... darn. Not there! You have to download it and once again, PAY for it. Well, ok... I can live with spending another $7 or $8 to have that on my phone. But NO, it's yet another thing you pay by the month to keep using on the phone! Grr.... forget it! I'll just use it as a *phone* then and forget all the other stuff. I'll go broke trying to play with all of it!
  • I really don't like my cell phone. Too many features I never use, and lacking in what I'd really want. I just want a phone that does the simple things. A phone that sounds clear and doesn't drop calls. A phone that keeps its charge for a long time. That's pretty much it.

    I hate text messaging, and I make up a story that I don't know how to read them. I can figure it out, I just refuse to communicate that way. If you want to talk to me, call me. If I'm not there, leave a message. I'd much rather say my phone doesn't support text messaging.

    What I would pay for is a phone that looks nice. That is, a phone that doesn't look like some cheap plastic toy.

    Give me duribility and reliability, and I'd have no problem dropping a few hundred bucks on a phone. I don't want a camera, I don't want to play video games, I don't want to surf the web . . I just want a phone.

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