iPods as UI Example for Smartphones


Okay, so I'm just about to go to bed and I wanted to post one more thought... I was just chatting to David who was gloating about his new 30GB iPod (bastard!) and he sent me the link to Steve Job's latest keynote - the one where he announced all the music stuff. I missed it the other day while I was at the Symbian conference, but since I never miss a Steve keynote, I decided to check it out.

In the video, Steve just went over the UI of the newest iPod. The simplicity and functionality of that interface is amazing and it makes me realize how complex the current state of smartphones are. Like the iPods in the past, the interface is one big hierarchy of options and music choices. It's an Outline! I love outlines. But it's not just my personal tastes, it's a great UI for a newbie. Clean and clear. An incredibly intuitive interface that would be perfect for ANY handheld device aimed at one-hand operation, not just for iPods.

Today I handed off my Nokia 7650 to my wife - and I told her to make sure she tells me EVERYTHING that she runs into while using the phone so I can learn from her about how a new user thinks. I didn't just hand it to her and say "good luck," though, I actually spent an hour or so walking her through the features and tricks of the phone (phone in her hand, just like when you're showing someone something on the computer - they need to drive). So she's a bit better off than a completely new person, but not much. She has to remember stuff like "holding down the 'abc' button while moving the cursor button will highligh multiple records in a list view" and things like that.

Anyways, I don't own an iPod, but I've seen them in action and it seems to be an incredibly better interface for accessing data. Not in a clunky Internet Explorer way, but in an intuitive hierarchy (outline!) way that we all can learn from. Right now my Series 60 phone has 5 main buttons (left task, right task, edit, clear, menu) the nav button (which goes 5 ways: up, down, left, right, push) and the number pad. The menu items are varied and can have sub-menus. The UI is somewhat limited, but still has lists, check boxes, buttons, tabs, etc. laid out in bewildering levels of complexity... sometimes the tabs will show up at the top in some apps so you don't have to go back to the main options list, but other times they don't. Sometimes the options have multiple levels - like the Access Point setup - and you can lose options you know are in there somewhere and end up hunting around for them.

Watching Ana this morning struggle through some parts of what is supposed to be a "simpler UI" for smartphones then watching Steve Jobs whip through the iPod tonight made me realize how intuitive the iPod menu really is. I'm going to have to take note of that when thinking about design decisions on apps I create for the phone...

And hmmm... I wonder when the "iPhone" is coming out? :-)


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