Bad touchscreens and me

16 12 2008

Looks great, until you switch it on.

Looks great, until you switch it on.

Yesterday I tried to test a Samsung Omnia, to get a feel for this “iPhone killer” (uggghhh) and its interface. I haven’t had much experience using Windows Mobile touchscreen handsets, so I thought it would be a useful exercise when comparing to handsets running other OSes.

I aborted the test when I nearly threw the thing at the wall in frustration at such an unintuitive mess of an operating system and UI. Samsung has thrown some excellent features into the Omnia, and the industrial design is clean and attractive (if a little sterile). On paper the Omnia looks excellent: it has all the high-end bells and whistles – in fact it flays the iPhone and BlackBerry Storm for hardware features – 5MP camera; A-GPS; WiFi; HSDPA; plays DivX files, has a resistive touchscreen and Windows Mobile 6.1…. *pause*

**Rewind**

Resistive touchscreen and Windows Mobile 6.1.

This non-responsive resistive touchscreen (as opposed to the capacitive type used on the iPhone), when combined with an operating system that wasn’t designed for finger inputs (the touch areas are often too small), is simply diabolical. Scrolling through menus using a finger resulted in a sequence of ignored touches, followed by accidentally launching random applications, followed by hunting around for one of the several randomly chosen methods of closing said application, then repeating.

Using a stylus was hardly any better, because it didn’t seem to scroll properly (although typing required the stylus because the on-screen keyboard is too small for fingers). So you have to guess whether to use your fingers or grope around for the stylus. Guesswork and frustration? Lost touches and hunting for the right way to close an app? Being unsure whether I’d sent an SMS or dialled the person’s number by accident? These are not the makings of a close bond between user and device.

Gentle reader, I was hating it.

The whole user experience is destroyed by the frustrating touchscreen response and inconsistent interface design, and any positive features of the hardware are disrupted by the awful time you’ll have trying to perform common tasks. When simple tasks become a mild form of torture, it’s time to admit that perhaps this device is not for me. This device demonstrates the importance of executing a good user experience, which goes beyond hardware features, in the overall usability of a device.

Within 8 hours of swapping my SIM into the Omnia, I gave up in frustration and went back to my BlackBerry Bold with a new-found respect. Maybe I could learn the quirks of the Omnia’s user interface and dodge the suckitude, but frankly I can’t be bothered. There are much better mobile platforms out there, so I’ll use one of them instead.

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