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Smartphone Touch Screens

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Is it me? Probably

I’ve put it off for long enough, the time has come to upgrade my mobile phone.  My contract expired 9 months ago (it was an 18 month contract), therefore since then I’ve been making a monthly payment towards the cost of a handset which is fully paid for.  I therefore feel I deserve the latest and best phone to justify my monthly expenditure, whether I need it or not.  So why haven’t I upgraded sooner?  Well, my existing phone does what I want and just keeps on working.

An Electronic Swiss Army Knife

Smartphones are excellent. With a single compact device in my pocket, a Nokia N95, I have access to:

  • a good quality camera with flash and an excellent macro (close-up) capability
  • email
  • Internet web browsing
  • sat nav
  • mp3 player
  • video player
  • personal organiser

and, of course, a mobile phone with good hands-free capability

The Years BB & BI (Before Blackberry & Before iPhone)

Sadly, most people don’t realise that smartphones have been around for years – they aren’t the new invention of Blackberry or Apple or any other kind of fruit.  The first effective incarnations were proprietary – custom developments by each phone manufacturer – then in 2001 along came the first device using the Symbian operating system, and Microsoft has been providing Windows Mobile since 2003.

My first real smartphone was a Nokia 7610.  “What do I want a phone with a camera for?”.  Well, I had no choice.  The other features I wanted came in a phone which had a camera, and actually, it was quite useful but dire quality.  Before the 7610 I’d had a Nokia 7110  which with its WAP browser (anybody remember WAP? Fish.Net used to have a WAP site) could possibly be described as having ambitions of smartphone.  So when I came to upgrade the 7610 its increasing unreliability meant I didn’t really hesitate and the Nokia N95 provided all the features I wanted, apart from, perhaps, battery life and being noticeably thicker than its predecessor.

So I’ve been reading my email, browsing the web and taking acceptable quality photos (camera, not photographer) for years.

What Next?  Bad Ergonomics – everything you touch turns to iPhone

Recently it’s been time for a mobile phone upgrade and the new kids on the block are Apple’s iPhone and Android from Google.  Android is now appearing on phones from virtually every manufacturer apart from Apple (no surprise) and Nokia who is still the proud parent of Symbian.  What the iPhone and Android have done is shown just how good and effective a touch screen interface can be.  So much so, that they’ve thrown away the keypad.

And that’s the problem – they’ve thrown away the keypad.  They’ve made you believe that buttons are bad – and they’re wrong.

The touch screens and user interfaces on both the iPhone and Android phones are a delight to use.  The creation of a pinch gesture to zoom is a piece of genius.  But often I want to use my phone without giving it my full attention, and most of the time the prime role for my smartphone is to simply make phone calls.

I need buttons I can feel, with a tactile response to let me know I’ve successfully pressed them.  This is particularly important when simply making a call or hanging up the phone, or when using the SatNav.  My phone sits in a cradle in my car and I can handle most of the call and SatNav functions without ever taking my hands off the road – I don’t need to look at the screen to work out which button to press.  When I’m not driving I can even text blind most of the time.  And all because I know the pattern of the buttons and can feel exactly where they are.  The same argument applies to the camera.  The N95, among others, has a dedicated shutter button which falls exactly in the right (handed) place when I want to take a photo.

And the touch-screen phones all have a lock button to prevent you accidentally ‘pressing’ buttons with the side of your face while you’re making a call!

My Choice

So what did I look at?

I spent a lot of time looking at the latest Nokias, Sony Ericssons, Samsungs and LGs and the Android phones from most of the above.  I decided an acceptable compromise would possibly be to have separate call and hang up buttons and leave the rest to the touch-sensitive screen.  But only the early Android phones – the HTC Tattoo and HTC Hero – have these buttons, and neither of these has a flash for the camera.  From the other perspective I looked at the Sony Satio and Vivaz as these both have good cameras.  Even the impending Nokia N8 unticks too many boxes.  Other compromises could have been the Sony Experia X10 Mini Pro or the Nokia N97 both with slide out keyboards.  But the latter is now relatively old for a ‘new’ (and expensive) phone and neither provide the call buttons particularly well

So what did i choose?

I realised that in every case I was compromising my choice of phone just to achieve an upgrade, none of the options ticked all the boxes that my current phone does.  Yes I would like a bigger screen and a thinner case and longer battery life, but…

So I’m moving over to a SIM-only contract.  I’m paying less, I’m getting loads more bundled minutes and texts and at last I’m getting bundled data.  For my phone I’m going to use a couple of cast-offs from around the office – primarily an N85, but I also have my old N95 and access to another N95.

I’m going to watch and wait.  Hopefully in the next 12 months or so phones will come along which put ergonomics back above fashion.  An Android with a keypad?.  I’m not sure if anything will actually appear.  In the mean time I’ll save money and step aside from the upgrade rat-race.

Google introduces Real Time Search

Friday, December 11th, 2009

real-time-searchJust days after we reported on Google bringing its dictionary results in-house, the search behemoth has continued to roll out new features with its much-vaunted real time search results.

We have an insatiable demand for instant access for the latest news.  Search engines have not traditionally provided this – it has previously taken days, if not weeks, for search engines to catch up with what Web sites are publishing.

Rolling 24-hour news coverage provides journalistic real-time coverage.  Services such as Twitter and the now established network of blogs has led to a constant commentary about emerging trends and current affairs.  Indeed, it is that content be published so quickly by anyone that makes the Web so unique.

Search engines have taken tentative steps into meeting our demand for as-it-happens content with News and Blog search services.  Google has taken this further with its new Real Time Search results, which amalgamates news, blog and even Twitter tweets related to a search in an automatically updated ticker box.

As I write, the Copenhagen Climate Summit is big news.  A search for ‘copenhagen’ returns not just the usual mash of Wikipedia and News results, but also this scrolling box within the search results:

An example of Google's Real Time Search results

Real time search and your company

Google will evolve the way real-time search works over time – if it’s a hit with its users, it’s likely to become more prominent within search result pages.  The consequences of this could be far-reaching for brands.

Real time search means a higher profile for social network and news content.  Whilst brands could get away with scant monitoring of user-generated content in the past by simply dismissing it as a trend or insignificant, all of a sudden content about YOUR brand which you have little or no control over could now be broadcast on Google.

Monitoring and responding to social media content will become more important.  How you do this – reactively when content appears, or proactively by engaging in social media – will depend on your target audience and the culture within your company.  Fish.Net can advise on the most appropriate method for you – contact us to find out more.

Engaging in social media activity will become more attractive as a marketing option.  Many companies filed social media under “one to watch” as they found it difficult to justify the time cost and with a lack of clear success indicators.  By creating social media buzz, you will be able to generate and somewhat influence content others are posting about you.

Ensuring you publish time-sensitive content not just on your own Web site but also on Web sites seeding the real time search results is also important.  You may be able do this with your existing site content such as a blog or news section – contact Fish.Net to find out how you can maximise the visibility of this content.

Netiquette – a follow up

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

In our recent Netiquette (Net etiquette) feature, we warned against TYPING MESSAGES IN CAPITAL LETTERS, AS IT IS THE ONLINE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING.

Our cautionary note was not followed by a Financial Controller in New Zealand, who was dismissed for causing “disharmony in the workplace”.

Her crime, according to her employer, was sending shouty emails which were considered “confrontational”.

Although the dismissal has now been deemed unfair following an appeal, it highlights the importance of good netiquette and the need for clear guidelines on email use in all companies.  It is difficult to convey emotional intent in emails, and following basic guidelines can often avoid causing distress.

So next time you reach for the CAPS LOCK KEY, think twice!

Beware the World Business Guide!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

wbgOur advice for how to deal with unsolicited email is simple:  simply delete it.  Spam sent by the “World Business Guide” shows why.

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Netiquette

Friday, July 24th, 2009

The Internet has revolutionised how we communicate, but with each method of communication comes a different type of acceptable etiquette.

Many conventions were set by early adopters of the Internet, and still form the basis of net etiquette – or ‘netiquette’ – we have today.

Join us as we take a look at email etiquette and how you can avoid falling foul of the unspoken rules of the Web.

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Digital Britain – Part Three

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

digitalbritainPart 3 of 3

Concluding our three-part series about the recently published report about the state of Britain’s broadband and digital infrastructure, we look at what the impact on business in likely to be, and identify ways you should prepare to safeguard your business’ digital future.

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Digital Britain – Part Two

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

digitalbritainPart 2 of 3

In part one of our series of articles about the recently published Digital Britain report, we took a look at the Universal Service Commitment (USC).

In this installment, we explore ways in which broadband will – and has already started – to grow beyond this.  The report covers two areas – Mobile broadband and Next Generation Broadband.

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Digital Britain – Part One

Friday, June 19th, 2009

Part 1 of 3

digitalbritainEarlier this week, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport published the long awaited Digital Britain report.

Lord Carter’s report covers a broad area of digital services in Britain, from proposing the turn-off of the analogue radio spectrum to ensuring full participation in Internet-based services.

Join us in this series of articles as we explore what the consequences of the report could be for all of us living and working in a Digital Britain.

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