Making a Good Thing Less Good

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-06-04


Now that I travel and need a national cellular plan, I said goodbye to my Motorola dual-mode StarTac—the closest thing to a classic Ive seen—and got the newer tri-mode version.

The "improved" cellular phone stores four times as many numbers, which I welcomed. So whats the beef? Its harder to use.

Im still limited to the same number of contacts (100), but now each can have four numbers: home, work, cell and pager. The problem is that now I cannot push just one button to scroll through my contacts. Instead, I have to use one button to select a persons name and another to tab from home to work to cell to pager number, then back to the first button to make the call. I also need to recognize a tiny icon rather than just read the larger type as before (see photo, left). This is still a fine phone, but Motorola complicated it.

I understand how the developer got into this corner. Recognizing that people have more than one number, it made sense to organize the numbers as subcategories by person. It made sense in the developers head, that is, but not in my hand. For an identical call, the old system required five keystrokes and three key changes, whereas the "improved" system requires seven keystrokes and five key changes.

All they had to do was add the extra capacity, not the subcategories, and it would have been fine.

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