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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cell Phone Usability: Too Much Feedback

Growing up, my family had one of those boat-anchor black Ma-bell telephones that had the metallic bell. There was no voice mail back then. And generally it could ring 25 or 30 times before the circuit was released. Back then the phone was in another room. You needed the ring to let you know they were still calling and it was worthing running to answer it.

But I don't use my cell phone that way. And most folks don't use their cell phone that way.

1) It is hooked to their anatomy
2) They make a decision to either answer it quickly or ignore the call for later (or never)
3) The phone is now in public space

Given this different usage pattern, why do cell phones follow this old model... that of the ring, ring, ring? Why can't I set my phone to do abbreviated ring? I mean I use vibrate when in meetings, but at my desk I don't mind a simple one-time ring to let me know someone is calling.

Take my normal ring (say the first ring is 1.5 seconds long) and cut it in half. And that's it. No other rings. You know I am not stupid. I don't need the phone to keep ringing while I scramble to get it out of my pocket.

One argument against would be: I won't know if they are still calling if it doesn't keep ringing.
Answer: 1) I have a mental model of how long I have to answer the phone, I don't need the annoying auditory feedback, 2) The phone has lights that whirl and dance telling me the phone is ringing.

Maybe my phone is ancient. But I only have vibrate & annoying as my two options.

Oh and while I am ranting... this Samsung has a light that flashes every 5 or 10 seconds that I swear will blind you if you look at it. In fact I have to cover it up or turn it over just to sleep at night-- I thought it was a lightning flash at first... do these people use these phones?

Anybody have a better phone?


Bill Scott said...

Failed to mention that. I realize that one can install whatever ring tone they can concoct or buy.

But my phone has no ring tones *built in* that have a single note or brief ping. They are long and obnoxious.

Last year I went looking for pleasing or short tones that would not be offensive to everyone in the lab I worked in. I gave up. Besides, it annoyed me that I was paying for something they should have give me with the phone.

My point was that the phones should come with this usability *built in*. Why do I have to go find a ring tone that has the audio characteristic to match the feature that should be readily available? I would not classify this as a *discoverable* feature but a work-around a small segment.

I realize there is a segment of the users that buy ring tones, but most folks that I know don't bother.

Anonymous said...

My phone is constantly on vibrate, since I can usually hear it from across the room anyway. I would opt for continuous "ringing" for those times I'm sitting at my desk, listening to my headphones and...did my phone ring? (pause iTunes and listen for another ring)