What is it with touchscreen mobiles that has gotten all the companies obsessed with making endless dreary clones of each other’s feeble attempts at bettering the iPhone? A proper QWERTY keyboard or at least a keypad is simply unbeatable for usability yet all we seem to get are devices with ever more ludicrous dimensions gained by ditching the hardware and making the screen as large as possible.
Take the Samsung Galaxy SII for example; this touchscreen handset is so large that it’s like holding up a sun bed when taking a call. At the other end of the scale, you have devices which are so tiny (I’m looking at you Sony Experia X10 Mini) that anyone with fingers slightly larger than a toothpick will find operating it nigh in impossible on which case the touchscreen is pointless.
And then there’s the whole business of ergonomics. Endlessly swiping this way and flicking that way and smudging your screen not to mention getting angry and annoyed when you’re trying to scroll a page and the screen registers it as a click. This is before you even get to the horribly passive keyboard where you spend twice as long tapping out a message because you’re constantly having to go back and correct the mistakes caused by not having any tactile feedback.
The simple fact is that you have to look at the damn screen to do even basic tasks. Virtually everyone uses their mobile as an alarm clock so when the thing goes off and you’re half asleep in bed, you can’t simply fumble around and turn it off by recognising the button on your keypad, you have to look at the screen and burn your retinas to hit the right spot. And why should I have to swipe to unlock a mobile? Give me a side button dammit so I can just press and hold it in to unlock.
Accuracy has never been the strong point of touchscreens. By mere fact that you constantly have to jab at it with a digit completely eliminates any degree of precision that is required not to mention thumb fatigue. With a trackpad, you always have your thumb in just one place which is far more comfortable and massively reduces cramp as well as being suitable for both right-handers and southpaws.
Sure, touchscreen has its useful purposes like watching movies but even browsing is a pain in the ass, especially with multi touch. No longer can you use a mobile one handed, it’s become a two handed device so that you can pinch and zoom and do other stupid looking gestures whilst everyone laughs at you.
And make no mistake, you do look stupid hunched over your mobile attempting to look cool and making weird finger shapes as you desperately try to zoom in when all it needed was a simple click to enlarge and a back button to zoom out.
The best compromise is a touchscreen with a keyboard but sadly there are few of these devices around and those available tend to be marketed towards grunting teenage imbeciles that have lost the power of speech and prefer to text.
HTC, Samsung and Nokia et al should start putting more effort into proper business oriented mobiles with proper keyboards so there’s a choice other than BlackBerry. Until then however, RIM has the market all to itself for providing a proper business oriented handset that doesn’t pander to the hoards of slavering iPhone wannabes.