Consistency is everything

Well, the deal for me to get a Touch Pro fell through, so I’m still using my Treo 800w. And while I’m thankful to my friends for their gracious offer to subsidize a Touch Pro purchase for me, I’m also a little relieved. I had a chance to play with one for about half an hour before going over to Best Buy to try to purchase one, and some things I really liked, others not so much.

Putting aside hardware issues like a really annoying and inaccurate d-pad, the user interface on the Touch Pro is maddeningly inconsistent. It looks and feels like exactly what it is, a pretty shell bolted on to the more pedestrian Windows Mobile underpinnings. TouchFlo3D looks great, but as soon as you tap on that little message sticking out of the envelope, you’re back in Microsoft’s Inbox application, with the flat, haven’t-changed-since-2000 scrollbars. It’s a far more jarring transition than I expected. You can also change some settings through TouchFlo3D itself, but for other things you have to go to the Windows Mobile Settings window, again going from sleek, black and finger oriented to flat, white and stylus oriented.

My Treo may look old and busted, but it’s consistent about it. And that consistency directly equates to speed. I know where everything is, and can predict where things will be. One of the things my friend who accompanied me on my failed quest today bragged about regarding the Touch Pro was that it had no fewer than eight separate input methods. That’s great, but it’s really not what I’m looking for. My Treo has one input method, the thumbboard. Well technically it has two, since I haven’t disabled the on-screen keyboard, but I only use it for characters or chords I can’t type with the keyboard (like control-c and control-v for rare input fields that don’t support context menu copy and paste). I’ve disabled Block Recognizer and Letter Recognizer, and haven’t installed anything else. So when it comes time to type something, I don’t waste time thinking how I’m going to type it, I just type it.

I’ve heard the same complaint from early adopters of Android on the T-Mobile G1. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where you’re going to find a command. It could be invoked by the menu button, a context menu, etc. Every app does things differently, even the ones provided by Google. This is one of the few things that the iPhone does really, really well. Just about every iPhone app looks and works the same. Once you know how to use Mail, you’ll have no problems with Calendar, or Safari, or iTunes. They all work basically the same (okay, you don’t have coverflow in your email, but stick with me here). This ease of learning (not really the same as ease of use) is a big part of why the iPhone has been so successful. Even people who aren’t geeky enough to use Windows Mobile can pick up an iPhone and start using it. Now that do most of my writing on my netbook, I’d consider an iPhone myself if it would allow connection tethering and not force me to use the truly abysmal iTunes (a rare example of where Apple really flubbed a user interface).

So I’ll stick with my Treo for another year at least, and I’ll stick with the dated Windows Mobile user interface. Not because Windows Mobile can’t do better, but because I’d rather be consistent and productive than flashy and lost.

3 thoughts on “Consistency is everything”

  1. I’m not trying to sell you an iPhone or anything but you can tether it without too much effort BTW as long as you jailbreak (which isn’t really risky and is very very easy for someone of your caliber to do).

    And yes, iTunes’ UI is not great…there’s no other app I spend as much time using and continue to wonder why.

    It’s like a haunted house…bad things keep happening but for some reason I can’t leave…

    Best wishes on NaNoWriMo

    –Rob

  2. hey jeff,
    been following your website for a while – i picked up the touch pro a couple of days ago (coming from a 6700) and it’s been strange not having a lot of hardware buttons, but surprisingly it’s working out well — i am enjoying the flash of touchflo, but also the geekiness of the winmo platform. the community at ppcgeeks is excellent. i’m still in my 30 days though, and was wondering about the 800w — you seem to really like it. any further comparisons you could make?

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