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January 14, 2004 03:00 AM

Broken: New Nokia phones

Brian Snyder writes:

I'm amazed at Nokia's latest trend towards unconventional keypads on their phones. Both this new 7600 and their 3650 models throw away the ubiquitous keypad standard, forcing users to completely re-learn the most basic activity: dialing the phone.

Being a person who remembers numbers partially by key pattern, I can tell you from the pictures alone that I would never buy one, regardless of its technical prowess.

Plus, wouldn't you feel stupid holding one of these things up to your head?


Wouldn't you feel stupid holding one of these things up to your head? Yes, as illustrates amusingly. But I think Nokia is banking on phones turning into "mobile appliances" and headsets replacing keypads. That doesn't excuse them introducing these models considerably ahead of the customer acceptance curve, though.

Posted by: Sumit at January 14, 2004 04:21 AM

Well, is unconvential always Broken? Would a non-QWERTY computer keyboard be Broken? Note that you have a choice here -- if muscle memory is important, there are tons of other Nokia models you can choose.

There is a human interface explanation for these two new keyboard styles, however, and it's the fact that mobile phone keypads are commonly used with two fingers. Grouping the keys in two, as opposed to three, columns makes sense because of this. (The 3650 has the same approach despite the keys being arranged in a circle.)

Also, neither of these phones are Sidetalkin' (tm) devices.

Posted by: Marko at January 14, 2004 05:52 AM

The rotary design of the phone on the right seems especially clumsy to me. Perhaps it's because I don't tend to think in a linear fashion, and rows and columns are more manageable for me than a single line of keys.

The keypad on the left doesn't annoy me as much, but the shape of the phone itself is a bit clunky. At least it's not a sidetalker, though.

Also, I used to have a corded phone that had an unconventional keypad that looked like:

1 2

3 4

5 6

7 8

9 0

* #

I could handle it perfectly, but other people (who, incidentally, had no problem with rotary designs) had trouble with it. Go figure.

Posted by: codeman38 at January 14, 2004 01:08 PM

I've got the Nokia 3650. Its keypad took a bit to adjust to, but now it's no big thing. Besides, 95% of the time I am dialing a number out of my address book, which I entered through the desktop anyway. : )

Posted by: Jason Asbahr at January 18, 2004 01:30 PM

I guess its all about preference.

Posted by: never mind that at January 18, 2004 08:46 PM

I also have a Nokia 3650 with a roughly grid-like

layout and even with its modest changes it can

be a real pain. Many applications and games use

the 2-4-6-8 number keys as a 4-way directional pad.

I can't imagine trying this on those other phones.

It's more than just convenience. You must definitely

make a decision about style versus functionality

if you want those funky designs. But there has

always been a market for unconventional style

and that's what these phones are for.

P.S. How about marking the required "Post a comment"


Posted by: Royce Shin at January 27, 2004 07:15 PM

Some of us are visual learners. I'm one of them, and yes, I also use visual patterns as memory keys. In other words, to memorize phone numbers, I remember their pattern created upon keying them in. So, this is a valid "broken" entry for "visual" people.

Posted by: QueenDee at January 28, 2004 08:07 AM

"...Nokia's latest trend towards unconventional keypads...throw away the ubiquitous keypad standard, forcing users to completely re-learn the most basic activity: dialing the phone."

Ironic, when these rounded designs hearken back to the original 'standard' for DIALING a phone - the rotary dial. When keypads began showing up on phones, how many users were forced to completely re-learn? Of course, fewer and fewer people have ever used or even seen a true rotary dial phone, and thus don't know why we say we 'dial' the phone when there's no rotation involved.

Posted by: Kyle at March 30, 2004 10:10 PM

I work for a company that develops games for cell phones, and the 3650 is the bane of our existence. Most games that have directional control use "3" for up and right. A brief glance at a conventional touch-tone phone will tell you why. On the 3650, the 3 is the lower leftmost key. Thus we have the joy of re-coding the control layout and control help dialog for the 3650 every time we release a title.

Posted by: Casey at April 5, 2004 01:08 PM

Though it's not the norm, after actually using this phone (3650), my opinion is that it's not actually a broken design. It takes about a week to get finger memory firmly in place, and then it's actually easier to dial than my old cell phone. It especially takes into account the vagaries of dialing one-handed.

I do not know how common my experience would be tested on a wide scale, but even if this design proved superior overall, dramatically different incompatible designs (see "game control" comment, above) often fail simply because they are too different to allow a smooth transition.

Posted by: kirk at April 13, 2004 05:48 PM

i totally agree. one of my friends has these phones and i was borrowing it to call someone. i tried dialing the number 4 times but couldnt even seem to remember it because of the annoying keystokes

Posted by: Travis at May 23, 2004 02:03 PM

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