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Smartphones get more sophisticated, but their owners do not

Posted on January 20th, 2014 at 9:42 by John Sinteur in category: News -- Write a comment


According to Jeff Johnson, a consultant who worked on some of the earliest computer interfaces, those users get lost in part because designers are not like them — which is to say older and very practical — and aren’t dreaming up software with any industry-wide guidelines for usability or consistency, like, say, a washing machine has.

As evidence, he read off several design principles from an Android developer’s Web site: “Enchant me, simplify my life, make me amazing.”

“Whatever happened to usability?” he marveled. “Make me amazing. What does that even mean?”

Tammy — another embarrassed smartphone owner who refused to offer a last name for publication — certainly doesn’t know. She is 52 and lives in Alexandria. She has an iPhone. She struggles. It took her about 18 months to figure out how use the calendar, a development she found “really cool because you can put alerts on it, and I am constantly forgetting to do things, so that’s great.”

But the real problem is her husband’s Android phone. Make me amazing. As if.

“He has this Galaxy Something, Galaxy Whatever,” she reported. She was asleep one night when the Galaxy Something beeped repeatedly with texts from her husband’s friend, who was in Las Vegas with a different time zone and set of sleep expectations. The beeping would not stop.

“This is not working for me,” Tammy said she decided.

She doesn’t know how to silence the phone. She doesn’t know how to turn it off.

“My husband is snoring away,” Tammy recalled — she was unable to stop that, either — “and I’m downstairs in the kitchen trying to find a place to hide the phone so I can’t hear it anymore.”

  1. Yeah iPhones rule and Androids suck! – “As if”

    Interesting how of the entire article you pick this section. She’s a self-confessed techno numpty and yet somehow it’s turned to try to make an Android phone the problem. Dumb person in the middle of the night doesn’t know how to silence her husband’s phone, but rather than waking him makes a song and dance about it. Yep that’s an Apple user for you.

  2. @Gareth: I don’t think John picked the quote to support that conclusion. Note the woman has an iPhone and “she struggles” to the point that she couldn’t figure out the calendar for a year and a half. Not really testimony to the ease of use of the iPhone.

    To me, the whole article read like déjà-vu all over again. We went through this with personal computers, with getting online and using the internet, with ATMs, you name it. I think it’s getting a bit better. Completely non-technical older people now take digital pictures and manage to email them to others. That’s great.

  3. Given that I’ve written more Android apps than iPhone apps, well… I guess I must be a fanboi…

  4. Sigh. Silly woman. RTFM. It clearly says “Hit sreeping paltner over head until stopping”. (Works with alarm clocks and smoke detectors too.)

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