The HTC Touch (ht Dave Malouf) is a new touch-screen mobile phone with an iPhone-like seductive user interface, replete with the same kind of stunning UI bells and whistles — animations, rotations, sliding, flinging, and bouncing — that we are all eagerly awaiting in the Apple iPhone. A recent review in MEX magazine, however, isn’t very impressed.
HTCâ€™s pitching of the product was very clear. TouchFlo, the â€˜completely newâ€™ interaction method used by the handset, was explicitly identified as its unique selling point. And therein lies the problem – TouchFlo is an extremely poor experience.
The reviewer dwells extensively on the fact that much of the interface relies on this “TouchFlo” feature, which seems to be the touchscreen finger-based analogue to traditional desktop mouse-based clicking and dragging. He implies that the technology itself is flawed, insofar as the screen wasn’t detecting and interpreting his finger movements properly (suggesting that this is really a hardware problem or a programming problem more than a UI design problem).
As a 5-year-long user of a full-screen PocketPC touch screen phone, I suspect the reviewer’s implication is incorrect: While I have plenty of problems with the usability of my touchscreen phone, I’ve never had the screen misread my touches and gestures (except in cases where I’ve used my fingertip to press a 4mm x 4mm button, but that’s another type of problem entirely).
Perhaps the tester himself is something of a klutz and just didn’t quite get the hang of how to move their fingers across the HTC Touch’s screen correctly (maybe they also type slowly, have bad handwriting, and can’t use chopsticks!).
I know, I know, I’m blaming the user, right? Well, my point is that perhaps any UI that involves even the most minimally intricate fingerwork will confound a significant number of normal users. What if the particular type of manual dexterity required for devices with such fancy interaction design is beyond the ability for, say, a third of all humans?
If this is the case, then the Apple iPhone’s similarly dynamic user interface might be a big problem for a lot of people, too, since the fantastic interactions we’ve seen in preview videos might prove to be as physically impossible to many people as juggling or playing the guitar.
I’m very interested in seeing how this pans out. As usual, rumor is that Apple didn’t do any usability tests on the iPhone. I suspect those rumors are merely Apple propaganda. We shall see.