Monthly Archives: September 2010

An Android UI comment

<p>Out of the silence comes a quibble. A gripe. I like my Android phone. Not <em>love</em>, that's reserved for truly emotional attachments to inanimate objects that fulfil a deep need in my life. So I can't think of any right now, but I'm certainly open to love.&nbsp;</p>

So my iPhone 3G was great, but then a minor hardware issue made it unusable as a phone,  I needed a new gadget, and iPhone 4 was still in late gestation. I went the much-admired HTC Desire. People ask me if it’s better than the iPhone. I say it’s “different”, like Linux is different to OSX. You can do some more things with it, but it doesn’t have the mainstream support for some of the apps, and it’s not as much of a sexy package.  But, you know, at my age, even average starts to look hot. <wheeze>

Having moved from iPhone to Android, and having quickly ditched the default screen above for something more coolly minimal, the default UI  begs immediate comparisons. On Android, there are more buttons and options to mess with, and that’s not always a good thing (although the Back button is absolute gold — it even works across apps). It’s all perfectly functional of course, but without the smug wow factor that everyone went gooey over with their first iPhone. So I submit for the annals my example of a simple failure in user interaction engineering and usability…  the built-in date selector.
You want to schedule something. Say you want to have a coffee with a friend Saturday week. Ok, go to (the HTC) Calendar, press the ‘+’ sign, add some text, select the date,…  Whoa!  Select the date??!  I want it to be Saturday week. I don’t know what that date is. I don’t care. But no, I need to work out a date (dd and mm and yy) so that I can schedule it. There are no clues on what a particular day a selected date falls on, and no way to give it a relative reference. So, fail it is. Like most usability faults, you ask yourself how could anyone have missed it before releasing it. But missed it they have, even a number of versions into HTC Sense. Shame.
But yeah, apart from that, it’s great. I definitely like it. It even makes phone calls.

Update (Mon, 4th October): With the change to summer time in Australia, I was checking that the phone had changed automatically (it had), and noticed that I could change the short date settings from dd/mm/yy to DDD, dd/mm/yy, that is, to include the day of the week. So, now, in the date selector in the various apps, like calendar, it shows the day when you have selected a date. So, the immediate problem is solved, but surely there is scope for a relative date selector? Two days from today, a fortnight from next Tuesday, and so on?