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Steve Jobs Hates Buttons 713

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the also-buffy-hates-vampires dept.
ElvaWSJ writes "While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics. The iPhone is Steve Jobs's attempt to crack a juicy new market for Apple Inc. But it's also part of a decades-long campaign by Mr. Jobs against a much broader target: buttons. The new Apple cellphone famously does without the keypads that adorn its rivals. Instead, it offers a touch-sensing screen for making phone calls and tapping out emails. The resulting look is one of the sparest ever for Apple, a company known for minimalist gadgets. "
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Steve Jobs Hates Buttons

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  • by gregarican (694358) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:49AM (#19983243) Homepage
    They should have had the Thing using one of the prototype iPhones in the first Fantastic Four movie when he was trying to call his girlfriend..."Damn buttons!!!"
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#19983259) Homepage Journal
    I've seen the flashy videos, but how easy is it to type on the damn thing without tactile feedback.

    I've got a little T-Mobile Dash/ HTC Excalibur and i can actually type really quickly on its tiny keyboard. I find it hard to believe that without feedback it could be better.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by qualidafial (967876)
      The hard part for me was that to type a letter you have to cover the letter with your finger; I'm used to palm pilot so tended to type with the tip of my finger and got the key below and outside the one I was aiming for. It takes a little getting used to but after a few days use you can type nearly as fast.

      What would really help is if all of iPhone's apps used the widescreen keyboard when you turn the unit sideways. For now it only does this in Safari (and it has to be in landscape mode before you brin
    • I thought the same thing, especially with the graphical buttons being so small. But when I tried it at the store I was immediately typing at least as fast as I can on other phone keyboards. Of course the experience will probably differ with many people. Personally I guess I don't need tactile feedback since I stare at the tiny keys anyway.
    • by snowwrestler (896305) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:28AM (#19983863)
      I've tried out a couple friend's iPhones and was very impressed at how fast the typing was. I've been thinking about why, and here's what I came up with:

      - No pressing required - Because I didn't need to press the buttons down--just touch them--it felt easier and faster to type. It's more of a smooth easy motion from button to button.

      - Predictive targetting - In the middle of common words, I was able to trigger the correct next letter even if I didn't nail the button image exactly. I even experimented with it a bit, going successively faster and sloppier (aw yeah), and it was surprising how imprecise I could be and still get the word right or mostly right.

      - Easy correction - With the touch screen and "magnifying glass" cursor control, it was easy to go back and correct mistakes after typing. So I found that it was best to just plow through typing the entire thing, and then go back and make corrections if needed.

      It's definitely a different style. For me, typing on phones usually works best if I get it exactly right as I type. The iPhone is more like touch-typing on a regular keyboard--just blast through and correct after the fact if needed.

      And like touch-typing, there is definitely a muscle-memory aspect to the iPhone. The keys don't have a feel to them, but they are always in the same place. I was faster after about 15 minutes because my fingers were "calibrated" to where the keys are. Those with good hand-eye coordination (gamers for instance) will have an easier time with this IMO.
  • Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:50AM (#19983263) Homepage
    Buttons are intuitive.

    I design high end interfaces for home theaters (where the remote it's self costs around $2500.00US or more.) and the number one thing my customers like is not the fancy graphics, cool animations or nicely laid out controls on the touchscreen.. but the VOLUME CONTROL HARD BUTTONS built into the side edge. They like being able to without looking press volume up or down or mute instead of having to look at the screen and press a non tactile feedback graphical button.

    Buttons have their use, you cant get rid of them.
    • by goombah99 (560566)
      Digital watches? button mania has infected consumer electronics since the overloaded buttons of digital watches. These are not intuitive.
      • Ever used the Timex Triathlon? Finally a watch with an Up and a Down button so I don't have to push the button 45 times to get from :30 to :15. I swear by that watch- but I know what you mean, I went through elementary, middle, and high with a casio calculator watch :)
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by onkelonkel (560274)
          All hail the mighty TIMEX! At our last engineering meeting 7 of the 10 guys there were wearing the Timex Ironman. 2 time zones, alarm, up down timers and accurate to 3 seconds a year for only $29. Who needs a Rolex? (Unless you need to impress the sort of people who are impressed by a Rolex)
    • The best remote is the one my dear friend MKP had. That remote could obey the phone commands, turn on the fan, open the windows and put the tea kettle on the stove. It was a boy from Orissa working for some 500Rs a month. Oh! Those were the days. Mohan! Where are you!!!
    • by sjonke (457707)
      You aren't seriously putting remote controls up as an example of why buttons are good are you?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pete-classic (75983)
      Half of the buttons on the iPhone are . . . volume buttons.

      -Peter
    • by Tom (822)

      Buttons are intuitive.

      No interface control is intuitive by itself.

      The problem with buttons is that once you have more than a very low number of them, it becomes more and more difficult to find the right one, and the real estate wasted on the interface gets larger and larger.

      I bet you that right now you have at least 10 keys on the keyboard in front of you that you press less than once a day on average. I know I do. Your phone probably has at least one button on it that you've not used at all for the past month, if not the past

      • by paeanblack (191171) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:18AM (#19983717)
        No interface control is intuitive by itself.

        The nipple. All other interfaces are learned.
        • You'd think so... (Score:5, Informative)

          by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:31AM (#19984837) Journal
          You'd think so, but ask any woman who has breastfed a newborn baby, and she'll tell you that you have to teach them to get it right...It's just that it's a...hem..."one button" interface, so it's pretty easy to learn.

          Pretty much every interface is a learned interface, but the simpler the interface, the easier it is to learn.
    • by Jamu (852752)
      A couple of buttons is certainly a tactile improvement to a touchscreen, but a volume knob would be better where practical. A button for the mute I agree with, especially if it stays depressed for mute, until you press it again. Force feedback is interesting but nothing beats good hardware for the more permanent aspects of a user interface.
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:10AM (#19983605)
      I agree. There's a saying for it already: 'There's a time and place for everything.' Buttons, like everything else, have proper uses and can be abused. It's up to the designer to design it properly.

      I just checked with my friend who has an iPhone, and it -does- have hard buttons for volume on the side. So as much as he hates them, he didn't go crazy.
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cadallin (863437) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:20AM (#19983737)
      Personally, I prefer a knob that's connected directly to a Potentiometer for volume control, but that's just me.
      • by HarvardAce (771954) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:54AM (#19985177) Homepage

        Personally, I prefer a knob that's connected directly to a Potentiometer for volume control, but that's just me.
        Only if it goes to 11.
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:22AM (#19983765) Journal
      No offense or anything, but every time I look at my home theater interface I want to go after it with a hammer. I work with complicated crap for a living, and I don't get a 1/10th of the performance I could get out of my system, because the interface is cluttered, busy, poorly labeled.

      Buttons that have one label are used in conjunction with different modes to change properties not reflected in the labeling of the button...Basically, you have to memorize the manual because the interface is the opposite of intuitive.

      It's that way with nearly all consumer electronics. There will be ten buttons but there will be a need for 30 buttons, to follow that button-centric design philosophy, but you can't put 30 buttons on it so the 10 buttons have to have 30 buttons worth of functionality, which means some buttons toggle the functionality of other buttons.

      So, in a nutshell, though I am not completely fond of Apple's obsession with minimalist controls, they do an infinitely better job on their crappiest product than any piece of home A/V equipment I've ever seen. One look at a universal remote will tell you that.
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes@xm s n e t.nl> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:26AM (#19983835)
      design high end interfaces for home theaters (where the remote it's self costs around $2500.00US or more.) and the number one thing my customers like is not the fancy graphics, cool animations or nicely laid out controls on the touchscreen.. but the VOLUME CONTROL HARD BUTTONS built into the side edge.

      A $2500 remote, and you make do with +/- buttons to adjust the volume? Augh! +/- buttons are a miserable way to adjust such an analogue function. Adjustment is either too slow (going up/down 1 dB per keypress) or too fast (when you hold the button down and the acceleration function kicks in).
      A linear slider or a rotary knob is much better: it allows both fine control, and huge, fast adjustments (without too much overshoot) when needed.

      As far as I know, there are only two remotes that get this right: the Philips SRU 9600 [philips.com], and Quad once had a remote like this.

      I'm using a Griffin Powermate [griffintechnology.com] to control the volume when watching TV on my computer. It's brilliant.
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:34AM (#19983949) Homepage

      but the VOLUME CONTROL HAD BUTTONS built into the side edge.
      This is an example of a bad use of buttons. Volume controls should be knobs or sliders, not buttons.
    • by mveloso (325617) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:36AM (#19983991)
      You're missing the point. Buttons are intuitive, until you have 85 of them, all of which do something obscure.

      The problem with buttons is they take up space - physical space and cognitive space. Watch a 65 year old try and use a modern A/V system remote, and they're totally lost. It's like looking at the cockpit of a 707.

      It's a problem, because while 90% of the people only use 10% of the features, you have to be able to access the other 90% of the features. How many times do you change the surround sound mode of your home stereo? I did it once per input, then never did it again. So why do those buttons still take up space on my remote?

      The harmony remote is one attempt at reducing the complexity - you trade complexity up front (you need to program the remote with your devices) for simplicity later. The above mentioned 65 year old had no problem watching TV with the harmony remote - on a system an order of magnitude more complicated than his.

      The higher-end models have almost no buttons; they have screens that overload. In fact, you really only need four or five for a TV remote: volume up, volume down, channel up, channel down, power, change input. Sure, the number keys are nice, but they aren't necessary.

      However, a more sophisticated remote costs more money. Simplicity always costs more up front, but pays off every day because there's less aggravation. Buttons are cheap. Removing buttons is expensive.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by valintin (30311)
      What your talking about is your customers reaction to a hundred button remote where they desperately want a simple interface for the two things they need most often. The don't want MORE buttons or hard buttons they want a simpler design that allows them to do just what they need with out all the clutter.

      With out buttons you can have context sensitive control. On a soft screen there would be a huge MUTE button every time the unit is left idle. And a simple slide your finger down the control would reduce v
    • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Informative)

      by CaptDeuce (84529) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:23AM (#19984735) Journal

      Buttons are intuitive

      The iPhone, just like the Mac, has plenty of buttons.

      There are just not many hardware buttons. Really. Bear with me...

      Compare the number of buttons in MS-DOS (or other CLI) interfaces against those on the Mac. The "menus" of a CLI interfacer are like menus at Chinese restaurant. Except, of course, with a CLI you can't point and say "I want this."

      But wait! There's more! A standard Microsoft alert dialog box -- Windows and Mac OS -- typically has a longwinded description of the problem and the same two buttons to respond with: No and Yes. I have an example right here from MS Word for Mac OS X:

      Continue with Save?

      This document may contain formating or password
      protection which will be lost when save in Text Only
      format. To preserve the original document, click No, and
      then save the document in Word format before converting.

      No Yes

      The line "Continue with Save" in itself is rather vague; the user must plow through a lengthly bit of prose (for a GUI) to ascertain just what is going to happen. I'm convinced that Microsoft if using FUD to bully the user to always save their documents in Word format. Changing from any other format to Word format never generates a scary warning.

      Contrast Microsoft buttons to Mac buttons using TextEdit. Changing an RTF document to text the dialog reads:

      Convert this document to plain text?

      If you convert this document, you will lose all text
      styles (such as fonts and colors) and document
      properties.

      Cancel OK

      The differences are striking:

      • The buttons Cancel and OK are used throughout the Mac interface and the meaning is always clear: OK means go and Cancel means stop.

        The meaning of Yes and No are only clear within context. In many, if not most, Microsoft applications, if you choose No, it may not stop, it may go on and do something different. I find most everybody tends to stop and read that lengthly prose to make sure what is going to happen if it's something they haven't done in a while; there's just too much information to gather in at a glance.
      • "Continue with save?" What's that going to do exactly? (This is one of the clearer Microsoft title question so it's not the best example).

        "Convert this document to plain text?" Ah, it's going to... well, the answer is in the question.

      Buttons? It's not how many that's important, it's how soft and clear they are.

  • Blemishes (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjonke (457707) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:51AM (#19983279) Journal
    Similarly, CmdrTaco considers editors to be blemishes that add complexity and hinder the clean aesthetics of Slashdot. He considers them to be blemishes that add complexity and hinder the clean aesthetics of Slashdot.
  • AT kleast in old Macs.
  • by Drew McKinney (1075313) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:52AM (#19983309) Journal
    Funny Jobs hates buttons. Because you know what I hate? Alternate Keypads [thebestpag...iverse.net].

    From the Best Site in the Universe: [thebestpag...iverse.net]
    On an iPhone, you have to press an additional button that opens up an alternate keypad that will allow you to type numbers and punctuation. So typing something as simple as elipses (...) requires you to tap your finger 9 times. Enjoy your phone, losers! People like me who have shit to do will stick to a keyboard that doesn't have its lips wrapped firmly to the user-interface equivalent of a throbbing dong
  • by madsheep (984404) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:52AM (#19983313) Homepage
    Note: This is *NOT* child or work-safe material, but is funny as hell whether you like the iPhone or not. If you haven't seen it and have a sense of humor..read on:

    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ip hone [thebestpag...iverse.net]
  • by jsse (254124) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:52AM (#19983317) Homepage Journal
    "While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics.....While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics. "

    CmdrTaco managed to break the record of fastest dupe by duping first sentence in the same headline.
  • by otacon (445694)
    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ip hone [thebestpag...iverse.net]

    Read the part about buttons...actually just read the whole thing.
    • What's the deal with three comments on one thread pointing to this juvenile spam-fest web-site and they are all modded up +3 or +5??? It's pretty clear that at least two of them are the same person, and really... how many people already out of high-school could there really be that find this funny?

      Is there some slashdot rule I am just finding out about how everyone here is twelve and likes to say "cock" a lot? Are we going to be assailed with right-wing propaganda and poo-poo jokes a la South Park on a da
  • I personally like tactile feedback. Maybe I have fat fingers, but the iPhone just did not work for me.

    Right click can be useful too. Maybe even center and scroll. Call me nutty, but form follows function.

    Maddox agrees:

    http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ip hone [thebestpag...iverse.net]
    • by mosch (204)
      Maybe I could learn to use the iPhone in time, but out of the box, I couldn't type on it at all. I assume my fingers were too large.

      That said, I loved the way everything except typing works on the iPhone. Everything is faster and easier than it is on my BlackBerry. Right up until the point where I want to use the keyboard.
  • Buttons as Features (Score:5, Informative)

    by martyb (196687) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:54AM (#19983353)
    FTFS:

    While many technology companies load their products up with buttons, Steve Jobs treats them as blemishes [CC] that add complexity and hinder their clean aesthetics.

    I see his point, but OTOH, there are times when buttons ARE preferable. I can text a message on my cellphone without looking at the phone because there is a tactile reference to where each key is located. This is quite handy (pun intended!) Try texting a message inconspicuously at your next boring meeting.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:55AM (#19983367) Journal
    Freak button accident when he was seven.

    It's no coincidence that he always wears a mock turtleneck sweater with no buttons to kill him on the front and a pair of zippered jeans.

    You think Ballmer's a nut, you should see Jobs talk to his employees: "For every button I find on this interface, I shall kill you ..."
  • by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @09:56AM (#19983387) Homepage Journal
    *looks into the future*

    How do you turn off the monitor?

    It's easy, you just use the touch screen button there.

    Oh, then how do you turn it back on? ...
  • buttons arent bad. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gad_zuki! (70830)
    I dont mind buttons at all. In fact I think the biggest mistake with the ipod is the lack of buttons. A quick and easy way to switch tracks AND volume should be required on all mp3 devices. Having to go through a menu system to change volume is silly. (not to mention the lack of FM)

    Granted, i dislike the typical A-B button and other shortcuts electronics manufacturers go through, but buttons can be done right. Its a shame no one is really trying. Softkeys can be a lot worse than buttons. Buttons should
    • A quick and easy way to switch tracks AND volume should be required on all mp3 devices. Having to go through a menu system to change volume is silly. (not to mention the lack of FM)

      Apple agrees with you. This is why they included two very real volume control switches on the side of the iPhone (small enough so they are not easy to accidentally change). And also why the headphones include a small clicker device that you can use to pause, play, or skip tracks.

      Aesthetics arent everything. For instance, i much
  • Tactile Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iBod (534920) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:01AM (#19983453)
    How can sight-impaired users make use of a buttonless phone?

    In the EU there is already legislation to make software, websites and devices accessible. The buttonless iPhone must score pretty low on the accessibility scale.
    • Re:Tactile Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tom (822) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:16AM (#19983675) Homepage Journal

      How can sight-impaired users make use of a buttonless phone?
      They can't.

      Why should the other 99% of the population abstain from it?

      I'm all for developing devices that make life easier for disabled people.
      I'm very strongly against making life more difficult or limited for the rest of us in order to cater to them.
    • Why do sight-impaired users need a $600 phone with video-playback and web-browsing capabilities?

      Seems like making carriers offer a phone actually targeted to the visually-impaired (maybe with text-to-speech webbrowsing and braille input) would be preferable to trying to force vendors of phones with explicitly visually-oriented features to move to accommodate a user base that would be poorly served by its useful feature/price ratio.

      It should be the carriers and not every single kind of phone that should supp
  • by neapolitan (1100101) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:01AM (#19983469)
    This is well in keeping with Apple's philosophy of often breaking convention for "minimalism," which has simply been met with mixed success.

    iMac -- made the "minimalist" move of omitting the floppy. I remember thinking at the time back in the late 90's this would create a data island, and being quite uncomfortable with the decision -- today, most would feel this was a smart move, and the ubiquitous USB drive has replaced the clunky floppy. Overall, a success.

    Mouse -- keeps on pushing the minimalist single button. I detest this, and know many people (linux, mac, and pc users) that feel the same. Another button simply adds to the functionality -- I right click several hundred times per day, and don't want combo presses or holding down to approximate this. Overall, I view this as a bad move.

    iPhone -- we'll see the verdict regarding this. I, for one, would appreciate a "hang up" button as I tend to push this a million times when I want to hang up... it is nice to have a solid feeling as you wait for the UI to respond. With a softkey, did you really hit it? Did the UI register it? You don't know without watching the screen. I view this as a bit extreme, but we will see if people complain. Buttons have their place when well-implemented.

    Can you imagine getting on a "soft-key" elevator? I think it would be cool at first, then really annoying.

    I'm happy that Apple pushes technology like this, but only in ways that force adoption of a better technology.

    Ah well, we can all "vote with our wallet..."
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Mouse -- keeps on pushing the minimalist single button. I detest this, and know many people (linux, mac, and pc users) that feel the same. Another button simply adds to the functionality -- I right click several hundred times per day, and don't want combo presses or holding down to approximate this. Overall, I view this as a bad move.

      The new apple mighty mouse (which comes with macs) does in fact come with two buttons, and the right one can be enabled my going into the system preferences and tellin
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Always wearing those black, buttonless turtlenecks. All his jeans have zippers only. And button flies are completely banned on any Apple campus.

    His unbridled hatred of buttons goes back to his childhood experience with a vending machine which consistently failed to deliver Andy Capp's Hot Fries, instead dropping the unwanted carrot sticks.
  • It's all balck, zippered Spandex for Steve!
  • The one big advantage with buttons is that they work the same for everyone. Touchscreens and touchpads on the other hand give different output depending on the physical characteristics (namely finger size) of the user.

    I used to share Mr. Jobs' disdain for buttons. Then I went out and bought an iPod Nano. I found that the touch-wheel on the Nano was unbearably sensitive, given my somewhat larger than average thumbs. There's no real way to tune the sensitivity of the touch-wheel, either, like you can with
  • It seems like the iPhone (which I'm still drooling over!) seem pretty hard to use for the blind. Some sort of non-visual feedback is pretty much required for them!
  • While this is a great idea for entering markets when you are no longer on the bleeding edge how easy is it to have no buttons when you are right on that edge. The two devices that he's done the most design work to remove buttons are the ipod, and the iphone. Neither of these were cutting edge when they came out.If anything this aversion to buttons has proven that you can develop market space in an already saturated marked by working to simplify the interface.

    Cell phones have been around a long time. People
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:17AM (#19983683)
    Steve Jobs doesn't hate buttons at all. The iPhone comes with more buttons than any other smart phone on the planet. What Jobs (and people at Apple in general) hate is "Genericy" (if that is even a word), as in buttons that aren't really tailored for any one use but serve multiple masters.

    The iPhone does in fact have five physical buttons - a sleep/wake button, a home button, a volume up/down button, and a silencer (OK, technically that's a switch).

    But then you are discounting the noise less real, even if lacking physical feedback, buttons that appear on the screen in each application, tailored to each task. If these are not real buttons, than neither are membrane style buttons as on the Timex-Sinclair ZX-81 of old.

    That tailoring is what Apple really likes, being able to arrange input aspects just so for each task. Perhaps the best example of this is the keyboard for the web browser on the iPhone; why have a space bar when entering URL's? This is replaced by "/" and ".com" keys which makes a tremendous amount of sense.

    Apple loves task focused UI, and a mostly virtual button approach allows them to get closer to that than would be otherwise possible on a smaller consumer device built to perform a number of very different tasks.
  • by kimvette (919543) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:18AM (#19983719) Homepage Journal
    For someone to have a wreck because they were paying attention to hitting the right "buttons" on the iPhone rather than the road. Normally I would not approve of such suits, but when with every other phone on the market one can dial by feel (because, you know, there are actual BUTTONS) and the iPhone can't, and buttons truly are a logical and intuitive solution for the UI for a telephone, I would welcome a suit against Apple citing a defective design.

    Yes, yes, I am all for personal responsibility, but I am also for sound design in products. Asthetics should take a back seat to functionality when it comes to appliances and gadgets. If he thinks buttons cannot be made attractive, may I point Jobs at practically every new(ish) phone on the market, particularly the Motorola Razr and the Samsung Sync.
    • Fewer presses (Score:3, Interesting)

      by SuperKendall (25149)
      I have fewer button presses to go through to make calls on an iPhone because it handles contacts really well. Being able just to glance down, see a contact name, and press that is much quicker and safer than full number entry on any phone with "real" buttons.
  • by ArtDent (83554) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:19AM (#19983731)
    Mr. Jobs' blind hatred of buttons is a mistake. Sure, appealing looking designs are important, but that has to be balanced against the function of the device. Inconspicuous looking buttons are nice, but lacking buttons altogether? Not so much.

    A perfect example is cited in the article: an elevator that has no buttons and stops on every floor. It's far less fucntional than an elevator with buttons. I don't like waiting unnecessarily. And if I were going from the top floor to the bottom floor, with no one else on the elevator, I would be fuming by the time I arrived.

    Another example is the iPod itself. The lack of an explicit power button, also mentioned in the article, isn't a big deal. But having no separate volume control really harms the usability of the device. While I'm listening to music, I don't want to have to look at the screen. But because volume and seeking within the track are loaded up on the same physical control, I have to watch the screen as I toggle between the two functions. It feels like a huge step back from my Rio Karma, where I could easily adjust the volume with a pair of buttons and use the thumb wheel to seek in the track. If I'm reading, walking, or watching the scenery while listening to music, it's a big inconvenience to have to move my eyes to the screen.

    The amount of time you spend navigating those menus is just sick. Want to enable shuffle? Navigate up to the root, down to options, back up to the root, and back down to your songs.

    Want to select a song and start playing it in a fresh on-the-go playlist and, while it's playing, add more songs to the queue? Navigate down to select the song, up to the root, down to play from the playlist, back up to the root, back down to select your next song. Fantastic!

    Now, of course, they could have made a more usable interface even with limited number of "buttons" they have. But it's easy to see that a couple more buttons would have helped immensely.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hcdejong (561314)
      But having no separate volume control really harms the usability of the device. While I'm listening to music, I don't want to have to look at the screen.

      And you don't. The default function of the click wheel is to change the volume. No looking necessary. Also, the click wheel offers much better control over the volume setting than +/- buttons would. With the click wheel, I can pretty much instantly set the correct volume for a song, unlike +/- buttons (see my other post [slashdot.org] in this discussion)

      Want to select a s
  • by Arcane_Rhino (769339) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:57AM (#19984351)
    He hates these buttons! Stay away from the buttons!
  • by drfrog (145882) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:15PM (#19985491) Homepage


    a touch screen is just a very complex button

    so jobs is doing away wiht buttons by making them more complex?

  • by stmfreak (230369) <stmfreak@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @04:30PM (#19988753) Journal
    There are a number of comments in here about how you cannot get rid of buttons because then how would we [press this button]? The posters neglect to imagine the innovation that comes from necessity. If you RTFA, it mentions that Jobs forbade arrow keys on the original Macintosh because he wanted to force developers to accommodate the mouse. You know what? It worked.

    With the iPhone, he's forcing developers to think of new ways to use a tactile screen. He's sprinkled the creative field with some suggestions. Touch to click, drag to scroll, flick to page. I'm sure there will be others. One poster wanted to know how you could turn volume up or down without a knob. Why not just draw a clockwise or counter-clockwise circle on the screen? Software can determine that motion from key presses. It's innovation waiting to happen.

    This sort of innovation through change and design is a good thing. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it's spectacular. Jobs is great because he keeps hitting this ball despite his failures. In time, we'll regard the iPhone as a success or failure, as a Mac or a Lisa, as an iPod or a Newton. But until then, try to remember that Jobs brings both to the table with regularity.
  • It's not a quirk (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Swift2001 (874553) on Thursday July 26, 2007 @02:01AM (#19993427)
    Look at the average smartphone. Understand that Apple wants a wide-screen iPod and a web browser, e-mail, etc. All of it good size. Touchscreen. Usable. Cover Flow. Motion sensor for horizontal or vertical page layout.

    Where do you put the friggin' keys? Lot easier to put them on the touch screen when you need them. It solves all the problems, as long as the typing goes well. My friends tell me they can type about 15 words a minute, after using it for a couple of weeks. Good enough?

    Yes, Jobs is a design freak. But he doesn't make monstrosities like the old Citroen 2CV -- cool but weird design -- but in Apple devices, form follows function. Don't know, for myself, if it works, except I was typing better than on my stupid Moto RAZR in five minutes in the Apple Store. For that little adaptation, you get movies, full-screen web, etc., and no keyboard that takes up valuable handheld real estate. Good enough for me. How many sentences do you write on a phone? Aren't mobile message something like. "Got yr message. Go ahead. Meet U at 4:00." It would be rotten trying to write a screenplay on, but uh--

    Now look at all the smartphones with keys. Type an e-mail, the keys are handy. (Though they don't go to horizontal when you turn a Blackberry, do they?) Surf the web, watch a movie, they shrink the available screen. Fold them up inside the phone and you've got thickness and heat problems. Go ahead, call him weird and a cultist. I think hating buttons is a good move.

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