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Steve Jobs Hates Buttons 713

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 grahamsz ( 150076 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:50AM (#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:Buttons!? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @10:54AM (#19983337)
    This is kind of stupid considering that the buttons are now just internal to the system. I thought it was going to be some comparison with the click wheel or something. Aaaargh I'm getting dragged into another Apple conversation on Slashdot. Why God, why!?
  • Tactile Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iBod ( 534920 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:01AM (#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.
  • by smurphmeister ( 1132881 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:05AM (#19983525)
    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!
  • by CanadaIsCold ( 1079483 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:07AM (#19983555)
    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 should be working to simplify them now. However I still like my cell phone with buttons from last year because I could call people before the iPhone released.
  • Re:Tactile Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:16AM (#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.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:17AM (#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 @11:18AM (#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.
  • by Dick McBeefy ( 1098175 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:20AM (#19983735)
    Apple Inc. shares fell as much as 5 percent Tuesday after AT&T said it activated 146,000 iPhones during the first few days of the highly-anticipated product's launch, far less than Wall Street's initial sales estimates.

  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cadallin ( 863437 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:20AM (#19983737)
    Personally, I prefer a knob that's connected directly to a Potentiometer for volume control, but that's just me.
  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:23AM (#19983769)
    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 prefer a thumb keyboard than a virtual one.

    And I greatly prefer a tailored virtual keyboard to the tiny thumb keyboards. Once you get used to it, I simply can't image why you'd prefer "real" buttons that cannot change according to task to present a better layout.
  • by snowwrestler ( 896305 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:28AM (#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.
  • by MonorailCat ( 1104823 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @11:37AM (#19984001)
    I wholeheartedly agree. This strikes me as an egregious example of 'form over function'. The same thing is happening in the world of digital photography (a casual hobby of mine), menu-driven interfaces are replacing dedicated buttons for many frequently changed parameters in an attempt to make the devices more clean-looking, or leave room for increasingly larger screens (I think there's some cost-savings at work too...). The downside to this is digging through menus can not be done by touch, and takes longer than pressing a few buttons, the delay often being the difference between missing a picture and getting it.

    No matter how slick an interface is, for almost all my electronics, I'd rather have a button for primary functions.
  • by Jeremy_Bee ( 1064620 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:08PM (#19984487)
    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 daily basis now?

    If this kind of overt spamming/gaming of the thread can happen on slashdot, what's the point of even trying to moderate at all?
  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:26PM (#19984779)
    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)
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by geoffspear ( 692508 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:36PM (#19984923) Homepage
    Unless you can provide fMRI evidence that you can concentrate just fine while carrying on a conversation, I'm going to have to assume you're delusional and completely full of shit.
  • by McFly777 ( 23881 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:55PM (#19985205) Homepage
    Interesting articles (particularly the item that it takes 15 minutes after finishing the call before the effect on driving reduces) but there are more recent studies that show that talking with ANYONE, even a passenger in the car, is just as bad as using a handsfree cell phone.

    So while it is obvious that having a handsfree device is better than occupying your hand with the cellphone (don't get me started about people who smoke while driving), unless you completly separate the driver from the passengers you haven't solved the problem. Even then, I often talk with my wife (in person or on the handsfree cellphone) to help keep myself awake on cross country drives, so I am not sure that would be an improvement.
  • Re:Buttons!? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by brian_tanner ( 1022773 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @12:58PM (#19985275)

    Great. So those of us who are able to drive and talk safely should suffer with the rest of you?
    I'm not choosing a side here, because I talk on my phone while driving. However, I believe there are studies that show that the activity of talking on the phone (even hands free) is distracting, and possibly moreso than talking to a passenger.

    If those things are true, will "I drive better on the phone than most people drive not on the phone" soon be treated like "I drive better drunk than most people do sober."?
  • Re:Problem is.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:08PM (#19985393) Homepage
    That is YOUR home theater interface.

    Mine are not like that. for the wife of the client,I have a "WATCH A MOVIE" button that automatically sets everything up and brings her to the DVD selection pages so she can browse and select the DVD in ne of the 3 300 disc changers to watch. same for Watch TV that presents her with graphical icons of her favorite channels and a little scrolling window of what is on right now on her favorite channels.

    That is why the Control system was $8,000.00 ($2500.00 remote, $3400.00 control processor, plus lighting control, and other items to make sure that no matter what button you push the system just plain old works.

    Investigate Crestron, It will blow your mind with what it can do.
  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @01:50PM (#19985981) Homepage Journal
    You know...I think it is because of 'lack of training'.

    Back when I was a teen, you HAD to learn to drive with a multitude of distractions. We used to joke that the driving test for gals would be driving while putting the makeup on...but, for guys, you had to pass the driving test consisting of driving down the street with a beer can in your lap, a cigarette in one hand while you shifted gears and fiddled with the stereo with the other one.

    It got even more complex if your girlfriend was in the front seat with ya...as that you were also trying to keep an hand on her too...


    Bah...if you learned to drive like the old days....adding a cellphone to the mix is nothing!!

  • Fewer presses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday July 25, 2007 @03:06PM (#19986973)
    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.

"Well, it don't make the sun shine, but at least it don't deepen the shit." -- Straiter Empy, in _Riddley_Walker_ by Russell Hoban