Apple’s recent release of the iPhone 4 saw the Cupertino company make a blunder usually seen from other consumer product companies, rarely seen from Apple. The first rule of successful product development is to design your product the way people will use it, not how you want them to use it. It is an ongoing argument I have with most developers I’ve worked with. They see a simple solution to a user interface issue that will require users to learn how to use the interface in a different way than they had been. My retort is always: “But that’s not how they will use it”. We consumers are not stupid, but we don’t like to learn new things. When we do learn new things we want it to be a seamless approach, otherwise we balk. Apple forgot this lessen sometime in the last year.
Apple’s iPhone was certainly a new class of product; it used multitouch, it had sliding screens, no multi-tasking. But it was intuitive. My 1 1/2 year old’s favorite pastime is flipping through pictures or typing on both my iPhone and iPad. Despite the fact that multitouch was new, it was intuitive Even turning the device on for the first time was intuitive: you click on the big button, slide the button that says slide, and you’re in. Flipping the pages of your iPhone was like flipping the pages of a book.
The recent release of the iPhone 4 goes against the intuitive design sense that we’ve come to expect of Apple: if you hold it wrong, you’ll lose signal.
Now, according to Apple this is only happening to .5% of users and the media is blowing it up. (The takeaway from this should be that early adopters have big mouths, hate when things don’t work and are very adept at showing their displeasure through social media.) Steve Jobs says all mobile devices suffer from the same issue of signal degradation when a user cups the phone in it’s hand. Well, it didn’t have that much effect on my old Sony Ericsson that I discarded 5 years ago. Even if this is true as many antenna experts claim, the signal degradation was minimal or this would be old news. Apple’s second claim is that users, when holding the iPhone incorrectly, bridged the 2 antennae that make up the infrastructure of the phone. That makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is Apple’s assertion of users holding the phone wrong. This goes back to user experience and intuitive design: users will hold the phone the way they want, designers must make allowances for this behavior. Whether you’re a lefty or a righty we all hold a cell phone in a similar way. This doesn’t come from comScore or PEW, just a brief survey of people I know with cell phones, Apple or otherwise.
For some reason Apple decided to break up their 2-antenna frame at a key point where human hands would be gripping their product, thus causing the signals to be bridged and not work effectively.
It seems to me that common sense, with a healthy dose of real world observation would have given them a pretty obvious solution to the problem: change where the antennae break is located to a location that isn’t normally a point of contact for the human hand. Now, I don’t know much about mobile device development or antennae, but the problem, at least from reports from techblogs and Apple itself, seems pretty simple: avoid bridging the antennae. Does this help?