Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nokia xPress 5610--Failing on the Fundamentals

My new cell phone, a Nokia xPress 5610, looks pretty cool, since it is so small and slim.

Unfortunately, all the effort seems to have gone into cramming all the expected features of a contemporary phone, into this tiny package. What seems completely lost is useability as a phone! (Unless perhaps all Nokias work like this--this is my first Nokia in years--in which case it is solely the fault of bad design, and not attributable only to the super-small form factor).

The general theme is waaaay too many button presses to do anything. The best example is mute--a crucial feature in a cell phone. Should be 1 easy click to mute/un-mute, and it should be obvious, at a glance, whether the phone is muted. Not here--to activate mute you have to: 1) invoke the menu; 2) navigate to the Mute option; 3) click Mute.

There are many other examples. Another thing that should be very, very easy is putting the phone on vibrate. In my prior phones, you could do this by just holding the volume switch down. On the Nokia, it requires: 1) access the menu (or, if you set it up, the shortcut); 2) click the menu option for "profiles"; 3) that brings you to a choice of profiles, you have to navigate to the one you want; 4) click the one you want; 5) here is the worst part--after you click it, you have to select "activate".

The whole thing is bad, but even half-way software competent design would eliminate step #5--activate is what you access 99% of the time, so it is what you get when you do a full "click" on the profile. IF you want to do something else (that would be the obscure actions of Customize or Timed), well, that is what the soft buttons are for!

The phone is billed as a "music" phone, but it really doesn't do anything special in that regard, either. As far as I can tell, slapping 3 buttons--fast forward, pause, rewind--on the outside makes it a music phone. The only one of those that is particularly useful is the pause button, which could as easily just be replaced by the center click. And that seemingly uses up all available space for external buttons, so the other stuff that is usually activated by them--camera, voice recorder--is all buried within the standard menu. UPDATE: In fact, the buttons are more of a bug, because they are easily activated a la "butt calls"--an unforgivably, there is no option to lock the handset during music mode. That is just plain stupid.

This phone is like an uncomfortable, unreliable car that you buy just for its looks. I would not recommend it or pick it again (I knew I hadn't done enough research, but took a chance). It violates the basic commandment of design--above all else, do the essentials well.

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