Gadget Lust Continues

A perfect Saturday morning: hot espresso-ish coffee from my new strange gadgety Senso coffee maker and my beloved powerbook — so I can spend the morning doing all the recreational web-surfing I don’t have time for during the week.

A couple weeks ago my Lucky Goldstar cell phone died and I needed a new one, so I went out and bought the cheapest clamshell Verizon sells, a Motorola something or other. And right there is an immediate peeve: nowhere on the phone does it indicate what the model number is. I can’t figure out how to get the speaker phone to work, and I was trying to look it up online, but I can’t figure out what model my phone is. Motorola’s website doesn’t list it in the visual catalog of phones; neither does Verizon. So how the heck did I get this phone?

Before I launch into a long rant about what’s wrong with cell phones, let me disclose that I’ve already got a Sidekick II, which I love almost as much as my Powerbook. So it’s serious. But the T-mobile service doesn’t have great cell phone coverage (although constantly improving…!), and Verizon has got me locked into this killer contract, so I just decided it was going to be easier to have two phones until my Verizon contract dies in nine months. Plus, I got the Sidekick mostly for email, instant messaging, and calendaring, which it does exceptionally well.

In any case, my first Motorola cell phone, about four years ago, was well-designed and easy to use. When I moved to Vermont, I switched services from T-Mobile (which has the best phones) to Verizon (the only carrier in Vermont at the time). When I switched, I also switched phones. Verizon didn’t support the phone I already had, so I went with what appeared to be a similar model, but with a color screen. Boy, was that a mistake. The new Motorola operating system for the cell phone was impossible to use. I was stunned at how much harder little things were — adding a new number, making calls, conferencing people in, sending text messages — it was like they had taken a great user interface and purposefully designed it’s antithesis, a miserable impossible interface for a fairly sophisticated device. Moreover, the run time was miserable — searching my address book took a ridiculously long time.

Yes, I spend too much time with my gadgets. Please let me continue my rant.

I reached maximum frustration with the phone within a month of purchasing it, but by now it was too late and I couldn’t afford to buy a new phone, so I just lived with a boiling rage towards Motorola. After about six months, it died. When I took it to the store, they said I just “used it too much”. (I do average about 5,000 minutes a month). So after a great deal of obsessive research and testing, I bought an LG phone — the LG 4500 — and I loved it. I could even backup my numbers to my laptop! It was a match made in heaven.

But a couple weeks ago the LG died, and I needed a new phone quick, and man! cell phones are expensive, so I just got the cheapest clamshell I could. (I cannot under any circumstances use cell phones that aren’t clam shell designs. I don’t know why. That’s just how it is.) It was a Motorola, but I figured it had been a couple years so maybe they’ve improved the UI design and it won’t be so frustrating to use.

Not really.

The new phone is slightly improved in terms of user interface — it certainly runs faster — but it’s still impossibly counter-intuitive to do simple things. Which leads me to the main point of this entire blog post: I’ve started a Flickr account. The new phone has a camera, and I’ve started snapping shots and sending them to my Flickr feed. But therein lies the problem: whereas with my Sidekick, sending a photo to the feed is a one-click process, on the Motorola it takes seven or eight clicks, and it is prone to get screwed up. I am stunned and how impossible to use they’ve made many of their features.

I just don’t understand why cell phones are so hard to use. You’d think by now they’d have been around long enough for some serious advances in user interface design, but apparently not. Who is designing these things anyway? I’m going to add “design a better cell phone interface” to my dream projects list. I just get annoyed with most of the interfaces. In fact, that’s generally my problem with most gadgets and tech things — poor user interface design. It’s why I switched from Windows to Mac — OS X is a more considered, more carefully designed user interface that makes the computer infinitely easier to use in a thousand small ways that all add up. It’s why TiVo is so much better than the crappy DVR box Comcast gave me for free. Design is everything.

Anyhow, at some point I’m going to figure out how to rig up a feed of my flickr photos to this blog, so I can have a MoBlog and be just like Jim, who’s much cooler than me anyway.

But besides setting up a Flickr account and catching up on my blog reading, I’ve also been spending the morning in desperate bidding wars on eBay for a Roomba robot. The best part about moving into my new apartment earlier this month has been the gadget outfitting process. Furniture? Forget it. Senso, Roomba, flat panel speakers, bluetooth keyboard, playstation 2 complete with double DDR pads for dance offs, old school atari, flat-tube television, rain-style showerhead, soniccare toothbrush, very gadgety humidifier, even more gadgety microwave, DVR, digital cable, all the lamps in the house rigged to the clapper, vonage telephone — yes. Sofa? Chairs? Bed? Groceries? Maybe later.

3 Responses to “Gadget Lust Continues”

  1. Aunt Mary Ann Says:

    Hey Nicco,

    Three words for the cell phone problem: get a blackberry! You can probably write it off – or most of it – as a business expense.

    Aunt MA

  2. Anne Says:

    this reminds me, have you seen Paul Fetter’s photography?

    he is a great photographer. a friend worked for him and i started looking at his pictures — he has this cool calendar where he posts the best pictures of the day.

    i like his wit and range and skill — look at the main page. there’s something that really jives for me in his work, and i’ve been meaning to point him out to you!

  3. Misho Says:

    Good blog

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