Cell Phones are a Disappointment

Cell phones continue to disappoint me. I've had my Verizon Wireless cell phone for the past two years. It's been alright and I was excited to upgrade to something smaller, slimmer, and faster, yet I found myself wanting more. Why do I get so little out of the phone and the phone service? A few weeks ago I received my new phone the KRZR after doing a bit of research and reading some positive reviews. It looked nice and it was much slimmer than my Motorola E815, but it lacked so many of the features that I had expected. Maybe my term features isn't the best way to describe it. My biggest disappointment is the user interface and the way I interact with the phone; I consider the interface to be the single most important feature to any phone.

However, no phone has on the box: easy to use or great interface, because it's not something they use to sell the phone. Instead what's used to sell the phone are technology sound bits like "blue-tooth", "1.3 Mega pixel Camera", etc. I'm not sure where the problem lies, but I'm starting to think that it's Verizon which is ruining my phone experience. The new interface that they've developed for the KRZR and just about every other new Verizon phone I've seen is terrible. I feel like I've taken 10 steps backwards from my old phone. I'm going to list my complaints and discuss them below:

1. All I see is red. Why do I have to look at the red bars on the top and bottom of every screen? I should be able to remove them or to change them, yet I can't find any such option. These bars help create an ugly interface.

2. "Ok". So that's about the only option I get on almost every menu screen. What happened to "Back", "Cancel", "Yes", "No", or "Menu"? "Ok" doesn't answer every question that I have when I'm using the phones numerous options, many options are just assumed to be known to the user which is a terrible design. You literally have to play guess and check to see what a button does. I even went as far as reading some of the manual to find options, but I found that these were not discussed (Yes I do read manuals).

3. There is no ability to silence the phone when the flip cover is closed. The side buttons that Motorola provides are completely useless. Woah. I'm sorry but the lack of such a feature is a huge hit to the phone. I'm on the go all the time between different meetings, classes, and presentations. I need a phone that allows me to quickly change the sound options. And what happen to my option to vibrate and then ring?

4. Themes aren't themes, they're color gradients in the menus. I was able to change the way the buttons and menus looked on my old phone, but the new phone provided no such option. Hire a graphic designer to create a set of buttons and menus to make a phone visually pleasing.

5. Backup Assistant? While the concept is a great idea, it really misses the mark. I have all my contacts in groups on my old phone and when I went to move them over everyone landed in one huge group. That's not very helpful and now I have to go back in and regroup everyone. I have over 217 contacts, that's not something that can be done in 30 seconds. When I went back to my old phone (Switched the ESM associated with my Verizon account) Backup Assistant can't sync up anymore. Apparently it wasn't robust enough to handle situations in which a user switches to a new phone, adds a contact, switches back to a previous phone, adds more contacts, and then tries to backup the contact list. I now get an error that prevents me from doing anything useful (like backing up my contacts).

I'm turned off from purchasing a new phone from Verizon almost completely. I signed up for a 2 year agreement and paid $50 for the KRZR and it's not worth either of those payments. I've switched back to my old phone and I'm sending the new phone back and switching back to my old contract. I have no incentive to stay with Verizon beyond the "IN minutes" which helps when I'm calling family or friends with Verizon phones. Instead I'd like to look at future options. The iPhone is probably the only phone on the market that has my attention. I found a good discussion from Bruce Tognazzini at iPhone Interface

Beyond that I'm looking into what Google is beginning to offer, which warrants it's own discussion. Google has just released the Andriod Mobile Phone Operating System SDK It's a software development kit for programmers to develop their own applications for smart phones. With Google's help and it's current bid for the 700MHz spectrum I think we'll begin to see phones that are actually worth the money and the features that they advertise. The promise for the system is it's openness in allowing anyone to customize the different parts of the interface or applications. You could rewrite the way in which the phone makes a call if you didn't feel like Google did a good job.

Hopefully some day I can own a phone that I'm actually proud of using.