Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Three reasons the iPhone is more dumbphone than smartphone

3gsAfter six (sometimes) productive years, I abandoned the sinking ship that is BlackBerry last week. In it’s place, I upgraded to the “magical,” status-enhancing iPhone.

As early adopters discovered a few years ago, it’s more than a phone: it’s the greatest piece of personal technology ever invented. Phone, texter, navigator, iPod, mini TV, game console, digital assistant, e-reader, and tiny computer all in one. Not only did it serve as the inspiration for the more popular Android clone, the iPhone is the more organic and less painful version of touchscreen phones, i.e. not unlike what Macs often are to Windows machines.

Of course, like all smartphones, the iPhone can be a total drag on your analog life if you don’t set limits. (In my case, that means shunning a data plan, turning off all alerts except for voice calls, staying away from it as much as possible on nights and weekends, and only connecting to the internet when I need it, as opposed to the more common always-on, always wired, and always distracting “push” internet mode. More on that in my forthcoming book.)

But the iPhone gets a whole lot more right than it gets wrong. In fact, I count only three usability flaws on the device:

  1. No hands-free notification (i.e. blinking alerts). It’s dumb that the iPhone is incapable of alerting its user that it missed something of importance, particularly a text or voice call, while said user was away. Blackberry pioneered this with a convenient but discreet blinking red light. Android rightfully followed. As is, the narcissistic iPhone always wants you to pick it up, rather than saying, “Nothing to see here, carry on with your more interesting life instead of wasting your time on me.”
  2. No native speed dial. From a usability standpoint, a “smart” phone should get the user to its desired destination as quickly as possible. In the case of speed dial, it takes the iPhone a minium of 4-5 actions if you’ve setup phone favorites—twice that of Blackberry. It takes even more actions when calling, swiping, or searching for less frequent contacts. This is a waste of time. So long as it has “phone” in its name, the iPhone should remember that as a primary goal. I’m not exactly sure how to solve this pickle, and overall I don’t miss the Blackberry’s physical keyboard (which facilites its superior speed dial) because I don’t type a lot on my phone. But Apple would be wise to address this natively in a future update.
  3. No auto on/off. I realize that the majority of people who willingly enslave themselves to their smartphone might not use this feature in the first place. But it does wonders for your battery, not to mention your nocturnal sanity. Previously, my Blackberry would power itself down promptly at 11 pm, and wouldn’t turn back on until 8:00am. It was an absolute manifestation of my “little to no alert” policy. The ultimate “bug off” gesture to an unhealthily obsessed online world. I miss this feature.