Thursday, November 01, 2007

Why Doesn't Everyone Do This?

Mobile phones are highly personal objects, and as a result, getting a new one - no matter how great it is - can be traumatic in some ways. You have a lot to relearn. How do I add that person to my contacts? How do I swap calls when I get another call coming in? How does the conference calling work? Whoops, that button hangs up the phone (sorry, whoever I was talking to). What's that button on the side?

And when using an operating system designed to cram information into a tiny screen, and that relies on a couple of multipurpose buttons for input, it's obviously challenging for the developers too. So there are two problems: deciding whether you'll really like a phone, or wind up hating it after using it a couple of months, and learning all that stuff when you get a new phone.

I'm in the "now that I know it I hate it" phase with my phone and am thinking of getting an iPhone. And so I actually sat and watched the twenty-minute "guided tour" video that Apple's got on their web site.

You know what? Not only is it a good sales piece, it's something that I wish I could have watched for every phone I've ever used.

As I watched, I thought about thumbing through a Motorola phone manual once upon a time to figure out how things worked (usually finding that "this service is carrier dependent, so go figure it out yourself" for many of my questions), and thought, Why didn't they do this? (Especially since Motorola generally makes lovely hardware with demented software.)

Yes, it's a sales piece - but it manages to tell you how to do everything. Make a call, take a call, switch calls, conference people together, add people to your contacts, use other applications while talking to somebody, get your email, send a text message, and so on.

It's very handy for a potential buyer because it gives you a real sense of what using the phone will be like - not 100%, of course, but more than you'll get playing with it in the store for ten minutes. And if you've just taken one out of the box, it's the twenty minute "here are all the basics you need" primer that is notably absent from other phones.

I've railed in the past about dumb use of video to present information better communicated in text. This is the opposite; this is an excellent use of video to show you things that would sound complicated in print. If I get an iPhone the first thing I'll do is sit down, phone in hand, and watch it again and follow it along, and I think it will help me avoid the "first week of new phone" issues of hanging up on people, missing calls, and so on.

The thing is... it's so obvious. Why isn't there one of these for every phone that has more than basic calling functions (which is to say, pretty much every phone)?

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