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Windows Mobile, the iPhone, and Usability



As an HTC Mogul/Windows Mobile user, I can’t help but feel a little envious at the horde of sleek iphone-toting masses that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Coffee shop hipsters, grandmas and even little kids flash their iphones everywhere I go.

I certainly am pleased with the level of service I get with my phone. I use it to send email, look up directions and browse the internet now and again when I’m waiting in the doctor’s office. So what’s with the iPhone envy? Surprisingly, it’s not the marketing fad and it’s not the sweet form factor of the phone that I envy. What I envy is usability.

Navigating the iPhone is intuitive. Bright colors, big buttons, smooth transitions. Spend a few minutes with it and you know how to get to exactly what you want to get to on your phone every time. Windows Mobile? Not so much. Using the stylus to navigate feels like working a Windows desktop with a broken mouse. The tiny scroll bars make touch screen navigation a pain. It makes getting to things on your phone feel clunky and harder than it should be. Don’t even get me started on the browsers. It took Windows ages to add a zoom feature to Internet Explorer Mobile, a feature that—surprise—is clunky and not as useful as it could/should be.

Windows Mobile users will go on and on about how they can mod their phones and write their own programs and download free software, all of which is true. I use a few applications on my phone, but they’re mostly interface modification to make using the phone easier. Ironically, one of the most popular application packs for Windows Mobile users is a suite of software to make your WM interface look like the iPhone’s.

I still love my Mogul, but I’m looking forward to seeing how Windows improves overall usability of the interface with Windows Mobile 7, and I’m definitely  keeping an eye on Android from Google.

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