I was out for Mexican food in San Francisco the other week with my friend Sara when something awful happened. I was struck by cell phone envy, the scourge of the technology-obsessed. But it wasn't just any kind of cell phone envy; it was ease-of-use cell phone envy.
It used to be that the latest, greatest, smallest cell phone -- add beaucoup points if Keanu used it in The Matrix -- gave you bragging rights. But Sara's had something more. Her phone was actually easy to use. If she wanted to dial someone's number, it took an average of only three button pushes. Partially, that was because the screen was big, but there were also external buttons for common activities, such as accessing the phone book or switching from ringer to silent vibrate mode.
By contrast, on my Motorola Star-tac, a flip phone, I have to push an average of 10 buttons to dial anyone's number; if you saw me, you'd think I was playing Space Invaders. That's because the phone book can store four numbers for each of 99 people, but getting to the point where you can dial one of them is very time-consuming and uses a variety of different buttons.
Again, 10 button presses. I bought the phone because it was small, but now I want a new one. Is it crazy to have to trade size for functionality? Does all this upset anyone else? What did you choose?
This story, "Cell phone envy grabs Gadget Guy" was originally published by Computerworld.