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The biggest problem to me ... is that there are now so many features and functions on our phones that we don't know how to use, or even find, most of them.

Office Phones and Cell Phones

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I, like many of you, have a business phone system installed in my office. It has a lot of keys on it and I can do a lot of wonderful things with it. I can, of course, answer an incoming call and make an outgoing call, but I can also put together a two-way or three-way conference call, transfer a call, use the built-in intercom to talk to someone else in the office and much more.


But in order to do most of these things, I have to keep the instruction manual under the phone for easy reference because many of the functions I want to use but I don't use every day and I forget the procedure. My speed dials - I have two, one with numbers assigned to only my phone and one that is companywide which are basically unused because I finally programmed the fifteen keys on the front of the phone for the numbers I call the most, and I even labeled them.


It is the same with my wireless devices. Every new device I receive to try out works a little differently. Some phones let me take a picture and send it with three keystrokes (good) and some require six or eight (bad). I have been using a BlackBerry since 1996 and each model has more features and functionality along with a larger user manual. I don't know about you, but I don't have time to read about what these devices can do for me, so I learn as I go along, and sometimes I learn from others who have discovered something neat I didn't even know existed.


I have been carrying a particular mobile phone for almost a year now and have truly come to hate it. The form factor is great, the functionality is wonderful, but it takes so many clicks and keystrokes to operate that it is easier to simply talk on it and not do anything else with it. Send a photo to someone? Six keystrokes and after you send it off, does it ask if you want to store it or name it? No, even though these are things I would normally do when I take a photo―name it, save it, send it. Should be easy, should be simple, but it is not.


This phone has a two-position button on the side: Push it up and it performs one function, push it down and it performs the opposite function. Easy, sure, until you put the phone in vibrate mode (which I often do). Then, if the key is pushed down, it goes into silent mode. If it is pushed up, it rings (which is better-I have missed dozens of calls because I pushed the button the wrong direction). This is unlike other functions where you are asked to make a choice and answer "yes" when it asks if you really want to do this.


The biggest problem to me, however, is that there are now so many features and functions on our phones that we don't know how to use, or even find, most of them. Pearl and BlackBerry 8800 users, do you know you can control the speed of the track ball on the front? Do you know you can move the icons around on the screen? (I have been using a track wheel since 1996 and I really miss it, but I do love the 8800 form factor. What I really want is the 8800 with a track wheel on the side!)


One of my biggest gripes, and I have mentioned this before, is that I cannot use my desktop computer to set up my mobile phone. There are many menus, choices and sub-choices on the phone and I am trying to set everything up in spare moments. Why can't I simply sign onto my network operator's Website, type in my phone number and have an image of my phone and a series of menus presented to me on my computer screen? I could then peruse the menus, make choices and set options, personalizing my phone to take advantage of some of the features and functions I might otherwise miss. I know I can download ringtones, or ring-back tones and do a few other things to my phone, but why can't I set everything up on my PC like I do with my iPod where I can change anything and everything through my PC?


While I am on this subject, why can't I look for software I might want to use, try it out on my desktop and, if I like it, send it to my phone? Why can't I have software that works on my desktop and my handheld? One of the reasons we awarded Verizon Wireless the Andrew Seybold Choice Award for Most Innovative Business Application for Field Force Manager was because the program is set up and accessed via the Website and then the Website and handheld devices interact with each other in near-real time. This application is a great example of what I am talking about. Why can't I do this with other applications?


Why can't I use a Web interface to set up my phone when I buy it or to make changes whenever I want? Why can't I go to the Web and open a list of applications available for my phone and experiment with them on the Website until I decide which one I want to buy and then have it downloaded to my phone? If the application needs some of my data, why can't I enter it before I download it?


Alltel's CellTop was also one of our finalists. It is a great user interface, but it did not take top honors because Verizon Wireless offers a Web user interface and a Web-based program to interact with the handset portion. I believe the user experience is the most important element of any of these devices and the applications they can run.


There are more than a few navigation programs available on phones today and most of them are every bit as good, if not better, than the software in my navigation system in my car. But a few of them require that I enter the address of my destination via the phone. The ones that permit me to enter the address and other details on a Website and then download it to the phone are much more functional.


On several occasions, I have met with people who have showed me a great application and when I ask about Web access, their response is that it will be available in a "future" release. My contention is that, in these times of fierce competition, not having a Web-based method of trying the application and entering data when the product is first released may be the difference between a great product and an also-ran.


Retail sales people don't have enough time to help customers set up applications or to discuss what is available, or even to set up a new phone. Teens and twenty-somethings might take the time and trouble to figure out some of these things and how to change ringtones, download music or some of the other features. They are the ones being targeted by most of the operators and applications developers, but there are many of us over thirty who really want to be able to use our phones for more than voice calls and SMS messages.


I really want a good expense manager on my BlackBerry, but so far I have been unable to find one I can try on the Web and then download to the device. I want several other good applications I have seen, but entering the data on the phone is too cumbersome and too time-consuming so I will do without. I am sure that I would use my devices more for things other than voice and text messaging if I could have access to them via the Web and if I could try before I buy―not on the phone but on the Web, using a mock-up of the phone.


We are moving very slowly in this direction, and I guess that is my frustration. It is taking too long. We can interface the Web to anything, and there are those who believe that having the same Web on our phones as on our desktops is the killer application for wireless data. I would like to turn this around: The killer application for wireless data is being able to work through the options using a Web browser on the desktop when I have the time and inclination.


Andrew M. Seybold

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