The same problem exists with hardware as well. I'm specifically thinking of the kitchen, but I've encountered it in many places. I recently moved into an apartment with 'modern' appliances have substituted buttons for flat surfaces you press or knobs that are difficult and unintuitive. For the first time - I had to read the manual to figure out how to work my refrigerator, range, and microwave.
Buttons are intuitive, easy to use, and when they do not work it becomes apparent that something is broken or faulty. Why are we getting rid of them?
> Now, why do we need a revolutionary user interface. Here’s four smartphones, right? Motorola Q, the BlackBerry, Palm Treo, Nokia E62 — the usual suspects. And, what’s wrong with their user interfaces? Well, the problem with them is really sort of in the bottom 40 there. It’s this stuff right there. They all have these keyboards that are there whether or not you need them to be there. And they all have these control buttons that are fixed in plastic and are the same for every application. Well, every application wants a slightly different user interface, a slightly optimized set of buttons, just for it.
> And what happens if you think of a great idea six months from now? You can’t run around and add a button to these things. They’re already shipped. So what do you do? It doesn’t work because the buttons and the controls can’t change. They can’t change for each application, and they can’t change down the road if you think of another great idea you want to add to this product.
> Well, how do you solve this? Hmm. It turns out, we have solved it. We solved in computers 20 years ago. We solved it with a bit-mapped screen that could display anything we want. Put any user interface up. And a pointing device. We solved it with the mouse. We solved this problem. So how are we going to take this to a mobile device? What we’re going to do is get rid of all these buttons and just make a giant screen.
Thankfully some sanity has reigned in car interiors and the manufacturers have realised the benefits to tactile feedback. He might be right when screens can reconfigure themselves with raised sections. Or mind control I guess.
Many things worked fine 30 years ago and yet have been immeasurably improved since - it's a tempting argument to not fix that which isn't broken, but ultimately a weak one. Also, there is little point in comparing computers, phones and car interiors. Incorporating physical buttons on phones involves a significant trade-off that is not an issue with computers. Car interiors are a different matter entirely. A more appropriate comparison might be conventional TV remotes vs the Apple TV remote. I've found the latter to be much more user friendly and intuitive.
I'm going to have to call shenanigans on this one. Sure, it's an alright attitude to have towards non-essential parts of your life/consumer experience, but imagine if mission critical stuff (like, flight consoles) changed on a regular basis - that would be completely insane.
For phones and tablets I prefer the giant screen approach.
A lot of HN users seem only to write in English. I write in three languages, one of which is very different from the other two. Using one keyboard is possible on a PC, but would make for a lousy experience on a smartphone where the ideal layout for high speed typing in that latter language has nothing to do with the typical keyboard layout. To transplant this language's layout on to a shrunken down imitation of a full keyboard would be a productivity loss. This is a scenario where a physical keyboard on the phone would be a hinderance, not a help.
And that's not even considering many languages that are similar, use the same alphabet, or whatnot. They might be able to get away with the same physical layout, but now the manufacturers have to decide whether to print the legends on or near the keys with the standard US layout, UK layout, French AZERTY layout, and other layouts specific to each region, sometimes at great expense for relatively small markets.
That is if they can fit all the legends in. Some languages will still need a visible set of Roman characters, so not only will the local language's characters be printed on or near the letters, but so will the standard QWERTY layout, taking up valuable physical space, possibly necessitating a smaller phone.
I'm not mentioning what specific language I used that's quicker to type on a keyboard layout other than the standard PC one because it doesn't matter: it is within our capabilities to not have to manufacture a hundred different configurations of physical keyboard for smartphones and tablets for years, long before the arrival of the iPhone and iPad. Nobody needs to know what language it is because it doesn't matter: those who don't even vaguely consider the needs of international audiences as being first class, on the same level as the needs of US English users, don't have even the beginning of an understanding of designing products for international audiences.
The whole /world/ uses smartphones with touch screens. Not just business users, not just executives on meandering lunch breaks with their Blackberries; every day actual people who don't want to be bothered with which SKU to get in order to fully support their language, who don't touch type on regular keyboards let alone tiny ones, children, grandparents, and everything in between.
A touch screen is a bit better than a mouse for lots of stuff and it preserves the discoverability of a mouse-based UI. Unfortunately it retains the drawbacks of a mouse based ui. Worse is that there is no fixed controller on a smartphone that might allow faster interaction w/ apps. This is where I think we are getting in trouble. In a traditional computer setup, you interact with the mouse when you are learning new software, and eventually transition to using a keyboard more and more. With touch based stuff, it seems like when an app is first released it has a simple, discoverable UI. But over time, as people become comfortable w/ the app, its UI becomes less approachable to suit the needs of more expert users and new users are left behind (snapchat for example).
In my opinion a touch screen is fine for consumptive devices where many different UI elements are required and input is light. Creative devices should have a fixed controller like a keyboard, joystick, etc.
I think mice are excellent, and I think their longevity has proven that people like them, understand well how to use them, and that they are very useful for many computer tasks.
Touchscreens and digitizer tablets and trackballs and all sorts of alternate input methods have existed for thirty years or more, yet they have never broke into the mainstream on desktop computers for anything but niche applications.
The ergonomics and precision of a touchscreen on a desktop or laptop computer are generally abysmal. I can easily move my mouse one pixel at a time when doing graphics work and such with a mouse. Stuff like this is impossible with a touchscreen and big clumsy fingers.
Creative devices should have a fixed controller like a keyboard, joystick, etc.
Or maybe a mouse...
Mice are great. They can be used for drawing, dragging, context menus, scrolling, and to quickly and precisely select and manipulate distant controls. Those things are significantly more tedious when performed with a keyboard, or require pre-configured hotkeys. The mouse has stuck around for a reason.
With a mouse, you can use any application right away with no learning curve, and also interact with the content itself better than with a keyboard.
No. This is wrong. The mouse is faster. Apple did that research, too -- and the mouse won every time:
Recognizing and pointing is always faster than remembering command sequences you have to press/type in. It imposes less of a cognitive burden too, which means you can focus more on the task you're doing and less on the interface itself.
Apple absolutely made the right call with a mouse-centric UI in 1984 and they made the right call with touch in 2007. That's why they're Apple -- you don't become the most successful and influential tech company in the world by making stupid choices.
Apparently he said once (a looooooong time ago) that a mouse is a useless device and nobody would need one. So with the use of the touch-screens mouse use will be reduced.
I have to say that although my laptop does have a very good touch-screen, I still use my mouse for 80% of the actions. Perhaps when browsing or changing windows (to continue browing) I may be using my fingers. But try to select text and change it to Bold on Word, when on the highest possible screen resolution, and well.. you know what happens.
Of course for small portable devices, such as a phone, to write a small note it 'good enough' when using the software keyboard, and the fact that the usual mode on smartphones is 'one-app-at-a-time' displayed on the screen, makes for a simpler UI and UX.
They solved the problem... by putting "exit, maximize, minimize" buttons at the top-right (or top-left) of every window. By putting "file, view, edit" dropdowns at the top-left of ever application. By putting "back, forward, refresh" at the top of the browser.
And even then they don't align to the on-screen text.
There is no reason for the screen text not to align to the buttons other than sloppy design.
I have a phone with a knurled power button, and a smooth flashlight button next to it. It's a minor example, but dynamically remapping those buttons would destroy a lot of their utility for me.
Buttons on the side of the screen are not the correct user interface for all activities, as an example they would be inconvenient for browsing the web  and useless to sign for delivery of a parcel.
 ...but not impossible: number the links on the screen as if they are footnotes, number the buttons on the side, click the button which lies next to the desired number. If there are more links than there are buttons the last button can be used to select the next set of numbers. If there are zillions of links the last two buttons can be used to page through sets of numbers. Inconvenient, maybe, but it would work.
Where he was wrong is that professional use requires muscle memory to build mastery of the tool, and that the flexible nature of touchscreens fundamentally prevent people from developing muscle memory. Professionals derive enormous benefit from fixed-button interfaces that are impediments or limitations for the mass consumer market.
(Automobiles are the main exception to this rule, since they require blind usability, but most consumer products don't require blind usability.)
Those have existed for decades with the same functions and each one of them does a particular task very well. Nor do you do anything on those devices that involves reading a lot of text or watching full screen video where buttons (or UI in general) could get in the way - the polar opposite of smartphones.
But seriously, you are exactly right. There is no need to retrain the user for no benefit.
No, you create a new product with the new buttons and sell something different to your competitors, now all the phones look the same, on top of that you have only 2 Operating systems to choose, there used to be creativity in the design of devices now they cycle from round edges to square and back.
All of my favorite cars now have a giant iPad in the console and almost no physical buttons.
When I'm barreling down the interstate and want to change the music, I don't want to fiddle around with a touch screen that requires any sort of attention.
1. Default presets. When you enter the car, you press a menu option to immediately set the car to all your settings (radio to the right station, GPS app opens,seat moves, etc.) (could be done with a button too honestly
2. Increased primary element size - Use 90% of the screen to display the setting you are changing so you don't have to look directly at it. Reduce the size of options you are not currently interested in changing.
3. Gestures - Use gestures to change settings using your muscle memory, not eyes.
4. Use the iPad to display video that helps you drive (blind spot, backup camera)
5. Use of color - When you crank the heat the screen is cast to in a red shade. Make it more intuitive at the subconscious level.
6. Full use of screen to make a change - When you want to adjust with a button or knob, you have to get your hand exactly on that button or knob. But on a screen, you could swipe left anywhere and get the same effect. This would use significantly less attention.
7. Contextual UI - The car notices the windows are fogging up and prompts if you want to turn on screen defrosters.
8.Multiple UIs and UI customizability. Don't like this UI? Try this one! Or just change the one little setting that annoys you. It's your damn car.
9. Stopped? Here's something interesting put on the screen so you stay engaged.
10. Safety tips (stats on your driving, or suggestions on ways to drive safer)
11. Haptic feedback - When you make a change, the screen could vibrate to indicate the change was received
12. Shortcuts - Have your favorite driving settings most conveniently available
13. There's probably more, but if I wrote a 13th one, it would be unlucky! :P
Most cars have a fixed set of dash controls: climate, audio, and possibly navigation. Climate controls can easily be just three dials and a couple of buttons (temperature, fan speed, vent direction, and AC/recirculate buttons). Audio can be 4-6 preset buttons and a volume knob, and maybe some little treble/bass/fade/balance knobs. Yet many vehicles completely screw this up.
This one has a very high risk of quickly degrading into my car dashboard showing me advertising when I am stopped.
And the last thing I want is the car I own to be usurped to become yet one more way for the advertising industry to shove ads. at me.
Have I encountered a device/UI that errs in both ways? Yes, I think I have: a microwave that beeps and increments the time when you press a button labelled "10 s", but if afterwards you squint carefully at the almost illegible LCD display you find that the number of beeps may differ from the (time / 10 s) by a positive or a negative small integer. There must be two separate button-press-detectors: one for incrementing the time, and one for the "feedback".
Do we have a term for this phenomenon? It's common enough to deserve a name.
When I'm driving, I want to concentrate on the road and on driving. Tell me, why the steering wheel is not just a picture on a touchscreen? When I'm changing gears, switching on the lights, opening windows, I have physical buttons and knobs, I can just do all that still driving and watching the road. I don't want to gaze at the touchscreen while driving. In many countries using phone kept in hand while driving is illegal, because it causes many accidents when people concentrate more on the screen than on driving.
I wanted to buy a new car, all that I saw have the new touchable interfaces. That's terrible and unsafe.
Because of some silly idea of what makes something feel modern.
The worst case of this in cars. Steering wheel controls wouldn't need to be a thing if I could reach towards my stereo and feel where the track skip buttons are without having to take my eyes off the road.
Re: steering wheel buttons in general, it depends on how they're implemented. If you take an old idea  and provide tactile locating then it is easy to learn. If you can reuse a common paradigm (a knob for volume) there's no learning required. The steering wheel also is already a busy place - you have two or more stalks nearby, sometimes cruise control is part of the steering wheel buttons and even if not the amount of space means you are forced to provide a subset of functions. A stereo with tactile-marked buttons and knobs is known to most drivers via other paradigms and is easy to swap between cars.
For everyone else, we've had automatic cars for forever. There's also a video online of a man with no arms who learned how to drive their car without them.
Edit: changed to be specific about the one hand on the wheel.
Consider that at a critical moment the difference between moving a thumb and moving ones whole arm and hand could be the difference between life and death.
EDIT: fixed typos
Seriously, a rotary knob can switch focus to the next/previous UI control, so that additional push of tactile button on said rotary knob will activate the control, but they can't simply detect the rotation as 'next/previous', with the push button as 'pause/play' toggle?
Instead I have to rotate the nob and visually track the thin active element outline each time I enter or swap to the app just to get a single tactile 'forward' control. Or, I give up, and continue the process of memorizing the button location on the screen and building muscle memory through repetition to correctly press the same spot on the screen each time without looking at it. Then hope I never need to be in a different car or that nobody adjusts my seat's X/Y/Z axis to screw up that muscle memory.
I suspect it's Spotify's issue, and not Android Auto itself, but most of the Android Auto apps work that way and I don't know where the fault originates. But regardless of who can fix it, it's horrible to allow UX to be designed ignorantly when it is placed to have potential life/death impact.
Because they break easily. The home button is probably one of the most commonly broken parts of an iPhone, so the X doesn't come with one: ta-da, can't break it any more. Plus, if it's on a screen, you can have an unlimited combination of buttons whenever you want - think of the screen real estate freed up by using an on-screen keyboard on the iPhone compared to a Blackberry.
For what it's worth, I agree with you that buttons are better. But their disappearance isn't a random occurrence.
I've worked at a phone repair shop for the last 2 years, and I mainly work on iPhones. Very, very rarely are home buttons broken outside of a repair. Usually when they are broken the phone isn't in.... great condition. In fact I'm not sure I recall a home button ever being broken without the rest of the phone being completely shattered.
Having the accessibility mode isn't uncommon, I only see phones for a short amount of time and mostly do a quick test, so I'll admit if a button is intermittent I might not catch it.
I will say breaking home buttons during repairs aren't uncommon though, it really depends on how honest the repair shop is. Even veterans can have issues with the home buttons because their cables are _sooooo_ thin, they're glued in place, and even the tiniest tear can mean it's done for. Touch ID can never be replaced and as of 7's and up they cannot be functionally replaced.
That's a reasonable point, but it seems they've chosen to illustrate the point with an example that isn't true.
That was the first time I heard of the iPhone home button breaking.
Google's Material design system actually works well when implemented correctly. If you look at Inbox, you can see at least three distinct layers on the home screen with drop shadows clearly indicating the hierarchy.
The problem is that lots of people tried to copy this system without understanding why it works and ended up with unusable messes.
Motorola was leading the way with Android-based phones with physical QWERTY keyboards, but they stopped making them in 2012, with the Droid 4 being the last one. I had one and I loved it!
The sad thing is, I saw polls at the time showing over 50% of smartphone users said they wanted a physical keyboard, yet most people hadn't even HEARD of the Droid 4. It sold poorly and was the signal that people didn't actually want physical keyboards, they just thought they did.
The key words being "said they wanted." It's not uncommon for there to be a big divergence between what people say they want, and what it turns out they actually want. Sometimes they just don't know what they really want until they see it. Sometimes they use the wrong words and say they want one thing but really want another. Sometimes they know how to express what they want, but feel it would be socially unacceptable to say it out loud, so they claim to want something else to avoid being the odd one out.
It would therefore not surprise me one bit if lots of people said they wanted a physical keyboard, and then went out and bought an iPhone-alike. Maybe it looked sexier on the sales floor, maybe they tried the touchscreen and found they actually liked it, or maybe just because that's what all their friends had.
If you want to know what people really want, don't listen to what they say, watch what they do.
And IMO, Google failed to market the Droid phones. In a world where everyone's crying for better battery life and stronger screens, the Droid Turbo came out with a whopping 3900 mAh battery when everyone else was in the 2000-2,500 mAh range, and a screen that was damn near indestructible, probably the top two most asked for features from a phone...yet nobody ever heard of it. Meanwhile people flock to iPhones and Galaxy phones which would crack their screens if you sneezed.
A surprisingly large contingent of consumers liked keyboard sliders too. Silicon Valley folks pretend that users didn't want them, but the truth was that at the time, phone technology was moving much faster, and keyboard sliders usually came out running a year older chipset, and were the last to see software updates. People didn't want to give up their keyboard sliders, but the OEMs just weren't serving the market.
My phone use has gone way down because I have a giant device with no physical keyboard (iPhone 6S). I used my Photon Q and iPhone 5C a lot more than I use my current 6S. Now I just use laptops.
The advice of "If you want a phone with a headphone jack, then don't buy a phone without a headphone jack" can be considered controversial. People forgot how to vote with their wallet.
iPhone versus Samsung Galaxy is a false dichotomy. There are so many phones out there that it's very likely there's one that meets most if not all of your desires. It just might not have an Apple or Samsung logo on it.
I’ve surrendered and now own a “manbag” so u can bend at my hips properly when carrying my phone.
Blackberry and before that Nokia Communicator were hits. When you need to work with the phone, like write emails, instead of just browsing the social media, small keyboard is great.
The KeyOne was in such high demand, they were sold out on every online store! I ended up buying a used-like-new one off eBay for slightly over MSRP.
Since then, I purchased a new KeyOne Black Edition just to ensure they keep making these devices. Being able to scroll without touching the phone's screen? Game changing tech, folks.
Every time I'm forced to use someone else's smart phone, I struggle to type on the virtual keyboard. Even after years of poking at the things, I can't type without typos on those awful screens. Somehow, the KeyOne's keyboard is incredibly easy to type fast on--even with my huge fingers.
Have you tried one of those K2 units and if so, what was your opinion vs the K1? Is there anything particularly unique to the BB flavored Android on these devices? I loved the system-wide search from within any app, even more than the stellar messaging system.
I have huge hands, but don't have a problem typing on the Key1. The K2 should be more comfortable for epic typing sessions.
BB's Android is bone stock in appearance. Their built-in BB apps are excellent--especially the camera app. I much prefer them over Samsung and HTC's apps. They're similar in function to my wife's Sony Xperia.
They still have the classic suite of BlackBerry tools, such as that system-wide search. The map-to-whatever-you-want key on the right hand side can be setup to launch that search.
And you can map every single key on the keyboard (and combinations of keys!) to shortcuts from the "desktop."
It's a great phone. It's not going to be as fast as the Galaxy Note, but if you're interested in incredible battery life (I charge mine once a week) and a fantastic typing experience... You won't regret trying the K2. Worst case? You use it for a few weeks then sell it for the full purchase price on eBay. Resale prices seem to still be running high, last I checked.
If people are going to be sold on bulkier devices, it will be for functionality other than a keyboard.
Besides, bluetooth keyboard cases are already a thing if you want to trade bulk for easier typing.
It's not about bulk. I gladly traded display size for physical keyboard, on my BB KeyOne. This very comment is written on it, with pleasure.
Or in the case of this device, all of the above and more compared to flagship phones.
I have no particular love for touchscreen keyboards (though I find that I can type just as well on them as I once did on my droid's physical keyboard). I'm thinking about the mass western market, which isn't going to want to make the tradeoffs this phone offers.
Possibly that isn't the market they want, but rather a low volume niche.
The size of my thumb covers about 8 keys.
The lack of physical keys may be amazing from a UI perspective, but for people who type quickly it absolutely sucks.
What's a shame is there's no choice.
I have a Key2 and I'm fairly happy with it (and the pain points are more with Android than with the phone itself).
I can biased: I am writing software for androids since first public beta version and for iOS since ios 7 version.
Combuninh autocotrection with a ohyscial keyboatd wouuld be verybpowerful and would probavly have avoidwd most of the wrrors I made whilat typing this in a touchscreen keyboard.
I deliberately disabled autocorrection for that post. I am a keyboard touch-typist so hopefully that shows how inefficient and error-prone are soft-keyboards.
Basically, removing physical keyboards makes the manufacturers' job easier by outsourcing a little bit of inefficiency onto every user every time they type. We're paying for it with seconds of our lives.
> "Please note that some mobile phone service providers in the USA have not yet finished registering the MP02 for their networks.Because of this, some carriers currently require users to temporarily disable VoLTE on the MP02 (use 4G or 3G calling instead), and Verizon's network is currently unable to accept the MP02 at all. (This is an admin issue, not a technology issue.)"
Anyone who has actually used this device in the U.S. who can share experience? It sounds like you would still be able to use it as an LTE hotspot, but for voice you'd fall back to 4/3G.
For all that, I'm using swipe to write this message, faster than I could on a mini qwerty. I don't see this article's development as, development.
Here’s hoping for at least a small-scale trend of these devices this year.
Maybe Blackberry could make one, their keyboards were awesome. I might even pay $50-100 for some such thing if it is designed right.
Fortunately, there's minimal Google presence on the phone. The native BlackBerry apps have worked great. The camera on the KeyOne even has fully manual controls--focus distance and everything.
The keyboard section on some of those devices is almost as big as the phone, and those phones don't look much thinner than current generation phones do.
Let me use two phones or a phone and a tablet or a phone and a TV. Give me something that is at least the sum of its parts.
If you're saying "an accessory that only works as an accessory is sometimes just dead weight (when you're not using it)" then I think you're trying to overturn a lot of precedent in how devices have been made, since long before digital times.
We just went through this battle. Thin phones won. Danger is out. So is Nokia. It’s possible this is a fashion statement and those can and change, but whoever tests that theory had better be prepared to fail. And if it *is down to fashion? Expect to lose your keyboard again in another ten years.
Actually just curious to see if you're specifically avoiding Android (in which case I'd be a bit curious about specific reasons), or if you prefer something like iOS. (Both seem like valid positions for me)
My primary interest is security and privacy, so Android fails out entirely as an option. I also expect my phone to have current and regular security updates, so the operating system must be something presently supported.