Back at the beginning of June I was one of many anticipating that Apple was going to announce a new iPhone during the keynote of the WorldWide Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. I was so in fact so convinced that on Friday, June 6th I sold my original iPhone to a buyer I’d arranged through craigslist. I managed to sell my phone for my asking price of $350 which I figured was a risk I was comfortable with, meaning if no new phone was announced I was only out $50 as I could just pick up a new 8gb iPhone 1.0 for $400.
The keynote came, and went, and low and behold there was a new iPhone. Not only that the new iPhone was now selling for a much lower $199. So far I was up $150. Then came the hitch, the new phone wasn’t available until July 11th, a bit over a month away. This was the secondary factor in selling my phone previously, but now the reality of it became a burden. It was time to get used to not having a phone. I went over a week without a phone before a friend let me borrow a Samsung slider that was going unused. I don’t talk on my phone all that much, but in that week without even the option of making a phone call i realized just how inconvenient it is.
The Samsung SGH-U600. A number of people confused it for the recently advertised LG Shine
The rest of the month of June was filled with the used of a non-iPhone. That’s really a great way to describe it because once you’ve adapted to using the iPhone, every other phone becomes just a “non-iPhone.” Now this Samsung isn’t a horrible phone, in fact I got many compliments on the look of it and people interested in asking me questions about it. I don’t know that I can provide a fair review of the Samsung UGH-600 just because the iPhone has been so good to me, I no longer have any sense of what standard to hold a “normal” cell phone to. I will say that it took me a very long time to become even mildly functional using T9 input to send text messages, and I never really got very good at it again, even though I used to be a T9 whiz on my Motorola V3 RAZR. Overall the Samsung was a phone, and it was functional. It served my purpose of simply being able to make a phone call well enough. Beyond that, it didn’t have that much going for it. The built in radio was a cool idea, but required the use of some wonky Samsung headphones that also functioned as the antenna, and never really got great reception. The 1gb of storage the phone had was essentially useless because I loading any files onto the phone took a painfully long time, so long it made me wonder if Samsung was trying to emulate the good old days of USB 1.1. Perhaps the transfer issues were a result of using my Apple Powerbook and OS X Leopard rather than a PC running Windows. Whatever the result I was never able to actually listen to any of the music I put on the phone because when I tried I simply got an ambiguous error message saying something on the order of “Memory card too full” (wtf?). The other issues I have with the Samsung are mostly based in the software’s user interface. The menus are really complicated, the main menu screen has no less than twelve options! Twelve options each individually number so that you can use the corresponding number on the keypad as a shortcut, but oh wait, I don’t have a 10 button on my keypad. That number shortcuts don’t bother me at all really, just use the directional input.
What did bother me was the lack of consistency in which buttons were used for the accept, cancel, and back buttons. In some menus the right button is accept, in texting the center button is send and the right button is “back”. Basically with this phone you can’t ever assume that one button will execute whatever it is you’re trying to do and another will prevent you from performing that action. This is a horrible user interface design decision that means the user has no option but to try to memorize a different decision making platform for each one of your twelve menu items (and don’t forget each of their four or five nested menu items). This is the type of inconsistency that clearly demonstrates to me that Samsung, or whoever they hired to make the software for their phone, gave absolutely no thought to creating a flow through the main use scenarios of their product that was actually functional, much less intuitive, or dare I say enjoyable, and as an engineer, designer, and tech enthusiast, I don’t appreciate that.