Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Smart phone shootout: Which phone is most usable?

Selecting the most usable smart phone ...

"Which smart phone is most usable? And what makes one smart phone more usable than another?

Tom Thornton loves to dig into those kinds of questions. He's senior research scientist at Perceptive Sciences Corp., an Austin-based market research and usability testing firm that has worked for companies in many industries, including mobile device vendors such as Palm Inc., Nokia Corp. and Motorola Inc.

Thornton and his team recently examined four widely available smart phones to determine which is the most user-friendly. They selected for their tests the Motorola Q, available from Verizon Wireless, and the Palm Treo 700wx, which is offered by both Verizon and Sprint Nextel Corp. Both of those devices are based on Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Mobile 5.0 system.

Also part of the test group were Research In Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry 8800 from Cingular Wireless LLC, which is based on RIM's homegrown platform, and the Nokia E62, also offered by Cingular, which is based on Symbian Ltd.'s platform. Thornton's group gave ratings in five areas related to usability, then gave each smart phone an overall score.

Thornton stressed that the tests were both subjective and impartial. While Perceptive Sciences has worked for some of the phone vendors in the past, it has not done so in more than a year, and nobody on Thornton's team worked on projects for those companies, he said.

All the smart phones rated well, overall, in terms of usability, according to Thornton. "It would be hard to give any of them too-low ratings," he said.

However, some devices scored significantly better than others in specific areas related to usability.

What makes a smart phone usable?

Thornton highlighted five broad areas that factor into a smart phone's usability. These are the areas he and his team scored.

1. Global navigation. This refers to how easy it is to get around in the operating system. It includes factors such as how simple it is to access and select various functions and finding your way to those functions."    (Continued via Computer World)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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