Friday, June 13, 2008

The iPhone fingernail problem

iPhone not designed for fingernails ...

"Hillary Clinton broke new ground in her race for the White House. Yet some iPhone users complain that when it comes to the hot gadget from Apple, women are still being treated like second-class citizens.

Apple said this week that on July 11 it would upgrade the iPhone software for free with new features for all current owners. On the same day, it will start selling a new version, the iPhone 3G, that runs on a faster data network, includes GPS and costs as little as $199.

But Erica Watson-Currie of Newport Beach was frustrated that the improvements didn't solve the fingernail problem. She and other women who have long nails -- as well as people of all genders with chunky fingers -- have real trouble typing on the iPhone. The 39-year-old consultant and lecturer, who says her fingernails are typically between one-eighth and one-quarter of an inch long, wants the iPhone to include a stylus.

"Considering ergonomics and user studies indicating men and women use their fingers and nails differently, why does Apple persist in this misogyny?" Watson-Currie (whose fingers are pictured at right) wrote in a comment on our post Monday about the iPhone launch.

But many people assert that one of the iPhone's best traits is its ability to function without a stylus, the often-misplaced mini-chopstick required by the Palm Pilot and other earlier hand-held gadgets. Apple created the iPhone with a multi-touch screen, navigated by presses and swipes of the finger. Unlike a BlackBerry or Treo, which has a separate keyboard, the iPhone requires you to type by pressing a virtual keyboard that appears on the screen.

Problem is, the iPhone's touch screen responds to the electrical charge emitted by fingertips. And pretty though they may be, fingernails don't emit one. When the first iPhone came out nearly a year ago, tech journalist Russell Shaw at ZDnet identified the fingernail problem and predicted that Apple might find a tough market with teenage girls (nevertheless, the company has sold 6 million iPhones and remains on track to sell 10 million by the end of this year, a goal that should be helped by the $200 price cut).

The New York Times, citing Nielsen Mobile, reported this week that the number of women using smartphones more than doubled last year, to 10.4 million, growing at a faster pace than men.

Those iPhone users who have chunky fingers might hanker for a stylus too. Some experience problems ...

... typing on the touch screen because their fingers cover too much space, said Gavin Lew, managing director of User Centric Inc., which has studied the iPhone user experience. "There's tight real estate there," he said. "You are asking your finger to hit the letter just right and no others. You may be trying to press the W but you accidentally hit the Q."

Apple's software automatically corrects typing mistakes, a feature that many people like. But it does sometimes guess the wrong letters.

Apple declined to comment about fingernails and the iPhone. In the past, the company has said that it's more natural to use the pointing tool you were born with: the finger."    (Continued via Los Angeles Times)    [Ergonomics Resources]

iPhone Fingernail Problem - Ergonomics

iPhone Fingernail Problem

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Anonymous Austin Chu said...

I blogged about the same thing on I think it's kinda bogus that women are complaining. In my opinion, long nails are good for two things: scratching backs and taking off stickers.

3:57 PM  

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