Home > Mobility > Touchscreens are Overrated… or I miss your BlackBerry. This is NO fun. :-(

Touchscreens are Overrated… or I miss your BlackBerry. This is NO fun. :-(

Last night I went to a local carnival with my daughter and her friend, leaving my lovely wife at home to quietly enjoy her beloved NY Mets. She’s not much for crowds or for the intense suburban stew of these types of Lion’s Club events. A couple of times a year, I happily do carnival duty, thankful at least that I no longer have to go on the swinging pirate ship ride anymore. Several times the wife checked in via email with me, and I happily responded with two or three word bursts. Her last reply to me was: I miss your BlackBerry. This is NO fun. 😦

Truth be told, had I had a physical keyboard, I probably would have a more fluid electronic conversation thread with her. So in spite of having Swype (a great keyboard replacement for my Google Nexus One smartphone), the reality is that I am reluctant to to type much on my device and find myself thinking twice about doing anything that requires much text input.

This is true of email, but also of “texting.” While terse communication is more accepted here, sometimes this is the best way to reach some people–for some folks SMS messaging is a much more reliable means of interaction. Sometimes “K” or “C U l8tr” are just enough, but I’m rarely hot to do more than grunt using my touchscreen device. Interestingly enough, I’ve felt kind of liberated by the fact that I discovered that I can “text” these people from inside of Gmail, using the “Text Messaging in Chat” lab module.

Sometimes I Need More than Less
Now some people will say that touchscreen devices encourage an improved “less is more,” communication, but IMHO that’s really folks trying to justify the choice of their slick iPhone, Droid, or now iPad. Yes there are all the cool apps, and you have the computing power of something that used just sit on your lap or your desk, but trust me this is not a good input device, no matter what any of the marketing is saying.

I’ve been a mobile “device” guy now for 15 years, so I’m no neophyte here. I’ve owned my share of devices, including an original Palm Pilot, Casio Cassiopeia, a Vadem Clio, a Palm V (one of their best), an early Windows smartphone (brand or model that I don’t remember as it was not especially memorable), an iPod, and several different Blackberrys. I also used a Motion tablet (based on Windows tablet edition) as my main computer for 2 years.

As I hard as I tried, I eventually dumped the tablet and went back to a keyboard.

Now I’ve never owned an iPhone (or iPad), so the Apple fanboys in the crowd can throw stuff at me for lumping them in with everyone else, but I can’t imagine that input wise for day in day out chores, that it’s much better than my Nexus One.

Touchscreen Devices Are Great, But
Touchscreen devices are great for selecting things, especially if they are well designed and don’t give you too many choices. The interface to my Honda navigation system is a good example, but in spite of how sleek it feels to lose the keyboard, if you need to input stuff (and I’m someone who does), keyboards are just better. Good luck writing this post on an iPad.

Speech recognition can obviously work great too, but again the key is limiting choice like the beloved Vocera devices that my company TPC Healthcare supports. Still regardless of how much better recognition has become, it’s best for “commands” not for free form conversation, or “writing,” especially under mobile conditions. I do use my Honda’s speech rec (“XM Channel 57″ works great), also Google’s on my Nexus One, but it still is not there yet (and trust me I’ve tried).

I’ve not completely given up on the Nexus One, but I may yet. If Google made a fast Android device with a good integrated physical keyboard that ran on AT&T’s network, I would buy it tomorrow (the Milestone is an option, but probably smart to see what the next generation brings). And I’m not counting RIM out either. Once they have a webkit browser, they will become relevant again, especially if they continue to make the phone experience excellent.

And the 10” netbook that I’m  writing this on is cheap, readable, fast, accurate, and very portable. It doesn’t have the panache of the Apple or Google brand on it, and I’m not going to slip this into my pocket, but clearly shows the challenging gaps that still need to be overcome.

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