Why ‘touch-only’ devices might not work for your organization
I believe that devices used out in the field should include a keyboard and a decent set of hardware buttons.
Read this post to find out why…
With the release of the iPhone, a few mobile dogmas were seriously damaged: for the first time serious Internet browsing could be done by a mobile device. In addition, Apple managed to prove that a smartphone can be perfect without any… button?
I would like to argue with the second statement:
Call me old fashioned, but I need a ‘send‘ button that will take me directly to mu last placed calls to easily call my wife 30 times a day.
I need a nice intuitive ‘back‘ button that will take me one step back, whenever I am. Kinetic scrolling is fun, and the virtual keyboard works surprisingly good, but as much as they are well implemented in the iPhone, they are not as accurate as real physical keyboard or a physical D-Pad (or a trackball).
While Apple designed their entire mobile OS for a device with zero buttons, and therefore found some alternatives to all of the above (one can argue whether they are good enough), other operating systems are just not ready for such kind of minimalistic form factor.
HTC, Samsung, LG, RIM (with the BlackBerry Storm) and others, now develop mobile devices without a keyboard, or a D-Pad, but most of the operating systems those devices are running are not yet completely finger friendly.
One of our customers deployed ClickMobile on HTC Touch HD devices. While the HD is considered to be one of the best mobile devices out there (even won the manliest gadget for 2008), playing with it for a while gives the impression of a brilliant device, with a strong hardware and packed with software goodies, but something is missing.
ClickMobile’s flexible UI made it easy to configure the product to be finger friendly, by changing the layout of the the drop down lists, menus, buttons and other UI controls, but one thing I still miss is a proper D-Pad that will allow simple navigation through items in a combo-box. I also think that the virtual keyboard of the Touch HD is not as “finger friendly” as it should be.
My opinion, therefore (and of course it’s only my personal one and I know many people that will be more than happy to argue with it), is that when it comes to features rich applications – with many screens, buttons, information, and typing – a full QWERTY keyboard, a set of hardware buttons, and of course, a D-Pad, are all a must.