back to article Let’s re-invent small phones! Small screens! And rubber buttons!

“You know what they say about people with small hands?” Yes I do: according to the Museum of Carry On Jokes, they are favoured by women with small breasts. Or men with a tiny schmeckel. It must be frustrating to be excluded from high society for having smaller-than-average hands. For example, did you notice the glaring paucity …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Small != Small

    The problem is not small phones, it is that enormous phablet slabs are the new normal.

    A reasonable size for a phone for a reasonable-sized human hand is 3.5" - 4", but you literally cannot buy a decent smartphone of that size.

    We don't want small phones, we want normal-sized phones. The old normal-size.

    1. GregC

      Re: Small != Small

      We don't want small phones, we want normal-sized phones.

      Speak for yourself, you certainly don't speak for me. I caved in and bought an enormo-phone recently and now I wouldn't be without it. Yes, one handed use isn't possible, but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for me.

      Nothing personal, I'm just really bored with people saying "we want x" on the assumption that they are speaking for the entire human race. No. You want it, and quite probably some others do too, but you aren't speaking for everyone. Here endeth the minirant.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Small != Small

        I looked at a 6 plus last weekend. The phone itself outweighs just about anything. Literally.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Small != Small

        I caved in and bought an enormo-phone recently and now I wouldn't be without it. Yes, one handed use isn't possible, but the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages for me.

        That's actually the thing that Apple may have finally realised: there IS no one-size-fits-all because we all have different uses. The ideal iPhone size for me was the 4S because I use an iPad for anything bigger, but I know some people are quite happy with a phablet - who am I to argue?

        My idea phone would have a UI as usable as the iPhone, be as small as the original Motorolo RAZR v3i and have the mad but insanely useful keyboard of the Sony Ericsson p1i which was IMHO genuinely the first "innovation" in things keyboardy worthy of that moniker. I never got on with Blackberry keyboards, but the p1i idea was IMHO genius and worked quite well for me.

        Haptic feedback only happens after you press a key, but I prefer to have tactile feedback of real keys. I think it's the new Samsung phone that has an optional keyboard you clamp on the screen, maybe that's worth investigating.

        1. Stevie Silver badge

          Re: My idea phone would have a UI as usable as the iPhone

          My ideal phone would work as, you know, A PHONE without me having to shout or pronounce words like I'm recording an Edison-Bell wax cylinder using only the amplification of the exponential horn to do so.

          I had this in 1995 on my analog Motorola. Is it so fucking hard to make the digital cell phone voice reception and transmission quality as good as that?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Small != Small

          Yes there is a keyboard case for the Galaxy S7 and having used it for a week, as an ex-blackberry user, I'm absolutely loving it. It's just that feeling of being able to express your will through the phone without clamping eyes on it continuously. The keyboard case works very well.

      3. Mrcolegiff

        Re: Small != Small

        Why would that be personal? Lol

      4. Mrcolegiff

        Re: Small != Small

        why would anyone take what your saying personally? Lol

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Small != Small

          I don't believe that the size of the phone has anything to do with size of hands. I have larger hands, and I was very happy with my Nokia 6100, I still have it. I lamented the change in dimensions from iPhone 4s to 5, because for me the phone spends most of its time not in my hands, but in a pocket. For things that we do with our hands we just adapt because we are humans and we have the ability to adapt. My pockets, however, don't.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Small != Small

            Time to stop buying those skinny jeans. My 640XL fits fine in my pocket, perhaps because I have to buy large enough pants to accommodate my large "hands"?

      5. Chemical Bob

        Re: Small != Small

        " I'm just really bored with people saying "we want x" on the assumption that they are speaking for the entire human race. No. You want it, and quite probably some others do too, but you aren't speaking for everyone."

        OK, how about speaking for the entire male race: It's *not* true that men want only one thing. We want dinner too.

        1. Martin
          Pint

          Re: Small != Small

          It's *not* true that men want only one thing. We want dinner too.

          And beer.

      6. Efros

        Re: Small != Small

        I have to agree, I use a Samsung Mega 6.3. Advancing years and diminishing eyesight make it essential to have a generous screen. I really wouldn't be averse to an 8" tablet with bluetooth phone functionality, even at 6.3" I still have the occasional issue so a bit bigger would be nice (oooer missus!).

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Speak for yourself

        The "speak for everyone" mentality seems to be strongest with the males of the species. Note that, while I am male, to me it seems females make less of this error and know that people are, indeed, different.

        When it comes to object sizes, it seems that more men decide what is "small" versus "large" And everyone needs to abide by that. Note that, when a male makes that unilateral decision for everyone, they almost always forget that a female "Large" glove is a male's "Small", so claiming that something is "small" is entirely and personally relative. So please stop making declarations that you feel are a universal truth, because they are not.

        From cameras to phones, from exercise equipment to motorcycles, I have to constantly deal with the mostly-overweight male population deciding what is "right-sized" for me. As a guy who is of average height and natural "runner's build", what is a "right" fit you is not for me...but, in many circumstances, I am not given any choice. It is either this way or no way at all.

        And that constantly makes me feel third-rate. And I hate companies, and people, for that.

        So stop being so damn selfish and understand that not everyone is like you, and no you are not the "average" person (unless you precisely meet the statistical mean, then it's OK),1.8 meters is not "average"

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: Re: Speak for yourself

          1.82 m here, but I quite agree with you. It can be very annoying to have to choose between options neither of which is'n even near to what I actually want. (Can be a real money-saver, though.) I think I've kept my sanity so far because I like customising and modding stuff. So I either make do without it or see it as a sporting challenge.

    2. 404 Silver badge

      Re: Small != Small

      Real reason I have the Note 3 is because of Minecraft and Clash of Clans... figure if I have to carry a leash around, might as well get some fun out of it during downtime.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. x 7

          Re: Small != Small

          "The Dump doesn’t have small hands as such but he does suffer from fat stubby fingers."

          in which case FFS keep him away from the nuclear button......he'll probably hit it while flushing the toilet

        2. Fibbles

          Re: Small != Small

          Yes it is. Does anyone know where I can go for unbiased, HONEST tech news?

          Found the Trumpet.

          Do parody and satire strain your cognitive abilities too much? Let me induce a headache. Donald Trump answers one of the greatest questions of our time; what is 2 + 2?

          I have to say a lot of people have been asking this question. No, really. A lot of people come up to me and they ask me. They say, 'What's 2+2'? And I tell them look, we know what 2+2 is. We've had almost eight years of the worst kind of math you can imagine. Oh my God, I can't believe it. Addition and subtraction of the 1s the 2s and the 3s. It's terrible. It's just terrible. Look, if you want to know what 2+2 is, do you want to know what 2+2 is? I'll tell you. First of all the number 2, by the way, I love the number 2. It's probably my favorite number, no it is my favorite number. You know what, it's probably more like the number two but with a lot of zeros behind it. A lot. If I'm being honest, I mean, if I'm being honest. I like a lot of zeros. Except for Marco Rubio, now he's a zero that I don't like. Though, I probably shouldn't say that. He's a nice guy but he's like, '10101000101,' on and on, like that. He's like a computer! You know what I mean? He's like a computer. I don't know. I mean, you know. So, we have all these numbers, and we can add them and subtract them and add them. TIMES them even. Did you know that? We can times them OR divide them, they don't tell you that, and I'll tell you, no one is better at the order of operations than me. You wouldn't believe it. So, we're gonna be the best on 2+2, believe me.

          1. 404 Silver badge
            Coffee/keyboard

            Re: 'Trumpet'

            Bwaaaaaaaaaaahaaaaahahahahahahahahahaha! That's fucking great... 'Trumpet'... hahahahahahaaa

          2. Philip Lewis

            Re: Small != Small

            @fibbles

            ... and people claim Trump is NOT a politician. It would seem that he has mastered the political art of nonsense speak eqiually as well as his idiot opponents from the other side of the chamber

            1. Uffish

              Re: damning with faint praise

              @ Philip Lewis

              So, you're saying that Trump speaks nonsense equally as well as other idiots. You may well say that, I couldn't possibly comment..

          3. bish

            Re: Small != Small

            Bravo. Better than the main article, in fact.

        3. Alistair Dabbs

          Re: Small != Small

          (Sighs at having to explain everything) Yes, of course it's intended as an insult. Good spot. I wonder if anyone else noticed it. Honest enough for you now?

          1. swampdog

            Re: Small != Small

            Shit happens Alistair,

            This happened in..

            http://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2016/03/19/microsoft_windows_skylake/

            (me)

            "I never liked w7. It was raved about because it was better than vista. No. An OS remembers where you opened the window. W7 doesn't. It is not an OS. It has never been an OS in my mind. Vista was the warning. Shite windows & no positioning,

            A week, I've spent, trying to get my wench's PC back into playing games. We're behind a wsus DC. My games machine - all updates ok. My laptop - none since Feb (but 100% up to date). Her machine is doing an amy."

            ..+5/-34 (votes)

            I think my -34 might beat yours. I have no idea why.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Thumb Up

            Re: Small != Small

            Dabbs, I can't believe no one caught on your very obvious reference to Cthulhu and the other tentacle-fingered Elder Gods. Great insult. My vote for that!

    3. disgustedoftunbridgewells Silver badge

      Re: Small != Small

      As a person with moderately large hands and moderately awful eyesight, I welcome the enourmophones. I have a Lumia 640 XL ( 5.7" ) and it's amazing. I can read webpages without holding the phone six inches from my face.

  2. Dr_N Silver badge

    Haptic feedback. An overengineered solution to an already solved problem: Just put the bloody buttons back.

    An on/off one.

    2 for volume control.

    1 for pick-up/hang up.

    Job done.

    If they want to add another ~30-40 with letters and numbers on then I'd also be interested in those too...

    1. bpfh Bronze badge
      Pint

      I think you are talking about a Blackberry...

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        No, he isn't. I think he's talking about a proper landscape keyboard, not one of those portrait jokes-of-a-keyboard Blackberry has.

        1. Sir Sham Cad

          Best smartphone/keyboard design

          HTC Desire Z. Shame HTC decided to underpower it and as soon as I upgraded to Gingerbread it chose to run like a three legged dog. That was tied to a lampost. And was dead.

          1. captain veg

            Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

            The keyboards on my old Treo and Centro handsets were the best my short fat fingers have used, and they (the keyboards) were tiny. Yet perfectly formed, so easy to distinguish individual keys by touch and you were never in any doubt that you'd actually pressed one. On-screen is a disaster. Can't actually see the key I'm aiming at, due to fat finger getting in the way. Better on a large tablet, but the enormo-virtual-keyboard obscures whatever it is that I'm trying to type in to.

            Can we please go back to physical? Slide-out would be nice.

            -A.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

              Can we please go back to physical? Slide-out would be nice.

              I only buy phones with physical, slide-out, landscape qwerty keyboards myself, but I admit there's not a lot of choice, even in the online grey market. I've had to be content with midrange phones (which is fine, since I rarely use the thing for anything more than voice and text, and occasionally reading an e-book when I'm waiting somewhere), and updates are nonexistent, so you either try flashing it with Cyanogen or live with the vulnerabilities.

              1. moiety

                Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

                I got a bluetooth keyboard from eBay...unfold the 2 top sections; the act of unfolding connects it to your phone; and it opens out into enough keyboard to get a very respectable typing speed on. This design (first listing I could find) if anyone wants a recommendation. I'm pointing out a specific type because I bought another one first that folded into 2 sections; and it charged once and never worked again, so I am obviously not going to recommend that..

                It is an extra thing to carry, and I doubt if security is much of a consideration but it's invaluable when you have some serious text to get down. Texting, emails, taking notes; that sort of thing, and if security was an issue I wouldn't be doing it on an Android phone anyway. Also, it unfolds into a surprising amount of keyboard, and I secretly enjoy people's "where the hell did that come from" expressions.

                I'm too fat-fingered for the screen keyboard (even turned to landscape), so this is an essential for me. Everyone else's mileage varies, like normal.

                1. moiety

                  Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

                  EDITING TOO LATE: Oh yeah...also have one of those laser ones; and wouldn't recommend it. You have to adjust your typing style so your extended digits come straight down to the target key (so the sensor picks it up) and also it's too showy...the laser -especially in dim lighting- attracts too much attention for someone who's trying to get stuff done. So you spend time typing t o o s l o w l y between bouts of "yeah it is a wonder of technology; now please fuck off" conversations with people attracted by the light.

              2. Keven E

                Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

                "I've had to be content with midrange phones (which is fine, since I rarely use the thing for anything more than voice and text, and occasionally reading..."

                It seems that, unless you are by yourself where speakerphone isn't annoying those around you within 30 feet or so, getting some of those sl/tabs up to your head kinda reveals the inappropriate application of the term *phone (earplug use notwithstanding) to tech a bit *beyond.

                My simple (even if older) LG-D520 does the trick and is the closest thing I can find to the really nice touch of the "SideKick" keys/buttons. being raised, qwerty plus number row. A texting dream for us with "alternative finger designs".

          2. Paul 135

            Re: Best smartphone/keyboard design

            No, Sony Ericsson Xperia Pro. All they need to do was upgrade the processor and maybe a slightly bigger screen. Still running one on Android Lollipop (LegacyXperia Cyanogenmod 12.1) on a fast U3 SD card and works well. If they ever updated it would be superior to my Xperia Z3 in so many ways.

            1. Paul 135

              Re: Xperia Pro

              A few reasons why I thought this was the best:

              Nice ergonomic shape and easy to grip. Good ergonomics on keys and could touch type with accuracy.

              Was brilliant to be able to browse the Web on landscape and easy to hold phone while doing so. I had a key assigned to the address bar to easily input a Web address and could use keyboard shortcuts for many functions. Only problem was too slow in general, mainly due to a 512MB RAM.

              Was beautiful to use on landscape in general as you could type and see what you were typing at the same time - just like touch-typing on a PC. So good not to have the virtual keyboard obscure the screen and make landscape use impossible as on these modern keyboardless phones.

              PS: typed this on an Xperia Z3, SwiftKey, and it was painful by comparison to do so, with many mistakes. I blame the media for all the ihype and for not hyping landscape keyboard phones enough, resulting in the latter no longer existing.

  3. regadpellagru

    Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

    "It’s like a car designer creating a feature that ejects all the wheels for maintenance, and then installing the button directly next to the on-off switch for the radio. Or designing a jet liner cockpit to include a big red button helpfully labelled Do Not Press – that’ll keep the Father Dougals away, won’t it?"

    Ah ah ! Brilliant.

    This actually reminded me of the day I discovered my Dell W7 work laptop had a keys combination, which would rotate the desktop by 90 degrees. This was when my cat triggered it by walking on the keyboard. Of course I never recorded the combination, and it took me a good 20 mins to recover the situation, since the darn rotation was persistent across reboots !

    There are probably only 2 W7 users across the planet that have needed this a couple of times, yet someone thought it would a good idea to have a shortcut ! Mad.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      I still use that combination regularly: every time and idiot leaves is pc unlocked in the open space office. Than sit back and enjoy when they get back... porcorn time!

      1. VinceH Silver badge

        Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

        I didn't realise there was a keyboard combo for it - but variations on that seemed to plague a colleague at one place I regularly visited. (I suspect it was the same: someone trying to teach him about leaving his PC unattended without locking it down).

        I became quite adept at using the mouse with everything rotated in order to set it right.

      2. Martin Cable

        Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

        Ctrl + option + cmd + 8 can scare Mac users who leave their laptops unlocked.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      Was it really W7?

      Or perhaps Intel display driver - this has desktop rotation keycombos enabled by default. Ctrl-Alt-arrows are pretty easy to hit by accident.

      1. graeme leggett

        Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

        Yep. Its part of the Intel display driver. After the third instance of a colleague accidentally rotating their display, I've now taken to going round and disabling the hot keys setting in the Intel control panel before the problem occurs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      I don't know about weird.

      Personally, I find this to be an extremely useful shortcut, which I do use all the time. It is great for these situations where you rotate (one of) your screen(s) from landscape to portraight or back, depending on the type of document you work with (not all rotatable displays have orientation sensors, and even when they are present, they tend to work less than perfectly). Also great for the situations where your tablet is lying flat on its back (perhaps because you are doing a bit of sketching with that wacom active digitizer), and can't quite figure out which side of the screen should be "up".

      It often comes as a surprize to the apple generation, but Windows had pretty decent touch and pen support ever since Windows XP Tablet edition. Not in the sense of stabbing at things with a fat finger (it always sucked at this and still does, albeit a little less), but in the sense of doing a spot of real work with a pen, where precision and control matter.

      In fact, if it were not for the digitizer support, I would have preciously little use for windows: everything else I need works considerably better under Linux these days.

    4. Old Handle
      Devil

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      Ctrl+Alt+Arrow-Keys I bet. Great for pranks.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

        'Ctrl+Alt+Arrow-Keys I bet. Great for pranks.'

        My workplace took the upgrade to Win 7 as an opportunity to disable that option. Still there's always changing auto-correct to punish people for not locking their machines...

    5. gotes

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      I frequently get caught out by the standard keyboard arrangement of the backspace key right next to the enter key. Unfortunately it seems we're stuck wit

    6. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      As Solmyr ibn Wali Barad pointed out, that's actually the Intel display driver, not anything specific to the Dell machine. Still good fun.

      Another nifty option on some Dell Latitude laptops is a "turn off the lights" key combination. It's Fn-B on mine. It turns off everything that emits light, except the (mind-blowingly stupid1) light on the power cable. While it's a great feature for keeping the hotel room dark while leaving the machine on to do overnight backups and such, it also makes a handy prank.

      Unfortunately it has to be enabled in the BIOS settings and I think is off by default.

      1On the model I have, this is a bright-blue LED shining through a ring of Lucite formed into the sheath for the barrel plug on the power cable. It's bright enough to light up a hotel room adequately to walk around and avoid obstacles, which means it's fantastically annoying when you're trying to sleep. And because it's a ring, to disable it you have to wrap the electrical tape around the whole thing, which means said tape is more prone to gradually working loose, getting dirty, and coming off like an old adhesive bandage. Whatever designer added this light should be forced to keep one on in his bedroom for a year.

    7. usbac

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      This reminds me of a good story.

      At my former workplace, we get a support call from the director of corporate finance (a total uptight b***h - I mean she probably goes home and tortures kittens for fun). Since I really hated the place, and had already given my two-weeks notice, I didn't take things too seriously. It turns out this woman had accidentally hit the hot key sequence to flip the video upside down. So, with two of my co-workers from IT, in tow, I walk into her office and without saying a word pick up her 21" CRT monitor and flip it upside down on her desk, and walk out.

      My co-workers were laughing their asses off. No one would dare cross this b***h before this. I think my co-workers were actually following me around just to see what strange shit I would do. I would never do anything malicious or unacceptable in the work place, but I did have a bit of harmless fun.

    8. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      One of my cats did that screen rotate thing too.

      Then again the cats have all sorts of computing skills, having sent emails, searched stuff in google etc. in the past.

      I for one welcome our feline IT overlords

    9. M man

      Re: Even Windows 7 has sometimes weird UI behaviour

      Its actully in the intel chipset!

      Stupid design...keeping me in a job since Windows 95.

  4. Richard Jones 1
    FAIL

    Why Touch?

    Apart from setting any new numbers into the thing, for which buttons are number one choice, I do not want to touch my phone at all.

    I want it clipped in a shirt pocket out of the way. I answer calls with one touch on the earphone, or make a call with a simple earphone press followed by the name of the person I want to call. Small, but not too small for a good battery and not too heavy either. I have struggled to find something even half way as good as my old Nokias.

    Big, or for that matter any phones demanding to be seen and touched are simply not for me. For the moment with several fingers in metal splints at the moment, touch phones would probably prefer to avoid my touch.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: Why Touch?

      Could either of the down voters explain why I should want a stupid 'look at and touch me phone' when it is next to useless FOR ME?

      Or do you insist I scratch the hell out of one of the useless touchy-feely dogs watching its battery goes flat while it fails to serve ME with any useful function?

      I would love to know why I must follow the fashion of others with different needs, or were you two just showing some form of dumb fashion herd behaviour?

      1. gotes

        Re: Why Touch?

        You're wrong because they disagree.

      2. Efros

        Re: Why Touch?

        You'll get downvotes for stating irrefutable facts that others don't like.

        1. moiety

          Re: Why Touch?

          You also get downvotes for complaining about downvotes. I believe this is an internet-wide phenomenon.

          1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

            Re: Why Touch?

            re: "You also get downvotes for complaining about downvotes"

            I simply hate all those sycophantic, fawning, toady upvotes seeking self justification by agreeing with those able to express themselves better than they. Give me good, honest, belligerent, red faced downvotes any day.

            1. moiety

              Re: Why Touch?

              I was tempted to upvote your comment; but at the last second decided it looks like a trap and I'm not falling for it....

              1. Geoffrey W Silver badge

                Re: Why Touch?

                Well I upvoted yours. Love me, Love me do...

                1. moiety

                  Re: Why Touch?

                  Alright goddammit. Done. Now stop fluttering your eyelashes at me. *grumbles*

  5. lee harvey osmond

    "Honestly, app developers, what on earth are you thinking of? "

    We have Management. And the Agile process.

    So one 'manager' is the 'scrum master', and another is the 'product owner', and no sooner are the words "That's a stupid idea, because ..." out of my mouth than I'm being told I'm awkward, unhelpful, aggressive, obstructive etc etc etc and being threatened with being thrown off the Agile development team. [A threat they can't carry out for fear of the ensuing deluge of requests, "can I be thrown off the Agile development team too please?"]

    Yes, old folk with age related presbyopia (aw crap: nowadays, that includes me) do like bigger text on devices that we hold at arms' length. Stupidly-large text is a feature. [Tip: in a noisy bar, use it when transcribing your drinks order onto your phone, which you can then show to some poor barsteward to avoid having to bellow into their ear.]

    But, as with any feature, the user experience needs to be practical, and perhaps even pleasant, otherwise the device involved will be designated as available for float-testing.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: "Honestly, app developers, what on earth are you thinking of? "

      "So one 'manager' is the 'scrum master', and another is the 'product owner', and no sooner are the words "That's a stupid idea, because ..." out of my mouth than I'm being told I'm awkward, unhelpful, aggressive, obstructive etc etc etc "

      You don't need Agile to get that, just one manager who thinks everybody over 30 is useless and another who thinks that the shine shines out of the bottom of the last person he appointed (until the next appointment when the previous genius is found to have feet of clay).

      There is no methodology that copes with dysfunctional managers other than Stalin's, and this has its own disadvantages.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Pirate

        Re: "Honestly, app developers, what on earth are you thinking of? "

        There is no methodology that copes with dysfunctional managers other than Stalin's, and this has its own disadvantages.

        His method was quite sound; his criteria for determining dysfunctionality however were rather divergent from those considered commonly usable in real life. Which turned out to be somewhat suboptimal in the runup to WW2.

  6. Emmeran

    Random buttons

    Desk phones are no better and maybe a better example. As I tried to explain our fancy new VoIP system to our CEO he looked at me and asked bluntly, "Where is the hold button?". I explained to him that the menu of choices changed depending on what you were doing at the time.

    His accurate reply: "Why the fuck would I want to stop in the middle of negotiating a deal to have a side negotiation with my fucking phone so I can put someone on hold?". Well made point regarding attention transference.

    Don't get me started on modern cars and trying to adjust the temp while you drive down the road.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: Random buttons

      "Don't get me started on modern cars and trying to adjust the temp while you drive down the road."

      Don't know about you but the climate control on my car defaults on start to the control knob changing the temperature, which is what you are most likely to want to do. Any decent UI should always default to the commonest use case and have a simple way of getting back to the top level. Garmin satnavs are a case in point.

      1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Random buttons

        "climate control on my car" - Is that re-labelling the ignition key with "Off" and "Global Warming"?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Random buttons

      I'd program his phone with a hold key and let him do his own thing. Personally, I find desk phones that have context related button settings quite intuitive but I accept that Everyone else's MMV.

    3. gotes

      Re: Random buttons

      Don't get me started on modern cars and trying to adjust the temp while you drive down the road.

      I tend to buy second hand cars that are around 10 years old. In my experience, no matter the age, vehicles tend to have similar controls. Until I was given the "key" to a brand new Passat in 2007. First off I had to find the hole in which to insert the cartridge which starts the car. Ok, found it. Push it in.

      Message displayed: Depress clutch. Push clutch in, push the "key" in, engine starts, Great. So I try pushing the button marked (P) to release the handbrake, whilst depressing the accelerator and releasing the clutch. Car won't move. After 10 minutes messing about, I finally got it moving. I felt a bit ashamed of myself, since as far as I'm concerned, I can operate anything, especially if it has electronics in it. Eventually I figured out the parking brake is automatic, and it's actually ok once you get the hang of it, but it's over-engineered and just another bit of pointless electronics to go wrong.

      Anyway, TL;DR, I agree.

      1. tfewster Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: Random buttons

        > it's over-engineered and just another bit of pointless electronics to go wrong.

        it's pointlessly over-engineered and pointlessly just another pointless bit of pointless electronics to go pointlessly wrong.

        FTFY. About once every 5 years, I forget to check (because I NEVER leave it in gear) and start my car when the garage HAS left it in gear; It jerks forward 1" and the handbrake stops & stalls it. Mission accomplished. Unfortunately my wife's car doesn't pass this "What's the fucking point?" test.

        Full disclosure, I bitched about pointless automatic chokes & gearboxes about 30 years ago - they're still pointless, but at least they work reliably now.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Random buttons

        "just another bit of pointless electronics to go wrong."

        I looked into this some time ago when the latest version of what I then drove had this monstrosity. It turned out that if the control failed & left the handbrake on you had to unseal the mechanism & release it by about 100 turns using some implement. Because you'd now unsealed the mechanism it would be susceptible to damage and needed to be replaced by a new, sealed unit at quite horrendous cost. Not explained was how, while you were doing this, you stopped the car rolling away if you'd trustingly used the "hand"brake to park on a hill nor did it explain how you were expected to deal with a failure to apply the brake if your only option was to park on a hill.

        So that was a lost sale.

        All this because nobody on the design team thought to wonder "what if?".

        1. x 7

          Re: Random buttons

          " nor did it explain how you were expected to deal with a failure to apply the brake if your only option was to park on a hill."

          but.....don't most people carry an emergency brick in the car?

          1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

            Re: Random buttons

            I usually have an emergency crowbar in the boot.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This one is true...

    "Sky box switches to the Red Hot PCs channel and immediately begins downloading Data Managers’ Wives 6."

    Not the Sky box, but current Sony TVs do this. They will switch to the "Red Hot" channel section when the "radio" button is pressed on the second instance. It still did this last time I checked... erm, in a store while browsing... I mean looking at what televisions to buy.

    I presume this is because they switch back to the first or last channel in the list when leaving the radio station section. No one thought to check what channels the UK actually shows.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "No one thought to check what channels the UK actually shows."

      Canal porn mostly if BBC4's output in anything to go by.

      1. Simon Harris Silver badge

        Re: "No one thought to check what channels the UK actually shows."

        "canal porn"

        Is that like hedge porn but with soggier pages?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh button placement.

    Chevrolet Volt Gen 1. Vertical button arrangement:

    <Drive Mode>

    <large gap>

    <Power Button>

    2013 Volt added Hold mode to the Drive Modes.

    Normal to Hold mode: press Drive Mode 4 times.

    Sport to Hold mode: press Drive Mode 3 times.

    Hold to Sport mode: press Drive Mode 2 times.

    Shut car off while driving: press Power Button 2 times.

    What could possibly go wrong ...

    1. TRT Silver badge
  9. ChunkyMonkey

    Excellent!

    Another great read Dabbs. Now, off to google "Data Managers' Wives 6"

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Excellent!

      Me too - mind you, strictly for research purposes only. I just have to know whether they use the 'agile' or the 'DevOps' approach.

  10. Infernoz Bronze badge
    Holmes

    Yes, proper, actual buttons on devices for common stuff!

    I had a damned touch-screen heating control effectively become scrap because the touch screen became unusable on a damned critical area for the screen for some virtual buttons, twice! F-up brand will never get any more money from me!

    At work I see people with stupidly huge tablet size phones and they look even more WTF ridiculous with a protective case on them, no fracking way will those bricks fit in most pockets! It reminds me of an old comedy sketch with a comedian talking loudly in public into a huge mockery of a mobile phone.

    Ages ago I did an Human Computer Interface course at university, the purpose of which was to make interfaces usable by normal people, not be some colour blindness frustration, hipster tosser design or other fashion disaster. Interfaces can be aesthetically nice, but they must be easy to use with our common physical, sensory and mental limitations, and those of the artefacts too!

    1. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Yes, proper, actual buttons on devices for common stuff!

      > no fracking way will those bricks fit in most pockets

      I had a 1st gen Moto G, and the goddamn thing would get sideways in the bottom of my jeans pockets, so I could not pull it out without excessive physical manipulation of my pants that made the police start staring at me.

      Now I have a Nexus 6P in a huge thick armored case and it doesn't pull such foolishness. It stays put because there's no wiggle room after I slide it in. (The phone, that is...)

      Plus I never have to tap my pocket to see if I have my phone, I *KNOW* it's there!

  11. x 7

    Dabbsy

    this device will solve your TV control problems

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Universal-Remote-Massive-Buttons-Satillite/dp/B0011OVNHI

  12. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    We hateses those virtual keyboards, my presiouses, we hateses it.

    Too easy to bang out your massage... err... message, then hit >Send< only to notice a glaring speling ore grammarr misteak somewhere in the message you've spent a painstackingl y 30 minutes to craft with passion.

    Which deflates your passion as you're not willing to go back and correct your mistakes. Who knows what mistakes you will induce the second time round?

    Naaah.

    If they can bring out a phone like the LG Chatterbox http://www.gsmarena.com/lg_ks360-2467.php with slide-out QWERTY in landscape mode, then that will be the deal of the century. Let's face it, a phablet in landscape mode will have half the screen obscured by the dang virtual keyboard, making it not easy for you to craft that message you so desperately want to send out to world+dog... With a physical, slide-out QWERTY keyboard, you can have full screen real estate without resorting to underhanded tricks like a USB or Bluetooth keyboard.

    Maybe that's just me, I hate virtual keyboards with a passion. Having the device vibrate with each keypress does not always help as you will hit the wrong key once in a while.

    I had a look at the Crackberry Priv... looks good, but I want a landscape keyboard as it will be larger and easier to bang out on than a portrait keyboard where you have to peck like a hen at the keyboard....

  13. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Amen brother!

  14. Mrcolegiff

    I do have small hands and I like smaller phones. I switched from android to iPhone cause the 4.7 was the smallest flagship on the market. Now I will be getting an SE and I'm so happy that there will be flagship power in a 4 inch screen!!

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      "there will be flagship power in a 4 inch screen"

      Turbine, piston or nuclear?

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: "there will be flagship power in a 4 inch screen" / Turbine, piston or nuclear?

        Duh! Dilithium crystals, what else?

      2. Bluto Nash

        Re: "there will be flagship power in a 4 inch screen"

        No! Sails! Great swathes of canvas, billowing out of your pocket!

  15. Dan 55 Silver badge
    FAIL

    On remote controls...

    The kitchen telly has an Auto button next to the guide button. "What does this do?" I asked myself after setting up the telly.

    So I pressed it. It immediately forgot the channels and retuned the telly leaving the channels out of order.

    And it's next to the Guide button.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: On remote controls...

      What does the Guide button do? Arrange for a Girl Scout to come round and sell you cookies?

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: On remote controls...

        It makes the Auto button work.

  16. John Savard Silver badge

    Mad, but Innovative?

    As far as I'm concerned, the Samsung dual-hinge phone designs, like that of the SGH-D307, are what I'd like to see brought back, but for a full-powered modern smartphone.

    That way, not only do you have real buttons to push, but you can choose what kind of keyboard you will use!

    1. John Savard Silver badge

      Re: Mad, but Innovative?

      Ah, the Sony Premier 3 Walkman did this as well. And the Nokia N93, which also allocated more space to the camera than most phones.

      1. John Savard Silver badge

        Re: Mad, but Innovative?

        The Sony Ericsson W44S was of this kind - but now I think the one I remember first hearing about was from Motorola, the MPx. I had thought that just one company brought out a phone of this kind once, which would have been a sad loss, but in fact there are several other dual-hinge phones I haven't listed.

  17. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Some designers think that the user interface's role is to make the user suffer.

    However, I'm glad there is a Dabbsy on Good Friday - I feared I'd have to live through the Easter weekend without intellectual sustenance and moral guidance by the great Aleister Dabbs who must be hailed by all right-thinking, feeling IT workers..

    FWIW, here's a little something for the weekend.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Some designers think that the user interface's role is to make the user suffer.

      They've all read Aristotle and know that it is their job to take the user through pity and terror to catharsis. Catharsis is when you are in a state of expectancy for the next model hoping the problems are fixed. This is the only part of the product development lifecycle that users actually enjoy, which is why so much of the Internet is given over to speculation on future models of products.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: Some designers think that the user interface's role is to make the user suffer. / Aristotle

        Good point. Might explain why I'm always waiting for that nice Mr. Deus from Machina to sort it all out for me just before I finally snap.

  18. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    Re: why touch?

    Touching can be very nice, that's why.

  19. Me19713

    I'm still using my old Blackberry Curve

    I like it, it has a REAL keyboard!

    I HATE that touchscreen garbage.

    1. anody

      Re: I'm still using my old Blackberry Curve

      For me that was the only Blackberry that I could comfortably use. The keys were small but there was a little space between them so it was easy to press only one. The later models had larger keys but more tightly packed together and I usually pressed three of them. And I HATED it.

      I think at some point I will just buy one of those phones for seniors, like the one I got for my father and I will be quite happy with it...

      Regarding the quality of voice - that's why I still use my old Nokia. Number of people remarked on quality of voice they hear when they call me...

  20. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Pioneer Satnav/handsfree thingy

    The design approach here has been that buttons you don't want to press by accident are very thin and close together, at the edge, so that trying to accept a route will inadvertently lead to pressing the button below, which leads to a screen whose purpose seems unclear, but won't help you start your journey and seems can only be exited by starting again with entering your journey details.

    Whereas useful items, like telling it to answer the phone or initiate a hands-free call etc. are hidden away behind a tiny button and three levels of menus (also with tiny buttons). I assume this device was designed by someone who understands that talking on the phone while driving (even hands free) is a bad idea and wishes to discourage it.

  21. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Missed a golden opportunity!

    It should be called a Drumpfone, of course!

  22. Fihart

    Another pet hatred.

    These days too much complicated stuff is made out of black plastic, sometimes with the added horror of letters moulded into the black plastic. Illegible to those without perfect eyesight (that's anyone over 50, pretty much).

    My current hate object is a Sony digital FM tuner with a black fascia and 21 black buttons, with their function printed in tiny letters. No manual for the product is obtainable from Sony so the purpose of some buttons remains a mystery. It's a good tuner, but I am fed up with having to use a torch or magnifying glass to use it.

    Black may look cool, but an anodized silver finish with black lettering is way better to use.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Another pet hatred.

      Two (?) words: label maker.

  23. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "It’s like a car designer creating a feature that ejects all the wheels for maintenance, and then installing the button directly next to the on-off switch for the radio."

    Or like installing a button which reduces the window to zero size (i.e. closes the program) right next to the one which maximises it. Generally W95 hit a sweet spot for user interface but this is one that was wrong. What made it particularly bad was that all the applications around at the time assumed you couldn't possibly hit "close" by mistake and didn't have a "did you really mean that" dialog.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Very odd choice

      The four places that are really easy to hit with a mouse are the screen corners as they're infinitely deep, so let's put the "lose everything" button in one of them.

      - and the "Start" button inexplicably a couple of pixels away from the corner in one Windows OS, I forget which. Snatched crushing defeat from the very jaws of victory.

      The more recent removal of title bars is actually a pretty decent idea as it makes the toolbar buttons infinitely tall.

      W8/10 further complicated it as the corners are quite hard to hit on a touchscreen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or possibly thinking it is a good idea to put 'eject' and 'format' next to each other on the right-click menu for SD cards etc.

  24. Bluto Nash

    Suboptimal placement

    It’s like a car designer creating a feature that ejects all the wheels for maintenance, and then installing the button directly next to the on-off switch for the radio.

    I submit as an example the web configuration interface of the HP 54xxzl line of switches, where the "Logoff" text link is located RIGHT BY the "Reboot Switch" link. I'm VERY careful when logging off.

  25. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Videogame controllers

    I don't play console games because the damn miniscule controllers give me "lobster claw" in about 15 minutes.

    I **LOVED** the original XBOX controller, it was finally big enough, and I played months of HALO with it. Of course Microsoft discontinued it, and I had to scour Gamestops for used ones.

    1. ThadiasVonBasterd

      Re: Videogame controllers

      Complete NecroThread but the "duke" controller has been remade for pc/xbone

      https://www.hyperkin.com/duke-wired-controller-for-xbox-one-windows-10-pc-black-hyperkin.html

  26. MachDiamond Silver badge

    I miss real buttons

    I was wondering the other day what I could do to operate my phone in case of an emergency if I couldn't see the screen. With my old Nokia flip phone, I could dial an emergency number and hit "send" without looking. With my current smartphone, there isn't anyway to know if it's on without being able to see it.

  27. Armitage Shanks

    Touchscreens: A triumph of form over substance

    Having to use two hands whilst looking at a screen to operate a phone, is that progress or a retrograde and impractical fashion statement?

    I'm sticking with my Luddite SE C905 until there's a new smartphone with a T9 keypad that I can use halfway up a ladder, whilst making a cup of tea, blindfolded.

  28. David Haig

    Nokia Communicators - the best of all phones! A phone with proper buttons and small screen on the front, folds out to a bigger screen and qwerty keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_Communicator) - All-in-one Phone, Fax, Computer and offensive weapon ....

  29. NormDP

    Let's reinvent the flip phone.

  30. Matthew 4

    I really liked the old Motorola milestone and Xperia X1 phones with the slide-out qwerty keyboards. Pretty much had the best of both worlds. Its a pity that apparently not enough people agreed with me to keep them going :)

  31. Thaumaturge

    Hate ALL "modern" keyboards!

    Learned to type on a mechanical typewriter (The IBM selectric freaked me out!) First computer account used retasked teletype machines that went shouk-shouk as you typed. Guess I'm just a dinosaur. Hate touch keyboards! Have a tiny little phone with a slide out keyboard with even tiny-er* keys... I never use it. Want to make people happy? Figure out how to fold up a FULL SIZED keyboard!

    (*not a valid word but I like it!)

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: Hate ALL "modern" keyboards!

      " (The IBM selectric freaked me out!) "

      Not a golfer, obviously...

      Last year I salvaged one of these beauties, in good condition, in black (yes, just like the ones in MIB III). The idea is to turn it into a combination of bluetooth keyboard and tablet stand. Haven't figured out yet how (thinking along the lines of using a Pi or Arduino as an interface between the electronocs of the IBM and an off the rack BT keyboard). Not very high on the do do list right now, so stay tuned.

      1. Thaumaturge

        Re: Hate ALL "modern" keyboards!

        Don't grok the golfer connection...

        Anyway, took type in ninth grade. We only had two selectrics available to entire class. The rest were clunky mechanicals. (Don't recall brand, but it wasn't Royal or Olivetti). Mechanicals had about a full inch of travel per key. So you really had to poke. What freaked me out about the selectrics was I just laid my hands on the keys and it took off printing about eight undesired letters.

        Would have no problem dealing with one now, after decades of soft touch computer keyboards. My favorite keyboards were the Cherry switch models on the 80's HP scientific workstations.

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: Hate ALL "modern" keyboards!

          I have stashed away a couple of the click-click-click Cherry keyboards. My kind of kit - does it's job for ages with little to none maintenance, can double as blunt instrument in emergencies.

  32. Patrician

    I have a friend who was constantly bemoaning smart phones, saying things like "I just want a phone that makes phone calls and send text messages" and "people only use their smart phone to access the web because they can, not because they need to" and others of that type. So I bought him a Nokia 3310 off Ebay for a fiver (plus another fiver delivery of course), and gave it to him to use, and his wife, who had also had enough of his smart phone speeches, took his smart phone off him at this time so he only had the Nokia. Guess how soon it was before he wanted his Sony Smart Phone back? Less than 24 hours! He doesn't bemoan smart phone any more.

  33. SimonC

    Excellent writing, had many a chuckle in the office reading this!

  34. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    To hold a big tablet phone,

    I think several products exist - cases etc. - which basically fix a large handle to the back of the tablet, to hold it securely with one hand, operate it with the other.

    Mine however is glued and taped inside old hardback book (desk diary) covers which I can wear on a cord around my neck, like a slate accessory for someone lacking the power of speech. Sometimes.

  35. yasirimam

    Small phone are good to use while in classrooms

    1. x 7

      Small phone are good to use while in classrooms

      especially if set to vibrate

  36. LisaJK

    Real QWERTY keyboard

    Having owned an XDA Exec (O2 branded HTC QWERTY clamshell) many years ago, I'm still looking forward to the return of clamshell or slideout smartphones with real QWERTY keyboards.

    In place of this, for the time being, I have a Huawei X2, 7" Octacore Android device. This does improve the typing experience somewhat, but I'd still prefer real keys with some downward travel!

  37. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Tactile

    If you can't see your phone's screen, you can't use it these days. I got to thinking about this as I groped around for my iPod last night to shut it off as I fell asleep. If I had a new iPod Touch, I couldn't do this by feel. The same goes for my Blu smart phone. With my Nokia flip phone, I could dial a number or enter codes by touch. Not gonna happen with a smooth faced flat phone. There also might be times when you want to use your phone without lighting up the room. If you are trying to call the police to report somebody breaking in to your house at night, you'll have a nice beacon in your hand. With an older phone that has mechanical buttons, you could hide the display and still dial.

    Why is it that I seem to notice that it's the girls that cart around the largest model phones?

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