The iPhone has no Buttons!

I’m really enjoying the discussion about the lack of buttons on the new iPhone.

The Bokardoan Boris writes in a comment to my post yesterday:

“The killer app of mobile devices is not voice, it is text communication. And touchscreens are notoriously bad as keyboards. No tactile response. QWERTY is good for when you have all your fingers available, terrible for one-handed thumb use.

Have you run out and gotten your flatpanel keyboard yet? No, you haven’t. ;)”

This echoes a sentiment seen in lots of places on the Web.

Dan Saffer of Adaptive Path has reservations about a lack of buttons:

“I do have my reservations, however, mostly around, well, buttons. The new device has only one physical button, and while the simplicity and flexibility of having one/no buttons and only using “soft” digital buttons is nice, I wonder how well that will work over time. As others have pointed out, non-mechanical buttons actually reduce the user experience rather than enhance it. Often because static buttons are not used in a correct context and [they] lack two important things: tactile and haptic feedback. I wonder if the iPhone will attempt to compensate for this, much like the Wii controller slightly vibrates when you roll over a button. Without buttons, it’s really just a smooth slab of plastic.”

Similarly, Jason Fried of 37signals wonders how it changes the way he uses phones:

“How can you dial the iPhone without looking at it? How can you reach in your pocket and press ’1′ for voicemail? How can you orient yourself with the interface without seeing it? With a traditional phone or device with buttons you can feel your way around it. You can find the bumps, the humps, the cut lines, the shapes, the sizes. You can find your way around in the dark. Not with the iPhone.”

These are great discussions to have. We all knew that buttons were an issue, but now that Apple went the complete other way we’re having some reconsiderations.

What’s your take? Do you think you’ll like the button-less interface or do you prefer buttons?

Published: January 11th, 2007

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