My cool new phone is a little too cool.
I think there's always been a battle between form and function. Techies get accused of making things too complicated, while fashionistas argue over the subtle differences of colors with names like 'sandy cave', 'cafe au lait', 'dusty hills' and 'light brown.'
Some people prefer form over function -- if it doesn't look right, it isn't right. They work around the problems because the thing they've got is cool and looks great with this year's colors and fabrics. Other people don't care how it looks as long as it does something specific, even if it means they get broken bones trying to use the thing.
As you know, I bitch a lot about the iPhone, so when it was time to get a new phone, I went droid. I didn't like the form-over-function level of simplicity of the iPhone, and Windows 7 Mobile is like a hanger-on at the sorority party -- not as pretty or sophisticated as the iPhone, and just as non-functional.
I figured the droid would give me more flexibility. After all, it is the phone of choice for geeks and it's created by a company that values PhDs over MBAs. Sure, it has an iPhone-esque, but I figured I could work around the cool factor and make it do what I wanted, even if it had complicated, geeky back doors to get that flexibility.
I figured wrong.
The droid is fine as far as it goes, and, yes, I've tricked it out with tools to let me connect to my desktop computer, play music over the network, exchange files more easily… but it just wants to do too many things for me, and it's trying too hard to be cool.
I probably have four or five blogs roiling around in my head about things like the fact it synced up my address book with Facebook (while the puppies are cute, I liked the photo I had of Kristen in my phone… where does Google get off choosing which profile photo to use?). Or the fact that the search functions finish my sentences for me and make it really hard to edit what they think I'm searching for…
But my specific complaints aside, the problem I'm having with modern interface design is not just that they treat you like an idiot, but that I can't seem to get away from being treated like an idiot.
My various devices in the past have let me turn off all the 'helpful' features, but not our modern 'smart phones.' It seems inconceivable to the mass-marketers that maybe we're not all part of that mass market. Maybe we're smart, techie people, too, but the only way to really make the changes I want would violate the license to use the software…
I'm smart enough to know that I don't want to jail-break my phone and risk turning it into a brick -- really smart people have ways of breaking things in spectacular ways.
The pendulum will probably swing again as these devices aren't able to keep up with the real world, but until then, we're kind of stuck in the fantasy world of 'cool toys' rather than real, mobile computing.