Thoughts on Rails

Riding the Train of Thought

My experience with Samsung SGH C210 mobile phone.

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Mobile For Lunch
Originally uploaded by Harshad Sharma.

After losing my prized Nokia 1100 (my first mobile phone), I bought a Samsung SGH-C210. My reasons for the change in loyalty to Nokia were simple – Samsung gives more functionality at the same/lower price. I might also add that I really miss the old handset.

I am pretty satisfied with the switch, with a few exceptions. A few exceptions that scream to be rectified. For example, I could not find the ‘return’ character when typing SMS. I am used to at least slightly formatting whatever I type – and I require the return/line feed/enter character all the time.

I also have a small script set up that allows me to send a python program via SMS to a UNIX server and get the results of the program by SMS. It is, or rather was, a handy utility – the absence of return character has paralyzed my script. Jeje, there are workarounds, but I’m just looking for one character in the ASCII table – nothing more!

That is the biggest issue I have with this handset. Frankly, that one character can make or break a lot of messages. especially those fancy messages that my friends keep sending me – and I can hardly make any sense of it because the formatting is all broken.

What comes next is the navigation system. Pressing the big blue ‘i’ button, placed smack in the center of the arrow keys starts the WAP browser and connects to GPRS. Now since I’m being charged by the kilobyte… I’m not too keen on accidentally starting up the browser every time I am about to use one of the ‘shortcut’ keys assigned to each arrow.

The keypad is small – that is understandable. But why does the function of the keys keep changing all the time? Like, after I press the ‘menu’ button, the OS (operating system) is smart enough tohighlight the ‘Messages’ category. But if I want to see the inbox, I have to move my finger over to the ‘i’ button and press it (without touching the arrow keys), then press the ‘i’ button again to select ‘text messages’, then press the button again to go to the ‘inbox’ then press the button one more time to view the message. Phew!

Of course, I’m thankful to the company for allowing me to directly see a new message by pressing one key – and also having the ‘delete’ option at the top of the list – so its easy to get rid of spam.

Why could they not just keep the handy ‘i’ button default to opening the menu instead of WAP browser? Maybe they could swap the ‘menu’ and ‘WAP browser’ buttons and save a lot of fatigue to fingers. Especially mine, by avoiding this little rant.

To lock the keypad, you have to press and hold a particular button. That should be enough – but the OS asks for confirmation to which you have to answer. Not a easy method, in my humble opinion.

Wait a minute… I’m losing the track! While we still are near the SMS issue… here’s more pain to the already agonizing user interface. I have set the left arrow key as the shortut to ‘Send Message’ Because otherwise it takes two keystrokes – not a big deal actually – because the keystrokes are on the same ‘left option’ button. Ok, so far so good. I type my message, grumble about the lack of good formatting (remember the return character?) and finally decide its time to send the message.

To ease the work I can use either the left option key or the ‘i’ key for selecting ‘options’ in the menu. It now shows ‘send only’ or ‘save and send’ or ‘save only’ as the main options, the others apply mainly to MMS. I can send my message to any single person at a time – or save it for sending to more people. So I select the second option ‘save and send’ (add one extra click here). Now the OS asks me where I want to save the message – whether on the SIM card or on phone. Since I have already used up the memory on the SIM card – it has only one choice which is highlighted and asks for confirmation. I click ‘OK’ – as I don’t have any darn choice anyway. Now it presents me with a blank textbox and asks me to input the ‘destination’. Of course, I use the 1000 locations provided by the phone to store the phone numbers – and not in my head, so I click on ‘phonebook’… alrighty, now I can type to search the person’s name or scroll down to the entry. That was good enough. I locate the person I want to send the message to and clock on ‘OK’. Now it shows me the email address and the phone number of the person (blame me for adding both) but now I must make a choice and since I want to send a SMS (I had selected that in the first place – ‘Compose text message’ in the shortcut), I need the phone number and not the email address. The email address is on the top of the list – I need to click the down arrow once to move to the phone number, then click ‘OK’. Now the screen is back to the ‘destination’ textbox – just with the number magically filled in! Now I again click on ‘OK’ to send the message. Finally, my message is sent!!!

That was perhaps the biggest paragraph I ever wrote! Is it really that difficult to program a decent user interface? Can’t I be shown the phone numbers first and emails later? Why show the destination textbox again that I have selected the person whom I want to send the message to? Why show it in the first place? In the search list, have a special entry ‘CUSTOM’ as the first entry and the search function shown automatically when you click on ‘send’. Also, why not assign a minimal number of memory locations (say, 5) for storing each outgoing message? I can then move the message to a permanent ‘drafts’ or ‘outbox’ location afterwards. And why not allow me to send to many people at the same time?

That is another story. So I had stored the message while sednding it because I wanted to send it to another friend. Now the excercise begins again. I am already back at the main (idle) screen after the message was sent. So I click on the ‘options’ button, then on the ‘i’ button, then on ‘text messages’. Then I scroll down and click on ‘outbox’. Now I have a big list of messages that only say ‘No Number’ and on clicking the ‘up’ arrow, I see the name of my friend who I sent the last message. I click on the name and it shows me the content. I click on ‘options’, scroll down to ‘send’ and click on it. The content of the message is copied and pasted into the ‘write new’ message box. Now go back two paragraphs and start over from clicking ‘options’ using either the left option button or the ‘i’ key…

Oh and the ‘delivery report’ system is so pathetic that it only says “Delivered, *date* *time*”. Since I received only one deliver report, I have no idea who got the message and who did not. I can get the hidden information by clicking on ‘options’ then scrolling down to ‘cut address’ and then clicking on it and seeing the number and try to guess who the number belongs to. (of course, I dont even try to remember so many phone numbers!)

Byt this time it gets boring even to write any more about this poorly designed system. If you have read till here, I thank you for your patience and appreciate your interest. If you have what it takes to read on more… let us see what else could be better.

I need to make a quick call. I click on ‘phonebook’ option (the right option key), it presents me with a list of things I can do with the phonebook. I click on the ‘i’ key to select ‘search’ and then only I am able to search for the person I want to dial to. Once I locate the person’s record, I click on the ‘Call’ button. That green colored button, ya know. Now it presents me with the same idiotic question from the SMS session – do I want to dial to the email or to the phone number? I’m surprised because I did not know I could dial to an email from my regular cellphone! But since I don’t want to test my luck, I scroll down to the phone number and click the ‘i’ button (while dodging the arrow keys). Wait a second! I pressed the wrong key! I should had clicked on the ‘Call’ button again. Now I am presented with a big list of actions I can perform with the number… like paste it and then hit the call button, or I can edit the record or I can delete it… whatever, I just want to call so I go back using the right option key and then carefully click on the ‘Call’ key. Great! The phone is dialling out! Whew!

Calling back a person is easy though – all I have to do is click on the ‘Call’ button and select the names in the list – the last 20 calls I missed, received or called. That is definitely a darn handy feature! I appreciate Samsung for one gem in all this trash. The calendar/organizer program is useful and designed with some thought. The MIDI browser/player is nice.

The local image browser is nasty since it does not allow scrolling images… and it covers the image wih its menus anyway – so its practically impossible to see a full 128×128 image on the same sized screen. Not a big issue, but worth mentioning. Oh and one really brilliant thing – the colors are nice 🙂 65k colors compared to 4k colors on similarly priced phones from other companies.

The WAP browser is slow, but I can understand the limitations that cheap hardware might put on parsing WML/HTML. No grumbling about that – just a casual mention. There are a LOT of other things I don’t really appreciate about the phone, but I have tried to concentrate my attention on basic user interface flaws.

Of course, it does not help the company that I am a UNIX user – I am used to arcane commands… but clicking ten thousand times like a monkey just to make a call is pointless. I would throw the phone away and buy a more costly Nokia if I had the choice – but right now, this is how far the student’s pocket goes 😉

So I’ll try to learn the foolish ways of this foolish phone… maybe even get my fingers damaged in the daily excercise for sending messages and making calls. Till I save up for a better device… I will have to deal with a bad bad bad choice. This is perhaps the worst user interface I have ever seen. Even UNIX is better – it allows fairly intelligent people to change things as they want – here I am supposed to be just as stupid as any other Joe user. *sigh*


Written by hiway

January 15, 2006 at 12:41 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks Vinu, I hope this message reaches the company… and they make some good use of it 🙂

    Oh, BTW… I finally noticed that in the delivery reports, you have to look at the “title bar”, which is totally seperated and distinct from the message for knowing who the message was delivered to. Which, still is a bad idea IMHO – since you have to switch the context of your thinking to get the whole information. Anyway, I’m just picky at times… 😛


    January 24, 2006 at 4:08 am

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