iPhone More 'Intuitive' Than Other Devices, Usability Survey Shows

While some of the likes (music playing) were expected, there were some dislikes (Google Maps) that were a surprise, according to User Centric.

W. David Gardner, Contributor

July 13, 2007

3 Min Read

Not satisfied with anecdotal evidence from Apple iPhone owners, usability consultancy User Centric Inc. put a group of iPhone users through a rigorous usability test to find what's to like and not like about the iconic mobile phone.

While some of the likes (music playing) were expected, there were some dislikes (Google Maps) that were a surprise, according to the results of the user tests.

"Overall the respondents like the iPhone," said Pamela Stoffregen, User Centric market specialist, in an interview Friday. "But the Safari Web browser was slow and they were frustrated by the browser." The market research firm waited until 10 iPhone owners had a full week of experience using their phones before asking their opinions on the device.

Stoffregen said there were differences in how users reacted to the iPhone compared with past surveys of users of other mobile phones tested by User Centric.

"We found the learning curve was reduced" on the iPhone, she said. "The percentage of users actually utilizing all of the features that a smart phone offers was higher than other phones we've tested. The iPhone was more intuitive than other devices."

Echoing the scattered opinions of iPhone users in the wake of the phone's launch June 29, User Centric found using the outgoing and incoming call feature, visual voicemail, contact management, and taking and e-mailing digital pictures were all deemed successful by the iPhone users.

"Participants found that text entry was much easier on the touchscreen soft-keyboard of the iPhone compared to standard multi-tap text entry," according to the report, which noted also that users preferred the horizontal keyboard to the vertical keyboard.

Explaining his liking for the iPhone's horizontal view, one user said: "The keyboard is bigger in the horizontal view and you don't hit the wrong buttons."

As expected, users of the iPhone, which also has iPod capability, found selecting and playing music to be easy.

But there was a downside to the iPhone in the opinion of the users. "Participants uniformly found text entry SMS and e-mail to be difficult," User Centric's summary stated. "They were frustrated by the forced use the vertical keyboard and the lack of visibility for editing the middle of a word or sentence." The users were also annoyed to find that horizontal text entry was only available in the Safari browser.

Google Maps also was difficult to use, according to the survey results; users had trouble panning in different dimensions and they likewise had difficulty adjusting the size of their "pinch" gesture to zoon in and out. "They were a little frustrated because their iPhones didn't react as they expected it to react," said Stoffregen

The survey participants also were disappointed with the slow network speed of AT&T's Edge network, but said they are looking forward to the time when faster, more robust networks will be available for the iPhone.

Stoffregen said User Centric plans to conduct a series of tests with the iPhone in the future; she added that there wasn't enough data emanating from the first study to determine whether the features of the iPhone are significant enough for widespread use by businesses.

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