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Sunday, 25 January 2004

I'm all thumbs

Most phones nowadays have soft buttons - two buttons on either side of the phone that, when pressed, do whatever the display says above them. On my Sony Ericsson T610, by default the left button is "Calls" (recently calls list) and the right button is "More" (a very lame attempt at a context sensitive menu).

The crucial thing is that they're soft buttons. Their function at any particular time is determined by the software on the phone (yes, I know the function of any button is determined by the software on the phone). The point is that the function of those two particular buttons can invariably be something different depending on what you're doing at the time.

This is all just a long winded way of saying why aren't there any phones that cater for left-handed users? It's not that I'm left-handed, but, uh, some of my best friends are left-handed, and this hasn't been the first time I've heard about this.

Hint, people who work at phone companies. It can't be that hard to add this as simple settings toggle, can it?

(If there are phones that do this, why isn't the feature more widespread? And why don't Nokia or Sony Ericsson phones do it (at least, the ones I'm familiar with)).

3 comments and trackbacks

Actually, the soft keys are not the problem. Every phone (manufacturer) has a different principle for the soft keys - some have left as the positive action, others have right. Some now have middle. There's no hard and fast rule as to what is better, other than muscle memory of what you are used to. It could be said that left-hand is further for right-handers, but as long as the ergonomics allow for natural thumb sweep, it shouldn't make a difference.

The problem with handedness is mainly with the buttons on the left- and right-hand sides of the phones. Generally the volume keys are on the left-hand side, and the camera and/or portal buttons on the right. Handedness can also make long-presses more difficult for some keys (# is harder than *).

The biggest problem right now is that phones are so damn small. I'm using a 90s style Nokia 6650 atm, and it's huge, but I'm finding it really easy to use.

Posted by: Chris on January 25, 2004 11:33 PM

While I agree that muscle memory plays a part and will eventually triumph over muscle intuition in most cases, when one first uses a phone, the thumb automatically goes to what's comfortable and what makes sense for it. I'm left-handed, and switching from my Nokia 3390 to my new 6610 has been frustrating. I'm constantly canceling commands when I actually want to select or proceed.

After a while I'm sure my tiny muscles will learn to do what's inconvenient for them, but if the menu buttons weren't completely reversed, it would be a lot easier. It seems like such a small thing to include handedness as an option along with language, etc.

As it is, I'm ready to turn this phone in for something else between the non-intuitive (for me) menu selection and the close proximity to one another of the numbered keys.

Posted by: robin on January 26, 2004 05:49 PM

I haven't had any problems with the soft keys on any of the mobile phones I've used, using either hand (I think us lefties tend to end up a bit more ambidextrous through living in this right-handed world ;-)

I've had more trouble recently with softkeys that aren't right next to the screen. Both the Nokia 6600 and the Siemens SX-1 have suitably button-sized bits of fascia between the softkeys and the screen, and I keep trying to press down bits of fascia...

Posted by: Adrian on January 30, 2004 03:46 PM

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