Friday, July 10, 2009

The Bung-On UI and Other Horrors

Jason Lackey

It wasn't long ago that 1 Gigahertz was respectable performance for a desktop. Now, thanks to the wizards at Qualcomm, Snapdragon brings 1 GHz performance to the phone.

Sadly just as Qualcomm giveth, we have seen that device makers such as Toshiba, have figured out how to taketh away. Enter the TG01.

The hardware is somewhere between cool and stunning, but the user experience is less so.

The Toshiba marketing guys clearly had a powow with their engineers and issued some dictate to the effect that it was necessary to do Windows Mobile but it needed to "look cooler, like an iPhone" or something. This is where things started to go wrong.

Windows Mobile in its newest, most beautiful iterations, is not bad. It is not particularly fast or spry, but not bad. However, if you take an OS that is not particularly fast and then bung on some 3D spinner laden UI overlay (the type of thing that we all know does a good job of sucking CPU), mix it with a big big screen with lots of pixels to drive and then suddenly you have magically transformed what should have been an amazing screamer into a bit of a lethargic pig.

Part of the iPhone magic, which also applies to many Symbian and even some Featurephone RTOSs as well, is the snap that the UI has. When you tell the phone to do something, it responds instantly. In the case of the iPhone, a bit of misdirection is used from time to time, some stuff actually takes a while to launch, but at least the phone comes back to you and tells you "Sir, yes, sir, I am on that sir!" right away. Indeed, one of the gripes about the Nokia N97 is that far too often the user is left hanging, which is exactly what happens with the TG01.

To paraphrase Pink Floyd, "Hey, Device Maker, leave that UI alone!". For another take on the sad TG01, check out Engadgetmobile.

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