Interaction designer Dan Hill reviews the Nokia N9. I think this might be the best mobile phone or product review I have ever read. It’s something you take with you and not simply scan as you switch between tasks. I found myself agreeing particularly with the following:
The phone is an intimate device, not simply through its ubiquity and connectivity, its relationship with the body. While objects have long been cultural choices and symbolic goods, the mobile phone, being the most personal connection to the internet, is a device for generating symbolic goods, a vehicle for culture, a proxy for the owner’s identities. It is vast business and cultural phenomenon, all at once.
Overall, Meego’s design feels marginally stronger than Apple’s inconsistent designs in iOS, which is both a breath of fresh air and some achievement. Steve Jobs believed that above all his firm had “good taste”, and placed great sway in that; entire swathes of iOS exemplify this belief, with rock-solid interaction design supported by responsive performance, strong accessibility, clear metaphors and big bold buttons.
Yet the skeuomorphic nonsense that incomprehensibly pervades apps like Apple’s own Contacts, Calendar, iBooks, GameCenter, Find My Friends et al–all awkward faux-leather, wood and paper stylings–is is of such questionable “taste” it threatens to damage the overall harmony of iOS with its discordant notes. You cannot derive value from the idle suggestion of such textures on screen; they are physical properties and should be experienced as such, or not at all. Yet Apple’s design team will not explore those physical properties, merely sublimating their desire for such qualities into a picture of leather, a picture of wood. It recalls Marcel Duchamp’s critique of ‘retinal art’ i.e. intended only to please the eye.