Android Hates Users

By | December 7, 2010

Tested.com has a nice rundown of all the different button layouts and a discussion on what might constitute the best layout. One of the comments goes on to say:
[quote]I have the Droid 1 and my girlfriend has the Droid 2. The back button and menu button are switched on the two phones. Every single time she tries to use my phone she ends up exiting a program by accident for this reason.[/quote]

Lots of people call me an  Android hater. I have my reasons. Chief among them is Google’s utter disrespect for consistency and user experience.

Here I have a composite image of Google’s new “flagship” Nexus S (top) and the Samsung Galaxy on which the Nexus is based. Notice anything different?

I’ll help you out: every single hardware button is in a different place. Every. Single. Button.

But hey guess what! The Nexus S has Near Field Communications! NFC! You can use it right now for all sorts of cool stuff like … ummm … actually no, it’s of no use whatsoever.

81 thoughts on “Android Hates Users

  1. adam

    Yes buttons are different however only 2 have swapped places from the nexus 1 to the nexus S
    on the nexus 1 the phone and the search buttons are switched around.

    Reply
    1. adam

      Sorry the “home” and the “search” buttons have swapped.
      p.s. will be keeping my nexus 1, really don’t like the nexus S

      Reply
      1. adam

        Yep :) but I do agree with the swap on the nexus S, you use the home key more than the search so better to have the 2 main keys that you use “home” and “back” at the ends

        Reply
  2. rob-nz

    LOL!

    In this case, methinks the blame lies more with Samsung and other device vendors than than Android per se.

    Android is just an OS, it doesn’t care where the buttons are.

    And to be honest, does it matter that much? Really?

    Given that most ‘normal’ people only have one phone at a time for a fairly long period.

    They get used to the phone they use and don’t normally switch between phones on a regular basis like (dare I say it) tech bloggers. :)

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      How hard would it be for Google to at least require the “With Google” Android phones to have the same button layout?

      Reply
      1. rob-nz

        Not very…..perhaps they did.

        Maybe this is the new standard based on feedback.

        I know not.

        Reply
  3. Tom

    Whilst I agree on the button front, the put down of NFC is pretty silly.

    It’s not Google’s fault that there’s no NFC uptake in backwardass New Zealand.

    Reply
    1. Ben Post author

      Interesting. Where is NFC in widespread use around the world? I’m happy to be schooled on that with evidence.

      Reply
      1. MattL

        New technology doesn’t have “widespread use” that’s why it’s new technology. You’re a tech blogger right? You’re aware new technology can be adopted industry wide in as little as 2 years, right? Have you been living in a hole? Have you not seen all the NFC news? If companies just sat on their asses waiting for widespread use of a technology before they adopted it every company would be Microsoft.

        In 2011 you will have Samsung, RIM, all of Nokia, hypothetically the next iPhone based on a number of Apple patents, some mass transit in the UK, SF BART, etc. getting NFC.

        Considering NFC works BETWEEN DEVICES as well as at point of sale type use I’d say you’ll have PLENTY of places to use NFC next year.

        7 New Nokia Handsets:
        http://www.teknologik.fr/mobilite/telephonie-mobile/exclusif-puce-nfc-nokia-c7-sera-activee-debut-2011-17851

        All Nokia Smartphones in 2011:
        http://www.nearfieldcommunicationsworld.com/2010/06/17/33966/all-new-nokia-smartphones-to-come-with-nfc-from-2011/

        RIM:
        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/11/29/nfc_rim/

        Possibly Blackberry Playbook:
        http://www.engadget.com/2010/11/16/jim-balsillie-says-blackberry-playbook-has-a-module-cavity-hi/

        Apple NFC Patents:
        http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/04/nfc-iphone-to-control-all-of-your-in-home-electronics-more.html
        http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/04/nfc-iphone-to-control-all-of-your-in-home-electronics-more.html
        http://www.patentlyapple.com/patently-apple/2010/07/apple-working-on-a-hot-new-nfc-iphone-app-with-hidden-surprises.html

        London Mass Transit:
        http://www.nearfieldcommunicationsworld.com/2010/10/01/34555/londons-transport-network-could-be-nfc-ready-for-the-olympics/

        SF Bay Area Rapid Transit
        http://www.engadget.com/2008/01/31/contactless-payment-trial-goes-live-on-san-franciscos-bart/

        VISA / BofA pilot program in NYC:
        http://www.engadget.com/2010/08/20/visa-gets-bank-of-america-on-board-for-mobile-payments-trial-st/

        Reply
  4. bruce

    who apart from reviewers care about button placement? What normal customer upgrades their phone more than once a year? more than once every two years?

    Reply
    1. Jonathan

      It’s a much bigger deal than you think. One of the reasons that Nokia were successful was because their software worked the same no matter which hardware you had. So using a new Nokia gave you a consistent experience relative to your old one. In contrast, the three Sony Ericcson phones I’ve had all put their delete and special character keys in different places. Worse yet, for two of them, the positions were inverted (ffs!). My non-techie girlfriend refuses to own or use SEs purely because of this. Also, she hated the Android phones she tried in the store because they are all different and there is little to no consistency in the way they look or work, or in the way the apps on them work.

      In other words, bully for you that you are able to overcome this annoyance within a short time, but the problem is – you shouldn’t have to.

      Reply
      1. rob-nz

        “…there is little to no consistency in the way they look or work, or in the way the apps on them work.”

        Granted the superficial differences in look depending on the HW vendor’s home screen skin, but in what way do Android apps not work the same across different handsets of the same spec?

        Perhaps it’s that Telecom muddy the waters with their 1.x devices, but really, across 2.x (which is 78% of all android devices generally, and most of those available here) there is sod all difference.

        You press ‘home’, you go Home, menu gives you ‘menu’ etc. Icons are icons, widgets are widgets

        All of the settings on Android phones are in the same place, under (wait for it) ‘Settings’

        There are more stylistic differences between apps than on other platforms, but they are the same across hardware types, apart from obvious differences in capability and performance

        It’s seems a trifle skewed to compare (for example) ‘Angry Birds’ on a Vodafone 845 against the same app on an HTC Desire.

        You wouldn’t compare CoD on a $700 Dick Smith Presario vs. an Alienware Quad core gaming beast regardless of the fact they both run Windows 7.

        Reply
      2. Pete Austin

        @rob-nz

        Re: All of the settings on Android phones are in the same place, under (wait for it) ‘Settings’

        Yes, but this misses a big point. Normally apps are selected by *icon*, but under ‘Settings’ you have to select them in a completely different way, by name. There can be several programs involved with each icon, and there’s no easy way to find them all in ‘Settings’.

        The result is that, if you have problems with an app, it’s really difficult to be sure that you’ve found all the settings that could be causing trouble.

        This is one reason why I recently spent over 10 hours trying to get Android Market to work, for example.

        Reply
      3. MattL

        HAHAHAHA. Your arguments point of reference is your “non-techie girlfriend” who can’t stand an inconsistent user experience? OK. I call bullshit. You are funny.

        Hey. My “non-techie” daughter thinks grid systems are hilarious. She’s turning 8 next month. Do you do birthday parties?

        Reply
      4. rob-nz

        @Pete Austin
        Not sure what you’re getting at here.

        Yep, apps often use or access one or more global services.

        Global system settings that affect everything are grouped hierarchically in the Settings menu under fairly logical headings. (Wireless, Location, Display, Applications etc.).

        They could have been done as icons instead, I suppose, a la Win Mo or Windows Control Panel.

        Not sure how this would help your case. Hierarchical menus are as valid and logical a metaphor as anything else. I can see a case for some improvements and tidying up, but on the whole the current structure seems to work pretty well for me. I know that if I want a global setting, it will be under ‘Settings’ from the home screen.

        Or were you suggesting that the settings be scattered around in individual app configs?

        I can’t say that would appeal to me.

        The ability is there for app devs to include application specific settings menus that take you to global settings that are relevant to them and many of them do. E.g. Nav programs generally offer to fire up the GPS for you if it’s not running when they start.

        If that’s where you’re coming from, then yes, more of this would be good. I can see that having the Market app context menu link to the Privacy sub-menu, where you configure whether you want your app settings backed up to the cloud would be useful.

        And a menu link to the Application management sub-menu would be useful too.

        But 10 hours? WTF?

        The Market is one of those apps that just works. How did it get so broken for you?

        Reply
      5. Julian

        This is the main reason why I avoided owning a Nokia for as long as possible back in the dumbphone days, I fucking *hated* their button layout and there was no choice about it.

        Reply
  5. greenlight

    This is really one of those “who gives a crap” situations. At least I always know where “back” is on my phone. On my iPhone, it can be in any four corners of the screen depending on the app. Search is often hidden under some drag gesture. Menus for more options might show with a “more”, an icon of a gear, or maybe if I swipe a list item to the right? Or god knows how, depends on the app, there is no standard.

    Reply
  6. nak

    I’ve had three Android phones, each with a different button order. I don’t recall how long it took me to switch, but I’d say about 10 seconds.

    Did you complain when the iPad’s switch was orientation lock instead of mute like the iPhone? Did you complain when Apple changed it?

    And the knock on NFC? Really? If no one starts implementing it, it’ll never have uptake. You might remember that USB didn’t have a lot of uptake until Apple made it the standard peripheral connection on the iMac. Back then did you say “But hey guess what! The iMac has Universal Serial Bus! USB! You can use it right now for all sorts of cool stuff like … ummm … actually no, it’s of no use whatsoever.”

    Reply
  7. Bear

    Excellent find and certainly indicative of the Android mindset.

    However, not everyone is perfect … dare I mention the iPad’s “accelerometer lock switch”, erm no, I mean “mute switch”, erm no, I mean what version of iOS are you running on that thing again? :D

    Reply
  8. Nic

    The button thing: I don’t care much, but you have a point. Google should have worked it out and said “this order”. I think the S has it right, but the fact they are all different is pants.

    NFC thing: It’s big in the UK – contactless cards are getting wide spread (esp visa), tho I can’t see the likes of Visa allowing their info to be put on a phone (or anything they don’t control 100%). Same with the Oyster card, which is used for 80% of all travel in London. Nice, but in the real world: fairly useless. I could tape my Oyster card to the back of my iPhone and get the same…. kinda :)

    Might be useful for new apps tho.

    Reply
  9. Javataur

    I’ll toss a better one to you, my MyTouch G4 has

    Yep, i only have three of the buttons in your pic up there, i think that beats you finding two phones with a slightly different order of the buttons.

    Reply
    1. rob-nz

      Good collection.

      I would point out that almost all of the HTC Sense devices from the Tatoo to the Evo and also including the Magic have the same button layout.

      The Hero is the exception, more due to the geometry than anything else I suspect.

      Moto seem pretty consist across their latest phones too…

      Reply
  10. rob-nz

    Heh! Quite a thread…

    And let us not forget the Ipod Shuffle Gen 3, “No you can’t use your own damn headphones!” (Pleased to see thay’ve gone back with the 4th Gen shuffle)

    Or the current Nano 6th Gen. “We’ll take something beautiful and ergonomic (5th gen) that is a joy to use one-handed and turn it into a painfully unusable piece of ugly garbage”.

    Reply
  11. mogua

    Android users like the challenge.

    In Honeycomb, you will have the option of having random software keyboards pop up. Swype, ShapeWriter, SlideIt, single or multitouch QWERTY, Dvorak, and even T9.

    Why? Cuz it’s open, that’s why.

    Reply
  12. rob-nz

    It’s not random, it’s selective, based on phone orientation and/or app as configured by the user to suit their needs and preferred way of working.

    Actually, I can already do this with Smart keyboard, and I like the way that I can chose to have T9 compact in portrait in the sms app, but have it reflow to full qwerty in Landscape.

    To each their own…

    Reply
  13. Nick

    You might just as well wonder which side of an iPod touch the sleep button belongs on (switched from gen 3 to 4) or if the slider switch on an iPad should be for orientation lock or mute.

    Reply
  14. john

    This bothers me a little bit. I play around with two co-workers different android phones. When I first started using them I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t being taken home. Then I realized the home button was in the wrong place.

    I agree with some posters that someone could learn that. But is there a reason for moving the buttons around? Or is it change for the sake of change?

    John

    Reply
  15. James

    So strange that there isn’t a standard required order for these buttons. When I upgraded to my current feature phone – a newer model of my older one – everything was the same, except that the space and punctuation keys had been swapped. Drove me nuts and took a long time to get used to, given that I had used the old layout for 2 years.

    Reply
    1. rob-nz

      I suspect the handset vendors have been playing around, trying to determine the best layout.

      Generally though, you’re right, I would expect a single vendor to standardise across their line eventually.

      What might bug me though is the apparent demise of the trackball/trackpad in recent phones.

      I use that thing a lot, particularly for fine selection and for Zooming in Camera Zoom FX. Other apps and games make use of it as well.

      Reply
  16. Stephen

    So Apple realized the switch and button were a stupid initial implementation and they’ve changed them to be now UNIFORM with the iPhone. Right. They made them universal, whereas they used to be different. The Android phones are only getting more and more different.
    Are manufactures asking their customers which button configuration they like better and then telling Google so they can make a standard?

    Reply
  17. patrik

    What part of open don’t you people understand?

    If Google came out and said that buttons had to be in a particular order…well, that’s not open now is it?

    Open takes precedence over consistent; over familiar; over intuitive; over ease. The word in and of itself is connotes freedom, so its inverse is bad, even at the expense of consistency, familiarity, intuitiveness, and ease of use.

    Reply
    1. rob-nz

      Dude! You lost your /irony tags? :)

      Seriously,it might be nice if the hw vendors offered some more consistency in some areas, but really, you’re talking the difference between a Corolla and a Mazda 3.

      The door handles and window latches are subtly different, some buttons are in different places; but its a car people!

      And really; 4 buttons labelled with a Home icon, a back arrow, a menu graphic and a magnifying glass aren’t consistent, familiar and intuitive?

      That do the same thing on all Android phones, regardless of version or vendor and have done since day one.?

      Really? It’s that hard? ;)

      Reply
  18. Sam Jarman

    All I know is that the home button is the big round on on the iPhone – the only device to run the OS. (ex iPad/iPod Touch)

    What about windows phone 7 phones? Will they be forced to have the same button layout?

    Reply
    1. steffenjobbs

      Are they still selling WP7 smartphones? Or has the Kinect taken WP7’s smartphone sales place?

      Anyway, Microsoft wants consistency on all its smartphones. They not as free-spirited as Google is. I’m sure Microsoft said they want their smartphones to be more iPhone-like which probably means the supposedly evil, walled garden approach.

      Reply
    2. Matt Hidinger

      Actually yes, WP7 phones do require a consistent hardware button layout. They all must have the same 3 buttons, in order, on the front, and a dedicated hardware camera button.

      Reply
  19. rob-nz

    Actually, I gather Google do have a minimum spec, but it’s about function, more than layout.

    To be certified ‘With Google’ and run the Google apps and Market, devices need to have a GPS, accelerometer, Compass and presumably wifi and at least the three basic buttons (The Xperias don’t have the search button, so maybe that’s optional)

    Reply
  20. EB

    Actually, yes, the Windows 7 phones mandate the order of the Back, Start, and Search buttons. They must always come in that order. They may be hard or soft buttons, but their order may not change nor their location. The other three required buttons can vary in location.

    Reply
  21. pacunar

    I understand whoever calls you an Android hater.

    I agree with you on the buttons, but if iPhone 5 comes with a new technology with nice features but not widely implemented, I’m sure everyone would say “I can imagine tons of applications for this!”.

    For me, you lost all credibility with that last sentence.

    Reply
  22. Koen van Hees

    Of course button order matters. Of course it is a big deal. Most commenters not impressed give their own version of “I don’t mind”, mostly coupled with a version of “because I’m smart”.
    If you are for one reason or another not very “in to” tech, e.g. because you’re constantly globe trotting doing mergers, because you’re pretty much a 24/7 heart surgeon or because you are pretty standard and have a life that doesn’t revolve around GUI’s, gizmo’s and the latest and newest, you depend on previously learned actions, automated motor actions and a vague sense of logic. Inconsistency in design, failing to meet the user’s expectations, typically results in one of two emotions: I’m stupid or this device is stupid.
    Both are maybe true for a certain value of ‘true’. That isn’t the point. The point is: neither is good… from a manufacturer’s or seller’s point of view.
    This said, I can understand if you say “OK, but me, I still don’t care.” And I can totally understand if you say “who cares, it’s a fucking phone, nothing else”. In that case, btw, make life easy and buy an iPhone. I can tell you’re that kind of person ;-)

    Reply
    1. rob-nz

      True, button order obviously matters and is a big deal to some people; or we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

      It equally obviously doesn’t matter to some people: ditto.

      I fall into the latter camp and I don’t believe it is for either of the reasons you ascribe.

      I choose my tools for their suitability of purpose based on a number of criteria. Button order is pretty low on the list behind a raft of more important things, provided they are intuitive and functional. (However it’s a minor plus as a southpaw to have some choice in the matter)

      As I noted above the buttons themselves have not changed in function since day one

      Learned behaviour is indeed learned. We are entirely capable of learning new behaviours, which then become our new norm. Otherwise your globe trotting joe average heart surgeon would be totslly stuffed the first time they encountered a rental car not the same as their BMW. :)

      This is nothing to do with perceptions of arrogance or stupidity on anyones part.

      If it works and you like it, buy it. If you don’t get something else.
      It manifestly doesn’t stop millions of either iPhones or Android phones selling, either way.

      As noted in the Android compatibility program documention (see my link above) certain choices were made about what to mandate, what to recommend and and what to leave to manufacturer discretion.

      All of them are up for debate, but so far the important judges, the phone buying public, don’t seem to be overly put off by the outcomes.

      If you don’t like one button layout, choose a vendor with one you do. And if you don’t like change, stick with it.

      Reply
  23. rob-nz

    Here y’go

    Compatibility Program Overview

    http://source.android.com/compatibility/overview.html

    Relevant clause from the Compatibility Definition Document :

    8.7. Navigation keys
    The Home, Menu and Back functions are essential to the Android navigation paradigm.

    Device implementations MUST make these functions available to the user at all times, regardless of application state.

    These functions SHOULD be implemented via dedicated buttons.

    They MAY be implemented using software, gestures, touch panel, etc., but if so they MUST be always accessible and not obscure or interfere with the available application display area.

    Device implementers SHOULD also provide a dedicated search key.

    Device implementers MAY also provide send and end keys for phone calls.

    Reply
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  25. Graham

    Does the W3C set standards for browser makers on where to put back, home, or say bookmark buttons on a browser? If they do, they’re not adhered to. Browsers are all slightly different on default buttons and their placement. Yet while many of us use mostly one, we can get around pretty well when we use any browser. This W3C-type role with respect to browser manufacturers is more in line with how android sees it’s role with respect to phone manufacturers.

    Reply
  26. Mansoor Ahmed

    I think Google considers the psychology of the users. That is the only reason they keep swapping the buttons. Correct me if I am wrong. But the counterpart of the swapping is that Google is trying to find out the best place for the home, back etc buttons.

    Reply
  27. steffenjobbs

    Nerds like that stuff. They say it keeps freedom alive. Consistency is too restricting for the free spirits of Android fanbois. Andy Rubin of Google says that the more junk put on Android smartphones by vendors and carriers is good for Android. This is supposedly why Android is so successful. (Aside from the fact it’s free)
    http://www.electronista.com/articles/10/12/06/googles.rubin.touts.bloatware.as.android.positive/

    You see, freedom means that everyone is free to do their own thing. Vendors, carriers and users are welcome to change everything about Android. No controls, no restrictions, no limits. Android is the true bad boy, rebel OS. You want to move buttons and controls around? Fine. You want every Android smartphone interface to be unique? Fine. You want malware in Android Market. OK. Consistency is for stupid consumers not worthy of high-tech Android. Fragmentation is a feature, not a flaw. The more outrageous and inconsistent Android is, the better. The Android fanbois are basking in fragmented glory.

    Reply
    1. rob-nz

      Heh! There’s more editorial slant in that article than Glenn Beck on a skate ramp talking about the progressive liberal agenda! :)

      Listen to the actual Rubin interview it’s not quite what he was saying, and soundbites are misleading..
      Also read the actual Compatibility statements I linked to previously.

      The goals stated by Google are:

      “The Android compatibility program works for the benefit of the entire Android community, including users, developers, and device manufacturers.

      Each group depends on the others. Users want a wide selection of devices and great apps; great apps come from developers motivated by a large market for their apps with many devices in users’ hands; device manufacturers rely on a wide variety of great apps to increase their products’ value for consumers.

      Our goals were designed to benefit each of these groups:

      -Provide a consistent application and hardware environment to application developers.
      – Enable a consistent application experience for consumers.
      – Enable device manufacturers to differentiate while being compatible.
      – Minimize costs and overhead associated with compatibility.”

      In the CDD it spells out clearly what Google thinks is essential to this and mandates certain things that must be standard. Outside those, there are a set of guidelines and options that give a certain amount of latitude in how these broad goals are to be achieved.

      I personally haven’t seen anything in the mainsteam Android world (as opposed to the non-certified devices simply running the OS, or homebake roms) that is in conflict with these goals.

      The button/schmutton thing has become kind of line noise. I actually agree that a given vendor should be consistent while allowing that they may have a good reason to update or change their standard offering. Mostly they do.

      Having said that, I think you need to take the Nexus one and S out of the respective Samsung and HTC camps when doing the comparison. These are OEM collaborations so not reflective of either manufacturers native lineup, regardless of the lineage and internal similarities. Looked at in this context, the button layout is only 1 different and that may be for a reason.

      I think giving HW vendors some scope to experiment with physical layout is good. It gives people some choice and ultimately better UI’s and paradigms come about through experimentation.

      Also remember that Android is not just designed to run on 1 size of candybar phone. There are MID’s, Tablets, Sliders, Candybars and military battlefield multi-function devices out there all running Android.

      As for fragmentation:
      http://labs.chitika.com/MobileWar/

      HOW many IOS versions was that again? :)

      (Add in 4.2 as well now)

      The malware comment is timely, the whole field of mobile security across all platforms is in a bit of a watershed at the moment. I was thinking of posting about it anyway, as it’s related to what I do for a living so watch Ben’s forums if you are interested.

      Reply
      1. EB

        “HOW many IO[s] versions was that again? :)

        (Add in 4.2 as well now)”

        One VERY distinct difference – other then reference Android platform phones (now there will be two), all other Android phones are upgradeable at the whims of the hardware vendor, if and when they decide to make such an update available. All of Apple’s updates are available simultaneously, free, and across the line, as long as the line is still supported. Currently that means there are two versions of the OS – 3.1.3 for the iPhone 2g and iPod Touch 1 and 2, and 4.2.1 for all others devices. While some features may not be available, the number of concurrent OSs is exactly 2. A developer can target 3.1.3 to get everything, or 4.2.1 to get the newer devices. Since the OS upgrades are free and available to anyone, they can require an IS version if they want and require the users to upgrade.

        Reply
      2. rob-nz

        @EB
        “other then reference Android platform phones (now there will be two), all other Android phones are upgradeable at the whims of the hardware vendor, if and when they decide to make such an update available.”
        Minor correction – there are 3 reference phones technically, the Google ION (HTC Magic) is still there.

        Re: updates; Yes indeed, we need a better update model. Supposedly 3.0 is working on some modularity to make this stuff easier. We also need to get the carriers out of this process. It seems often that it’s the carrier testing, approval and branding piece that takes the most time.

        We need to differentiate a little here though between vendor hardware updates and patches, which are fairly frequent on the majors (Samsung, Moto and HTC anyway), through normal mechanisms; and major OS updates which come via google.

        It’s a little easier for Apple as the two are from the same vendor.

        It will be fascinating to see how M$ handle this. My past experience with WinMo has been worse than Android.

        The vendor market is starting to respond to user

        Reply
      3. rob-nz

        @EB.

        Re fragmentation, my comment was a little tongue in cheek, re IOS.
        I KNOW minor point releases don’t mean much. (And I know the Chitka numbers are a sample, rather than a definitive summation)

        However there are some issues similar to what Android devs face. Not so many device types or screen sizes to support, but not entirely a trivial thing either:

        http://mattmaroon.com/2010/11/18/fragmentation/

        On Android you can certainly compile an app for 1.5 that will run across all newer versions if you wish.

        Or 2.x to get more than 80% of the installed base.

        Reply
  28. Ben

    Yeah I feel the same way about elevators. Some have a one and others have an L! Can you believe the nerve of those people! How do people ever find their way out of a building?

    Reply
    1. rueyeet

      Funny you should mention elevators.

      The elevator buttons in our operations center are labelled “U”, “E”, and “L”…took me a minute or two, first time I was there, to figure out that this probably meant “Upper”, “Entry”, and “Lower”. And I have to re-translate every time I visit the place.

      With that said, consistency is nice and all, but I’d bet that most consumers are used to the button layout being slightly different on each new cellphone they buy. Some people adapt easily, some have more trouble — but it’s such a routine annoyance of general cellphone ownership that it’s not going to stop anyone from buying an Android phone.

      And personally, I’d really like a “Back” method that’s consistent between all apps on the iPhone.

      Reply
  29. !AppleFanBoy

    You can not claim that Apple is immune to this type of design “issue.” Quoting a friend of mine that was discussing this issue, Apple also has a very lame iPad hardware design change.
    “You could already volume-mute an iPad by holding the ‘down volume’ switch for more than one click, so the functionality is redundant for two buttons within an inch of each other and I now have to make *4* clicks to lock the screen from rotating. Which I do constantly. Good design – NOT.”

    Reply
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  31. DopeyJoe

    Seriously? This is worth writing about?

    A tempest in a teacup, this.

    My nine-year-old daughter switches between my Andriod phone, my wife’s iPhone, and my sister’s Blackberry with no problems at all. Guess you’re just not that bright.

    Reply
    1. MattL

      My six-year-old audits my companies taxes on Google Docs and syncs them between my boss’s iPhone, my Android and our CFO’s Blackberry. I guess your nine-year-old daughter isn’t that bright.

      Reply
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  33. rob-nz

    Er…BTW, Just what Galaxy is that you have there in the picture?

    It’s not the Galaxy S or the Galaxy 585 we have here in NZ.

    Both of them have the standard Samsung centre home button

    Reply
  34. Dylan

    Ben, I love you like a slightly retarded brother, but this is weak.

    It’s a cellphone, very few people use more than one at a time. When we upgrade chances are we have to adapt to some differences in the phone.

    The phone’s basic features remain the same across all of them. The operating sytem follows the same conventions across all phones (and even software versions for the most part). I love that my Android phone has a back button, a search button and a menu button. The lack of this consistent hardware interface (on any for of consistent user experience) on my iPad drives me nuts.

    I’ve had two Android phones, the newer one (a Samsung Galaxy i5503) has more buttons than the old one (an LG Optimus), and they are in different places, but it took me all of a few minutes to get used to that. Everything else is consistent.

    My previous laptop was a Toshiba, my current one is a Compaq. They both run Windows, but the basic keyboard layout is different and all the function keys are different. I don’t consider this a weakness of Windows.

    Reply
  35. mmpaca

    for goodness sake Ben = the fact that the various manufacturer’s android phones are inconsistent with each other is only of significance to reviewers who are indulged by having a whole series of these phones to play with.

    People in the real world for the most part only have one phone and guess what? every time they use it it’s still consistent with how it was the previous time they looked at it!!!!!

    Reply
  36. Mike

    This is a ridiculous argument. You’re blaming Android because different manufacturers placed the buttons in a different order. Are you also going to blame Windows because the power & volume buttons aren’t consistent on all Dell, HP, and Lenovo laptops?

    It’s not a weakness of Google or Android that the button order can be changed by each manufacturer. There are legitimate gripes with Android, but this isn’t one of them.

    (If I wanted to be snarky, I’d point out that at least we have hardware buttons for common tasks, instead of one button that tries to shoehorn everything into it.)

    Reply
  37. rob-nz

    “I have the Droid 1 and my girlfriend has the Droid 2. The back button and menu button are switched on the two phones. Every single time she tries to use my phone she ends up exiting a program by accident for this reason.”

    Indeed. The Droid was one of Motorola’s very first Android phones.

    The second gen Moto phones (excluding the weirdass backflip and flipout) all have the same layout as the Droid 2. (Droid Pro, Droid X, Droid 2 Global, Cliq, Cliq XT).

    So it would seem they have now pretty much settled on a standard based on experience or user feedback.

    Some interesting points on what might characterise the ideal layout.

    As a lefty, I tend to like the HTC layout best, but the others are equally usable.

    Maybe what Google needs to do to still meet the philosophy of allowing vendor innovation and experimentation is just to require that each vendor adopt a consistent approach within their own line?

    The reviewer also misses the fact that Samsung are the OEM of the Nexus S, not the vendor. Compare Nexus with Nexus if you are looking for concistency. It’s not part of the Galaxy range any more than a Nexus 1 is HTC.

    Reply
  38. Harvey

    This is just one of the things you get with openness and not having all the hardware created by the same vendor. It’s no different to all the driver incompatibility BS you get with a white-box PC that you never got on a mac, but that doesn’t mean that macs are better than PCs.

    I’ll deal the mild inconvenience of a different button order on my next phone, safe in the knowledge that I’ll never need to use that abomination of a user experience called “itunes” ever again.

    Reply
    1. Dylan

      It’s not even like having all hardware from a single manufacturer will solve this – Nokia have a bunch of phones on the market that are all quite different.

      Very few people are frequently switching from one phone to another – it’s not an issue in the real world.

      Reply
  39. Gib Wallis

    This is retarded.

    Most people will not move from a Galaxy S to a Nexus S because the phone came out so closely in the calendar.

    For Google’s own phones, the Nexus One and the Nexus S trade exactly one button.

    One.

    Why? Probably because the Search button is more widely used by 3rd party app developers in every app, and also because Google is using Search in advanced ways from the home screen.

    But seriously? I have a Nexus One and I have friends with G1s and Galaxy Ss and it takes about two seconds in a dark bar to figure it out. Oh, yeah, and even then, the buttons on every Android phone I’ve ever used are lit in the dark, so it’s like a retard who can’t see which button is which.

    Android loves users and the users love Android.

    Very few people switch between every single model on a regular basis, and, surprise surprise, it’s really not that difficult to do it even then.

    This isn’t asking people to switch from QWERTY to DVORAK every five seconds. it’s four effing buttons.

    Reply
  40. Alex Debkalyuk

    Now that you’re saying it, I also noticed how inconsistent Google is about their interfaces… Instant search for instance doesn’t work on Images search page.

    Reply
  41. Damager

    I almost fell off my chair when i read this article.. about the varying positions of the home buttons across android handsets?

    I can imagine the next article will be something like “I’m not happy about the LED notification for a new text message on my upgraded handset. I’ve been used to a green LED for a new text for 2 years, and now it’s blue. Very fustrating”

    Ben, I always enjoy your articles but this particular one is a FAIL.

    Reply
  42. Pingback: 2Degrees Huawei IDEOS X5 Review | Ben.geek.nz

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