Has Apple cracked the touchscreen usability problem?

Note: This post is over 4 years old. It was first published in January 2007

apple iphoneTouchscreens. Pockets. Keys. Big Fat Thumbs. These things haven’t managed to go together very well in the past … but have Apple managed to crack it with the iPhone?

The great thing about physical buttons is that they stay in the same place, and they have a “tactile landscape”. This means that if you are familiar with your phone, your hand can feel where the buttons are, and your motor memory can make using them feel “automatic”, a bit like riding a bike. The tactile landscape can help you do things while you are using your phone, like walking down a busy street and writing a text without bumping into anything. This makes your phone into a genuinely mobile device – something that you can use while moving, rather than just a portable device – something that you carry around but only use while stationary. [Ref]

This all seems fairly logical, right? So the question is, will the touchscreen on the Apple iPhone require too much visual attention? Will it be one of those devices you have to use while standing (or sitting) still?

Then comes the question of robustness. Apple tends to make devices that get scratched just by looking at them. I resent having to mollycoddle my ipod. I dread having to do the same with my phone. I don’t just want a phone that works with itunes and osx. I want a phone that’s compatible with my keys and my loose change.

But having said all this, when are they released in the UK? I badly want one!