CHICAGO, June 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Trying to find a basic phone with no bells and whistles is becoming increasingly difficult. When you consider games, music, and text and picture messaging, the list of options a mobile phone has is seemingly endless. As mobile phones have evolved, they have been packed with tons of features resulting in a user experience that becomes increasingly complicated. If you are looking for something that can make and receive calls and send a simple text message, User Centric (http://www.usercentric.com), a global user experience research and design firm based in Chicago, recently reviewed a phone that claims to do just that.
User Centric specializes in evaluating the usability and user experience of products, including mobile devices. They evaluated the Samsung Jitterbug J to see if this no frills mobile flip phone is really an ideal phone for those who truly want a simple phone with basic features. Making and receiving a call, using the speakerphone, navigating the menu, accessing the Phone Book and checking voicemail are all very simple. In terms of hardware, the phone fits well into the palm of your hand and is easy to hold while talking and dialing. However, there are some basic things that users may find challenging, such as how to compose a text message or finding the signal and battery levels on the phone. So, overall, what is the Jitterbug J like, and how do users perform with it?
The Jitterbug J has a number of aspects that make it unique on the current market, but not in the way you would expect. For example, it is the only mobile phone on the market with a dial tone, similar to a landline phone. While this can be comforting to those who are more familiar with landline phones, there are a few drawbacks to the feature. The dial tone does not tell users the strength of the signal. This can be easily rectified by providing an on-screen signal strength indicator on the title bar of the menu.
Another issue is the dial tone disappears while users navigate the menu which may lead to confusion about whether they can still make a phone call, or if they have to wait until they hear the dial tone again. The dial tone may be annoying for some, especially when using the phone in public, so allowing a user to turn on and off the dial tone would be a useful feature.
Another aspect of mobile telephones that is becoming increasingly rare is simple navigation of the phone's features. Navigating the Jitterbug J menu is straightforward. Users flip the phone open and are met with a clear, basic, text-based menu which eliminates guess work. Users can easily navigate using the Up and Down arrow keys, make selections with the Yes key, and return to the previous screen using the No key. Users are also presented with simple Yes/No wizard-like questions that guide them on what to do.
The keys on the numeric keypad are large and easy to correctly select. They are concave, raised and provide ample tactile feedback which helps users efficiently differentiate between each key. The keys are also backlit and clearly labeled. The most salient problem with the button interface is that the volume is a little difficult to find since it is on the front of the phone rather than on the side of the phone, which is a standard location on mobile devices.
Users will appreciate that making and receiving a call is the same as any other basic mobile phone. However, making the first call on the Jitterbug J may be initially confusing for some. When users flip the phone open they hear a dial tone and are presented with the phone's menu. The dial tone lets them know that there is a signal, but the menu does not suggest they can just start dialing. This is a one-time learning process and users are likely to remember upon subsequent use that they can just dial a number when they flip the phone open and hear a dial tone. Similarly, receiving a phone call is like any other phone. Based on how users set up the Jitterbug J, when a call comes in the phone will blink, vibrate and/or ring. Users can easily tell who is calling by looking at the Caller ID screen on the front of the phone. Before users can get any indication of who is calling them, however, they must add contacts.
Accessing the Phone Book and adding a contact are easy. Users simply navigate to the Phone Book to view, add, edit and remove contacts. One thing users, especially seniors and novice mobile phone users, may find difficult is typing out the name of a contact. Not all users will know how to enter text using multi-tap. Looking at the numeric keypad may be overwhelming and confusing for some since there are no instructions within Jitterbug J's How-To Guide or website (http://www.jitterbug.com/) that teach users how to enter text. If users do not want to attempt this, they can call Jitterbug directly and ask the operator to add contacts to their phone or go to the website (www.MyJitterbug.com), create an account and add contacts online. The phone will automatically update with new contacts that were added these ways. However, users may not want to call Jitterbug or create a new account, so Jitterbug should consider providing tutorials on how to enter text in the How-To Guide and website.
Text messaging may pose the same problems for some users as adding contacts. Just figuring out how to read and send a text message is simple, though. When a new text message arrives, users are provided with an auditory chime and a new message indicator, lasting for a short time on the outer screen which users may not notice until they flip the phone open. But not all users will know how to type a message using the numeric keypad. Text messaging may be difficult for some users unless they were previously exposed to or taught how to multi-tap.
Not everything is easy and simple about the interface, though. User Centric noted a few important pieces of information missing from the main screen of the Jitterbug J. The icons for signal strength and battery life are currently not on the main screen. These icons should be on the title bar of the menu screen, similar to other mobile phones, as they are critical to phone use and users are not likely to know to go into the Phone Info menu to find that information. Another missing feature is the time and date which can only be viewed on the outside screen, but this information should also be visible on the main screen as with other phones.
Another problem is with 'MyWorld,' a feature that provides personalized local weather forecasts, sports and stock information, and Calendar features. Finding them is easy, but figuring out how to use these is very difficult. There is currently no way for users to add or edit information within the MyWorld or Calendar features directly on the phone which should be an option. There are no instructions or reference to either feature in the How-To Guide and while users can go to the Jitterbug website to find out how to use and access the features online, not everyone has access to a computer. Users are sent a separate Quick Start Guide for each of the features via postal mail, but they should not have to wait for information to arrive in the mail. Instead, the information should be included in the How-To Guide that comes with the phone and there should be tips provided on how to use the two features.
The Jitterbug J also has a Daily Health Tips feature, which, oddly enough, is not advertised or mentioned in the How-To Guide. Users can sign up for this free feature when they purchase the phone, online or by calling Jitterbug, but most will not even know about it, much less how to sign up. The feature is simply receiving a new text message each day with a different heath tip but the tips are too general and not very helpful (e.g. "Get focused. Make up your mind to choose health everyday.") The feature seems like a neglected afterthought.
Overall, the Jitterbug J is a good simple phone that is easy to use. With some easy improvements, the user experience and satisfaction can be improved for everyone.
User Centric specializes in evaluating the usability and user experience of a variety of products and services, including handhelds, websites, software, medical devices, print, packaging, and telephony services. Our services include user research, user interface design consulting, information architecture, usability testing, user interface evaluations, eye tracking, and online surveys. Learn more about us at www.UserCentric.com.
User Centric, Inc.
SOURCE User Centric