by Gus Desbarats, Chairman, TheAlloy

C3, my last Nokia?

Gus Desbarats is the chaiman of The alloy

Gus Desbarats is a car designer turned mobile phone deisgner who understands that it's about more than big button mobiles when it comes to building easy to use phones.

I was at a ‘mobile for seniors’ conference. I must be getting on because it all seems, to me, to be simply about avoiding the really bad usability that still all too common in the mobile world.

My new Nokia C3 is a case in point. I use an I-phone for mail and apps but my also want a small robust reliable and easy to use phone. As a phone designer I’m always on the hopeful look out for something that will actually generate enthusiasm. That hope has been more and more forlon. Nokia usually comes closest and my 6300 was one of a long series of ‘goldilocks’ just right designs. When the charging plug finally gave up the C3 seemed the closest replacement, If only.

Here are some of the changes on my ‘new and improved’ C3:

  • It has more options I don’t want: like browsing the internet, slowly, in impossibly small type.
  • It is now 5 fiddly touch screen clicks to silence the ringer (nice one touch camera though….)
  • It took 15 minutes of menu fiddling to guess my way to the Bluetooth pairing menu. (bearing in mind I’ve been designing device interfaces of all types for 25 years..)
  • It has automatic ‘cheek activated’ mute in call. (lots of fun..)

I was overseas when it prompted me to set my mobile voice mail number under the 1 ‘one touch’ key. Being clever I set the number to +44901 thinking this would work. Wrong, I should have remembered the networks have cleverly coordinated things so 901 works anywhere. OK score a point for Nokia? No, since that prompt, I’ve been unable to find anywhere, and I really mean anywhere, any option that will allow me to change the number changing of the ‘special’ 1 messages one touch key. (I can of course program the other one touches). I’ve been looking for months, rummaging the menu like some sort of digital ‘lost sock’ drawer, without any joy. I’m sure someone at nokia knows where the option is. Solution welcome!

Nokia C3

Is this the last straw for Gus?

I dropped it once and the touch screen went blank. It got repaired under warranty but I lost my holiday photo’s… My old phones have been dropped repeatedly..

I now have not one, but two entries for every phone in my phone book. I need to keep my phonebook on my sim so I can dial out from the steering wheel controls in my car. If I do that I can’t use the ‘touch screen’ tiles. When I tried to copy a few over that I ended up creating unwanted duplicates of every entry.. I’ll fix it eventually, but why can’t the tiles also accept links to sim numbers?

Ovi also comes across as a net negative on this form factor. It has made it so much harder to get ring tones that I really can’t be arsed.

I also assume that Nokias desire to channel revenue through OVI is why my C3 has no free games. Do I care enough about games to my own pull teeth through the impossibly small slow and complex experience of chosing and buying a cheap game? No. The people Nokia has disappointed are my daughters 9 and 12 who can no longer be saved from their perception of terminal boredom when stuck somewhere away from their multiscreen home IT lab.

Of by the way, I of course can’t read the screen in sunlight, and the on-screen dashboard is of course totally impossible to pick out of virtually any background. I had to spend a few minutes photographing different coloured object until I found a mid tone colour that allowed the graphics (that trivial stuff like signal, battery and ringer status..) to be legible

So in a nutshell, the company that has probably sold more phones than any other seems to have forgotten how to get the basics right. Not a great place to be given Nokia’s less than stellar performance in smartphones.

A few years ago, in the 2 years before the i-phone launched we were making the case to the industry that touch screens were the only simple way to interact with compact multifunction devices..

A few years after Apple has redirected the mobile herd, I fear it is now stampeding away from the 2/3rds of the market who still walk into stores saying ‘I just want a phone that does calls’ . It’s as if the car business in the 30’s had declared that the future is trucks…hmm if I know one thing it is that someone somewhere will see the millions to be made from simple ‘non tech’ mobile device and service propositions.

It might even be Nokia, but that hope is looking pretty forlorn. Will the C3 be my last of 7 Nokias?


If you want to read more of Gus’ blogs you’ll find them here