Thursday, July 19, 2007

Usability and Quality Problems with the Apple iPhone

If you keep up with the latest news and trends in technology, it's hard to avoid anything being reported on the Apple iPhone. Since its release it has captured the hearts and minds of many hard-core Apple users and mobile technophiles.

Recently some news has sprouted about usability and quality issues associated with the Apple iPhone. The device is touted as being very user-friendly and intuitive, but some performance issues leave much to be desired. You can see what one group reported in their own usability study.

A recent article on the web reported how use of the Apple iPhone on the Duke University campus has caused issues with their wireless network. Subsequently, users see poor performance in their web browsing with the device.

This leads me to some important questions:

  1. Did Apple test the iPhone in the field to make sure web browsing on the device would meet user expectations?
  2. Did they anticipate what the performance would be when more phones are on a given network?
  3. If Apple is fully aware of the issue, are they using the device as a tipping point to force the infrastructure it resides on to adapt to them versus them adapting the device to the infrastructure?

It's hard for me to believe that Apple didn't anticipate or test for this condition. However, stranger things have happened. Besides, Apple is in the process of gaining considerable market share in the mobile computing area. Once they do they can quite possibly call the shots, hence the reason for asking question number 3.

The lesson we can learn from this is usability testing and field testing is crucial to the success of any piece of consumer software, website, web application or hardware device. Testing the product under actual conditions an end-user would use it can yield a wealth of information that may not have been considered in the design phases. Once you learn this information you can apply what you learn and make the appropriate fixes to the final release of the product.

What's a technophile to do with a device that's not fully meeting their expectations? Word is a new version of the iPhone is already in the works.

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