When you watch Steve Jobs’ demo of the iPhone, he makes the argument that the fixed keypads on mobile phones have many disadvantages and no advantages. But today plenty of people are talking about the advantages of keypads. With my Pebl, I can get my phone out of my pocket, open it, and call my wife on speed dial using one hand without looking at the screen or the keypad. Jobs pointed out the utility of the mouse in his presentation, but a computer with only a mouse would offer very little in terms of productivity. I can type over 90 words per minute and I never have to look at the keyboard.
The two big user interface questions I have about the iPhone are how useful it will be if you can’t pay full attention to the screen, and whether it will favor power users once they’ve gotten the hang of it. Keypads and keyboards are awkward for the first time user, but once you’ve gotten used to them, they can provide amazing productivity. The iPhone may make it easy on people when they initially get it out of the box, but will we find it significantly more useful after we’ve had it for six months? The jury is definitely still out in that regard.