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The Wisdom of the Ancients (i.e. 2002) Lost
Looking through a raft of timers, clocks, stopwatches and the like for the Android, I've come to realize that many of the great Human Interface Design lessons of the early 90s, of the original Blackberries and Palms, have been sacrificed to the "ooh, shiny!" of AMOLED screens and better CPUs. The Android "anything goes" guidelines have resulted in tragedy.

For example: it takes THREE gestures to get to the "last app" on your Android. It takes FIVE to get to the Home page. It takes six to get to a "frequently used application," seven to to nine for less frequently used applications.

Contrast that with the Palm: ONE gesture to the last app, ONE gesture to the home, ONE gesture to your top three applications, TWO to FOUR gestures for all other applications.

Another example: the typical timer application on the Android has a "tap-and-hold" method for setting a countdown. If you're trying to get to 45 seconds, you tap-and-hold the "up" button, a very non-tactile experience-under-glass in which you have to guesstimate when you're "close" to 45, then stop and tap to your target one second at a time, all the while your big hand may well be obscuring the input.

Contrast this with two different timers for the Palm. Big Clock had an individual tap for seconds and tens of seconds. 45 seconds is nine taps above the number, with big haptic regions of affordance and an easy count in your head-- no guessing there at all, and you can't make a mistake even if your hand is in the way. Pocket Doan, my meditation timer, was pure minutes-- in an in-page drop down! Tap for drop down, tap for 15 minutes. Or 20, or 25. If you needed something weird, like "17" minutes, the bottom of the menu was "Custom," which not only went to a pop-up for big haptic taps like Big Clock, but let you use the keyboard to input the time as well.

Hands do things. They hold, manipulate, touch, grasp, grab, push, shove. The Palm Pilot understood this, making initial contact tactile and fast, emphasizing reading over input, and making input absolutely simple when necessary.

Android phones with motion sensors can now tell when you're holding one up to your face. The SOAP project was an experiment in having the device automatically start some apps after certain motions, like the camera if you held it like a camera. More of that needs to be done.

But more than that, manufacturers need to not be afraid to put physical buttons on the outside of the phone. Why is "volume" privileged with external buttons, but "calendar," "note pad," "ebooks," and "productivity timer" not? It would be easy to set the buttons to all be "power" to begin with, and then let users discover, using a standard gamification & DITA algorithm, that they could program those buttons to go straight to their favorite apps.

Anyway, I'd like to see programs like Big Clock and Pocket Doan on the Android. I hate the Eclipse integrated development environment, have never seen the Android API, and haven't programmed in Java in 14 years. I understand a lot has changed.

This shouldn't take long.

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