You had me until I saw the stylus



I got pretty excited when Rafe posted a video about S60 touch on allaboutsymbian. I’ve been using S60 since the 3650 days and continue to love it, despite its quirks and shortcomings. There have been rumours of touch capabilities for S60 for years now, long before the announcement and shipping of the iPhone. I’m also pretty sure that Nokia have been working on S60 touch capabilities for some time now (pre-iPhone) too.

Everything was going great: the video showed a nice N-Series-style phone with a big touchable screen doing things that you’d expect an N-Series phone with a big touchable screen to do. And then about two minutes in they lost me. That’s when they showed the S60 touch interface being used with a stylus.

Come on Symbian. It’s not the 90’s anymore. My Palm III rocked because of its stylus and glorious grey screen, but that was almost a decade ago. Now that the iPhone has launched, there’s a certain expectation level for new mobile UIs.

Touch is one of those expectations. Having to use a stylus is not.

It’s also interesting to see this latest battle in the one-handed vs. two-handed war play itself out. It has always struck me that there is a split between these two factions within Nokia (and by extension within Symbian) but the public rarely sees it. I tend to lean toward the one-handed side myself but do see the merits that some two-handed devices have to offer from time to tim. I have both a 9290 and an N800 but the bulk of my mobile purchases have been one-handed devices.

I also think that S60’s one-handedness is one of the reasons that S60-based devices have been so successful. Nokia sold approximately 1.5 million N95’s in Q2 2007. Compare those numbers with a flagship device like a high end two-handed UIQ phone and I’ll bet that the two-handed numbers are significantly lower. Once you start including the entire one-handed range of Symbian devices, you have a force to be reckoned with.

I’m hoping that showing the stylus was meant to demonstrate that Symbian can support a stylus, not that most or many devices will. I’m encouraged a bit since S60 has recently taken on QWERTY capabilities and it makes sense to tout its versatility from single-handed to touch to stylus to QWERTY.

We’re still at the press release stage not the technical documentation stage, so there’s a lot of room for change. Lots of things mentioned in the press release strike me as good things: tactile feedback, backwards compatibility, in-browser flash support and a continuation of S60’s various sensor mechanisms.

But Symbian, here’s a bit of advice for you: downplay that stylus! Nobody wants to see it and it totally kills the mood when you use it on an otherwise sleek and sexy device.


2 responses to “You had me until I saw the stylus”

  1. Henrikki Avatar

    I think it was just a promotional video where they showing the platform’s every input method. So which of them a certain specific device will have will be seen in the future.

  2. Tarek El-Ghazaly Avatar
    Tarek El-Ghazaly

    I couldn’t agree more. Seeing that stylus in the video was a great source of concern for me. You wouldn’t expect that on a 2008 touchscreen device.

    Windows mobile powered smartphones are getting much more powerful regarding their capabilities and features than most Symbian phones, and I was kinda waiting for s60 touch to turn that table around, and it’s not gonna happen with a stylus.

    Regarding QWERTY, it’s a must. Better do it in a single handed device like the TOUCH DUAL, imate ultimate 8502 or any of the Treos. Unfortunately, these are all Windows powered phones that I won’t consider before Windows Mobile 6.1 is out.

    Which brings us to a more important and relevant issue. Windows Mobile 6.1 is coming, Nokia!! Microsoft is redesigning it’s UI to be entirely finger friendly. Any stylus touch device will be blown to the sea when WM 6.1 is out.