A whole lot more 17:12 on Saturday

T3 mag wonders if the Nokia N91 music phone is the new iPod and the guys at See into S60 blog are extatic:

This phone can do all your iPod can do, and a whole lot more.

And especially, it will require you to do a whole lot more to get the N91 to do what the iPod does.

A whole lot more might be what people ask for, but it rarely is what they need. What they need is simplicity. For the avoidance of doubt I must emphasize that simplicity is not minimalism. This misconception can lead to the following claims, which are dangerous if taken as granted:

  • Visual minimalism: A minimalist visual design is simple.
    Result: Focusing all your attention to minimizing the number of interface elements can give a clean and hence “simpler” look, but it might make the interface inherently more difficult to operate.
  • Interaction minimalism: The less interaction is needed for a particular operation, the quicker and simpler the operation is to accomplish.
    Result: Less interaction can increase the cognitive load of the few required steps immensely. It is more important to focus on reducing the cognitive load than the time required to accomplish a goal.
  • Technical minimalism: Re-using bits and pieces enhances consistency and makes for a simpler product.
    Result: People don’t break up and re-use ideas and concepts the same hierarchical or object-oriented way computers do. Sometimes (most of times?) achieving simplicity requires extreme complexity from the code that powers it.

Returning to the iPod vs. N91 argument, I think iPod has proved that sticking to simplicity has a lot more value than sticking on another feature. Or how would you explain the market-share of all those feature-rich products competing against the iPod? I don’t believe it’s all in the marketing.

As for now, I would say the humanity is not at the level of intelligence required to provide both endless features and simplicity in the same two-matchbox form factor.

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