Usability test: Does iPhone match the hype?

Users try out the iPhone, HTC Touch and the Nokia N95

We all know that in the technology world, the hype about new products often doesn't match reality. So it's fair to ask: Is the iPhone as good as its hype? In particular, does iPhone's much-discussed touch-screen interface really make using the device simpler and more intuitive?

Everybody will have an opinion, but what's need is something more objective and definitive. So an expert in the field -- Perceptive Sciences, a Texas-based usability consulting firm -- was asked to examine and compare the iPhone and two competitors; HTC Touch 4 and Nokia N95 2.5.

The results of its tests were unequivocal: While the iPhone is not the most feature-rich device, this group of experts found that when it comes to usability, iPhone does, indeed, live up to its hype.

The phones

Besides iPhone, the two other products in this usability comparison test were selected for two reasons: They were available, and they had competitive feature sets. In particular, the testers needed a touch-screen phone to compare to the iPhone and a more traditional button-based phone with strong multimedia capabilities.

For now, there are few touch-screen devices available. One that has received a fair amount of publicity is the LG Prada, which is not yet available from a U.S. mobile carrier. LG declined to participate in these tests.

The tests

Perceptive Sciences designed this test to be as objective as possible, according to senior research scientist Tom Thornton and research scientist Tim Ballew. That's particularly important, they said, because of the high level of attention iPhone has received; it would be easy for that hype to influence the results of more subjective tests.

The company brought in 10 testers who had never used any of the three devices. It then asked the testers to perform a series of tasks on each device with quantifiable results, such as the time needed to find and use the on/off switch. Other tasks included setting the phone to vibrate, making a

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David Haskin

Computerworld
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