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This phone's broken!

This is my new cell phone (See photo a). When I first got it, an instruction sheet in the box said to completely charge the battery before turning on the phone. I charged it up all day. When I tried to turn it on, I pressed the P button on the top right side of the phone (See arrow in photo b). I thought P was for Power.

Cell Phone

When I pressed the P button, the phone didn't turn on. I tried it several times and then started pressing various buttons on the front of the phone. Nothing turned the phone on. Was the battery charged up enough? I charged it for several more hours and tried it again, but still no luck. I called customer service and they told me to send the phone back. Several days later, I got a new phone. Exactly the same thing happened with the new phone!

While complaining about the phone, I showed it to our Nanny. She turned the phone on right away by pressing the red "End call" button (See arrow in photo c). Her cell phone worked the same way! Looking closely at the button, one can not easily see the tiny on/off symbol. The red "End call" button has to be pressed and held down for a few seconds to turn the phone on and off.

I have shown this phone to several people and each had difficulty figuring out how to turn it on. These people all had exactly the same problem I had. All were Nokia cell phone users and on Nokia phones, the on/off  button is located at the top of the phone. I'll bet the cell phone company is getting a lot of unnecessary customer calls like mine.

This phone has several usability problems. The P button, which many people expect to turn on the phone, does not  turn on the phone. The P button is actually a short cut to a menu of information services such as sports scores and stock market prices. Most people don't expect the red "End call" button to turn on the phone. The on/off symbol on the red "End call" button is too small to be easily noticeable.

Design suggestion

Here are some potential solutions to this problem:
  • Change the function of the P button so that it turns the phone on and off. This would be easily recognized by Nokia users. 
  • Alternatively, provide more obvious labeling for the "End-call" button's on/off function. For example, put a larger on/off symbol outside the button.
  • Put a temporary sticker on the phone such as "Press and hold this button to turn the phone on and off." This would solve the problem for the first time user.

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Copyright © Michael J. Darnell 1996-2010. All rights reserved.