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User Experience

When better isn’t good enough

May 18, 2015

I’ve spent the week breaking in a spiffy new Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphone. Meh. It’s … fine.

I finally decided it was time to retire my Windows phone – a Lumia 900. What makes this somewhat interesting is that I’m actually pretty unenthusiastic about the switch. If I’m honest with myself, I had a pretty stellar experience with the Windows phone. The phone itself was attractive, engineered well and robust enough to be carried without a case for a couple of years. The Windows ‘Tiles’ interface – much maligned on PCs – actually works pretty brilliantly on a mobile platform. I found the experience of using the Windows phone to be logical, intuitive, attractive, expressive and altogether seamless. The phone did everything I wanted it to do and more. I found all the apps I ever needed and most all the apps I ever wanted. Frankly, I was a pretty darn satisfied Windows phone user – exactly what the designers must have been hoping for.

So if I had such a great experience with the Windows phone, why in the world did I change and what lessons, if any, are there for us as product designers?

Part of my decision to change was driven by curiosity. I started my smartphone history with a Blackberry – moved to an iPhone platform shortly after its release and then, to switch things up, thought I’d give the Windows phone a shot. This time I figured trying an Android phone seemed like collecting the entire set.

But if I’m honest with myself, part of the switch was driven by a nagging fear that I was riding a dying horse. That no matter how much better I felt the Windows experience was, there simply wasn’t going to be enough room in the smart-phone market for another operating system. And there was this fine line between the curiosity factor of owning an unusual, unique and eclectic product and the stigma of being ‘that one stupid guy who bought a Windows phone.’ In the end, I just decided to surrender and go with the flow.

How we react to a product depends on its features and function but it’s also tied up in a confusing soup of trends, brand, prestige, aesthetics and image.

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Sketch of a phone