Since the beginning of podcasting and videoblogging, I have heard this received wisdom about how important the cellphone market is to new media. “There are a billion cellphones out there, so you have to pay attention to them.” Now, I got a new phone the other day, a Motorola RAZR. I picked this model specifically because it can play videos and music. It was the best option at the low end of price scale (and the first time I ever got a non-free phone.)
And you know what? While it does play video, the interface on the phone really really sucks. At least, it sucks to play the video that you don’t buy from Sprint. The fact that it has two entirely different video interfaces – one for what you buy from Sprint and one for the video on your memory card – is indicative of a deep problem. There’s a third interface for music and maybe even a fourth. I haven’t really played with it, since the microSD slot was already broken within 24 hours of opening the box. Not an auspicious beginning with a new gadget. Via JD, here’s a story about how media on phones is underperforming expectations. Note that everything they are talking about is Big Machine Media, which I also have no intention of watching. I’m wanting to watch Strong Bad Emails and Ask a Ninja and Tiki Bar TV on the phone, not pay for bullshit from Fox that I don’t watch for free on my television.
Even though I’m not in the market for it, I know the excitement for the iPhone doesn’t come from nowhere. It comes from the fact that using cellphones should be easy, and for any task other than making a call the experience is routinely horrible. The iPhone buzz is an indictment of the usability of cellphones. We are sold these laundry lists of extra features our phones can do, and almost all of them are unusable in practice. I want a phone that I can believe the engineers actually used on a daily basis. I refuse to believe that anyone inside Motorola ever tried to use the alarm clock function in the V180 to wake themselves up.
In summary, I’m officially choosing to ignore all the cell phone proponents about how necessary cell phones are to new media until I see a model where one playing it is a better experience than having a tooth pulled.