Windows Mobile easier to use than iPhone operating system?

Tweeted by Matt Buchanan:
trying to unravel how consumer reports scored windows mobile "excellent" on ease of use, better than iPhone and G1
You don't have to be an Apple fan to think it a little odd, that's for sure. What it comes down to, perhaps, is the problem of quantifying technologies whose appeal is more abstract than ever. On paper, Windows Mobile makes an ocean of wildly different devices accessible in uniform and utilitarian fashion. But the iPhone is just an iPhone. Consumer Reports is the best place in the world to find out what vacuum cleaner to buy, but its gadget reviews are often ambivalent and unsatisfying, like an elderly grandmother trying to explain why she prefers sherry to port. To me, a religious devotee of its general coverage, this presents something of a mystery. Perhaps clinical detachment just isn't that interesting for things that inspire communication and encourage cultural anarchy in ways that fridges and televisions never can–software, particularly, simply isn't an appliance. In the following video, senior editor Michael Gikas embarks on a journey into the land of the iClones. A benign review of RIM's panned BlackBerry Storm is followed by inconclusive fluff about the other usual suspects, all of which are treated to 8/10 talk. The best "what?" moment comes when he spots Sprint's Instinct as the best web experience on the market: "I was watching FOX on Sprint TV coming down today!"

About Rob Beschizza

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  
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18 Responses to Windows Mobile easier to use than iPhone operating system?

  1. matt buchanan says:

    I would buy your argument IF Windows Mobile was anything like actual Windows in terms of UI or navigational paradigms, but it isn’t. So really, the only familiar thing about it is the branding.

    Also, it’s worth noting that in the Fox News clip, one of the “cons” of the Touch Pro is that it’s “complicated.” This, despite the fact that HTC sugarcoats the WM UI with their TouchFlo skin that makes things relatively easier to get to (something so important, apparently, that HTC does it despite the skin’s massive overhead, which drags down WM6.1’s already less-than-stellar performance).

    FWIW, I wasn’t just talking about the iPhone and G1–add Palm Garnet OS, BlackBerry and S60 up there too.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Consumer Reports seems to offer up great advice as long as you aren’t geeky about what they’re writing about. Audiophiles have lambasted the stereo reviews in CR for decades. America’s Test Kitchen, which does its own version of testing, routinely disagrees with CR. Amazingly, CR will also occasionally tackle wine which I imagine is simply joke material for serious wine drinkers.

    What’s funny to me is how many (gadget) geeks will passionately decry the self-delusion and snobbery of audiophiles, oenophiles, or foodies who ignore quantitative analytical tests in favor of their own qualitative holistic evaluations. Then they’ll declare that their particular domain of geekdom is the exception. CR is totally dependable on power amplifier reviews, but just doesn’t “get” UI for mobile devices.

    I think the truth of the matter is rather simple. If you don’t really use a product that often and if its use doesn’t play a major role for you then CR is a good source for (preliminary) advice. If, on the other hand, the product is something you really geek out on, you’re better off talking to other geeks and ignoring the taunts of other people. Desire to be a good person probably also mandates that you refrain from your own taunts when other people behave mysteriously in regards to things that you really don’t care that much about.

    Somewhere, there’s a group of people who feel very passionately about vacuum cleaners and think that CR’s testing misses the nuance of a transcendent vacuum experience.

  3. 0xdeadbeef says:

    Oh, Rob, I’m sorry, you thought this was personal. Don’t confuse memory and pattern matching with a grudge. You rank pretty low in influence among technology fashionistas, but if you would like an arch-enemy, I can start the paperwork.

    Seriously, though, answer me this: Why would it be desirable for CR to gush over a particular product like the Fox drone in this video? The media trumpets the iPhone, so everyone rushes to imitate it in some way or another, then everything is an “iPhone killer”, setting them up for failure, because nothing does everything quite like the iPhone despite the fact that many do particular things much better, and always have. There is no room for particular needs, particular features, particular aesthetics, particular anything. Your “cultural anarchy” is a monoculture and a jack-booted, top-down suffocating one at that.

  4. CraziestGadgetsdotcom says:

    a WinMo phone that is running something like touchflo 3d (HTC touch phones) might actually be easier to use than an iphone. shocking!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Consumer reports is one of the most respected magazines out there, and they do more rigorous testing than anyone on these things. They also tend to be pretty open with all the details of their testing process.

    Sorry fanboys, I know that Apple is what is considered “hip” among the mall-shopping crowd and 40-year-old “I remember the dot-com boom!” types… But maybe Consumer Reports is simply objectively looking at what a standard consumer would like in a cell phone, and not what cellphone makes for the best wireless controller for Ableton live?

  6. kerry says:

    @ #5 –
    My mom has been using Windows daily since 1995 and still doesn’t understand it. If you put a windows mobile phone in front of her she would probably throw it out a window or crush it with a mallet out of frustration. In her perfect world we would not have taken away her Apple IIe and made her learn how to use a mouse. Most of the Windows users I know would feel the same. They know how to operate the system in that they know how to double click. I used to work with a guy who didn’t even know that.

    @ #6 –
    Reading the manual is actually my favorite part of gadget ownership. I get to learn every stupid tiny detail of what it can do. Perhaps this is a difference between men and women.

  7. nprnncbl says:

    I think Gikas comes across as a deer in the headlights of a frenetic Fox News reporter. He can barely get in a word edgewise, with the host blatantly encouraging him to declare the iPhone the best, which he does his best to resist.

    The comment about watching Fox on Sprint was certainly prepared, and seems like Gikas’s attempt at humor. But it’s an attempt that falls flat, especially because Gikas doesn’t quite seem to get that he’s not in control.

    And, wow, for someone who claims not to have a grudge, they sure have an ox to grind. I found Beschizza’s commentary about the increasingly ephemerate nature of comparing gadgets frank, on the mark, and not the least bit accusatory.

  8. dculberson says:

    0xdeadbeef, your post #1 was almost the definition of non sequitur. It just doesn’t make sense in response to this post. I see no accusations of corruption. Accusations of being boring, out of touch, or incompetent are very, very different from accusations of corruption.

  9. Rob Beschizza says:

    Let me say that I didn’t mean to be mean to Gikas: he was definitely being bamboozled by that fast-talking fox chap.

    All in good humor! Emoticons!

  10. halfcaptain says:

    “You could run multiple applications and that could slow it down a bit.”

    I’m not the biggest fan of the HTC line, but since when is (optionally) running multiple applications a con? and isn’t it obvious that if your phone is slow in this case, you can close a few of these ‘multiple applications’? Am I missing something, Mr. Gikas?

    Also, I’m a little grossed out by the smirking apple fanboy on the right. CR isn’t the best, but at least they make an effort now and then to overcome that coked-up apple fanboy bias.

  11. Halloween Jack says:

    Your comments re: CR’s blind spot make sense to me. They do better with things where the testing involves physical tests like SUV rollovers and seeing whether those vacuum cleaners will pick up metal washers or something.

  12. technogeek says:

    Usually, the reason folks think Windows is easy is the “baby duck” phenomenon — unsophisticated users imprint on the first environment they’re exposed to and anything else, because it isn’t what they expect, is “wrong”.

    Users who have had more exposure may still prefer what they’re used to even when they recognize that they alternative is equally good and maybe even better, simply because there’s a productivity hit until they’ve trained a parallel set of reflexes and gotten used to switching that set in and out.

    On the other hand: I’ve found that the more I know about a field, and the more technical the field is, the less satisfied I am with CU’s reviews. They do a good job on straightforward testing, and they rarely give _bad_ advice, but they don’t always have the in-house expertise to give the best possible advice. As the financial reporters say, their job is to inform you of the possibilities and issues; consult your own expert before making investment decisions.

  13. 0xdeadbeef says:

    And yes, you’re not quite accusing the Consumer Reports of incentive for bias, though I suspect anything with a lesser reputation would be written off as being in Microsoft’s pocket.

    I guess I should say, accusations of reviewer incompetence are the dumbest form of fanboy blindness.

    And it’s funny, every time I criticize the restricted nature of Apple’s mobile computer, appliance is the word that gets thrown back at me.

  14. Rob Beschizza says:

    Given how long you’ve evidently been waiting for the opportunity to zing me back, let me express how monumentally disappointed I am that you not only cocked it up, but pre-emptively backpedaled within minutes. This is just not cricket.

    You’ll have another chance soon: I plan to accuse a major rival of being bleak and nihilistic, like unbuttered toast.

  15. Tommy says:

    For what it’s worth, I found CR to be clueless on tech stuff long before I switched over to Macs.

  16. joflow says:

    I don’t see the mystery. As Windows (in whatever flavor) is the most widely used OS for desktops and laptops by a giant margin, it would make sense that when you translate that familiar OS to a mobile form people would figure it out pretty easily. Start button, My Documents, integration with Office…these are things people expect and anyone who uses WinMo on a daily basis knows that coming from a Win background makes it very familiar and easily usable.

    While the Apple OS is easy to use to the point of being the perfect OS for the mentally retarded and technologically uninitiated, Windows is easy based on familiarity, and a few decades or so of public familiarity trumps being treated like a moron by your OS.

  17. Garr says:

    Accuse me of spreading rubbish, but I claim that none of us here who read a gadget blog (being a tech report site by nature), least of all those who write for it :), are able to make any reasonable judgement whatsoever about a technological products’ ease of use.
    Come on, we’re the type of guys whose first course of action after unpacking a new tech. product is to grab the user manual, just throw it aside and ignore it based on pure principle.
    What looks like rocket science in the eyes of what seems to be referred to as the “every-day user” (a definition that is way too 20th century in my opinion and should be updated) simply unravels before our eyes like a magic knot pulled at both ends.
    And honestly, we don’t want ease-of-use. It underwhelms us.

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