Device makers try to make it easy for users to navigate between different applications

When it comes to designing ergonomically friendly smart phones for today’s business professionals, the size of the unit, screen and keyboard are just a few of the main considerations.

Two manufacturers, Nokia and palmOne, have take different approaches in their latest offerings.


9500 Communicator device, which includes a phone and full QWERTY thumbpad, was built for people who walk around a lot and need to type, use the phone and short message service (SMS), said Pekka Isosomppi, spokesperson at Nokia’s global headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.

Scheduled to ship early next year in Canada, the 9500 Communicator weighs 230 g and measuring 148 mm x 57 mm x 24 mm. Its full keyboard includes eight shortcut keys, five-way scroll key on the cover and nine-way scroll key on the interior.

“”All applications in the device are deeply integrated into one another,”” said Isosomppi, adding the positioning of the keys is designed to make it easy for users to switch between software applications.

Rather than being a replacement for laptops, Isosomppi said the new smart phone will be the type of device business persons out on short trips can take instead of their laptops.

Eddie Chan, research analyst for mobile and personal computing at Toronto-based IDC Canada, said the 9500 Communicator’s landscape format makes it easy to enter text.

“”It’s similar to using a notebook,”” Chan said. “”But trying to squeeze all those keys in is always a challenge.””

For its part, palmOne of Milpitas, Calif. has taken a slightly different approach in designing the Treo smart phone line.

The Treo 600 is lighter than the 9500 Communicator (the GPRS model weighs 168g while the CDMA model is slightly heavier at 175g). Its size is 11.2 cm x 6.0 cm x 2.2 cm, and features include a touch-screen with stylus, backlit keyboard with phone dial layout and external volume buttons.

“”We’ve improved the way the navigation button interacts with the software,”” said Michelle White, a palmOne product manager. “”It has a simple user interface, big colour display and QWERTY keyboard. When we designed the phone, we ensured that people would carry it as their primary phone.””

A prevalent problem in the industry, she said, is that in trying to be all things to all people, smart phone manufacturers tend to create cumbersome devices that people are reluctant to use as their primary phones. palmOne’s approach, she said, avoids this pitfall.

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