Last week, I had to visit some 'high security zone' where no communication device is allowed in the premises. So I decided to shutoff my Lumia for 24 hours (of the grid) and use another basic Nokia device: the 1280 (which is usually used by my parents), while commuting from and to this high security place. Before going into this place though, I had to hand over my Nokia 1280 to a colleague, who himself was carrying a Lumia 710. That Lumia device and the Nokia Drive were extremely useful to get to many places that day, but essentially for me, I was completely free from grid and my constant companion device. In the retrospect, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and felt no urge what-so-ever of my missing Lumia 800, partly because my colleague was anyway using one when it was needed.
During this off-grid time, it was fun observing how radically different the UI paradigms of Nokia Lumia and Nokia 1280 are. While Nokia 1280 is one of the most basic phones available (monochrome screen), Nokia Lumia 800 is one of the Nokia's flagship smartphones running Windows Phone OS. A while ago, I had written an article on Kosh (building a mobile user experience for myself, part I : http://tovganesh.blogspot.in/2012/01/kosh-building-mobile-user-experience.html ), where I had written about how unintuitive it is to use the most basic function expected form a phone : to make a phone call; on all of the smartphone interfaces available today. I have time and again noticed this with my parents: they never got around being comfortable using Android (even when I had put the contacts on the home screen), they are somewhat comfortable with using my Lumia 800 (probably because of the bigger screen, again pinned contacts are needed, the phone app still looks a bit unintuitive), but they are very comfortable and happy to use Nokia 1280. The phone does one thing extremely correct : make and receive phone calls. When making the phone call, you just need to press the numbers using the keypad and click the call button done. For Lumia, you need to open the phone app and then key in the numbers, so is true for any other smartphone OS. This in itself is a major roadblock. Take the other case: receive phone call. On Nokia 1280, you just need to press the receive button and bingo, start talking. On most smartphone (including Lumia), you have to use some kind of a swipe gesture. These gestures may be so intuitive and cool for most of us (they certainly are for me and I feel comfortable using them), but with my parents this is just a burden. For this is more complex than just clicking a button or lifting the receiver of the landline. In fact, my parents are much more comfortable with landline than the mobile phone. Surely there is a lot of scope for improving the user experience of mobile communication devices.
That brings me to the UI paradigm used in new Asha touch series phones (Asha 305 and Asha 311): the three screens and the drop down. One of these screens is actually the phone app, which is also accessible from the drop down menu. This is so close to what I had enlisted in the Kosh UI design : things like phone (and for that matter any other form of communication) should be easily accessible at any point in time of using the device. To some extent this is what Windows Phone with its Live Tiles help to bring in, but again stop short of integrating other elements like the ones available with the new Asha touch OS. (PS: Just for a thought, I think, the Smarterphone acquisition http://www.itwire.com/it-industry-news/strategy/52030-nokia-nabs-another-mobile-os-buys-smarterphone, played a great role is a substantial transformation of the S40 OS in just a very short period of time).