Several months back I switched to Verizon and bought an Audiovox CDM8900 cellphone with built-in 640x480 camera, and support for BREW. Verizon’s service has been decent - certainly better than Sprint whose coverage became useless both at home and at the office.

The cellphone camera is … passable. I did not have very high expectations of the built-in camera, and got pretty much what I expected.

But the user interface - holy revenge of the twerps! - is really very horrible. This is my third and fanciest cellphone, and with each successive generation the user interface design gets worse. Sure we get pretty colors, higher resolution screens, and more features - but the fundamental user interface gets worse every time. We have an pretty substantial literature on user interface design accumulated over the past couple decades. Even some really lightweight usability testing could have easily caught the really bad parts of the design.

The cellphone camera isn’t going to get much use, as the user interface is just too painful to use. (How can they get so many things wrong in one application!??).

Don’t know how to solve this problem.

Maybe we need regular Consumer Reports reviews of cellphones, with a large weight given to ease-of-use (and assuming they can find someone with a clue about user interface evaluation).

Maybe we need Apple to design a cellphone. Don’t think Apple wants to get into the business of manufacturing cellphones, but they do have have a culture that puts out some well designed (and sometimes brilliant) user interfaces. Perhaps they could license a common software basis for manufacturers to incorporate in their phones.

Maybe we don’t want Microsoft doing cellphone software. Reports from friends and elsewhere describe too much in the way of unreliable operation. Phones running Microsoft software that crash, have to be rebooted, and need to have the software re-installed … at first I thought was just a bad anti-Microsoft joke. Turns out the trouble is real. (I really do not understand this, as Microsoft has some really sharp folks, and almost unlimited resources).

Looked through the downloadable BREW applications (offered by Verizon under “GetItNow!”). These are mostly a joke - a handful of games to play on your cellphone (no thanks), and a couple lame applications. Well, maybe I could hack together something better by way of demonstration … nope, Qualcomm wants you to pay fees for everything related to BREW.

I didn’t sign up for web access on this phone. With the prior two phones I found trying to use the web pretty much a waste of time. Painfully slow response times, and a lack of web applications usable from a cell phone pretty much killed the idea.