Tuesday, May 8, 2007 In Boiler Room | trackback

Dead Gems Don’t Die

Interface Comparison between Sony Ericsson and Siemens

Interface design has been my area of work for a while; it kind of crept into my life somehow. I always look for pros and cons in different interfaces. The flashers button inside the car, the food cans and tea cartons, the elevator’s keypad, and even the toilet flush handle. Today, I will just stick to mobile usability. In the red corner sits Sony Ericsson W550i (as Sony), and the blue corner lies (dead) Siemens S55 (as Siemens).

You’ve got SMS

A dismissible prompt appears on Siemens upon message receipt. The left function button automatically becomes a shortcut to the dismissed message. Sony raises your fears of ever dismissing an incoming message, not even by accident, by making the shortcut towards the inbox more clicks away than the long cut! Don’t ever dismiss a message!

The prompt on Siemens allows you to instantly delete the message without reading it. On Sony, you must go the whole nine yards to do that!

When sending to a group, Siemens allows you to expand the group and uncheck recipients you want to exclude, whereas sending to a group according to Sony, ends there!

Deleting a message on Siemens automatically shows the next. Heaven on earth!

When sending a message, Sony always displays a short list of the most recent contacts. Handy!

Life is ten folds easier because of one option

Picture this scenario: you get a message from someone you do not know, he introduces himself, and asks for a friend’s number.

Sony’s playground: In simple words, you must either copy your friend’s number and paste it as you reply to mister anonymous, or save the anonymous number as a new contact, and send your friend’s number Via SMS to this new contact. Here is an exaggeration to portray the number of clicks and buttons pressed:

Leave the message context, find your friend’s number, from the options menu choose edit, scroll to highlight the number, click to edit, from options menu choose Copy All. Re-open the message you just received (hell lot of clicks), from options menu choose edit, then Paste. Send. The other painful way is to save the number of the new contact (another hell lot of clicks), find your friend’s number, from options menu choose Send Via, then SMS, select the new number you just created from the list, then Send.

Siemens paradise: While still within message context, from options menu choose Insert From, find your friend’s number, click to choose. Key in few love words, then Send! Life is ten folds easier because of one option: Insert From.


Not only it doesn’t support recurring events, Sony also belittles its users by offering “default alarm, and recurring alarm.” Alarms are supposed to be recurring! If I want a non recurring alarm I would create a task and set a reminder!

A random key press on Siemens mobile turns off the alarm

A random key press on Siemens mobile turns off the alarm, while it takes two predefined key presses on Sony mobile. Any mistake, it will automatically snooze. Half asleep; I many times missed the alarm because of the ease of shutting it off on Siemens. But after using both, the incidents of missing an alarm were less than snoozing by mistake.

Ring Tones

Assigning a ring tone per individual versus a whole group is debatable. It depends on the kind of contacts you have on your list. If they are all friends and neighbors, you want the Sony way; a ring tone per contact. I would vote to have both services. The winner of this category, however, is Siemens, for providing a ring tone for “unlisted contacts.”


The buttons on Sony work in a way that you do not have to flip-open the set. There is a distinctive Delete button that allows you to delete items on the go. Winner! Unfortunately, there is no distinctive Cancel button, so canceling an incoming call is actually a function button. The “OK” middle button is deceiving, I wouldn’t count on it.

no distinctive Cancel button is inefficient

Siemens has two distinctive call buttons, a red one for cancelling calls, and a green one for receiving calls. Siemens does not have to show a Cancel action because it is the same as the red button. Winner!

There is one scenario on Sony that reflects the inefficiency of having a separate Cancel action. When within the context of internet connection the right function button displays Cancel, while the back button on the left is inactive. How convenient for service providers!


On both mobiles, most of the “press and hold” buttons are predefined, and navigation buttons are programmable. The keypad, however, is programmable on Siemens, and preserved for speed-dial on Sony. Sony on the other hand has a separate shortcut list that is easy to reach. Unfortunately, it may grow so large the shortcut is no longer short.

Adding a contact on Sony is my worst nightmare

Pressing and holding the (# or *) key enters the silent mode on both, flipping-open the set to reach it on Sony makes it a loser.

Make My Life Easier

Sony provides a “type” for different numbers of the same contact (mobile, home, work…), but you cannot use the same type twice.

Adding a contact on Sony is my worst nightmare. After entering a number and leaving the context, it is only human to assume the number is saved, I always make the mistake and hit the back button, which prompts me with a long message, and I automatically hit the back button again. It turned out that the long message was: ‘Changes have been made, Save before Exit?’ Rinse, wash, repeat! Ghrrr!

Sony retrieves your last used T9 preference

Language setting is a tie. Sony retrieves your last used T9 preference, while Siemens always resets to the saved preference. But Siemens never switches on T9 in “contact name” context, Sony annoyingly does. Who looks up people’s names from the dictionary? In email and website context, Sony switches off T9, and deactivates it completely! Why!


Power-saving mode on Sony means a totally switched off screen, which is more powerful than the pitch black screen on Siemens.

The mechanical lock on Sony is by far the best technique I have yet to experience. It is handier and serves the purpose. Siemens lock was by means of pressing and holding the star key. Nokia’s way of locking is the dumbest way on earth! It is so complicated I never got the hang of it.

The mechanical lock on Sony is by far the best technique I have yet to experience.

The Radio buttons on Sony are direct and they work within screensaver context. The only problem (with the W550i) is that you need to have the handsfree all the time to make use of it.

Disabling start-up greeting sounds shrinks it down to an annoying single keynote and a short vibration on Sony. Reaching the password screen takes so long I had to disable it!

Siemens Gem

Read this carefully: The interface of the message has two functions at the bottom, Reply and Options. Scrolling down to the bottom (there is always a scroll down even if the message is one line), the functions change automatically to Delete and Next!

I want to see that again!

Side note:
Siemens mobiles recently sold out to BenQ mobiles, after a failure in the merger, and Siemens Networks merged with Nokia. On the other hand, Siemens acquired Fujitsu personal computers, and already has the largest engineering firm in Europe. Siemens is based in Germany. Sony is based in Tokyo, and had merged with Ericsson which is based in Sweden in 2001 on the level of mobile communication. Sony Ericsson is based in London. Hmmm, you know what they say about too many cooks! 

BenQ-Siemens |
Sony Ericsson


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