Damn, I feel cheated! I’ve had an iPhone for about a month now and all of a sudden I find out that there’s a button in the headset (picture). There’s absolutely no visual indication – that UI fetishists might label affordances – that that button is there. There is a hole that indicates to me that there’s a microphone, but no bump in the plastic, printing, or anything that tells me I should push that part of the product to answer a phone call. I consider myself not a complete moron when it comes to consumer electronics, but to be sure I checked whether a colleague of mine - who had also recently gotten an iPhone - was aware of the button, but thankfully I was not as idiotic as I thought: he too had not yet discovered it.

Skipping a song while riding a bike
Why is that button important to me? Because I have been biking around trying to go to the next song by using the touch screen. Not very comfortable, not very safe and a huge step back from my earlier iPod nano, which I could easily operate while it was in the pocket of my jacket. Why I feel cheated? Because I even remember thinking that it was a shame that my iPhone headset did not have an answer button as my SonyEricsson K800 headset (picture below, on the right) had. Now it turns out the button is there after all. So why did I miss it even when I wanted it to be there? The button is mentioned in the Finger Tips Guide (pdf) that comes with your iPhone, but somehow, in the excitement of finally having my hands on the iPhone I missed that. Actually, it is also mentioned in the manual, and in the feature list of the software update I recently installed, which is how I happened to come across it.Reading the manual (or not)
So you may ask: why didn’t you read the Finger Tips Guide? To be honest, even though the guide was extremely concise, I just scanned it and then I knew enough to get started. Operating the device was so easy that I discovered most things along the way. Except for this button, that is. So in way the extreme intuitiveness of the iPhone, in combination with the lack of visual clues caused my non-discovery. In addition to my own laziness, that is. Now you can blame me for being stupid, but the fact remains is that I missed the button. And if I did that, so did a lot of other people. Well, at least enough people for howtomobile.com to make a tutorial on using the iPhone headset, in the comments of which we find this little one-person dialogue...
2 Responses to “How To Use The iPhone Stereo Headset
Dan Kaufman on August 28th, 2007 4:00 am
Where is the mic button? My headset looks just like the one in the picture but there is no button anywhere…
Dan Kaufman on August 28th, 2007 4:04 am
oops! found it! if anyone else is similarly confused - there is no visible button. you just squeeze the little mic cylinder in the center.

Design minimalism versus visual clues
Now, I love the minimalist design of Apple’s products. And you have to admit, the design of Apple’s headset is way more stylish than the Ericsson headset. But I also like an ‘honest’ design, that the form factor of a product gives me some feed forward on what it’s for and how it can be used. I like to 'discover' a device as I am using it, but to be able to do that I need the device to give me some clues. Apple previously did the minimalism thing on the mighty mouse, where they (finally) introduced a two-button mouse, only to disguise it as a one-button mouse. Why? I have that mouse, and to be honest: the right button doesn't work as well as on a conventional mouse. To me, these are examples of minimalism gone one step too far.

UPDATE
Oh, the diversity of opinions... At the same time I rant about not finding the iPhone headset button, Dave Gustafson of unpressable buttons gives praise to the same button. And I agree with him: once you've found it, it's a joy to use. Except for going one song back when playing music; this requires three clicks. I usually end up going one song forward (two clicks) and pausing (one click).

More uselog posts about iPhone usability:
> iPhone usability studies
> More iPhone usability stuff
> iPhone usability test: how people really use the iPhone
> Not every touch-screen phone is an iPhone
> Please fix the iPhone: free user feedback for Apple
> The iPhone: No Manual
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