Phone usability study finds iPhone and WP7 easier than Android or BlackBerry

Phone usability study finds iPhone and WP7 easier than Android or BlackBerry
A new study by Professor Dennis Gallatta at the Harvard Human Factors in Design lab has tested which smartphone OS is the easiest to navigate for first time users. The study found that iPhone and Windows Phone 7 are easier to use than either Android or BlackBerry, but the testing was fairly limited, meaning the results may not be as reliable as one would hope.

Of course, we don't want to become the official naysayers of all studies done in the mobile world, but when doing a usability study on smartphones, it seems a bit silly to limit the test to just 3 tasks: making a call, adding a contact, and sending a text. Those three tasks are probably the least likely tasks for a smartphone user to perform (or at least the first two of the three tasks), especially when there is music to hear, pictures to take, videos to watch, web pages to browse, e-mails to read, and Angry Birds to launch. At the very least, it seems that the study could have added purchasing an app from each platform's app store, or performing a web search.

Each test was rated from 1 to 5 stars, 5 being that the task was very easily performed. iPhone and WP7 each had a total of 11 stars for the 3  tasks, followed by Android with 9, and BlackBerry with 8. Android was the only OS to score a perfect 5 on a task, and that was for making a call, although that was followed by a 1 in adding a contact. There should be a couple of notes made on the study as is: first, the Android phone used was an HTC device meaning it had the Sense UI, and didn't include the Contacts app on the homescreen. Other UIs and phones include that on the homescreen which theoretically could have made this task easier to complete. Alternatively, in the sending a text task, the only user that didn't have to initiate a new SMS was the iPhone user, who merely replied to an SMS (and seemingly didn't know how to get back to the Messaging home screen.)

That said, it seems like the real winner may be Windows Phone, but as mentioned before, there is far more to using a smartphone than the 3 tasks covered here. And, the minimalist icons of Windows Phone did seem to lead to confusion, which may hurt overall usage. As always, UI usability could just be a matter of personal preference, with the exception of BlackBerry, which just needs a major overhaul. Of course, we'd need to see a more complete study to come to any real conclusions, but this was interesting nonetheless. Check out the full video below to see the fumbling noobs!

source: Human Factors via WMPU



1. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

No surprise here. I'd rate the systems 1. iOS 2. Windows 7 3. Android 4. Blackberry

5. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Hey I agree with you taco50. That is the order from super simple to more involved, I guess you can say! lol 1 being the simplest to 4 more involved! lol

9. tbacba

Posts: 134; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

Well, there's 'simple', and there's 'better'. A pair of grass clippers is simple; a lawn mower with a gas engine is more complicated (not to mention powerful). Which one would you rather use to cut your lawn?

14. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

tbacba I like where you are going with this! Thumbs up for you!

20. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

But 'more complicated' doesn't mean 'better' either. Automatic is simpler than manual. They're both almost the same, but which would you prefer? You can use metaphors to say almost anything so don't feel too clever.

25. twenti7

Posts: 152; Member since: Jul 09, 2011

Automatic is only simpler than manual till you take apart the gearbox. Haha.. But I agree. Simpler isn't always better, but then neither is more complicated. I tell every person that I sell a phone to who is a first-time Android user that for the first several days it will be the most confusing and complicated phone they'll ever use. But once they get everything positioned how they want it, not only will it be extraordinarily simple (for them), it has the potential to be beautiful as well.

47. arqjav

Posts: 55; Member since: Dec 29, 2009

I agree with twenti7 once you configured Android the way you like it is really easy (not that is to difficult at the begginnig you just have to be open minded and don't had a Nokia before), I had a Blackberry before i like the keyboard and some thing about the OS like not having to sync my contacts every time y have to reformat my phone and I lose contacts (I have a bad Motorola Milestone), I have use an iphone before from a friend and got bored really quickly the same screen full of icons....comon,the only devide I haden't use of the 3 is a WP7 so no coments looks interesting do.

30. tbacba

Posts: 134; Member since: Mar 31, 2010

True enough, so I'll try a different tack. I like Mexican food. If all I ever had was Taco (!) Bell, I'd probably think that was ok. Menus are easy to read and I just select my Chalupa. But... if I take the time to go to a real Mexican restaurant, maybe work a little more to figure out the menu, I end with something so much better. A little less 'easy', but well worth the extra effort!

48. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

The purpose of the device sure plays heavily. iOS and WP7 are set up to be very user friendly off the bat and very automated. Android is set up as a jack of all trades with a lot of extra functionality for power users. BB is a business class device. The bulk of people that still use BB are business. You could say it goes by the average user IQ, the way taco had it. :)


Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

I wonder if Taco ever gets tired of getting those red thumbs down.

29. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

You got more thumbs down than me lol


Posts: 3131; Member since: Jan 12, 2010

lol for once.

39. PeterIfromsweden

Posts: 1230; Member since: Aug 03, 2011

In ease of use i would rate them as following. 1. WP7 2. IOS 3. bada 4. MeeGo harmattan (nokia N9) 5.Android. 6. WebOS 7.BB 8. Winmo

2. NMexpo unregistered

I have owned all these operating systems with the exception of iOS. Windows Phone was by far the simplest to use. I could see where first time users could become quite confused using Blackberry as I even had trouble finding many options.

3. dandirk

Posts: 187; Member since: Aug 04, 2011

While I like studies to be detailed... The 3 tasks probably would be my first 3 as well. Even though its a smartphone, these are probably 3 of the most common tasks a "new" smartuser will do. These are tasks they did on their old phones. Tasks they are already used to and should know about. If the new user can't figure out how to do those 3 tasks, a major UI overhall needs to be done. Now I think also there should be other tasks for a modern smartphone... Opening webbrowser, navigating, saving a favorite, closing said browser. Installing an app, etc etc.

4. SJobbs unregistered

I too find the WP7 MUCH easier to us than iOS.

6. Stuntman

Posts: 843; Member since: Aug 01, 2011

As the article said, the usability tests are for some rather basic tasks that my old feature phone could do. Of the three, I send text messages the most, make phone calls second most and adding contacts the least. It's rare that I add contacts. What I have done most often with regard to contacts is import them from my computer or from another phone. I don't often add a new contact on my phone. I think these results may be important for people who don't really know what a smartphone can really do. However, if someone doesn't really know what a smartphone can really do, perhaps they don't really need a smartphone. People are only first time users for a very short period of time. A smartphone is a very flexible device and can be configured so as to suit each individual user. Once a person becomes more familiar with the many capabilities of a smartphone, he can customise it to suit his own personal needs. Also, once it is configured for an individual, it may make it difficult for someone else to use as each individual has different needs. For me, I would judge a smartphone not by how I as a first time user can do these basic tasks. I feel that I can figure it out without too much difficulty no matter which smartphone I use. I would be looking more at the advanced smartphone features like web browser, apps that I normally use, social networking, etc.

7. PhoneArenaUser

Posts: 5498; Member since: Aug 05, 2011

Maybe I have missed something, but I think that they did this test wrong because the same person all the time was using the same smartphone. Correct me if I'm wrong.

8. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

A 'new' user should and ought to read a USER MANUAL to effectively use any 'smart' phone. This is highly recommended (from experience :-). My only flaw with this test is the fact 3/4 different people tested these OS's and there is the question of what degree of experience they have had with ANY the compared OS will affect their interaction/usage of one they have NEVER used. There are more than 1 ways to go about doing either of the tasks on any of the above devices as well. So the issue of user friendliness is highly subjective.

12. baldilocks

Posts: 1542; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

Hard to do when no phones include user manuals anymore. Can't fault the user. These same people are probably those who have no clue how to find the user manual online. So stating they should read the manual makes little sense as far as the study goes.

34. DeviantDroid

Posts: 51; Member since: Apr 28, 2011

Then let's point back at ugh.... maybe they should not buy a smart phone....

10. dmakun

Posts: 382; Member since: Jun 06, 2011

I think Taco agrees with this study only because the IOS and the iphone was rated best (Couldn't resist noticing your enthusiasm here)

13. wumberpeb

Posts: 453; Member since: Mar 14, 2011

In Taco's defense (someone shoot me for that), I don't think he really showed any enthusiasm in any direction. He simply stated what he thought, without really any fanboy undertones For 3 of the most basic tests that this study performed, I'd probably choose iOS or WP7 as well, but you'd still have to rip my Android out of my cold dead hand In other words, this test doesn't quite prove anything other than what's the best platform for my 85 year old grandmother to use

41. Mobile-X-Pert

Posts: 565; Member since: Dec 20, 2010

Sorry but I do not agree with you. Everybody knows that ''Taco'' is iphone fan.

15. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

taco50 speaks the truth. iOS is so simple even a chimp can use it.

18. iwebdroidberry7

Posts: 230; Member since: Jan 17, 2011

Hope your mother has fun with her iPhone.

42. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

iwebdroidberry7 nice try to be cute! We took care of that problem. My Mother usually loves gifts but this gift was not one that keeps on giving. She hated the iPhone 4. lol Even with its simplistic ease, she couldn’t stand it. So I had to buy her a Motorola Droid 3, & you know what she said, "Wow why can't the iPhone be like this?" How about them apples? Now the iPhone 4 is mine. At least there is some good coming from my new shiny iPhone 4. I am going to sell or trade it in towards a brand new QUAD-CORE Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet. So it's a win, win situation. Also nice to try to make fun of someone's Mother. Behind a computer iSheep stoop to new levels, because face to face YOU iwebdroidberry7 wouldn't have the BALLS to say that to me. :-) A typical WEAK tough guy FLAPPING his mouth! Before you even got finished flapping your mouth, you would be picking up your teeth! Hey but there is good news, at least that night you would be getting about $6.00 from the tooth fairy! lol iSheep always hoping around never making sense! lol

35. DeviantDroid

Posts: 51; Member since: Apr 28, 2011

Are you and taco dating???? Pull your nose out of his back end.... he probably doesn't need back up....

40. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Hey when taco50 is right he is right. iOS is VERY simple to use. It's not like he is saying that the iPhone is the shape of a square! lol

11. dionddc

Posts: 129; Member since: Jul 19, 2011

I think the testers have a Nokia 1100 - arguably more simpler. They clearly only know of generic tasks because they're casual users. Phones are made more for media and browsing now than calls and adding contacts. Wow.

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