Tag Archives: Mobile

Ikea’s BookBook: Pure Genius

The stylish, low-cost furniture folks just one-upped Apple. Along with having some fun, they also make some excellent points about the innate advantages of ink on paper.

It reminds me a lot of a conversation I once had with a designer on the Newton project who was seriously jazzed about the ability to (usually) be able to record a written note, as well as look up old notes later. What advantage this had over a 99 cent notepad was not at all clear.

How Small Can Mobile Phone Buttons Be?

Traditionally, the gating factor on how small mobile phone buttons could be was set by the width of the human fingertip–around 2 cm (3/4 of an inch). Technically, half that width serves as a workable target in most cases (10 mm), since it’s possible to compute the intended target, even if there’s overlap of adjacent areas, although this depends a great deal on the type of switches or touch-screen technology used.

You can also buy yourself a bit more room by adding vertical and lateral “pitch” (curvature) to the keys of a physical device. This effectively gives you a larger surface area while staying within the same overall length and width of the button. Keyboards with strong vertical pitch also give you a tactile targeting point, further reducing errors (and the lack of both on the Droid’s slide-out keyboard explains why it’s such an error-prone design, despite the relatively large width of the keys themselves).

With proper pitch, physical buttons as narrow as 9 mm (0.35 inches)  can prove surprisingly functional, but for all of this, the minimum width of a standard 12 or 15 key phone keyboard still winds up being 4-5 cm wide (1.6 to 2 inches) and 5-6 cm tall (2 to 2.4 inches).

But what if you want to go even smaller?

Enter an interesting October, 2007 patent from DoCoMo, US Patent 7280101 – Fingertip tactile-sense input device and personal digital assistant using it.

Keyboard Grid Patent

Using a grid of tactile dots much as you would a tiny track pad, it claims to offer a workable way of making the entire control surface of a phone about 22 mm high by 20 mm wide. (.78 inches by .86 inches) — in other words, smaller than a US Quarter.

…and you thought losing your cell phone was a problem now