iPhone Ergonomic Review

An Ergonomic Review of the iPhone by Apple

iPhone. Courtesy of Apple

Manufacturer's Site

The iPhone by Apple is an evolution to the mobile communicator. Combining cell phone, email, internet and other information services with a top-notch music and video player, the iPhone positions itself as all things to the person that needs all that. Throw in a truly intuitive interface with great ergonomics, and enough usability to do most anything you would need and you have an all-in-one wonder that is awesome.

Why Is it Different?

The iPhone aims to enhance usability by adding more capability to a cell phone and wrapping it up with an intuitive touch screen interface.

It combines a cell phone, camera, wireless e-mail, mobile data, digital music (iPod), and video (including YouTube videos) and photo viewing. Mobile data includes text messaging, weather, stock quotes, Google maps, and full-blown access to the internet.

It uses a sleek interface with only four buttons. Everything else is controlled with a touch screen.

The screen is large, clear and beautiful.

Application control is intuitive, engaging and fun.

It syncs with both PC and Mac e-mail, contacts and calendars.

Activation and setup is a breeze.

Does it Deliver?

Oh baby, the iPhone delivers.

The cell phone is good and sound is crisp. It has a speaker phone and can move to three-way calling on the fly. You can multi-task using other applications while on the phone.

And the visual voicemail is a great usability enhancement.

E-mail is a breeze on the iPhone. Setting up email accounts is quick and painless. Even setting up an SSL protected account is fast and you'll be reading your email within a minute, literally.

Reading e-mail on the iPhone's large screen is nice.

Navigating through your e-mail is fun and fast. With taps, slides and flicks to navigate you'll soon wish you had a multi-touch screen on your desktop.

The Safari Internet browser is an amazing thing. You have a full-blown html web browser in your pocket. You can even have multiple pages open at once. But navigation is the coolest part.

First you see the full-yet-tiny web page. Then you simply double tap on the area you want to see, and it enlarges to fill the screen. You can "stretch and pinch" to zoom and grab the page and move it around.

The iPhone's iPod is probably the best iPod out there. It is a video and music iPod with a wide-screen. Add in the interactive Cover Flow from iTunes that literally lets you thumb through your music and you have one heck of an iPod.

Apple has out done itself again with this interface evolution. The iPhone is so simple and fun to use. It is smooth and intelligent.

The multi-touch screen is put to good use and context sensitive menus and keyboards provide flexibility and efficiency while navigating.


The Apple iPhone can benefit any cell phone user. With its multiple uses, the iPhone benefits non-voice mobile data junkies as well. And with its enhanced usability, the non-technically literate have a crutch in the mobile communications market.

Some groups that may like the iPhone include:

  • Cell phone users
  • Metrosexual e-mailers
  • Gadget geeks
  • YouTube tubers


The iPhone is the smartest smart phone out there. It works just like the commercials. It is that smooth and usable.

Every aspect of the user experience has been thought out. Using the device and the applications is intuitive. And the transitions between the applications are natural.

The applications are quick and easy to pick up, set up and use. You have the most commonly used applications right out of the box. It still remains to be seen if you'll be able to add new applications or Apple widgets, but with a device like this you would expect that capability.

How do you know when usability has been enhanced? After a day of playing with the iPhone, I found myself trying to grab the screen on my laptop with the cursor and flicking with my touch-pad.

It didn't work, of course.

One of the biggest questions surrounding the iPhone has been "Is the interface really intuitive?" How do you find out? You use it without reading the manual. The iPhone doesn't come with one anyway.

You can also give the iPhone to someone technically illiterate -- I handed mine over to my father. After two minutes of playing with it he said, "Yep, I can use it." That is quite an endorsement.

In short, the iPhone lives up to all the hype. They got it right with this one.

For more on the ergonomics of the iPhone read

  • The iPhone Ergonomic Breakdown
  • iPhone Application Breakdown
  • iPhone Interface Breakdown

Join the discussion on the iPhone's usability.

Manufacturer's Site

Manufacturer's Site

Breakdown: Human-Machine Interfaces

The iPhone has five human-machine interfaces: the physical buttons, the multi-touch screen, the speaker, the microphone and the headphones.

The physical buttons are large enough to activate but small enough to stay unobtrusive. They take firm pressure to activate so you don't need to worry about accidental activation. They also provide satisfactory tactile feedback.

The multi-touch screen is the true evolution for the interface. It allows for context sensitive and intuitive controls. It also allows you to interact with the iPhone in a fulfilling and responsive way.

The speaker provides adequate sound for phone, music and video use. It's not the ideal way to listen to movies and videos, but it works if you are without headphones. The only drawback is the volume: You do find yourself straining to hear in a crowded environment, so a little more volume in the speaker phone would be welcomed.

The microphone picks up your voice well. It also picks up some of the ambient noise. Not enough to make you unintelligible on the phone, but enough so the other party knows what you are doing.

The headphones are a great addition to the iPhone, especially right out of the box. They provide good sound and do a surprisingly good job at blocking out the ambient noise. They also have a button/microphone.

Press the button once to pause music, twice to skip to the next track. You can also press the button to answer an incoming phone call. And since the button has a microphone in it, you can talk on the iPhone without removing your headphones.

Ergonomic Breakdown: Comfort Factors

The iPhone really doesn't have many comfort factors.

It's not that it is uncomfortable, it's just that cell phones don't have much comfort.

Ergonomic Breakdown: Efficiency Factors

The iPhone enhances efficiency in a number of ways. First it lets you carry a number of different devices in one package. And the information you can get in that package is sure to make some daily tasks more efficient. But the most poignant efficiency enhancement is in the interface to the applications.

The multi-touch screen makes navigating and controlling the iPhone intuitive. When something is intuitive you're brain doesn't need to process that many things to operate it -- mental efficiency at its finest.

Controlling applications is efficient due to combination of universal and application-sensitive control schemes. That may sound confusing, but it works. A basic framework of controls, like flicking, pinching and tapping exist as well as standard placement for the navigation buttons (like back and edit). But only the necessary buttons appear in any given interface.

Furthermore, the button layouts are tweaked for some applications. Specifically with the keyboard. The keyboard for entering web addresses has a ".com" button instead of a space bar.

One of the coolest efficiency enhancements has to do with the text prediction of the keyboard.

It has auto-correction and tries to predict the word you are trying to spell. It also adjusts the keyboard as you go. When you are typing and the iPhone thinks it knows what letter is coming next, it enlarges the contact area for the button and shrinks the area for the surrounding button so you are less likely to "press" the wrong letter.

Use, Misuse & Unknowns

Perhaps the biggest concern with the iPhone, as with any mobile electronic device, is the battery life. But the iPhone can go all day with phone and email use as well as a few hours of iPod use. Watching videos and other lengthy screen activity will drain the battery faster, but mine is holding up well and hasn't died on me yet (even with 12-plus hours of daily use).

The iPhone can take a pretty good beating as well. The screen fights off scratches and the machine can take some drops and keep on ticking.

PC World has a great video on there iPhone stress test.

Long-term use is still unknown.

Manufacturer's Site