I usually carry my cell phone in my trouser pocket. My previous cell phones were non-folders and occasionally made calls on their own even though I used the “key lock” feature. (One phone dialed 911. I found out about it because a 911 dispatcher called back to ask if I was OK.) So I made sure that the next phone was a folding model.
However, it turns out that even folding phones are vulnerable to inadvertent activation. Yesterday I was in the dentist’s chair and heard the stupid click sound from my phone’s camera. Sure enough, the phone was on and its memory contained numerous photos, recorded on different days, of the insides of my pockets. This happened because the phone’s camera is activated by a switch on the side of the phone. This isn’t a significant problem, but the other side of the phone has a rocker switch that controls sound volume, and I often find that I have to adjust the volume during a call because the setting changed when the phone was in my pocket. In the aggregate these issues significantly reduce the folding phone’s benefits for me.
(The problem is not confined to phones. I have a small camera that occasionally turns itself on in my pocket because its on/off switch is poorly designed.)
I carry things in my pockets as many men do. Why do designers place protruding controls on the outsides of small electronic devices that will inevitably be carried in pockets? Even for products that are developed in a hurry to keep up with rapid marketing cycles, there ought to be enough accumulated knowledge to indicate that some design practices are unwise. (And not all designs are bad: my other small camera has a recessed on/off switch and has never turned itself on by accident.) So why are so many products flawed in this way? Is it a lack of feedback from customers? You would think that even some phone designers carry their phones in their pockets. Is there a systematic answer to these questions or is it simply the case that some designers are better than others? Or maybe the designers are competent but their pointy-haired-bosses force them to add features based on non-design criteria. But PHBs should be as sensitive to design issues that annoy customers as designers are. I don’t get it.