I had an interesting experience the other night, a quick play with a Nokia E61 and a Sony Ericsson M600i. Not an in-depth review, nor even a 15 minute guided tour of the two devices, just a quick hands-on play in the pub. Is this a relevant experience? I think so, it's not that disimilar to a the brief experience in a phone shop that is often many people's sole knowledge before deciding which phone to buy.
Conclusions? The E61 was much as expected, it's an S60 phone so all the usual buttons did all the usaul things, I had a quick ferret around to spot some of the new features, but all in all I wasn't too bothered. The form factor and lack of camera rule it off my wishlist from the word go; the phone is actually lighter and smaller in the hand than I'd expected, so that was a pleasant surprise, but the missing camera is still the deal breaker for me.
The M600i is a different kettle of fish altogether, it looks like a phone, not a device to chain you to the workplace. The dimensions are very pocket friendly, think flattened K750, and you'll not be far out. Then you get to using it, and I had one of those "where do I start?" moments. Sure I've used UIQ a little before, but never for more than a few stabs and scribbles with a pen.
For starters, look at that keypad, where's the function keys? There's no joystick, no softkeys and despite the qwerty nature there's only one more button than on my my 6680's keypad (one less if you include the 6680's softkeys in the button count). Compare the M600 to the E61 and the difference is immediate, the M600's touch screen isn't really there to enhance the user experience, or to woo Treo die-hards (both of them). The touch screen is an integral part of M600 usability, it's kept the button count low and hence the dimensions within sane bounds.
This comes at the price of instant out-of-the-box usability, only previous UIQ users or the rarely spotted manual readers are going to be fully using this phone from the word go, for others there's a steep learning curve. Will most users remain on the nursery slopes or get beyond basic usability? Is this another case of smart phones in a dumb world?