Nokia developed a fix for Symbian’s annoying user prompts in June 2009. Patent application proves it

It amazingly turns out that Nokia figured out a way to remove the highly annoying user prompts in Symbian… in June of 2009. And it even has a patent application to prove it. The application was recently made public at the USPTO, and it shows that three years ago, Nokia was actively concerned with one of the biggest annoyances found in the Symbian mobile operating system.

See, Symbian likes to hold your hand and ask questions. A lot of questions. The only other OS to come even close is BlackBerry. Prompting the user for input so often is something virtually unheard of in the world of iOS, Android, or Windows Phone.

So it took Nokia two years from the iPhone’s launch to get this right. But even after applying for a patent on the issue, it doesn’t seem like this ‘innovative technology’ actually made it into any Nokia Symbian phones – at least not completely, since some annoying user prompts are still there. Perhaps the Finnish company wants to wait for the patent to be granted first. Which is kind of ironic now that Symbian is dying a (not so) slow death. Who knows, maybe the USPTO will grant the patent just as the last Symbian device will be sold… making this patent effectively Symbian’s legacy to the world.

Anyway, Nokia somehow managed to figure out that users tend to always select ‘Continue’, ‘Accept’, ‘Yes’, ‘Agree’, ‘OK’, or their synonyms when they’re faced with prompts. And there’s a rather obvious downside to this, as Nokia explains in its patent application: “When the user nearly always selects the best or only choice, the user will become conditioned to make that selection.” So when suddenly there are two equally valid or useful choices to pick from, the user will hit ‘OK’ without even thinking about it.

Pictured above is the ‘what happens when you plug something into the 3.5 mm headset jack’ situation that Symbian users are surely familiar with. What Nokia proposes is that, instead of always asking the user what accessory he or she has plugged in, there should be a default setting.

Say the default is headphones. If you then plug in a TV-Out cable, there are two things that can happen: either the change is auto-detected, or you can manually make that list of choices appear and select TV-Out.

Sure, this requires more user input in this case, but most people will just plug in headphones most of the time. So more often than not, this solution would eliminate an annoying prompt, while for some rare use cases, it may end up requiring the user to manually trigger the list if the auto-detection of the best policy doesn’t work for some reason.

Think about what could have been… if Symbian was still the king of smartphone (or is that smarter phone?) operating systems, what is described in this patent application would have made your life a whole lot easier.

Then again, with Nokia having to work on such trivial things for so many years to get them right, Symbian simply couldn’t have stayed on top of the game, regardless of what fanboys say.

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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