The iPhone launches this Friday, and I can’t wait. For months, the hype has been hard to avoid. Hype has never had the intended effect on me; rather than piquing my interest and compelling me to round up my camping gear for product launch day, it raises my skepticism. However, the closer we get to launch day, the more convinced I’m becoming that this phone really will live up to all the hype.

The short demos Steve gave at WWDC and at MacWorld were impressive, but what really won me over was the guided tour of the phone I watched yesterday. Since when has a cell phone been really intuitive to use?

Horrible cell phone user interfaces have become so common it’s always a surprise to discover a phone that’s “not as horrible”, and downright shocking when I see one that really is easy to use. I’ve berated Motorola’s awful interfaces to Motorola employees (well, my brother), and I still marvel at some companies’ blatant disregard for anyone who actually wants to use their products. Can you honestly imagine a similar “guided tour” of Motorola’s RAZR?

“It’s thin.”

Do you think they’d point out the fact that some menu options on the home screen are in all caps, and some aren’t? Or that the font-size is too large, so that “ADDRESS BOOK” is truncated? How about the seemingly random shortening of menu options, like “SpkrPhone”, when screen space is clearly available? And that’s just aesthetics.

As I recall from a harrowing experience of trying to set up an old Motorola phone, the process of adding contacts seemed to be designed using some sort of reverse polish logic, because I had to lower my intelligence level to that of an advanced cave-man in order to successfully complete this simple task. It made me wonder if anyone actually tried using the phone before launching it out into the world? Or perhaps, did they know full well that the UI was horrible, but also knew that the general public’s expectations of cell phones were so low, that they would still wait in line for it, simply because it was thin?

Well, for once someone is changing the game. With the iPhone, Apple’s engineers appear to have actually thought about how people will use the phone, and designed their interface around that. And now other companies are going to have to follow suit.

Some companies have been better than others—Sony Ericsson, and LG, for instance—but I don’t think they’ve done it well enough and aren’t main stream enough for consumers to really take notice. Apple has, and Apple is, though.

For instance, I’ve been wishing for a way to separate my phone book into the people I call often and the people I don’t ever since I got a cell phone. I have numbers of people who I haven’t talked to in years, and although I don’t want to delete them, I also don’t want to scroll by them to get to the number I really want to call. “Favorite contacts” on the iPhone allows you to do just that. And it’s about time.

This Friday’s launch of the iPhone will usher in a new era of cell phone standards. I hope that it straightens out what type of experience phone manufacturers put into their products, and more importantly, what consumers demand of their phones. Because honestly, how many clicks should it take to add your friend to your address book? Don’t you have better ways to waste your time?

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