Phone Interface

I like new features, but sometimes new features cause strange interactions with old ones.

For instance, on the phone in my office there are buttons marked Headset and Speaker. I almost never use the actual receiver any more, so these buttons are how I pick up and hang up.

When I first got this phone a few weeks ago, I noticed something that was done poorly on this generation of phone that worked fine on previous generations. When I finish a call and tap the Headset button to hang up, it only does what I expect if I get to the button before the person on the other ends hangs up.

If I hit the button a fraction of a second after the other party hangs up, I get a dial tone, which is jarring and means I have to hit the button again to hang up. The right way to design it, I think, would be to build in a delay–if the call ended in the last half a second or something, assume that I was trying to hang up and ignore the button press.

In any case, I think this (obviously not life-threatening, but no less interesting for it) problem is a side effect of a new feature on this phone: when the other party hangs up, the phone is smart enough to hang itself up. That makes sense in the abstract, I guess, since I don’t have to go to the trouble of hanging up anymore (whew!), but what about when everyone’s phone does this and everyone assumes the other person will hang up?

Then again, maybe the days of a physical phone on our desks are numbered, so perhaps it will soon be a non-issue.


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