Archive | September 21, 2013

Who ‘invented’ our phone button lay-out?

ImageEver wondered why your phone button lay-out looks like this? I certainly have not, as it seems very intuitive to me. Well, actually in the 1950s a group of researchers racked their brains about the optimal layout.

When the technology to replace the old rotary phone became available, they initially considered to just replace the holes (in which you ‘dragged’ the numbers) by buttons. However, the Bell Labs did some testing and found out that there were other ways to shape modern phones.

The image below shows the lay-outs that were considered in their article, published in the July 1960 issue of “The Bell System Technical Journal”. As you can see, they tested some pretty weird designs: a sort of bowling-pin formation (III-B), stairs (II-B), parts of circles and even a cross.


In their research, they just asked people to dial numbers on the different phones and measured the speed and the amount of errors. In fact, the original rotary phone button lay-out (VI-C) was the fastest and the lay-out with two vertical columns (IV-B) was tested with least errors.

However, the differences were not very large, so for engineering reasons, they chose a  3×3 grid. The calculator lay-out, which already was in use at that time, was tested slightly slower than the reversed one, and consequently, our current phone lay-out was created.


-Deininger, R.L. (1960) ‘Human Factors Engineering Studies of the Design and Use of Pushbutton Telephone Sets’, Bell System Technical Journal, 39, 4: pp. 995-1012.
-Numberphile (

Technology of the Week Team 11

This research focus on ‘the rise of personalized content in qualitative journalism,’ by comparing the business models of the startup: Blendle (a platform offering individually paid articles form a variety of newspapers and magazines), with a business model from the music industry: Spotify.

This study is particularly interesting because it’s focused on a business model related to a traditional industry, but is rather innovative by making use of new concepts that are comparable to the transition that has already occurred in the music industry. The main goal is finding out what possibilities there are to make the qualitative journalism industry future sustainable. We have therefore elaborated upon both the strengths and weaknesses of each business model, finishing with our own vision on the current trends and future developments.

Although it’s not directly applicable to compare news to media such as music, we have found some interesting comparabilities and hence better understood the claim from Blendle that they compare themselves to Spotify. First of all both business models are ‘social proof’, by integrating social media for sharing and giving recommendations. A second major finding is that although the revenue model is – at this point in time – different (Spotify has a fixed price for unlimited access/streaming, whereas Blendle behaves more like iTunes: paid per article) one of the founders actually admits they were opting for a “all you can eat” model but the industry is not yet ready for it. In terms of our vision we therefore expect that the internet is serving as a platform for not only innovative companies to launch new services, but also for traditional companies to create complementary services offering new ways of providing their content, which ultimately leads to future proof business models that match customers needs and expectations. 

Apple’s China Strategy Meets Manhattan Reality

The scruffy underbelly of the smartphone industry was on full display in the lengthy queue at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store on Friday. A group of young men in sunglasses hung out the window of a black SUV, offering $1,000 for a spot in line. Some cheery types in matching T-shirts hawked iPhone insurance for $8 a month. Ignoring all of this, for the most part, were dozens or hundreds of Chinese iPhone enthusiasts, many of them speaking into phones that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in the 1990s. Rolling suitcases are all the rage among this crowd.

Many people in line declined to talk to reporters, but those who did had similar stories. They were immigrants, either working in low-paying jobs or not working at all. They were interested in buying as many iPhone 5Ss as they could, to give to young family members.

Telling a slightly different story was 29-year-old William Shi. He showed a U.S. military identification card and said he was from Fuzhou, the capital of China’s Fujian Province.

“The Chinese people are into this mainly for profit reasons,” Shi said in Mandarin, indicating the people surrounding him in line. He said he wanted to buy an iPhone 5S for himself but was purchasing another one because there was such big demand for the phones in China. When asked how he could get his phone to that market, he was vague. “The people here all have friends and relatives in China,” he said. “We have so many ways.”

Standing next to Shi was a woman who said she was in her 50s and worked at a garment factory in New York. A half-hour earlier she’d been at the front of the line; she didn’t offer much of an explanation about how she now found herself in the back. She also wanted to buy two 5Ss, she said, for her sons.

There has always been strong demand for U.S.-purchased Apple products in China, because there is a significant markup on the devices in the country. This year, the newest model of the iPhone will be available in China much sooner than in years past, prompting hopes that it would reduce the trade in grey-market phones.

But at Apple’s (AAPL) flagship store there seemed to be no lack of demand from Chinese-speaking customers offering vague reasons for why they were waiting in a long line to buy multiple devices. Apple caps the number of phones that a single person can buy at two 5Ss. People were allowed 10 copies of the 5C, the cheaper model that was widely seen as a way to move into the Chinese market (and widely panned for being too expensive to sell there). Interestingly, no one who talked toBloomberg Businessweek on Friday was at all interested in the iPhone 5C.

“Who wants the 5C? That’s garbage,” said Shi. “It’s nothing more than an iPhone 5 with a colorful jacket.”

This isn’t the only indication that, despite all the talk about the C in 5C standing for China, the higher-priced model is more enticing. Bryan Wang, a Beijing-based analyst for Forrester Research (FORR), says China’s largest mobile carrier, China Mobile (CHL), is also mainly interested in using Apple as a way to target the high end of the local market. “We believe China Mobile would prefer to focus on the higher price 5s model, which it can leverage to keep (or even win back) high end customers,” he wrote in an e-mail.

It certainly seemed like many of the 5Ss bought on Friday weren’t going to spend much time in the possession of those who were buying them. One middle-aged Chinese couple, who said they were unemployed, bristled when asked whether they had been hired by someone to stand in line. The woman said she was an iPhone user but couldn’t say which model she owned. When asked why she was buying two phones, she gave a logical answer.

“Each person is allowed to buy two,” said the woman. “That’s why we’re buying two.”

You are more than welcome to comment on this post. I think it is a nice way to show the cultural differences and mindsets of people around the world, which I why I posted this article.

Source: Bloomberg Businessweek Technology

Technology of the Week team 12: Online Shopping Experience

The Online Shopping Experience (Virtual Fitting Room vs. Stylist Advice Chat)

Online shopping is becoming more and more of a common way to buy clothes. However, there still are a few disadvantages of shopping online compared to shopping in real-life. One of the main problems that customers perceive is the lack of an efficient way to choose clothes that fit and suit the customer properly and thus fulfil the needs that the customers have. The needs that customers have can be fulfilled trough improving the Online Shopping Experience. In this paper several ways to improve this Online Shopping Experience are being outlined. First, the Virtual Fitting Room technology is being examined and second the Stylist Advice Chat is being described.

The Virtual Fitting Room is a technology that enables the customer to see the clothes they select on an illustration that is based on their own measurements, that they fill in on the web shop. This technology is being implemented through several plug-ins, like, Phisix Fashion and Metail. These plug-ins are basically the same, but they differ in the details that are illustrated. For example, with the Metail plug-in you can upload a picture of yourself and this picture is used on your MeModel. The Phisix Fashion plug-in how the garment will suit your body. It shows by colour where there are problem areas.


The Stylist Advice Chat makes it possible to get personal contact with a fashion specialist on the website through Live Chatting. The customer can ask this specialist for advice on what kind of clothing will suit them, based on previous selections and personal details. This is a quick and easy way to make a decision whether to order the clothes or not.

Both of the technologies improve the Online Shopping Experience in their own way. The Virtual Fitting Room is more functional and the Stylist Advice Chat is more personal and adequate. Both of the technologies have disadvantages. Ordering clothes that fit your MeModel is not a reassurance that it will fit the ‘real you’ properly. When it turns out that the clothes you ordered, do not fit you it would be much more of a disappointment. A disadvantage of the Stylist Advice Chat could be that a web shop, who uses this technology, needs to have a stylist available 24/7, which increases costs. Combining the two technologies, could give a web shop a competitive advantage on the Online Shopping Experience.


Technology of the Week, team 12

Polar pen

A pen/stylus/toy made of magnets.
I think it’s a nice way of thinking outside of the box, however i’m a bit sceptical about using magnets as a stylus.

Nonetheless the Polar Pen succeeds in reforming a tool which we haven’t thought about reforming so far.

Even though I really like the idea I don’t think that i would buy the Polar Pen myself, would you?