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Tag: phone

Phone manufacturers hate this one weird tip to save you HUNDREDS of dollars by not losing your phone! One frugal tip for saving money on smartphones (do not lose them).

The issue:

Cell phones occasionally fall out of a person’s pockets and get forgotten. This is especially easy to do when sitting on a sofa or in a movie theater seat.

If the phone could detect that it had been dropped into sofa cushions, it could notify you before it was too late to find it again!

sofa-phone-cushions

sofa-phone-here-exclamation

Fig. 1: Alas, this phone has fallen between sofa cushions and may soon be lost forever.

sofa-phone-here-it-is

Proposal:

The phone could use its microphone to detect the difference between “phone is in your pocket” and “microphone can only detected sounds that are muffled by sofa cushions” (Fig. 2).

sofa-phone-waveform

Fig. 2: Audio from two scenarios: “normal” (top, yellow) and “stuck in sofa cushions” (bottom, blue).

By listening to the phone’s microphone (and using the orientation sensors), the phone could distinguish between three situations:

  1. “In your pocket” (phone is slightly moving, but sounds are muffled)
  2. “On your desk” (phone is not moving, but background noise is crisp and clear, like a transparent apple)
  3. “Phone fell into the sofa” (phone is not moving, but sounds are muffled).

In case you are worried about the privacy implication of the constant use of the microphone, consider that all phones are monitoring you at all times anyway so that you can say “Hey Siri” / “Ok Google” in order to activate the voice assistant.

Thus, this additional monitoring would not be any more invasive than the current situation.

(Plus, the “fell into the sofa” detection could be done entirely on the phone, so it wouldn’t need to send any audio data to a remote server.)

sofa-phone-ring

Fig. 3: Once the phone detects that it has become trapped in the sofa, it can scream until you rescue it.

This feature could also be expanded to include things like:

  • The phone could detect that you have debarked your plane (or gotten off a train), but somehow the phone has been left behind, perhaps in one of those seat pockets.
  • The phone could detect that 1) it’s been several hours since it’s moved it all, 2) it’s close enough to see your own home WiFi network, and 3) the audio sensor informs it that it’s still in a pants pocket—this means you probably threw it into a laundry basket, so it should email you and/or start beeping so you don’t wash it.
  • The phone could detect that you were traveling by car and left your phone in the car. Then it could send you an email (“Hey, you left me in the car. –Your Phone”), which you would presumably receive on your laptop / desktop computer.

Conclusion:

Don’t buy a new phone unless it comes with this exciting new feature!

PROS: Saves you from many lost-phone mishaps.

CONS: Perhaps by further reducing the demands on humans to actually pay attention and keep track of things, future generations will become slothful and decadent.

Upon seeing this cell phone and realizing it is not for sale, you will gnash and grind your teeth in rage. Dentists hate it!

Background:

Nearly all modern cell phones have the same touch-screen form factor.

Except for a few buttons of low importance (e.g. volume adjustment, power, camera shutter), all interaction is done through the screen itself.

The issue:

This style of interaction makes use of only one finger, and leaves the remaining four fingers with nothing to do (except hold the phone).

It can also be difficult to reach across the entire phone with one thumb. Finally, one’s grip of the phone is significantly diminished when interacting with the phone, making it easier to drop it during interaction with an app or web page.

plainhand

Fig 1: Modern phones typically have a form factor similar to the one at left. Right: when holding the phone, the thumb (labeled “5”) does all the work, while fingers 1–4 flop about uselessly on the opposite side of the phone.

Proposal: additional hardware keys on the phone edges

In order to improve phone-handling characteristics, we can add easy-to-press hardware keys to the edge of the phone.

Let us assume that this phone will be intended for right-handed operation. See figure 2 for the proposed button layout.

buttons default with slide or scroll wheel

Fig 2: On the left edge of the phone, four keys (one for each finger) are added.

On the right edge of the phone, a slideable switch is added. This acts as a scrollwheel; it can be pressed in to click, or slid up or down to scroll a web page. This is an old idea seen most notably in the “thumb scrollwheel” in Blackberry phones ~2000–2010.

Slight downside: these new features are unusable when the phone is held in the left hand.

chorded keyboard

Fig 3: The new buttons on the left (numbered 1–4) would allow for typing in the fashion of a chorded keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chorded_keyboard). With 4 buttons, we have (2^4 – 1) = 15 possible letters.

rings

Fig 4: If full typing ability is desired, it would be possible to make the buttons into rings instead, allowing the buttons to be pulled out instead of just pushed. Now we are up to (3^4 – 1) = 80 possible combinations of letters when typing in a chorded keyboard fashion. This is more than enough for any alphabet.

(Note: the thumb ring in this diagram would need to pivot in order to allow a comfortable grip.) would have to be rotated almost 90 degrees to allow for a comfortable grip.)

Conclusion:

Although this new interaction style could take some time to get used to, it would greatly improve phone interaction efficiency.

PROS: Makes phone interaction faster. Makes it easier to hold the phone in a secure grip.

CONS: If no one drops their phones anymore, phone case manufacturers may go out of business.