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Things are finally shaping up on the softkey front. Motorola, Nokia and Sony Ericsson is converging on the context aware default action for the middle softkey.
Sony Ericsson recently announced that they will introduce a new softkey layout and a different menu scheme for the upcoming JP-8 phones. JP stands for Sony Ericsson Java Platform and JP-8 is the most recent. It is notable for JSR 248 (Mobile Service Architecture) support. MSA aims to dramatically lower the device fragmentation issues that has plagued Java ME from the start.
(image: Sony Ericsson)
Note the entirely new menu scheme
(images: Sony Ericsson)
Compare the Z610 (old layout) to the Z750 (new layout).
Motorola has launched the Z8. This phone runs Symbian and UIQ. The user interface was developed by UIQ and
Sagem their UK Sendo team.
As you see from the image, the phone uses 3 softkeys and the context aware default action. (They proceed to mess it up right there on the first screen by adding "Camera" on the right menu button. Using a softkey to do a mode switch is completely misguided and a standing invitation to usability problems. Its probably added by some ignorant in the marketing department.)
For all my Motorola-bashing, I still think the Z8 looks like a great phone and I'm going to try to get my hands on one.
Nokia did get its menu system for Series 40 into good shape after a couple iterations.
Now, it looks like Series 60 also will be taking full advantage of the middle softkey in addition to a number of other UI enhancements. Series 60 3rd Edition feature Pack 2 will be released in Q3 2007.
Screen dump from Series 60 3rd Edition feature Pack 2.