At some point in the last few years, the smartphone manufacturing industry collectively decided that tapping and swiping on your phone’s screen isn't nearly fast enough. What followed from this strange and almost certainly incorrect insight was an explosion of weird ideas about how to do things.
Want to take a picture on your Moto X? Just take it out of your pocket and pretend you’re using it to screw something into a wall. Want to take a selfie on your Galaxy Note 4? Yell the word "cheese!" at your phone. You can wave your hand over your phone to answer a call, or flick it hard left or right to reveal other information. They’re all deeply strange — it never stops being weird to violently shake my phone in public to undo-delete that last email — and are far more likely to make me launch the phone out of my hand than actually do the thing they’re supposed to do.
Yet the trend continues unabated. And today at CES 2015, Asus took the whole thing to a new level. On the new Zenfone 2, here’s a thing you can do. You shake the phone — "you can always shake shake," as CEO Jonney Shih gleefully told us — to add an item to your to-do list. That’s in addition to "tap tap," which you do if you want your phone to go into one-handed mode. It’s all part of the ZenMotion part of Asus’ ZenUI. It’s all crazy.
First, I have questions. How do I shake shake? Is this a full-body wiggle situation? A light jazz-hands? If I put my phone in the dryer by accident, is it going to add ten thousand things to my to-do list? What things can I add? Can I shake harder to add due dates?
Is this a jazz-hands kind of shake shake?
Second, I have a request. Please, Asus and everyone else, stop. Just stop. These gestures that you think make my life easier? They don’t. What they actually do is make my mom call me because she sneezed while holding her phone and suddenly Pinterest is in her to-do list and part of her screen is black and she’s really confused about why. Both iOS and Android have great tools built in for easily moving data around, easily sharing between devices — use those. If you want to do something crazy with to-do lists, build better software tools for adding things to my to-do list. Samsung’s done a nice job with this, actually, with some clever (and hard to accidentally enable) key shortcuts and pen actions that let you do things quickly on the Note. These have survived as Samsung has slowly turned away from its insane eye- and hand-tracking gestures, and with good reason. They work, and more importantly, they don’t work when they’re not supposed to.
I don’t want to shake my phone to do things. (I really don’t want to shake-shake it.) In fact, I don’t want anything at all to happen when I shake my phone. Please just let me touch the screen.