Jakob Nielsen’s latest Alertbox on usability pointed to an interesting article on cellphone “function fatigue.” The USA Today article reports:

“Manufacturers have become so enamored of cool features — including cameras, recording devices and video-streaming capabilities — that they have lost sight of the fact that many consumers just want good voice reception…Consumers say they are overwhelmed by their phones, at least in part, because retailers do a lousy job of explaining things.”

Exhibit A: When I upgraded to a newer cellphone, my list of what I didn’t want (all the bells and whistles) was longer than the list of what I did want (a basic phone to make and occasionally receive calls).

Of course, “basic” is hard to find, so I ended up with a phone that also allowed text messaging and access to the Internet. But wait; there was nothing in the manual about how to access the Internet, so I went back to the store to ask how to pick up a ringtone. The rep showed me how to do it, while cheerfully admitting the explanation wasn’t in the manual. Doesn’t that seem like an important feature they might have wanted to communicate?