Even a digital clock can be simplified


I got a new mobile phone last week, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at some of the smart choices that the user interface designers made. Among these decisions: the digital clock on the top of the screen doesn’t say AM or PM — and no, it’s not set to military time. For instance, the clock reads “2:30” instead of “2:30 PM”, and assumes that the user can easily figure out whether this refers to the afternoon or the early morning.

Is this a safe assumption? Yeah, I think so. And it saves space on the screen, which is always at a premium on mobile devices. But what about the alarm clock and other areas where the AM/PM distinction is important? I actually haven’t tried out the alarm feature yet, but I’m guessing the choice for AM/PM appears when it’s needed.

As this example illustrates, virtually anything can be simplified if you keep an open mind and challenge even the most basic assumptions. I probably would have never thought about taking away the AM/PM on a clock, but I’m impressed that the people who designed my new phone were willing to give it a try.