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Why Mobile Phones Are Annoying 519

Posted by timothy
from the because-they-don't-reliably-explode dept.
griffinn writes "Jakob Neilsen recently conducted a study comparing the perceived annoyance level of two commuters having a face-to-face conversation and one commuter talking on the mobile phone. Interestingly enough, subjects were also asked whether the ring tone is annoying, and people didn't find the ring to be particularly bad."
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Why Mobile Phones Are Annoying

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  • Ringtones (Score:4, Funny)

    by Orgazmus (761208) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:35AM (#8846263)
    The ringtones arent the bad part.
    The bad part is the loud speakers that really dont need a phone in the first place.
    • One theory I have as to why people speak so loud when using mobile phones is the microphone placement on a lot of them.

      On many of the small non-flip phones, the microphone ends up being way up near the middle of your cheek, about four inches from your mouth. So even if it's a sensitive microphone, there is a certain psychological tendancy to speak loud since the mike is farther away.

      Another problem with this design is the necessarily sensitive microphone picks up pretty much every ambient sound around you
      • by Seekerofknowledge (134616) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @12:25PM (#8849315)
        I have a different theory as to why people talk more loudly on cell phones.

        On a regular telephone you can hear yourself coming out of the speaker end just a little bit. I don't know if this is because your voice is travelling through the hollow plastic, or if the telephone system is actually designed to do that. Either way, how loud you are hearing yourself compared to the other person helps to give you some feedback into how loudly you actually need to be talking.

        On a cellphone, your voice just kind of travels off into nowhere. You don't hear yourself at all coming from the phone. Hence, you feel the need to talk louder, and louder, until you realize that , yes, you are talking loud enough.

        This is what happens to me all the time. I always feel that little "urge" that I'm not talking loud enough, and so I sometimes try to actively talk below my comfort level of loudness.
    • by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:47AM (#8847959) Journal
      The bad part is the loud speakers that really dont need a phone in the first place.

      I disagree -- I think I buy into the article pretty strongly, which says that volume is a minimal issue. I've tried paying attention to what irritates me about cell phones when someone is conversing on one, and my feelings click with what the study says.

      The problem is that normally, we respond when someone says something to us. Our brain is cued by it.

      The request-for-attention pattern this follows is someone saying something near us, followed by a period of silence as they wait for our response. As the period of silence increases, the likelihood that the message was directed at us (and we should respond and haven't) increases (hence the common pattern of someone saying something, stopping, and two seconds later someone looking up and saying "uh, did you say something to me" -- the "request for attention" sequence was sent).

      We are pretty good about ignoring conversation -- sitting in a crowded lunchroom, it's easy to let background noise fade into the background.

      The problem is that cell phone speakers follow our brain's "I am requesting your attention" almost exactly. So we're sitting here uncomfortably having someone grab our attention every two seconds or so. It's extremely disruptive when you're trying to think about something else. The only real fix is to start ignoring people that *are* trying to get our attention, which isn't great either.

      I would say that the primary issue is that we need a sensory input that would allow us to determine when someone is talking on the phone. Then our brain can learn to distinguish between "cell phone speaker -- ignorable" and "someone trying to get your attention".

      I think that a good solution would be to provide (surprise, more noise) a buzz, a sort of masked noise from the phone. When the person on the other end of the phone is talking, we get an unintelligable but audible buzz. It would be crucial that (a) the buzz not be an annoying annoying, (b) the buzz not be easily picked up by microphones (especially cell phones, so that feedback doesn't occur -- a filter is necessary), (c) that cell phone manufacturers standardize on such a buzz sound, so that people talking near each other on different cell phones don't interfere -- this would also allow people to more quickly learn to identify cell phones. I think that cell phone disruptiveness is largely a technical problem, not a social problem (though people talking in movie theaters still require a swift kick to the nuts).
  • Can you hear me now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:35AM (#8846265)
    Switch to Verizon and you won't have to keep yelling can you hear me now. No seriously - CDMA [wikipedia.org] which is used by Verizon and Sprint have positive feedback meaning that the phone continually transmits and receives; so what you say but what happens is you hear background noises [arcx.com] and you perceive mentally that the person has your complete attention.

    With other vendors that use TDMA [wikipedia.org] such as ATT, Cingular, TMobile they have to electronic introduce background noise because this technology doesn't continually transmit. They introduce clicks and pops to simulate background noise. This gives you the perception that you have to yell to keep the other persons attention.
    • by dieman (4814) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:32AM (#8847144) Homepage
      Uh, Its not TDMA, T-Mobile uses GSM. It 'uses' TDMA, but its not the same thing.

      The problem is phones without active noise reduction. My T39m works fine with normal-voice-level on a bus. I only have issues in very windy conditions.
    • by dieman (4814) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:48AM (#8847303) Homepage
      Also, from the linked page (perhaps read your sources first?):

      "All of the PCS technologies try to minimize battery consumption during calls by keeping the transmission of unnecessary data to a minimum. The phone decides whether or not you are presently speaking, or if the sound it hears is just background noise. If the phone determines that there is no intelligent data to transmit, it blanks the audio and it reduces the transmitter duty cycle (in the case of TDMA) or the number of transmitted bits (in the case of CDMA). When the audio is blanked, your caller would suddenly find themselves listening to "dead air", and this may cause them to think the call has dropped."

      Which comes back around to, if phones had decent microphones -- you wouldn't be expecting the rush of awful background noise all the time.

      And no, they don't introduce clicks and pops -- my phone routinely goes silent -- I would blame that on crappy phones.
  • Ringtones? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ImpiousPunk (763114) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:36AM (#8846271) Homepage
    How are those damn ring tones NOT annoying? "Hey look how cool I am with my 50 cent ring tone!" What ever happened to a plain phone, that rings, vibrates and stores contact information. I find the whole ringtone /instant messaging and even the internet on my phone quite useless.
    • by Eric Savage (28245) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:39AM (#8846297) Homepage
      At least you can make fun of them for paying $0.99 for a 50 Cent ringtone.
    • Re:Ringtones? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) <saapad@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:43AM (#8846316) Journal

      I agree, those ringtones are damn annoying.

      However, I've come to realize the value of a unique ringtone. Often, when a cell phone goes off, everyone is pulling their phone out of their pocket, thinking Is it mine?. If your ringtone is different from the norm, then you can sit their with a smug smile on your face whilst others are checking their phones.

      Using only plain ringtones, its rather difficult to be able to have a somewhat unique ringtone. Having musical ringtones makes that option much more accessible.

      Still, I would much prefer to have short musical scores rather than long rings. And I agree, it is annoying, but I think of it as a necessary evil if I want my own ringtone.

      If someone can think of another way to allow for seemingly endless variety in ringtones, I'd take that option any day.
      • by richie2000 (159732) <rickard.olsson@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:49AM (#8846344) Homepage Journal
        If someone can think of another way to allow for seemingly endless variety in ringtones, I'd take that option any day.

        Text-To-Speech: "Mr. ComboyNeal, telephone for you, Sir" in a husky female voice. Many phones already have loudspeaker abilities and advanced ring tone generation. Use them for good instead of evil.

      • Re:Ringtones? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by 1967 Ferrari 312 (592016) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:10AM (#8846918)
        Vibration is the best way to be sure your phone is ringing... and it has the advantage of not annoying anyone else.
      • Re:Ringtones? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338)
        Well, how about setting it to only vibrate? I don't think you'll confuse that with some other person's phone.

        And, no offense, but it makes me want to award some "Mr/Ms Individualistic Git" to everyone who can say "I aggree, it is annoying, but... [insert half-arsed excuse for continuing to be annoying]". Here's a crazy idea: if you do realize you're annoying the living heck out of the people around you... how about trying to stop being annoying? Yeah, I know, crazy concept.
      • by Greyfox (87712) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:13AM (#8846946) Homepage Journal
        It'd be a baby crying. It'd start out slow, and it'd get crankier and crankier the longer you ignored it. I can't think of a better way to clear out a meeting. Fire up the auto-dialer from your wi-fi PDA and let it go for a couple of minutes right in the middle of the CFO's presentation before saying "Oh, is that MINE?"

        That's why I'm barred from ever owning a cell phone.

      • Re:Ringtones? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by matth (22742)
        That's what vibrate is for.. I've never once thought someone else's phone was vibrating on my side =) Funny how that works, and it's quiet and doesn't interrupt others when it goes off.
      • Using only plain ringtones, its rather difficult to be able to have a somewhat unique ringtone.

        Quite the reverse -- these days, a plain ringtone is unique! Everyone else has stupid annoying beepy tunes.

        It's a shame, because there's lots of scope for sounds that are distinctive and recognisable but not annoying. I've tried lots of alarm sounds on my PDA, so I know what works for me. For example, the original Star Trek communicator chirp is great, not because it's geeky, but because it's extremely easy

      • by RAMMS+EIN (578166)
        ``Often, when a cell phone goes off, everyone is pulling their phone out of their pocket, thinking Is it mine?''

        Wear headphones. Only you hear your phone going off, you can have the most annoying tune in the world and it still won't annoy others. Next on the list of annoyances is thinking people have to SPEAK VERY LOUDLY in their phones, which is even true in many cases.

        I am for text messaging - imagine a usable keyboard and a permanent (e.g. pay for traffic, not time) IP connection. Just chat away anywhe
    • Re:Ringtones? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CaptBubba (696284) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:44AM (#8846317)
      It may be useless to you, but it isn't useless to the cellphone provider, who more than likely charges some fee for every ringtone downloaded and ever IM sent or recieved.

      Normally you can go down the list of features on a new cellphone, and almost all of them will make the provider money in some way or another.

    • Re:Ringtones? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pogle (71293) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:45AM (#8846328) Homepage
      I swear. They asked the wrong people if they didn't get results that the ringtones are annoying. People choose the most obnoxious ringtones imaginable and pump them out as loud as those little phones are able.

      People really need to learn to use the vibrate function more often and spare the rest of us. I know the only time my phone makes any noise is when the battery is low, and thats only because I can't turn that particular beep off. Its a courtesy thats sadly lacking, keeping cell phones discreet and quiet.
    • by robotoverflow (738751) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:03AM (#8846419)
      Text messaging isn't useless when you want to tell someone something that can be said in a few words like "be there in 15" without having to engage in unimportant conversation and annoy people around you.

      To compare, how many people do you hear making calls to say something like "be there in 15", then keep talking for a solid 5 or 10 minutes? I get this all the time when i'm on the train and it bugs the crap out of me, even more so when it's a person sitting right next to me talking so loudly that I can hear their entire conversation though my headphones.
    • What ever happened to a plain phone, that rings, vibrates and stores contact information.

      Contact information? Vibrate feature? MOBILITY? You kids and your damned newfangled gizmos.

      Give me a 30-pound Bell rotary-dialer with a length of RJ-11 coming out the bottom of it, that's a REAL man's phone.
  • How about a study showing the time delay from when a cellphone rings in the theater to when people get mad, measured in milliseconds. In L.A. it must be higher than here,because we get people from there talkin on phones like it's their job, IN the theater, DURING the movie.
    • Makes me wonder why someone doesn't make a cheap Faraday shielding material which can be applied to walls in places where you don't want phones being used. {Some council houses I have stayed in seem already to have a layer of metal mesh behind the plaster, which is quite effective in blocking out anything except crappy MW radio signals; I guess they were built before Gyproc became commonplace}. The absence of a row of bars up the left hand side of the phone's display is less likely to be seen as an affron
      • I believe that passive shielding deliberately designed to block cells may not be legal, but both it and (definitely not legal) active jamming of cells does take place at a small number of locations (fancy restauraunts, theaters).

        I'd carry a personal jammer, if they were legal, and flip it on when I was at a theater.
        • How can passive shielding be illegal if you have possession of the building? If you own the building / pay the rent / have squatter's rights, you make the rules. If your customers don't like it, tough ..... you don't have any obligation to keep other people's services available in your own private property, you aren't forcing them to stay there, and they can easily go outside the Faraday cage and their phones will work just fine.

          I don't even buy the argument that you're draining their batteries quicker
  • by Ziwcam (766621) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:37AM (#8846274)
    I beleive people tend to talk louder while on a cellphone. They repeat themselves over and over. "Can you hear me? I said..." People will talk on a cellphone without regard to their "real life" companion... sometimes I feel as if I'm not really there when someone gets involved in a conversation. And its annoying because, when I want to listen in, I only hear half of the conversation!! :-) Just my US$0.02
    • Two way (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ParadoxicalPostulate (729766) <saapad@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:46AM (#8846333) Journal

      I agree. What's even more annoying is those two way plans that work like walkie talkies. In such a situation, not only do you have to listen to the person talking but also their companion over the phone.

      " when I want to listen in, I only hear half of the conversation "
      Trust me, unless you are with a friend who's talking to another friend, you really don't.
      • I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Animaether (411575)
        I disagree because it becomes so much more fun to engage in the conversation.

        Once the caller or callee makes it clear that the conversation is none of your business, just retort saying that by yapping so audibly on the phone in the restaurant/at the movies/whatever, they MADE it your business.

        It's truely the "Yeah. Uh-huh. Oh really ? Uh-huh. OK. No. No, I don't think so. Uh-huh. Oh, yeah, totally." phone 'conversations' that get on my nerves most.

        As for ringtones, they're not so bad. You 'need' them to
      • by the_rajah (749499) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:26AM (#8847731) Homepage
        If you'll notice, your regular landline phone supplies feedback of your voice through the earpiece. In the telephone industry this is called sidetone. I've never figured out why cell phones don't do that as well. Without the expected sidetone feedback, people tend to talk louder since they are not getting the feedback that they are accustomed to. "Do the Right Thing. It will gratify some people and astound the rest." - Mark Twain
  • by Eric Savage (28245) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:37AM (#8846275) Homepage
    If it was a Nielsen study it would have said that "most people" feel a certain way, where "most people" is a pseudonym for "Jakob Nielsen".
  • I hate it... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grant29 (701796) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:37AM (#8846283) Homepage
    I can't stand when someone has a cell phone conversation and speaks too loud. It's as if these people are trying to let everyone else know that they are "cool" and talk so loud that you can pretty much follow thier conversation, even though you are only hearing one side. I think it's funny too the people that pimp through the mall with the high-tech headset attatched. Usually these are the people that appear not to have a dime to thier name, but somehow still have the most expensive phone on the market. I wish people on cell phones would be more courteous, and only take calls where acceptable, and then only speak as loud as they need too.

    --
    Retail Retreat [retailretreat.com]
    • Re:I hate it... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iammrjvo (597745) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:44AM (#8846320) Homepage Journal

      I wish people on cell phones would be more courteous, and only take calls where acceptable, and then only speak as loud as they need too.

      My general rule of thumb is to move to a place where a pay phone (for those of us old enough to know what that is) would naturally be placed and then talk as if I were on a pay phone.

      For example, in the airport find a spot in a hallway or in a corner and turn your back to the crowd. In a restaurant (even a fast food restaurant), take the call and quickly move outside or to a deserted area.

      It just shows respect for those around you.
  • by vudufixit (581911) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:38AM (#8846290)
    My "ringer" is set to vibrate - wherever I am, because other people don't need to hear the ringing. When I'm in a bookstore, library or restaurant, if I take or make a call I either walk out to the lobby, or find a place where others aren't. And I wear a headset when I drive, but I still see tons of people breaking my state's cell phone law, despite an alleged "ticket blitz."
  • by violet16 (700870) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:39AM (#8846293)
    Furthermore, the actors conducted half of the conversations at a normal loudness level, whereas the other half were exaggeratedly loud (as measured on a volume meter)

    I think these guys have been conducting this experiment on the train I catch to work for the last two years.

    • by po8 (187055)

      I liked this sentence from Nielsen's report: "It's striking, however, that mobile-phone conversations are judged more negatively than loud conversations."

      What's striking to me is that Nielsen, after many years of working in human interfaces, doesn't seem to quite get the idea of statistical significance [wikipedia.org]. From the reported data, the values for loud and mobile-phone sure looked to me to be statistically indistinguishable.

  • by ThogScully (589935) <neilsd@neilschelly.com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:41AM (#8846303) Homepage
    I rather like their hypothesis that people pay more attention to half a conversation than a full one and it seems it may be dead on. While I don't particularly listen in on others' conversations, I know I definitely overhear a cell conversation, even at normal volume, because having only half the conversation seems to leave my brain wondering and pondering the other half more.

    Although, I can't believe they don't think the rings are annoying. I just wish a phone could have at least one decent normal ringer now... I don't want a song, but there really aren't options other than those now. The most recent phone we bought was for my fiance and all the rings it came with were songs. We figured we'd download something normal and only found more songs. Ultimately, we just picked the song ringer that sounded the least annoying.
    -N
    • by Jin Wicked (317953) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:00AM (#8846403) Homepage Journal

      I find it funny that the ringtone on my mobile is set to sound like one of those ooooold phones that actually had a bell inside of it. So my mobile phone sounds more like a "phone" than the beepy-ring thing that the handset plugged into my laneline does.

      Now if I could just find a kind of antique-finished retro looking mobile phone that was still small, with maybe a metal casing instead of the uber-futuristic blinky plastic crab... that would be spiffy.

      • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:07AM (#8847536) Journal
        Just once, I want to try this.

        Obtain an old 1960s rotary dial telephone, as found in all British households (since at the time, the phone company was the GPO and were the only people to be allowed to connect phones, so the range was extremely limited. It did include the Ericofon though).

        Inside the phone, insert the guts of a cheap GSM cell phone. Build some electronics to change the LD pulsing from the rotary dial into something suitable to cause the cellphone to dial. Maybe add an extra button as a 'Send' button for the cell phone. Have the loudspeaker of the phone which the ringtone normally plays through connected to a circuit that rings the phone bell.

        Catch the train.

        Receive phone call. "Rrrring rring". Pull out old phone from bag, place on table. Lift receiver.

        "HI I'M ON THE TRAIN!"

        Phone a friend with the rotary dial, too.

        Observe looks of fellow passengers.
    • I think the reason why people pay attention half-conversations rather than full ones is that half-conversation are not conversations.

      You could, of course, argue that they are, but a more normal interpretation of someone yacking into a digital device is not a conversation, but simply someone yacking into a digital device. Any dog would tell you the same thing.

      Put another way, there's little discernable difference between someone talking on a cell phone and talking into a dictaphone, muttering to himself,
  • The annoying part (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Black Parrot (19622) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:41AM (#8846305)


    is the loud speakers. I used to see the same thing with construction supervisor types in restaraunts with radiophones, back before the modern mobils became possible. Now they do it with mobile phones, along with lots of other people who never had access to a radiophone.

    And of course, some people talk at the top of their voice even when they're sitting face-to-face with the people they're talking to. (And have a tendency to be complaining about their family problems or some other crap you particularly don't want to hear.)

    The ringers are annoying during a movie, concert, lecture, exam, etc., but much more often it is the overly loud yakking that annoys. I hate sitting in a restaraunt and having to raise my voice to talk to someone at the table with me because someone four tables away is hollering into a cell.

  • Correction (Score:5, Informative)

    by griffinn (240043) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:41AM (#8846306)
    The study was done by Monk et al. Nielsen's story is merely an abstract.

    Original article: Andrew Monk, Jenni Carroll, Sarah Parker, and Mark Blythe: "Why are Mobile Phones Annoying?" Behaviour and Information Technology, vol. 23, no. 1, 2004, pp. 33-41.
  • by tbone1 (309237) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:42AM (#8846310) Homepage
    I don't know how many times a wanker with one of those walkie-talkie phones has ruined a meal for me. I have been tempted to stand behind the person making comments as if he/she is in a massage parlor, not at lunch, as a way of revenge. I haven't done it, though.

    Yet.

    However, one time I was in a bathroom and the guy in the next stall took a call on his cell phone. I immediately made all sorts of grunting, straining, and moaning noises as if I were trying to pass a moose. He hung up after twenty seconds, and before he could say anything to me, I thanked him and returned to the quiet matter at hand.

    • A particular favourite of mine is whispering the old "Come back to bed" into the phone at a volume just loud enough for the person on the other side to hear.

      That usually gets the phone hung up pretty quickly :)

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:42AM (#8846311)
    Interestingly enough, subjects were also asked whether the ring tone is annoying, and people didn't find the ring to be particularly bad."

    The ringing isn't really the problem. The real problem is this:

    john: so you see, I had to go see him yesterday.

    Peter: yeah, I know what you mean [ring ring]. Hang on a sec there John... HELLO! YES! HI SWEETY HOW ARE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU? WHEEEERE?! CAN'T HEAR YOU, GOING UNDER A TUNNEL!! WHAAAT?

    (Well, and of course the ringing)
  • Personally (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Viceice (462967) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:42AM (#8846312)
    I think with the advances made in mobile technology, something should be done about informating people of a call in a manner that is not annoying to others.

    Phones that just beep or emulate a land line phone ringing is acceptable, but I totally hate those 2 tone mangled excuses of popular music people call ring tones.

    Take the vibrating alert.. Thats a good start. Why not improve on it? like make a little ring or bracelet or pen or whatever and make that vibrate too? Or maybe even a watch strap? It informs you of a call and is non annoying at the same time.

  • by nberardi (199555) * on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:49AM (#8846345) Homepage
    It is that I cannot get a good cell phone anymore that doesn't come with a camera, so I have to decide to either leave my cell phone in the car while I am at work or get a dumbed down basic cell phone.

    These manufactures really aren't thinking of the part of the market that buys the most cell phones, and that is the corporations, and most corporations have strict guidlines against cameras. So it really blows, and I hope they come to they senses and stop marketing to the teeny-boppers. At least they could put out comparable phone that doesn't have that camera.
    • Because obviously a few thousand companies purchasing a few dozen phones each on average are a bigger market than a few million idiots who need a new phone every year.

      Oh, wait: No.

      I get a phone for free when I renew my subscription. I don't need a camera, but having one always with me is pretty neat, for the price. Your concern is obviously a valid one, but basic phones are widely available here in the Netherlands. While the US is quite backwards in the sense that you don't have a homogenous network acros
    • Nokia just released a version of one of their high-tech phones without a camera exactly for the reason you state. I wish I could remember the model.

      Or you could get an N-gage :)

  • by api_syurga (443557) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:51AM (#8846359)
    In South-East Asia, where I am from, having a handphone is almost as important as being literate;you can't really live without it.You can but its hard to communicate long distance since public land-line phones are not well mantained and are in generally bad condition.Its no longer a matter of status/fashion statement.
    This is why public cell-phone ethics is a serious issue here.In general, the older ones have a tendency to talk too loudly, however I do noticed that the younger generations have learnt to speak as unobtrusively as possible, maybe realising the phone-speaker can actually pickup their voice without having to shout across the room.

    My 2 cents
    • It's the same here in Seoul. On the subway everyone is talking on their mobile phones, but you can barely hear them speak. Many girls cover their mouth (and the phone) with their free hand while they talk. Most people have their phone on vibrate/silent "manner mode".

      What really annoys me is the people who play their games on their phones with the volume turned up, although you can do this with a gameboy too.
  • by Enoch Root (57473) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:54AM (#8846373)
    Having lived for nearly a year in Shanghai, I'm all but immune to cellphones. As a matter of fact, I've been one of those people who not only leave their cellphone on in the theater, but actually take the time to answer if it rings. I kid you not, this is normal behavior here.

    And why not? In China, as well as most parts of Asia, cellphones are not an annoyance in any way. They're just a part of life. I think in the West, cellphones were initially thought to be annoying because they were an obnoxious show of money, and this has carried on to this day. In China and South Korea, having a cellphone is part of life and is not considered as annoying.

    Methink the people surveyed here thought a cellphone conversation was more annoying than a face-to-face conversation simply because it's, well, a cellphone conversation. We still tiptoe around cellphones in the West. For all I can see, this annoyance is purely cultural.

    (Earlier today, I saw a perfect picture of modern-day Shanghai: in a sea of bicycles, a man riding, and a woman seated in the Chinese way in equilibrium on the back of the bike with both her legs on one side... And as the man pedals his old rusted bike, the girl behind her is merrily thumb-keying SMS messages to her friends.)
    • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:13AM (#8847599) Journal
      I don't know about china, but I have some first hand experience with Eastern Europe. It's a different culture, all right.

      To put it mildly, the main "cultural difference" is that there it's ok to be an annoying f*ck to those around you. If it doesn't involve cell phones, it involves talking way too loudly, having an extremely loud party in a densely packed block of flats, etc. And if someone doesn't like it, fsck them, it's not your problem. Extreme individualism was pretty much _the_ way to survive communism, and the poverty that came with it.

      Now to get back to your point, methinks the same must apply to China, then.

      Sorry, no matter how much I want to find it an excuse, there is _no_ bloody way to say that it ought to be socially acceptable to talk loudly on the phone in a movie theatre. I went there to see and _listen_ to the bloody movie, not to hear a dozen retards talking on their phone. I don't care if it's face-to-face or on the phone. Just shut the fsck up. I've paid to listen to the actors, not to you.

      It's not overreacting, it's not shunning "an obnoxious show of money", it's merely asking that you show at least some minimal respect to your fellow humans. All I'm asking is that you let me watch the bloody movie, that's all.

      So again: what's different in the West is that people have learned to give each other at least some minimal respect. Whole systems of social customs have existed for the sole reason of allowing people to live without getting on each other's nerves every two minutes.
  • by finkployd (12902) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#8846376) Homepage
    Someone walking down the street talking on a cell phone doesn't bother me, nor does someone sitting in a restaurant talking on a cell phone.

    What REALLY bothers me is when I'm sitting in a presentation at a conference (or something like that) and they repeatedly ask that people turn off cell phones or set them to vibrate. Then, naturally, someone's phones has to ring half way through.

    Now answer me this, what kind of fucked up individual sits there while someone clearly asks them to silence their phone and doesn't? What is the thought process? Is it "Well, everyone else is turning silencing their phones like they asked, but they couldn't have meant me" or is it more "I'm not going to silence my phone, I'll just assume that nobody will call me"? Or is it that these people somehow forgot that they HAVE a phone?

    I've never understood this but it seems to happen every time. Almost as if making the announcement before a presentation to silence phones CAUSES one to ring eventually.

    Oh, and the worst is when the phone is in some kind of bag or briefcase and the owner just ignores it like everyone around him doesn't know it is his and he doesn't want to give away that HE is the asshole. We all know it is your phone you goober, looking around like you are trying to figure out whos it is will not fool anyone so turn it off!

    There, I feel better now.

    Finkployd
    • Oh, and the worst is when the phone is in some kind of bag or briefcase and the owner just ignores it

      I think it's worse when they silence the ring instead of turning off the phone. Then the same person on the other ends calls back repeatedly wondering why the owner won't pick up their phone! Naturally the ringer goes off a couple of times and is a total distraction...this happens in my college courses so often I've gotten fairly irate though it provides me with this story.

      I'm sitting in a lecture hall

    • Maybe they think it's on vibrate but isn't?

      My solution to that little conundrum was to put my phone on vibrate the moment I powered it on the first time, and I haven't changed the setting since. I've never heard it ring. I do realize that solution doesn't work for everyone, but my phone is always with me.

      Anyway, I know a lot of people who set back and forth between ring/silent several times a day, and perhaps they just forgot which mode it's in. Could check, though, I suppose...

  • by wizrd_nml (661928) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:55AM (#8846378) Homepage
    Living in a country where mobile phone use is quite common and is not seen as being annoying in the least, it's quite strange for me to read all these posts about how they are perceived differently in the US.

    Let me first start by saying that I agree mobile phone use does have its etiquette, and certain limits should be respected (i.e. volume of the ring tone in a quiet place, such as a library).

    But I really think it's only a matter of habit. I believe if an American lived in Sweden for a while (a country with one of the highest mobile phone penetration rates), they would quickly get used to hearing phones ringing and people talking on them all the time, without feeling necessarily annoyed. It's the constant reinforcement by others in US society that mobile phones are in fact extremely annoying that maintains this perception.

    It's almost as if people go out of their way to get annoyed at someone talking on the phone. Because logically speaking, and as the article states, if you only hear half the conversation, you should only be bothered half as much. And if listening to just one side of the conversation is bothering you, then why are you listening in the first place?

    • My (negative) views on the use of mobile phones by some people is based on living in the UK.

      Actually, I agree with a lot of your points, I'm probably more easily angered than you ;)

      However, your last point: then why are you listening in the first place? deserves a short response: because I have no choice. Two people holding a conversation at normal volume is easy to ignore; one person shouting at a plastic box taped to his head - that's not so easy to ignore.

      Someone mentioned earlier in the thread that

      • by kruczkowski (160872) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:02AM (#8846847) Homepage
        About the volume - From what I have noticed is that US GSM is much quieter than European GSM using the same phone. I had mu Nokia turned up all the way in the States and could barly hear the person on the other end - but when I took that phone to Germany I had to turn ot down mid volume to hear just fine.

        Perhaps the companies what you to scream into phone just to show off?
  • by danormsby (529805) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:56AM (#8846385) Homepage
    [nokia tune=annoying] ring [/nokia]

    Hello. HELLO.

    I'm writing on slashdot.SLASHDOT

    Nah its rubbish

  • by ajs318 (655362) <(sd_resp2) (at) (earthshod.co.uk)> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:57AM (#8846388)
    What it really comes down to is a matter of how nosey you can be. We all are motivated to some degree by a sense of morbid curiosity -- a simple enough desire to know everything. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. If two people choose to have a conversation within earshot of me, I am not going to be made to feel the slightest bit guilty for listening in {however, I would draw the line at passing on information received without consent. Being privy to a secret doesn't give you the right to broadcast it}. If it's that important, they can always get up and go somewhere else.

    If two people are having a face to face conversation in a language in which you are fluent, then you can hear both sides of the conversation. You can then make a fully-informed decision just how much attention to pay to it.

    If one person is on a mobile phone, having one side of a conversation in a language in which you are fluent, it can drive you crazy trying to work out what is going on. You probably are devoting more attention to it than you can afford, and this also increases annoyance.

    Two people talking face to face in a language in which you are not fluent, can also be extremely annoying.
  • by rasillin (710183) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:58AM (#8846397)
    I suspect that one part of why hearing half a conversation is more annoying has to do with the intermittent nature of half a conversation. Whenever someone starts talking near me, particularly if they are using a loud voice, I listen for a moment to see if they are talking to me. If they are in a conversation where I an hear both parts it's easier to ignore as it's easy to tell that they are not addressing me. With the stop/start pattern of half a conversation, I think most people are subconsciously triggered to pay attention to see if someone wants to talk to them, every time the local speaker makes a remark.
  • by Simon Lyngshede (623138) <[simon] [at] [spiceweasel.dk]> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @07:59AM (#8846400) Homepage
    This doesn't explain why I dislike using mobile phones, which is what i really what to know.

    Also it isn't the phone which annoys people, it appears to be other people.

  • by AvantLegion (595806) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:02AM (#8846412) Journal
    Assholes are annoying.

    Will people stop focusing on the wrong thing (cell phone) and return focus to the actual source of the problem (asshole)?

    • by chegosaurus (98703) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:18AM (#8846507) Homepage
      That's so true. Someone calls me in a public place, I retreat to somewhere where I won't annoy people, and if I can't do that, I speak quietly, and try to keep the length of the conversation to an absolute minimum. Usually I'll just say I'll call them back when it's more convenient for me.

      Asshole has such an over-developed sense of self-importance that he thinks his conversation is not only more important than the peace of the people around him, but that the pathetic rabble will be impressed by his long, loud conversation. Or perhaps it's just that so many folk don't have any respect for the people around them.

      The thing I really hate about modern phones is that so many have cameras. Take, for instance, the proliferation of twats in pubs and clubs pointing the phone at any half dressed/half attractive woman in sight, aiming up skirts and down tops for the leering benefit of equally twattish friends elsewhere.
    • Air horns aren't annoying either.

      Assholes are annoying.

      However, air horns are a tremendous asshole facilitator.
  • by fuzzybunny (112938) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:04AM (#8846423) Homepage Journal
    They're annoying because..they're annoying.

    -The insipid ringtones (hi, Britney!)
    -The shouting
    -The uniformity of the conversation (I'M ON A TRAIN! WHERE ARE YOU?)
    -The blandness of what's being said (YES WELL I WAS SAYING TO MARGE THAT I REALLY LIKE THE FLOWERS AND MARGE SAID...)

    I've noticed that the people who speak more quietly on phones tend to make a more educated and lucid impression--they stick to a conversation, for them a phone chat isn't some HYPER-/<3WL 5H1T D00D, but a tool, and they understand that they don't have to yell to be heard.

    Maybe talking face to face with someone makes it easier for them to smack you upside the head when you say something idiotic.

    To be perfectly honest, when idiots converse loudly in person, it's equally irritating. But then, that's probably just me.
  • by raelimperialaerosolk (528725) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:08AM (#8846458) Homepage
    Lately I've noticed people walking around talking to themselves. My first thought is that this is some sort of wacko, but then they turn their head a little bit and I catch a glimpse of a boom mike and realize they're just on the phone.

    It's getting harder and harder to pass yourself off as a bona-fide wack-job these days...

  • by jarran (91204) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:10AM (#8846461)
    A few thoughts on this research.

    I'm surprised the author made no reference to the relative volumes of the mobile phone converstation and the face to face conversations. Was the mobile phone conversation the same volume as the normal conversation, the loud conversation, or somewhere in between? If it was the same volume as the loud conversation, the would support the conclusions drawn by the author, that annoyance is primarily due to the exagggerated volume. If it was the same volume as the normal conversation, something else about mobile phones is annoying people.

    I suspect that peoples expectations have some affect as well. People who have been annoyed by mobile phones before (ie everyone :) ) will get annoyed quicker. If this is true, it's unfortunate, because it means that even if the majority of mobile phone users can be educated to be considerate, people will still get annoyed even at them, because they've been "pre-annoyed" by the inconsiderate people.
  • by tttonyyy (726776) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:18AM (#8846510) Homepage Journal
    I think our brains listen for patterns in the surrounding babble as part of the mechanism for discerning one conversation from another. A person speaking on a cellphone is especially annoying because it grabs our attention as though we should be participating in the conversation. Many times I've been on a packed train, casually thinking about something else, when half of a "How's it going?" conversation has nearly tripped my brain into automatically responding. It's an unnatural speech pattern that our brains aren't used to processing. It demands closer attention, making it harder to concentrate on other things, and is thus highly annoying.

    Or is that just me?

  • by jaclu (66513) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:20AM (#8846518)
    Install a few strong lamps in the roof, that is motor-aimed.

    Add some radio-tracking stuff, that listens for active cell-phones, and controlls the lamps.

    As soon as somebody start talking in their phone, a directed (strong!) light beem will shine on them from above, or to be techincal towards the phone, but the end result is the same.

    The angry shouts from the crowd, now that they see who to blame will make that person switch of the phone within seconds ;)

    I think this is much to prefer above legalisation, it like handling animals, make the "right" choise the easy one, and all bad choises unpleasant - As soon as you behave acording to plan, you get the comfort of being left alone and not bothered.
  • Death to Nextel! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CrazyTalk (662055) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:21AM (#8846530)
    The worst are those walkie -talkie phones where that continually beep, and force you to shout into them. Who came up with that idea? How is that better than talking on a normal phone, with or without a hands-free set? Unless you are working on a construction site, therer is no need for it.
  • by josh glaser (748297) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:29AM (#8846576)
    ...isn't the ring tones, or people using it in theatres (never had that problem), or even people talking louder. I'm sure they are annoying ring tones and people who can't comprehend "Please turn of your phones now" or people who go "HELLO?!?" and whatnot - it's just that they don't bug me (as much).

    Two things really bug me:
    1) You only know half of the conversation. So, naturally, the person that you can't hear is apparently the funniest person alive, and the person on the phone can't stop laughing, or then he'll act like he can insult you, and so he does, as if he forgets you can hear him, etc.
    2) You have the person over and you're hanging out with your friends and you're all having a good time, and then someone's phone rings, and they go and leave the room, or they just stay there (even worse) but they just kinda drop out of the party and all. It's like being socially antisocial or something.

    Just bugs me.
  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:34AM (#8846615) Homepage Journal
    If you're annoyed about other people using their phones near your holiness then you are probably annoyed by real conversations too.

    Though to be fair, when did people discover that they had to look all macho and shit talking into a phone held sideways, away from and in front of their face?

    And my homies - when you go the movies, why do you all need to wear the headsets? Do you think you're on Pimp My Ride?

    Nope, phones aren't annoying, people are.
  • How to do it... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tcdk (173945) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @08:36AM (#8846633) Homepage Journal
    I was at a business lunch, we where four people in all (all old friends) and the mattes had gone from business to just talk. We where having fun..

    One of the guys mobils rings. He looks at it and says "Sorry, I have to take this...".

    He answers the phone and the conversations goes like this:
    X:"Hi, this is X".
    [The other part identifies it self, and obviously askes if it's interrupting anything important]
    X: "No, no problem - I was bored anyway".

    Cracked me up!

    But there's a good bit of truths in it. When you answer your mobile phone while in company with other people, that's basicly what you are saying.

    "I'm answering this call, because I care more about having a conversation with a random stanger, than this conversation I'm having with you. For not other reason that the fact that it's convinient for the stranger to talk to me now. The fact that you are wasting your time while I'm having the conversation will not mean anything to me, and I'll keep on talking as long as it take and beyond..."
  • by Moribund64 (770869) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:01AM (#8846839)
    Why is it that when you go see a person and the phone starts ringing, they have to interrupt an important conversation to take of someone out of the blue?

    When doing service calls a few years back, I remember going to this customer and the receptionist was too busy answering the phone. After 20 minutes of "one moment, I'll be right with you" I decided to use the guest phone and call her up asking for the person I wanted to see. Manners are just out the window where phones are concerned.

  • Informed Consent (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kongjie (639414) <kongjie AT mac DOT com> on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @09:27AM (#8847074)
    When Nielsen mentioned informed consent, I suddenly realized how much things have changed regarding this issue, not in the scientific community but in the media.

    This issue came to the forefront with Stanley Milgram's "shocking" experiment on authority, where he was trying to find out why people followed unethical orders, vis-a-viz WWII and the Holocaust. You may recall from Psych 101 that Milgram set up an experiment in which an unsuspecting victim thought he or she was shocking someone for incorrectly answering questions. I know a bit about this because I worked on Milgram's archived papers. (Some people forget that in the actual experiment, the shocks were a hoax).

    Anyway, what occured to me is that reality/prank shows like Scare Tactics etc. go way beyond Milgram's experiment. I assume the only way these episodes get broadcast is that the victim, after the prank is revealed, ends up signing releases, probably in exchange for payment. But the initial trauma/annoyances the victim experiences are not consented to until afterwards. It seems like the media doesn't operate under the same ethical assumptions that science is burdened by. Offtopic, but something that occured to me reading this.

  • by Rick Zeman (15628) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @10:04AM (#8847512)
    It's bad enough having the ring and the semi-shouted conversations, but the freaking "over" beep just kills me. People have no class at all using them in a restaurant. People wouldn't bring a CB radio...this is different?
  • by cluke (30394) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @11:30AM (#8848554)
    A good way to make them stop is to pretend you are a crazy person, and supply the other half of the conversation yourself.

    Imagine:
    ring-ring
    Them, answering phone: Oh hi, how are you, how did last night go?
    You (very loudly): I am fine. Last night was a real blast!

    I guarantee they will immediately begin speaking a lot more quietly!!
  • cordless phones (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zed2K (313037) on Tuesday April 13, 2004 @12:47PM (#8849595)
    How is a cell phone conversation any different from someone talking on a normal phone? Or talking on a cordless phone out in your yard on on your patio? Do people get annoyed when people in their own home pick up the phone and carry on a conversation? If not then why do they get annoyed when a stranger is having a conversation on a cell phone in public?

    I don't think its the cell phone so much as its people feeling left out. They want to be nosey but can't because they only hear one side. What if 2 people were talking face to face and one was using sign language and the other was speaking out loud. Would the be as annoying to other people around them as a cell phone?

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