If the far-reaching trend is toward stripped-down interfaces, why does Sony's new PlayStation Vita have so many buttons?
The most obvious counter-examples are Apple's iPhone and iPad, each with a singular physical button augmented by contextual onscreen touch controls. But we've also seen this concept of "design by subtraction" elsewhere. Traditional touch pads on laptops, pairing a tactile surface with discrete left and right mouse buttons, are being replaced with clickpads, which incorporate those left and right mouse button functions right into a one-piece pad. Newer phones, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note, are nearly all screen, clearly designed for gesture control above all else.
By way of contrast, Sony's new PlayStation Vita handheld game console has 13 buttons, two touch panels (one on the screen, the other on the back), and a pair of analog control sticks, not counting the volume buttons. Additionally, there are separate panels that open up to accommodate game cards and memory cards (plus a SIM card slot on the 3G version).
Of course, its level of complexity isn't necessarily a bad thing, and without its wealth of physical inputs, the Vita couldn't do the thing it does best: mimic the living room console experience in a way that previous handhelds, or your iOS/Android device, simply can't touch. … Read more