In my previous post, I briefly mentioned my K750i Sony-Ericsson mobile phone. I received it as a birthday gift this year, to replace my aging but trustworthy Nokia 3210 and, as with any multifunctional digital device, there was a learning curve during the adoption period. While some features were gladly and swiftly taken into use, some of the handset's usability issues became my pet peeve and, among them, the localization pack wins the jackpot.
First, let's make one thing clear: I fully understand that memory constraints prevent manufacturers from including support for every language known to man, so a handset can only be loaded with a limited set of languages for the User Interface and for T9 predictive text input dictionaries. My issue is with the concept of grouping languages by linguistic families or continental areas, when compiling the localization packs for those handsets.
In this particular case, I had a choice between the Baltic or Nordic packs. The former has UI language support for Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian, while the later has support for Finnish and the Scandinavian languages; English is also included in both cases. T9 support is a strangely mixed bag: the Baltic pack only includes predictive input for the Slavic languages, while the Nordic pack supports all the languages of its UI.
What's my problem with the above language combinations? For starters, I'm in Finland. We don't interact with Danes or Icelanders outside very occasional pan-Nordic meetings and that mostly concerns politicians. Meanwhile, average Finns travel for work and play to Estonia and Russia on a fairly regular basis, which makes sense, since they are neighboring countries. However, available language packs don't take this into account.
How should this be resolved?
Either language packs are produced with specific countries in mind, rather than generic geographic areas, or the users should be allowed to freely mix and match among all available languages and get the result flashed into their handset at purchase time.
The K750i language pack for Finland should therefore include: Finnish, Swedish, Estonian, Russian, English and Norwegian (essentially the current Nordic language pack, but with Danish and Icelandic replaced with Estonian and Russian). Then again, this only covers official state languages. Samé dialects, anyone? I guess not, because we'd soon be exceeding the handset's capacity. Hmm...
Thus, the only real solution is to allow people to freely mix and match UI and T9 languages of their choice at purchase time.
As a bonus, this would allow me to drop Norwegian and replace it with Joual... ööö... cålisse, French and finally have a language pack that I can truly find useful. I can easily picture a Transylvanian engineer working in Finland wanting to get Romanian support or a Kurdish immigrant preferring Turkish support instead.
Sony-Ericsson, how about it?