Tag Archives: Android

The Bluetooth Runaround

Today we have yet another tale of consumer woe and multiple corporate failures.  This one is a doozy, since it affects a couple of popular products and is generating a lot of chatter on the interwebs.  In fact, one popular site has over a hundred comments on this topic and that’s just a subset of the problem.

Android invasion, Sydney, Australia

(Photo credit: Pranav Bhatt)

As our featured players we have a very popular phone, a couple of very popular families of cars, every cell phone carrier (notice I didn’t use the term “popular” with them) and a LOT of consumers.  Let me explain.

A coupe of months ago I upgraded my phone to the Galaxy SG3.  I love the phone – great display, very fast – no complaints at all.  It came with the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android and I use AT&T as my carrier.  When I got the phone I linked it to my car – a Nissan Altima Hybrid – using Bluetooth and was happily using the car’s built-in hand’s free system to chat and drive safely.

A month ago I became even happier when AT&T pushed an upgrade to Android, installing the Jelly Bean version.  The phone seemed even faster, I got Google Now, and  I was happy to be running a more current version.  Until I received a phone call in the car.  It sounded like an alien calling and I had to pull over to pick up the phone and talk.  I rebooted the phone, it connected to the car, but the sound was bad.  Unusable, actually.  I tried pairing it again to the car, hard resets of the phone and a few other tricks but the audio is completely garbled.

A search on the topic showed me that we have a multiple part blame game going on.  It is an issue affecting not just Nissans but VW/Audi, Inifinitis and a few other models.  Just this phone, every carrier, and only when the phone is upgraded to Jelly Bean.  The carriers say it’s Samsung’s fault.  Samsung says the auto guys need to upgrade the Bluetooth software in their cars.  They all blame Android for not making the Bluetooth version in Jelly Bean backward compatible.

Here is what none of them are doing:  taking responsibility for fixing it.  What they’re not seeing is that it’s costing them money as well as massive amounts of goodwill.  At a minimum  it’s hundreds of calls to customer service, each of which costs money   In the case of the carriers, many people are demanding new phones (which have the older version of Android) to replace the upgraded one.  That’s expensive.  Does any business have too many customers?  There are a lot of cars/phones/carriers from which one can choose, and while very few people are going to make an immediate change to their car or carrier, people don’t forget how they were supported when the time for that evaluation comes.

I’m not sure how I’m going to deal with this.  Maybe I’ll just try to use the phone’s speaker if I get a call while driving.  Maybe I’ll go get a new S3 and not upgrade it until I see this is fixed or they push another version of Android (the rumors are 4.2.2. fixes it).  I’m really interested to see if any party to this mess steps up and does something other than point fingers.  Why am I not surprised?  Isn’t that sad?

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Witch Doctor Technology

Like many of you who read the screed, I’m a fairly literate person when it comes to technology.

English: Witch doctor of the Shona people clos...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know – given what I do for a living one would hope that’s true.  That’s why my recent experience with some very common technology – a cell phone – is so frustrating.  Over the weekend my family all upgraded their devices.  The girls all moved to iPhone 4S and I moved to a Samsung Galaxy S3.  Both are great devices.  However, they both illustrate a point that’s all too common and what I want to discuss today.

My phone came with the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android.  I knew that there was a Jellybean update available – an upgrade to the latest version of Android.  While the ability to update the OS via an over the air download exists, because the manufacturers and the carriers can’t get on the same page, one needs to install the upgrade via a piece of software that lives on a computer.  I installed it on a windows PC, connected the phone and waited.  And waited.  Apparently, it’s a known issue to connect the device to the PC – a software issue.  I tried it on a Mac.  Same issue.  A few minutes of searching the web told me that there were a number of potential fixes that involved editing the Windows registry (not for the faint of heart), modifying phone settings, uninstalling and reinstalling device drivers, etc.  Nothing worked.

I used Samsung’s live chat customer support.  They had me try a few things I had also found on the web.  Nothing.  They said to uninstall the software which, of course, involves a reboot of the computer, which means you lose the person with whom you’re chatting and can’t get back to the same person again so you start over.  After many hours of this, I’ve given up.  Before the Apple fanboys and girls chime in, let me say that upgrading an iPhone to a new version of iOS ended up bricking my wife’s phone for a while and the number of issues I’ve had with Mountain Lion on my Mac is frightening.

Here is the business point.  No other industry with which I’m familiar releases products with known issues, and when the issues become public doesn’t seem to be in any particular rush to fix.  The G3 is a best-selling phone and to get to the latest operating system shouldn’t take the technologic equivalent of tossing chicken bones and burning incense.  Thousands of people are frustrated by this – I’m sure Samsung and the carriers (it’s not just a one carrier issue) are well aware.  If we want tech to be integral – more integral – in customers’ everyday lives we can’t behave this way.  Imagine if airplanes or cars were released with the kind of stability we see in most technology.

I don’t know what anyone can do other than to vent as I’m doing.  For me not buying the product is not an option.  Maybe that’s why these companies don’t seem to care.  But witch doctor solutions to these issues has to stop.  Do you agree?

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You Carry A Tamagotchi, Honestly.

Anyone remember the Tamagotchi?  They were a late 1990’s phenomenon – digital handheld pets.  The owner had to care for them on a daily – maybe even hourly – basis or they’d die.  Not a fun experience for either the owner (generally a child) or the parent.

I was reminded of the constant care and feeding required by those things this morning as I booted up my phone and found nearly a dozen app updates that needed to be installed.  That, of course, was after I updated a half-dozen yesterday.  Don’t get me wrong – some of the updates contained wonderful enhancements to the app and were very welcome but way too many were either bug or security fixes.  In fact, if you own a smartphone, notice how often you get an update followed within a day or two by another.

Having worked on a few mobile apps, I know how hard it can be to catch everything in QC.  We’re not going to have the Android vs. iOS chat now but even in a closed system like iOS there are multiple versions in multiple devices and the updates come fast and furious.  Using the mobile web and web apps is better although various browser/hardware/OS issues still make testing hard.  At least the user doesn’t have to do any updating though.

The real issue for me is that I’m not sure there’s enough thought or care given to the constant update issue.  Some apps will do a partial release – they think if a button was bigger it would get better results so they push an update to some of their users to test it.  Other apps decide to change the permissions (to get more of them and more data) on their installed base knowing that most people don’t look at that when they install the update.  Still others move features behind a pay wall.  Obviously security issues need to be fixed immediately, but a logo change can certainly wait until a big release, right?

Way back when in the early web days the dream was for a universal browser looking a web sites – no client side activity at all.  Now in mobile it’s gone back the other way – dedicated client-side apps have replaced the server activity.  Maybe it’s that apps are a closed world – I’m not shopping Barnes & Noble while I’m in Amazon’s app.  But there’s got to be something other than grown-up Tamagotchi worlds living on our smartphones.

Thoughts?

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Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud