Mobile Only: Week 19
Benjamin Robbins, an EMF member, is spending the next year working solely from a single mobile device. Each week he shares his thoughts and experience with us on what it means to be mobile-only.
After dedicating an entire post to how far behind my phablet’s (it’s neither a phone nor a tablet) Android operating system was, AT&T has finally has gotten around to updating the Galaxy Note to Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). For those of you who don’t know, ICS is one of the latest OS releases of Android. Jelly Bean has,just very recently, supplanted the title of the latest, but I’ll take what I can get. While there initially was much internal rejoicing about finally getting the update, it quickly turned to frustration as I attempted to update my device.
The update for ICS from AT&T was not an over-the-air update, meaning that instead of AT&T sending the binaries to my phone over the 3G/4G network, I’d have to connect to a PC or Mac to download the updates. Yes, this meant that I would actually have to log into a PC, but there was no other way to get the update.
My first issue was that I hadn’t logged in to this particular windows PC for months. That means it had many windows updates to apply. I wanted to make sure windows was up-to-date to assure a smooth mobile device update. As soon as I started windows update, I realized my mistake. It took a good 30 minutes and a reboot to get all of the windows updates installed on the PC.
Next, I needed to download and install Samsung’s Kies application on the PC. This app allows you to sync your device with the PC in order to perform the Android update. This sync happens via a USB cable and not wirelessly. After the successful install of the sync app, I launched it. The first thing it did was pop-up a window on the screen that said there is an update available for the sync app and asked me to update it! I don’t understand why the latest version wasn’t available for download in the first place. Given that I was in no mood to brick my primary mobile device, I performed the update.
After the windows updates, Kies install, and then subsequent update I thought I was ready to rock. Boy was I wrong. I connected the USB cable to the PC and then to my phone. The computer was unable to install the drivers! The update instructions had anticipated this issue and offered the following guidance:
1. Please remove all previously installed software or drivers.
2. Make sure you are using an official Samsung USB cable.
3. Try a different USB port.
4. Reboot computer.
5. Uninstall & Reinstall.
I want to stop here. This list pretty much sums up the downside of the PC experience and why people are flocking to mobile devices. Drivers, cables, ports, rebooting, and reinstalling! Just reading the troubleshooting guide for this one issue made me realize I don’t miss the PC at all.
I tried all the above steps (and more) and I still couldn’t get around the device driver issue. I eventually gave up on that machine and moved on to try another. The second computer I tried couldn’t install the syncing application so I moved on again. The third computer I used I was able to install the software and drivers, but the first two USB ports didn’t sync the PC with the phone. The application and device finally synced with the third and final USB port. At this point in time I am several hours into the process and still haven’t been able to update my phone to ICS. Needless to say I was quite frustrated. In the end, I was able to get ICS installed, but I still have no idea why things finally worked.
We’ve got a ways to go before we are free of the pitfalls of the PC. As much as we like to talk mobile-first, I really felt like mobile was a second-class tech citizen because of its need to be tethered back to a PC. The phone seemed like some small, less-capable craft that has to go back to the mother-ship for any ‘serious’ endeavor. This challenge isn’t unique to just Android either. I had to cable-up with my windows phone as well when I updated its OS.
In the end, the inmates (developers) are still running the asylum. It takes a lot of forethought and effort to design, develop, and deploy a seamless user experience. Developers have a high tolerance for completing many technical steps to achieve a result. They think in-terms of tasks rather than experience. Unfortunately, a lot of design decisions get left up to developers and consumers end up with complex and confusing experiences. Hopefully mobile devices and apps represent an opportunity to start anew and garner a better user experience.
Benjamin Robbins is co-founder and Principal at Palador, a firm that focuses on providing strategic guidance to enterprises in the areas of mobility, apps, and data. You can follow him on Twitter. Mr. Robbins resides in Seattle and blogs regularly at <a href="http://www.remotelymobileblog.com