Mobile Only: Week 22
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.
In the last couple of weeks I have been quite mobile, physically speaking. I was out of the office for a week for business travel and then another week away on vacation. Before leaving, I upgraded the Android OS on my phone to Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS). The upgrade itself proved to be quite the challenge. I had hoped that the upgrade would be the end of the difficulties. I quickly realized it was just the beginning as there were lots of unacceptable behaviors as a result of the upgrade.
To begin with, I couldn’t get the phone to connect with the monitor via MHL. After reverting back to the stock switcher app, the phone screen finally began to display on the monitor. However, I noticed right away that the image was stretched. The image quality was also grainy, as if the pixel density had been lowered. This made viewing the screen a challenge as text and images appeared hazy.
I also had trouble navigating as well. With the previous version of Android I was able to navigate to the home screen using a keyboard shortcut. This made switching between apps very quick and kept me productive. This functionality was completely broken with the upgrade. Instead of going to the home screen the shortcut now just navigated to the top-most element of the screen I was on. I now have to manually hit the home screen button on the phone to go back to the home screen. This is a major productivity killer as I have to take my hand off of the keyboard and eyes off of the monitor to do this often repeated task.
Unfortunately, it gets worse. After a few days I received a notification that app updates were available for installed apps. When I went to update the app I got an error message that the update couldn’t be installed to the default location. I thought perhaps it was an issue with that particular app. I then tried the next app, same result; third app, same thing. I then attempted to install a new app. It too threw the error. While the other two issues were productivity related, not being able to update or install apps is an absolute show-stopper.
Between travelling for work and vacation I didn’t have time to get to the technical support center to try and get this sorted out. This past week I finally got some time to swing by. As I started to explain the issues I was experiencing, the customer support rep seemed to have already heard my story. He said that my experience was not isolated and that the ICS upgrade is causing many problems for users. He said that he didn’t have any way to fix the problems. Here is where the shocker came in. I would need to make sure all my information was backed up and that they would just give me a new phone with a previous version (Gingerbread) of Android on it. Ugh. What a pain. This represents nothing but wasted time and effort for zero gain. In fact, it is backwards gain as it means I’d be going back versions of the Android OS.
The reality was even worse. After I made a list of all my essential apps on the phone and made sure I backed up all the data on the device, I went back to the store and was told that all the replacement devices were ICS devices as well. This wasn’t disclosed until after they had already wiped my phone; all my apps, data, and settings already gone. While the new device is able to install and update apps, the productivity issues remain. I was told that within week they should have the software to flash the device back to the previous version of Android. Double ugh!
I intuitively knew this would mean twice the work, but am just now learning how much work. I get to experience first-hand what a challenge this could present for businesses. Data backup, which I already had pretty well setup to happen automatically, is only a minimal part of the effort. It is pretty easy to bulk move data back and forth or sync with a cloud service. What really consumes a large chunk of time is the reinstallation and configuring of apps. Even though I had made a list of apps that I needed to reinstall they still had to be manually search for, installed, and configured.
This is the downside with mobilitiy’s approach to functionality. The concept of “there’s an app for that” ends up consisting of a lot of apps to enable a business-level of functionality. It takes many apps to get the work done. Built up over time, a device’s app ecosystem isn’t a challenge to put together. But when a do-over is required, which could happen because of many reasons such as lost, stolen, or new devices, it represents a measurable effort.
My app list had 32 apps on it. And that’s just the ones that I considered essential. That count doesn’t include apps I left off because I only used them on an infrequent basis. Besides the apps, I had also organized app icons, widgets, and other system settings. This all has to be reconfigured. To make matters worse, in order to fully solve these problems I’ll have to do this process all-over again in a week or so when they roll the phone back.
I know there are mobile application management tools that would assist in this type of scenario to push of apps to devices, but many enterprises only use this functionality for corporate sanctioned apps. There are still many apps that users have on devices outside of that scope. App Management should be part of an enterprise’s mobility management best practice, but there may be many instances of apps and configurations that are not included in the mix. The idea of “there’s an app for that” is great as it allows users to only download the specific functionality they need. But, when a user needs a complete mobile ecosystem, replacement time could represent a challenge. How would you minimize the effort required for a complete rebuild of your apps and settings?
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 http://remotelymobileblog.com