Why does this have to be so hard?
Disclaimer: I am a non-geek, attempting to use the Desire without geek assistance, as a normal, general consumer would. Please do not give me answers in comments. They do not help me give an honest review of what it’s like for a true non-geek to use the Desire.
There are some things I really love about the Desire. I love that I can access all three of my Gmail accounts through the one program, that my calendar automatically syncs and that my contacts are readily accessed. I am totally in love with the share function. I know I have mentioned this before, but it is just so simple, straightforward and immediate. Today, one of my students mentioned she was having great difficulty remembering how a particular technical exercise went, even with the music in front of her (like a lot of singers in the early stages of training, her reading hasn’t yet caught up with her vocal skills). I whipped out the Desire, used Voice Recorder to record myself playing the exercise, pressed the share button, chose Gmail, started typing her name (her contact details came up almost immediately) and emailed it to her account so she could listen to and practice with it at home. Fabulously useful and it didn’t waste valuable lesson time as the whole process took about 90 seconds. Using Twitter is also very easy on the Desire. Once I got used to the notifications bar, I found that pretty useful as well.
And for me, that’s pretty much where it ends. Everything else is just so hard. I am exhausted from the frustration of searching for functions I can’t find; from selecting something from a menu that looks to me to be the logical choice based on the name, only to find it’s not what I thought it was; from trying so hard to complete a task and simply not being able to complete it. My brain feels like it is overloaded. I am choosing to spend more time at the computer and less using the Desire, simply because the Desire was slowing me down and wasting too much of my work time and mental space.
Today I tried file sharing through Bluetooth again, this time using my old Nokia instead of my husband’s iPhone (which I’ve discovered was creating the problem with this function). After a bit of fiddling, it worked. The music track (the only one I had on the Nokia because someone sent it to me via Bluetooth back when I first bought it in February 2008) that I’d selected had downloaded onto the Desire. I went to play it in order to test it out and compare the sound with that of the Nokia. I pressed the Music button, assuming it had been downloaded there. No sign of it. I looked to see if it had saved on the apps page. Nope. I looked everywhere I could think of, then thought there must be a search function to find things on the phone. I tried three different things that said “Search” but none let me actually search through the contents of the phone: two different websearches and the search settings. I gave up in frustration. My husband, as an experiment, took the phone and was playing the track within 90 seconds. (He did not show me how he had done this.) To me, this proves that the phone is not designed with broad usability in mind. The phone has been designed by geeks out of touch with the way that non-geeks think.
I’ve said this before on Mark’s blog, but I’ll say it again here: If this phone is to be marketed more broadly, then it must be usable by the broader market, ie business and general consumers. It doesn’t need to be dumbed down, as some geeks seem to fear (and reject), it just needs to be made more simple, more intuitive and less complex. There can always be advanced options for power users. The KISS principle is a wonderful thing. It should be used here.
Please note: Some of the readers may think that Bluetooth technology is outdated. I like to use it to send files straight to my students’ phones without them getting my mobile number. Think of the possibilities for the classroom! I realise that I can email files with the Desire, however, that means the students then have to transfer the file from their computer to their mp3 device, which is generally their phone. Bluetooth saves them a step.
This entry was posted by Helen on May 24, 2010 at 06:21, and is filed under Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
Amen. Preach it, Sister.
The irony is I’m a technical user and I have never figured out the Nokia UI. I find it incomprehensible much of the time.
The file system isn’t exposed to the user to keep it simple – like most things on the Android, the functionality is there, but not exposed natively – ASTRO File Manager, will let you share files over sftp, bluetooth, and SMB, and also let you browse through your file-system and launch files in whatever you’ve got to play them back.
I’m curious what you used to share the files, any mp3 I drop onto my device seems to appear in my music-player, no matter where I drop it – it’s possible that the application you’re sharing files on isn’t registering mp3 files with the media-player (and likewise images with the photo-viewer) so the phone doesn’t know where to find them. (This would be by design, you don’t want the phone picking up all media files, as that would include parts of applications like Icons and sound-effects).
I’m fairly disappointed in your attitude, first up for searching on the phone, there is a dedicated hard key, how difficult is that to find?!? Simply press the search button built into the phone when on the home screen and it searches the phone contents.
Bluetooth has two issues, the first is Telstra’s fault. To find Bluetooth files sent to your device easily, add the “Bluetooth Received” folder to a home screen. Why this isn’t done by default is beyond me, but the ability is there eas. The other shortcoming is that while it can accept Photos, the Android OS does not expose the “File Transfer” profile that most other devices use. There are 2 options here, first is send the object as a contact, which can contain just a photo, or install an App which adds the Bluetooth File transfer profile as well. There are a few of these apps, and most have a file-manager as well.
While these are not always immediately obvious, and there is room for improvement, to have such a strong reaction is a really worrying sign.
These devices are aimed a broad marked, which means that people who are really set in their ways, often by their other devices, and not willing to be open about new ways of doing things are going to run into the odd issue. Most of which can be simply overcome by having an open mind and thinking about the “easiest” way to do something, not the way “They’ve always done it.”
You also stated on Twitter that you didn’t want to seek help from Telstra, because an “Ordinary Person” wouldn’t be able to. – This sort of statement is what really fires me up. – Telstra have advertised nationally that they have “Mentors” who are willing to show you the devices, my memory is that these are available to all customers, and even free to many as well. It really sounds like you were going out of your way to make this problem far larger than it needed to be. 🙁
It’s so disappointing to see reviewers who seem more interested in complaining that finding real solutions to the little issues in what they state to be an otherwise excellent device.
(disclaimer: I’m Helen’s husband)
I was going to just let this pass through, but I feel there are a couple of things that need to be addressed.
The hard-key search button is part of a broken interface and it is surprisingly difficult to find. On a physical level, Helen generally holds the phone in portrait mode in her right hand and hunt and pecks with her left fingers when navigating the phone. The way she holds the phone, the fleshy part of the base of her thumb totally obscures the right hand buttons from her line of sight. When she’s using the phone in that context (as compared to using it for a game in landscape mode), the buttons might as well not be there at all.
On a user interface level, the search feature is a very poor implementation. The phone encourages the user to focus on the touch screen and I don’t blame Helen for looking repeatedly through all the apps and widgets on the screen trying to find something that searches the phone. The Nexus One has I understand 4 soft keys along the bottom of the touchscreen (somewhat similar in idea to the iPhone). The decision by HTC to make these hard buttons was a bad one in my view. It leaves inexperienced users constantly questioning where they are supposed to be looking for things: the screen or the hardware?
As for the search itself: why does it default to search Google first? It happened that Helen stumbled upon the search button independently yesterday and searched for the music file she had transferred. She typed in part of the song name but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t Google Search results. The search does find it, but as she would have had to scroll down off the bottom of the screen to find it, she didn’t see it. This is a weird default setting (she doesn’t recall changing any Settings for search, so I’m assuming it’s a default setting). Surely the search should look for onboard items first, and not force users to keep scrolling down?
Where do I begin? “Add the Bluetooth Received folder to your homepage”. What a convoluted mess that process is. I walked through this process this morning. First, scrolling through all apps and widgets failed to reveal a Bluetooth Received folder. Next, I used Search, which only produced Google search results for “Bluetooth Received” Huh?
Since Android is more like a handheld computer than a mobile computing device (a subtle distinction I won’t go into right now) I thought I would look for some onboard help files. I looked through all the widgets and apps for something labelled either “Help” or with a big “?” as an icon as I understand these to be the universal symbols for help files on computers. It turns out that the help files can found by clicking an icon called “Learn More” (learn more about what, exactly?) which has an image of a big green “!”. Huh?
Finally, in amongst the admittedly quite helpful once you find them help files, I discover I have to go to the “+” sign, select Folders and then select Bluetooth received to add it to the home page. Clearly the folder exists and is important, but search can’t find it. Instead I have to go through 3 steps just to find out what’s in the folder. Huh?
(Just to make it more confusing, the folder is empty. Does the music player automatically move mp3s to a new folder once you open the file that you have transferred using Bluetooth?)
Then you suggest that she go through the marketplace and find a file transfer app just so she can find the files that a built-in part of the OS and UI already does? Frankly, if the solution is to duplicate the phone’s functionality with a third-party app just to make it usable and intuitive, Android and/or HTC have failed.
This is not just “not immediately obvious”. This is simply not obvious. At all.
Finally, this statement – “…not willing to be open about new ways of doing things are going to run into the odd issue. Most of which can be simply overcome by having an open mind and thinking about the “easiest” way to do something, not the way “They’ve always done it.” “- is quite simply condescending and insulting.
I have sat and watched Helen try countless different things and explore different ways of doing stuff on the Desire. To suggest that she is somehow lazy or unbending in her thinking is completely unfair. Yesterday’s boilover is the result of days of increasing frustration felt by a highly intelligent person (I might be the resident geek but Helen is brains of the operation) who was blocked at every turn by poor design, inconsistent interfaces and a freedom to do things which makes it extremely difficult to intuit how something is supposed to work based on previous experience with other applications on the device. I don’t know if it’s Android or the HTC SenseUI to blame, but the Desire is all over the place. I like to think I’m a confident technology and smart phone user but in the few hours I’ve used the device, I find myself constantly second guessing how it is supposed to work.
The social reviewers have been at something of a disadvantage as no one has been there to help them set the device up instore during the purchasing process. I’m sure a number of these frustrations could have been resolved there and then. However this does not excuse anything.
This. Should. Not. Be. So. Hard.
The one behaviour I won’t defend of Helen’s is her general refusal to read manuals. It drives me insane. However, she does that with _everything_ and usually gets through okay (not just microwaves or DVD players but with new software on both Windows and OS X as well). On the rare occasions that she’s used my iPhone (usually to play a game to two), she’s been able to navigate around with little trouble. But the Desire? Frustrated her to tears. Power and complexity and choice are no excuse for being inconsistent and opaque on many levels.
Whilst I think Helen’s probably taken some of the short comings of the phone a bit personally (It’s just a phone, take a deep breath). I have to agree with the frustrations.
I’m getting the hang of the phone now, and I’m finding it more powerful and fluid than my iPhone.
But I wouldn’t recommend it to my mum/dad, not with all the ‘in store training’ in the world.
Telstra should push HTC to improve these papercuts (in a perfect world).
That all said, the iPhone is the first easy to use phone i’ve had, I could level the same accusations of ‘pain’ at my $69 Nokia or Samsung.
Fair call on Helen taking things close to heart.
To put it in a bit of context is that Helen is an actress and spends a lot of time tapping various emotional wells. A by product of that is that she tends to surrender to her emotions more easily than most others might.
Another point I think she would make is that Telstra asked for honest reviews. Helen’s posts have generally been very fresh first impressions. While maybe some other reviewers might have calmed down before posting, I guess Helen has kept it raw. It doesn’t get much more honest than that.
Give her a big hug then 🙂
There is (rumored) update to HTC Desire late in June, perhaps it’ll fix some of these things.
Glenn, I never said this. I’m acting as a normal person. I’m going to access the Mobile Mentors when I have time (which probably won’t be until next week). I said I wasn’t accepting geek help, not that I wasn’t going to accept Telstra’s help. There’s a huge difference there.
I won’t address the rest of your comment because my husband has already done this eloquently.