When I was in high school, I infuriated my maths teacher because I always wanted to know why something was done that particular way or why that particular rule was used. There was never time to discuss why. My hunger for knowing why never abated.
Today I had my Mobile Mentor session. It wasn’t as useful as I thought it would be. Firstly, I have had the Desire for almost three weeks and therefore have figured out more than the basics that the service is meant to provide. Secondly, because I had taken a back-to-basics approach, I have essentially been using the Desire exactly how I was using my Nokia and couldn’t think of things I wanted to achieve with the phone. Thirdly, some of the things I wanted to know, such as how to check how much credit I have left, he couldn’t answer (in that case because they obviously aren’t trained in prepaid, even though all the reviewers were given prepaid credit). Fourthly, I was guided through a couple of things (eg creating bookmark shortcuts) quickly, but only once, so there was no way to recap and now I don’t remember how to do it. Fifthly, all of my why questions went unanswered.
I am going to list some of these questions here.
Why do I keep getting the force close message up to four or five times a day?
Why can you remove some apps and not others?
Why can’t you manage the music files the way you manage the apps?
Why can’t you delete music files without connecting the phone to the computer?
Why do you need to download an app that allows you to manage files in order to do basic things without mounting the Desire as a drive?
Why doesn’t the usb port fit the standard small usb that my Nokia and three cameras all fit?
To me, design-wise, these things don’t make sense. Inconsistencies and non-standard methods of doing things seem to be the norm for the Desire, when all that does is cause confusion and foster frustration in non-geek users. It’s as though the designers haven’t fully committed to anything. “We’ll let you think you can manage files but not actually let you do it all within the device,” it says. Well I want to know what is the point. Either you can or you can’t. This in-betweening is totally nonsensical.
I snicker every time I hear the term “Sense UI” because, frankly, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.
Where to now?0
So the review is now officially over. My thoughts now turn to the future of this device in our household.
Until I can arrange some time with the Mobile Mentors, I am going to continue to use the phone as per my last post. After that, I’m going to see if I can use the phone as I really want to use it, utilising more of the features, with ease and without frustration. The plan then is to let my awesome husband and household geek, @smperris play with it and see if we can customise it to better suit my needs. If that all fails, then I’m not sure what will happen with the Desire, but that’s as far as we’re planning at the moment.
Before I found out about this review, my intention had been to wait to purchase the new iPhone and hope that my Nokia lasted until then. Now I really need to think about what features and functions are important to me; if the Desire can really meet those needs and wants; and whether I will be better off keeping this device or falling back on the original plan.
In the meantime, I have a son to parent, a dozen students with exams to complete, accompaniments to learn and practice, a business to run, a feature film to shoot, a new house to move into, freelance writing to get back on track and hopefully a TV series to get in the can as well (pending funding). Life goes on and will go on, with or without the Desire.
To those who are wondering whether the Desire is for them, at this stage, I ask you to ponder your own level of tech-savvy combined with your temperament. If you are not frustrated by interfaces that are not intuitive, then go right ahead (with support). If you don’t have the time or energy to spend thinking and searching for things that should be obvious, then stay away from this phone unless you have geek support at your beck and call, and even then, think twice about it. The Desire could be such a great device, but it leaves a lot to be desired (pun intended). From what I can gather from what the geeks are saying, the Android/Google stuff is where the gold is and the main problems lie in what HTC has overlaid onto this. Perhaps this means that there is another, better option out there for me that isn’t an iPhone.
Only time will tell.
Back to basics3
Since my post discussing how the Desire was having a negative effect on my life, I did go for a full day without turning it on at all. I was concerned that I was starting to develop a Pavlovian response to it, evidenced by my twitchy eye that started up every time I even looked at the Desire. So after the 24hrs of respite, I’ve turned it back on, but I’m only accessing things that I have already mastered or that are extensions of such things and are obviously easy (eg the calendar – I have now put an entry in the calendar instead of just using it as a reminder system).
Before I attempt anything more challenging, I’m going to have some time with a mobile mentor. The mentors are available for normal customers, so this will not fall outside of my “no geek help” rule. To be frank, I was never against using the mentors, I’ve just literally not had an uninterrupted hour available to use the service. I’m pretty sure the hour would be wasted if Mr4 was constantly asking questions. Of course, this probably means I won’t have time until June 4. So until then, I won’t be utilising the phone’s capabilities, but I’ll be a calmer person for it.
Well, it is a phone after all…0
Today, I tested out what it’s like to use the Desire as a phone instead of a gadget. I figured that this would be less stressful. Plus, I hadn’t really had the opportunity to test this before as nobody called me on the Desire.
With the phone to my ear, I thought the sound was a bit distorted, but when I put it onto speaker phone (which I found you can only do via the menu button: again, some confusion caused by the presence of both soft and hard keys, which splits the user’s focus), the sound was truly terrible. It sounded like my best friend was talking to me from inside a corrugated iron outhouse, wearing a tin foil hat. On the upside, speaker phone is definitely loud enough to be heard over road noise (which is an issue with my Nokia), but you’d think that in 2010, with a phone this expensive, the sound would be better than what you’d get through this:
Signal: short & sweet0
The Telstra Next G reception on the Desire absolutely kicks the arse of the 3 reception on my Nokia everywhere…
…except for in my teaching room at school.
I could generally get at least a weak signal with my Nokia while I was teaching. The signal on the Desire is patchy at best. I was able to use it once on Monday in the room, but subsequent attempts to use it failed do to signal drop out.
I find this really interesting, since others have mentioned that they don’t even lose signal in a lift. But this little demountable room has beaten Telstra’s record of brilliant coverage.
On the other hand, at least there have been no signal drop outs with Telstra and the Desire at home so far like there is with 3 and the Nokia.
I’m reasonably tech-savvy for a non-geek. When I used to teach high school music and drama, I was the person that everyone in the faculty came to for IT help. When the school started using software called “My Classes” over the school’s intranet in 2004, I was one of the early adopters and ended up being so proficient at utilising it creatively to enhance my students’ learning experiences that not only was I asked to train up my colleagues at the school, I gave a Professional Development workshop to teachers at a system-wide PD day. So I’m not a geek, but I’m definitely not clueless either.
For the last few days, I have felt my frustration rising to what is now a dangerous level. I have been increasingly moody, irritable and short tempered. I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m behind with my freelance work. I’ve had four days without piano practice (something I’m supposed to do every day) and I have neglected Yoga just as much. I have been consumed with this phone and this project. And the thing is, because I know that I’m capable, intelligent and reasonably tech-savvy, the fact that a gadget has beaten me has left me feeling inadequate as a person.
So today after yet more things going wrong and wasting my time, I turned the Desire off.
I may or may not turn it back on before the end of the review.
I may come back here and write up the other blog posts I’d planned, but I may not.
At the crux of it, my health and sanity are more important than a phone or a review process and I’m not feeling terribly healthy right now.
Why does this have to be so hard?10
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.
Why does the browser (the “Internet” button on the apps page) take you to the last viewed page? This is not normal behaviour for a browser, unless you have it set especially to do this: the default setting is for the browser to load a home page.
Why this is an issue for non-geeks:
I had already been browsing websites via links in emails and tweets. I had also been messing around with other things in the apps page. When I pressed the “Internet” button for the first time, with the intent of jumping straight to a particular webpage and this is what appeared on the screen:
Now for those who can’t read this (I’m really sorry: I have no idea how to take decent photos of the Desire screen), the URL is www.htc.com/desire/m/en/in… (the rest cannot be read on screen) and below, it says, “Learn more” and underneath is a menu with two options: How-tos (71) and Guides (2).
Now these are really useful to have stored on the phone. However, they don’t look like the internet to a non-geek. The presence of the menu had totally overridden the fact that there was a place where I could potentially type in a URL and go to a website.
Now maybe I was just unlucky that this is what came up for me, the first time I opened the browser, but I tell you what, it sure did cause a lot of confusion. The browser should behave like a browser. Settings such as retaining the last webpage viewed should be just that: in advanced settings, so that power users and geeks can mod the phone up to fit their own requirements. Non-geeks need the familiarity of a home page and the more savvy of us should have the option to set that homepage to our preferred choice.
This is yet another reason that the Desire has not been designed for a broad market.
The Virtual Keyboard1
I’m really starting to get used to the virtual keyboard. I especially love that the phone vibrates a little when I hit a key. Getting that immediate feedback is really helpful for someone who is used to the tactile nature of real keyboards and actual buttons on a mobile phone. I’m torn between using the keyboard in portrait and landscape. For me, portrait is generally faster, but landscape is more accurate, so I’m still weighing up which is the more effective method of “typing”. My typing can range from freaking awesome to woeful on a general keyboard, depending on my mood and my level of tiredness, but so far, the amount of required auto-correction for me has been fairly steady. I’d say probably about 20% of my words get corrected, mostly to the word I was intending. Occasionally, things do go horribly wrong. I had to totally abandon a blog comment a few days back because it auto-corrected a name incorrectly (I’d typed it correctly) and I couldn’t get it to fix it, as I only noticed it in the final proof read. I had great difficulty trying to edit it and simply gave up at that point.
However, due to my uncommonly small hands and fingers, which enable better aim, visibility around the finger and, ultimately, a higher level of accuracy, along with my heightened awareness of the options given to me by the auto-correct function, this has only happened once. I will restate here, though, that my hands are uncommonly small (my wedding ring is a size H, which is actually a child’s size; the average ring size for women is L to Q and men’s fingers are larger again: R to W) so this means that I’m much less affected by the issues of virtual keys being too close together or not large enough to maintain accuracy.
Random likes and dislikes0
I’ve somewhat calmed down since my rant. This is the post I was going to do this morning. I’ve not included any features or functions already discussed unless there are new developments.
- The camera has an actual button to press to take a photo, which gives more control.
- The rubbery back makes the phone much less slippery than other phones I’ve had and held.
- The share function. It is so ridiculously easy to share a photo: take the photo, press the share icon (which looks like a dot with two arrows coming out of it), choose how to share it (flickr, twitter, gmail, messages, wordpress, etc) and it takes you straight to the application and attaches it. I don’t just like this function, I love it. Very, very helpful and fast.
- The volume button is in the way. I keep hitting it all the time by accident.
- I thought the point of the desk clock app was so you could check the time without having to unlock the screen. Tested it out today: oh look, I still have to unlock the screen. That’s not a desk clock.
- I have tiny hands. I cannot press the power button one-handed.
- The phone doesn’t fit neatly in my handbag – it’s too large to fit in the compartment designed for mobiles and falls out of the others because it’s so heavy.
- I couldn’t find Bluetooth to turn it on. It took a bit of searching to find it.
Issues that need to be fixed:
- The RunKeeper app didn’t work as it kept directing me to the “security” page to change a setting that was actually on the “location” page. I had to do a lot of searching to find the particular GPS satellite setting that needed to be enabled. This was after lot of swearing. How did such a mistake get made?
- My husband (@smperris on Twitter) and I tried to test out sending a photo via Bluetooth. We could get our phones to pair but not connect. I don’t know whether this in an iPhone problem or a Desire problem.
- The voice recognition software seems to be more accurate for American accents than Australian ones. I had much better results with the voice to text function when using my GenAm (General American) accent than with my own voice. I guess this is one of the valuable things about having an actor on the review team: we can eliminate the variable of different individuals when testing out this software with accents. I may still do some video of this as proof, if I have a chance before the review is over.