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Cell Hell Dept.

Yesterday I made the mistake of "upgrading" my phone from a primitive-but-reliable Nokia to one of Motorola's new Cliq XT (Droid) touch screen models. The experience has confirmed, for me, why I loathe and despise most current phones: they try to do too much, they do most of it badly, and they fail in ways that are deeply exasperating.

I hate touch screens. They replace one good, consistent set of HCI feedback metaphors with others that deprive you one of the most useful ways of validating input: tactile feedback. They accumulate fingerprints and dirt faster than a bottle of Scotch passed around at a frat party, which not only makes them unsightly but makes it all the harder to slide your fingers around on the display in the first place. Those "flick" and "slide" motions turn into "splat"s and "thud"s. A touch screen, by any other name, would be just as big a filth magnet.

Oh, and unless you wipe it off regularly, you better not use the security code function. One of the functions in the phone is an unlock code, where you swipe your finger across a 9x9 series of dots in a certain pattern to unlock the phone. After doing this a few times, I realized that the face of the phone now has a greasy smear in exactly the same pattern as the unlock code. So all someone has to do is tilt the phone to catch the light, look at the smear, and follow it with their finger. This is like writing down the combination to a lock on the wall next to it. Telling me to wipe it off just reminds me that I'm now being forced to perform that much more maintenance I never had to do when I had a phone that sported buttons.

Hey, look, there's an update available for the phone! So, like a good little techno-loser, I download it. I have the phone plugged in for charging while this is happening, because god forbid the battery should die on me during the update cycle, which for all I know could brick the damn thing. When you have the phone connected for charging via USB, by the way, the internal memory card is unmounted so that the PC can access it (which is stupid, but whatever).

Guess what? If you apply the update while the phone is plugged in this way, THE UPDATER CAN'T FIND ITS OWN UPDATE AND CRASHES HORRIBLY. It tells you to press a certain key combination to reboot, but it just hangs instead. I had to pull the battery out and hard-reboot it (getting the cover off is like opening a jar that's been in the freezer for a month), and run the update cycle from scratch again. No, it doesn't warn you about leaving the phone plugged in during the update; why on earth would they bother trapping such an obscure, corner-case error condition?

I've managed to accidentally turn the phone off twice now, when trying to use the auxiliary function of the power button that lets you toggle things like the GPS and the wireless. I really like how it takes minutes on end to boot, too — my desktop boots faster than this thing. And I really, really like how the boot process doesn't even give you the convenience of a progress bar and how the back cover (which I've had to pry off twice now) is about as hard to open as a jar you've left in the fridge for a month.

So why did I get it? It was a free upgrade.

Yeah, that'll learn me.

Tags: fail technology

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Previous: Unkillable Dept.

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2010/05/08 13:00.

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