Bad User Experiences From “Multi-Vendor” Devices?

Microsoft Monitor: Feeling Dumb About Smartphone

Joe Wilcox over at MicrosoftMonitor just blogged about a bad user expereience he had with his Moto MPX200 Smartphone. He had previously retired the phone, and was going to give it to his daughter to use, but wanted to delete his 1300 contacts first.

The problem arose when he tried to “Select All, Delete” the Contacts on the phone itself. There’s no such functionality. So the next logical step was to turn to ActiveSync – sync the phone to his daughter’s computer that had a blank Contacts list, and let ActiveSync remove the contacts on the phone. Great idea in theory, but anyone who has any experience with ActiveSync can see where this is heading:

My first synchronization […] failed to zap the contacts on the phone. So, I made the mistake of unplugging the phone from the computer and replugging it to restart the process. Bad idea. ActiveSync wouldn’t recognize the phone had been reattached. This problem would repeat throughout the synchronization process. […] Eventually, the synchronization reached a point where I had an option to remove all the contacts from the MPX200, overwriting them with the empty address book from the computer. I clicked “Remove All,” and figured goal accomplished. Not a chance.

Joe doesn’t say what happened when he chose “Remove All”, and why it didn’t work out. At any rate, he arrived at the decision that probably should have been first when giving a device to someone else – a hard reset to wipe the memory and restore the phone to it’s factory loaded state.

The hard reset finally did the trick, but Joe points out one of the problems in owning a “multi-vendor device”:

Like many other cell phones, the MPX200 is a multi-vendor product. Microsoft develops the software, Motorola makes the hardware and AT&T Wireless provides the cellular service. But which company should provide information on using the phone? […] I figure all three companies, on basic stuff like troubleshooting contact synchronization and at least the hardware manufacturer and service provider for resetting the phone.

This is a valid point. Not everyone feverishly learns and plays with all of the nooks and crannies of a device’s functionality like we gadget geeks do. Think of your non-geeky mother or friend having to deal with a problem like this. And the problem isn’t just limited to phones – laptops are another big offender. If I want to update the graphics driver for my IBM T40, do I go to Microsoft (who provides the OS), ATI (who provides the graphics chipset), or IBM (who integrates everything)? Before you say anything, I do know the answer to that question. But it’s because I’m a geek, and I live for stuff like this.

There’s a lot of room for improvement in the overall “user experience” as we move towards ubiquitous converged devices. Cory Doctorow’s latest book, Eastern Standard Tribe (available in full for free under the Creative Commons license, and a great read – go get it!) features a character in the near future whose profession is to design and improve on the user experience. As computing and devices become more and more a part of our daily lives, we need people to focus on the experience, and make all of the pieces play together nicely.