A rant about the Internet of Things hype.
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Device upgrades -- the invasion of the body snatchers
Unable to leave well enough alone – it’s UPGRADE time! Rant on. Perhaps you were one of those who just encountered Samsung/Verizon's pushed Android 4.3 – charmingly tagged 'Jelly Bean' --last week? You stared at the message 'Accept Upgrade Now' and murmured to yourself, how bad can it be? Ah, stupid. Multiple problems. Should have read the forums – something your average consumer does not do. If you did, it would not be reassuring, believe me. Verizon – the only direct and very well-paid participant in this fiasco -- reacted with their usual aplomb: Maybe the customer will shut up if we just send them another phone.
Our carriers – ready to save the day. Although there was quite a bit of chatter on the Internet when the software first appeared, I guess I must have been doing something else. Did I receive a broadcast warning (on my phone or web e-mail) about this pending push from Verizon, who was pushed by Samsung who was pushed by Google to make it happen? No, dear reader, I did not. A read-me-first file? That would show weakness. So for those who whine, just 'send another phone' is an acceptable cost for the carrier. Now the hapless user must spend another day adding settings, apps and downloaded files that had graced the previous device.
We live in a sneak-up-and-support-yourself world. The software vendor issues upgrades abruptly, assigns a low-level employee to monitor the forums and occasionally answer questions posted by puzzled IT people. There are a wide variety of user scenarios, but they are experienced by unsophisticated users who may not know much about their phones, per the Washington Post – either before or after the upgrade. They have no IT people to call, unless they walk into a carrier’s store. "Why does this thing need more frequent charging now? Is something wrong with it? What happened to Google Talk?" The 'Googlighting Stranger' (seriously, watch that video) has visited my phone and the result was pain, for me. Remember the MAPS upgrade, er, downgrade, and further back, the Gmail upgrade -- remember after sobbing into your pillow? And tell me, why are tech status updates being posted on the Huffington Post?
The device simplification market should thrive. Search for 'seniors Android' and consider – this is why companies like GreatCall in the US and Breezie in the UK, not to mention catalog companies like FirstStreet will continue to help seniors. But why limit? Maybe these firms could think about an "everyone" product and service line as well. Consider that Post article again – if device complexity outpaces everyone, if carrier support and forums combined don’t demystify enough, it's not just that we may want to select a smart keyboard skin for our device -- we want to activate the smarter-than-us service. In the smarter-than-us imaginary service world, a team of wizards keeps up with the carriers and device manufacturers, broadcasts advance notifications of newness-to-be, and answer our questions quickly and completely. And the best thing – part of the carrier price we pay goes to an outside organization that creates and runs this service for us – and makes sure that the upgrades work. So it has been said -- let it be done. Rant off.