My life with the Maladroid

By Emanuel Derman
August 16, 2011

Google’s big battle will be that they know (and care) nothing about customer support or user interface. I early-adopted and hated the clunky Motorola Droid and I’m intensely happy to be rid of it. Unlike Apple, there was no one responsible for the device as a device. And I couldn’t upgrade to newer ones when the hardware improved because Google’s own software wouldn’t successfully sync any newer Droid with Google’s own calendar.

Maybe Google will learn, but they released something unworthy of being sold for good money, even fiat money. I feel obliged to recycle bits excerpted from the web diary of the seven stages of grief I went thru in my year-long battle with the Droid:

Early days: patience and optimism

The insides of the Droid are fine. It’s the user interface that lacks deep polish, even though it oozes shallow polish. I suppose one should expect this; Google has little experience with designing complex interfaces and they have lots to learn. (I can point out some flaws on Apple’s Mail: when you delete a message, it doesn’t take you automatically to the next one.)

Becoming anoid: The monster won’t sync properly; I take solace in William Blake and swear to persevere

The trouble is that Verizon sells it, Motorola makes the hardware, and Google unsupports the software. There is lots of room for things to fall in the cracks. Every time I try to make one thing work a little better, it’s back to square one.

Like Nostradamus, William Blake knew what I would be up against with the Droid:

From Wikipedia: “Verizon serves as a Satanic force similar to Milton’s Satan.”

“Lo, a shadow of horror is risen
In Eternity! Unknown, unprolific!
Self-closd, all-repelling: what Demon
Hath form’d this abominable void
This soul-shudd’ring vacuum?–Some said
“It is Verizon“”

But Blake also knew the cure, as English schoolboys sing in their Jerusalem hymn:

“I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Droid sleep in my hand:
Till I have made the Bastard sync,
No matter wtf Google planned.”

Forebodings: The Invisible Hand Appears

If, like me, you are the proud owner of a Verizon-Motorola-Google Droid, you will be interested to know that its synchronization problems are dwarfed by a new one I’ve discovered: The Invisible Hand!

Lest you think I am the only poor soul so afflicted, I recommend you google or bing “motorola android touch screen jitter.”

This is the situation. Sometimes, the Droid screen starts to jitter, as though stroked by invisible touches from some phantom Dybbuk trying to arouse it. It looks as though it is suffering endless and continual touch screen input. The screen scrolls up and down, left and right, opens up the picture gallery, displays menus, asks you to enter data, ceaselessly.

Needless to say, this makes looking at your calendar or dialing a phone number an impossibility. Often, it makes unlocking the screen and using the smartphone in any way at all a non-event.

Healing: The Ogden Nash Equilibrium

You may have hoid
I dumped my droid
into a garbage can I found (using Google Voice Search) on the corner of  33rd
and Seven.
I’m in heaven.
There it lay,
Pleading as I walked away
“process.android.email not responding: Force Quit or Close?”

So it goes.

 

 

 

 

11 comments

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Sorry to be a nitpicker but I like to think Ogden Nash would have used 33rd and “Seventh” and then rhymed it with “heaventh”

What a great post! Jim

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

Lousy design isn’t an accident – it’s CYA-certified safe, it’s intentional, it’s managed, it’s metered and its fecal residue is smeared over countless PowerPoint presentations and status reports. It’s there – in every “just get it out, working, or not — never elegant” deadline and in every mindless marketing standard. It’s prominent in every single organization that wants to *survive* (not *thrive*) – they’ll do anything to maintain the status quo, even as the casket is closed on them and the dirt is being piled on (hey, RIM, I’m talking about YOU).

Google is Microsoft, 2.0. Android is Windows ME. If the masses were ever right, we’d be living on a flat planet and the universe would be spinning around us.

Posted by LevonTostig | Report as abusive

Replying to unitoops:

You are dead right — and in fact, I wrote this verse a long time ago in Ia blog I used to do at
http://www.wilmott.com/blogs/eman/index. cfm/2011/2/7/Farewell-Ogden-Nash-Equilib rium
before I wrote on Reuters, and there, in fact, I did rhyme Seventh with heaventh, exactly as you surmised. Somehow when I copied it here I decided to change it a little. I actually wrote many other posts there about my endless battle with the Droid.

To Tostig:
I’m afraid I agree with you. I used to like Google but they’ve become a bit of a 900 lb gorilla. I’m still hopeful Apple won’t turn out to be one too, despite their size. At least they have taste.

“…afraid,” to agree with me?

Flattery will get you nowhere!

Apple was headed in the same direction, until Jobs’ return. He turned it around when he decimated the project/product count and demanded team sizes stay at 100, maximum. The worry I have relates to their new campus. It smells like NeXT, all over again (paraphrasing Jobs, “we need a beautiful place to work in order to create beautiful products…”). I certainly hope it doesn’t smell like his architectural effort at Pixar (one restroom in the entire building?)

Jobs & Co. need to remember that need, hunger and foolishness are the key ingredients in their recipe of success. Having the thought that they’ve never quite, “arrived,” is where they need to stay (mentally and emotionally) in order to continue innovating.

Posted by LevonTostig | Report as abusive

Great article – minus the poetry!

I agree with LevonTostig’s comment about user interfaces. Bad UI design does not happen on accident, it is institutionalized, it is a direct result of putting corporate priorities and resources in the wrong place.

I disagree with LevonTostig’s thoughts on the new Apple campus, however. NeXT was where Jobs started to work out a more consistent and stylish design aesthetic, not to mention where the seeds of OS X were planted.

And also, it’s not as if Apple will abandon the other buildings in Cupertino with a mass migration to the mothership. I think it will be a great building and I don’t think simple finishes, natural light, and open space are detrimental to good design thinking. You won’t fool any Apple employee into thinking they haven’t arrived already. A sense of “not there yet” comes from within, related to neurotransmitters and genetics, not something you can directly cultivate with architecture.

Posted by Nullcorp | Report as abusive

Both Google and Motorola have made mistakes with Android. Motorola is known for reluctance to Android updates. Furthermore, many negative comments in Android’s market are by Motorola phone users, so maybe there is a quality issue with the customizations added by the company?
Google has been pushing Android in the market pretty fast with some basic software capabilities missing (like local .ics calendar support, file system encryption) and concentrating on online services.

Posted by S_2 | Report as abusive

Jajaja sorry about the nightmar. But it turn out to be very good article

Posted by Fabrizi_O | Report as abusive

Good post. Let me misquote a line running through my head. “Inside every physicist, there’s a poet trying to get out:” I think this can sometimes turn out a bit like the community meal scene in the movie ALIENS.

Posted by Misanthrope | Report as abusive

Such an ill-tempered, cantankerous, slightly witty lot of comments here! Your poetry was harmless, even amusing. Definitely better than the economics graphs of a prior post. Misantrope (Misanthrope?) is being wicked, though I did laugh. I didn’t find LevonTostig’s organic residuals especially agreeable though. And he is wrong about flattery versus courtesy. You were merely courteous, which is ALWAYS appreciated. LevonTostig is unaccustomed to courtesy, no doubt, mistaking it for flattery. Not surprising, given his frankly well, effluvial focus. ;)

I regret that you had such problems with Android. Seems annoying, to say the least.

The entire open telephone :) paradigm seems misguided to me though. Apple makes iPhones that work well with iOS, iTunes, iCloud, Apple Apps Store and Safari browser. Google should focus on making Android phones that work with Google’s app-verse (I don’t know the name), YouTube, Google Drive and Chrome browser (mobile OS too, I guess). iPhones don’t like Chrome, nor does Android play well with Safari-iOS.

I don’t know if URLs are allowed, but I will try: http://youtu.be/FFhjDX-DUew is a satirical video for Android fan boiii’s, maybe Apple fans too. Vintage is recent.

Posted by EllieK | Report as abusive

Such an ill-tempered, cantankerous, slightly witty lot of comments here! Your poetry was harmless, even amusing. Definitely better than the economics graphs of a prior post. Misantrope (Misanthrope?) is being wicked, though I did laugh. I didn’t find LevonTostig’s organic residuals especially agreeable though. And he is wrong about flattery versus courtesy. You were merely courteous, which is ALWAYS appreciated. LevonTostig is unaccustomed to courtesy, no doubt, mistaking it for flattery. Not surprising, given his frankly well, effluvial focus. ;)

I regret that you had such problems with Android. Seems annoying, to say the least.

The entire open telephone :) paradigm seems misguided to me though. Apple makes iPhones that work well with iOS, iTunes, iCloud, Apple Apps Store and Safari browser. Google should focus on making Android phones that work with Google’s app-verse (I don’t know the name), YouTube, Google Drive and Chrome browser (mobile OS too, I guess). iPhones don’t like Chrome, nor does Android play well with Safari-iOS.

I don’t know if URLs are allowed, but I will try: http://youtu.be/FFhjDX-DUew is a satirical video for Android fan boiii’s, maybe Apple fans too. Vintage is recent.

Posted by EllieK | Report as abusive