One issue that recently came up in my life is how complex smartphones can be, and how many users aren’t really ready for the learning curve.
For the longest time, cell phones were just to make phone calls. You took them out of your pocket, dialed, and were able to talk to someone. Pretty simplistic, their function wasn’t hard to understand.
Then they added ways to dial people faster using short codes, or address books, and people either learned to use them, or ignored them. I know that on many of my previous cell phones, I never filled out the address book.
Today, phones are pretty much laptop computers that fit into your pocket, and unfortunately, they come with the same potential complexity, and many people aren’t tech savvy enough to figure them out.
Recently, I was at a pub with Tom, and I was asked to take a look at an Android phone because I currently run Android, and therefore must understand the operating system well enough. Unfortunately, the problem was related to the address book on the phone, something I haven’t spent much time with. After messing around with it myself, I quickly figured out the issue: contacts were being saved to different locations.
The phone had been set to not show contacts on the SIM card, and only show ones on the phone’s memory, but the default location to store new contacts was the SIM card. This meant that when the owner added a contact, she couldn’t find it.
She exclaimed that five or six other people had looked at the phone, including someone else with an Android phone, and none of them were able to figure it out.
I wasn’t too shocked though. There is so much fragmentation in the smart phone operating system world. Even within Android, I am unable to update to the latest version without downloading a custom ROM, a process that almost bricked my phone in a previous attempt.
There are potentially millions of people out in the world that don’t feel comfortable with technology and its continual advancements. They don’t intuitively know how to find where settings and menus are, and they feel frustrated, lost or stupid. The fact is that many smartphone operating systems are too complex for the average user.
While it is sometimes nice to have a laptop in my pocket that I can use for almost anything, including phone calls, the mass market may need something more simplistic to use, and so-called “dumbphones” are exiting the market fast. In a few more years, it will be rare to find a phone that isn’t using a smartphone operating system, and then what will these people do?
How long until every college and university is offering a paid course to better understand your smartphone? How long until computer repair shops are also supporting smart phone operating systems for forty dollars an hour? I don’t think people in general have wrapped their mind around all of this yet, and instead blame the carriers for the frustrations they experience.
It is an interesting problem, and while my geek reaction would be to tell these people to sit down and learn the basics of their phone through YouTube video searches, I think it is highly unlikely that most people will do this.
Many people exclaim that one operating system is easier to use than another, but I’ve never truly found that to be the case. Some are a bit more intuitive, and the learning curves might be different, but all operating systems have a shortcoming that can be frustrating to navigate around.
It will be interesting to see how people that aren’t tech savvy survive this change, or how businesses adapt to capitalize on this growing problem.