Unnecessary Change

I am often teased about my resistance to change, but in fact I’m quite comfortable with it, when it is both necessary and/or beneficial.

Case in point:  last week I got sick of my phone performing random changes on me — e.g. switching to “Airplane” mode (a 3-button operation, so not a “fat-finger” or “butt-dial”  phenomenon) without my input — and a battery that had been charged t0 100% but had somehow shrunk to less than 50% by the time I got to the supermarket.  New Wife was having similar issues to mine — also un-prompted but different in type — and as we’d bought them at the same time some four years ago, we decided to get replacements together over the weekend.

Because I have ZERO tolerance for inanimate objects and even less with technology, we went off to the T-Mobile store at the mall so as to preclude situations like me hurling the new phone against the wall.  I had done a little research beforehand and decided on the model already (Motorola 4G something because I don’t trust 5G just yet) and as luck would have it, the store had them in stock — the last two, by the way — and so we sat down and got the friendly young customer service kid (thanks, Carlos) to perform the magic which would transfer the data on the old broken phones over to the new ones.  (It says something for the modern generation that he was able to perform said magic on both phones simultaneously without any hassle whatsoever.)

Of course, there was some work left to do — reinstalling the few apps I need to keep my life organized — but that was no problem because I’d done it before with the old phone, so easy job.

Then as I started to familiarize myself with the new phone’s operation, my irritation started its engine and the rev counter began to head towards the red line.  For starters, the familiar operation buttons at the bottom of the screen

…had been replaced by the inscrutable

…which requires one to swipe up to go back to the Home screen.  The “Back” and “Show Open Programs” buttons?  Gone without a trace, sunk quicker than the fucking Bismark.  You can show the open programs, but that requires two or three non-intuitive steps to get there, and I still haven’t found a replacement for the Back button.

WHY?  What possible user benefit does that change provide?

Next comes the incoming phone call answering screen, changed from:

…with, once again, a single button:

And because I get few phone calls anyway, I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to send the poxy call to Voicemail if I’m busy or don’t recognize the caller.

One again:  WHY?

The older screens were both functional, easy to understand and required absolutely no change, nor time spent in learning how to work the fucking things.

I remember back in the day that when buying a new car, learning how to work the thing required about 30 seconds — where’s the indicator lever, where are the light switches, how does the fan/AC work — and you could drive straight out the dealership and carry on with your life.

Now?  You need a 30-minute tutorial from the sales rep, and you’d better not lose your instruction manual (which itself requires a tutorial on how to use it, because car manufacturers insist on trying to make a single manual cover all the different models at once, rendering the thing as inscrutable as the Rosetta fucking Stone).

The new phone bullshit is even less justifiable.

I haven’t even mentioned the fact that the new phones use the smaller USB-C plugs, thus rendering all my old backup power cords redundant and requiring the purchase of a few new ones, to drive up the transaction cost.

Technological change is fine, but making it more difficult to operate on the most basic level does nothing but cause unnecessary aggravation.

New Wife locked the patio door before leaving for work so that my new phone wouldn’t turn into a submarine (the pool is but a few yards away from our apartment).  She is wise, and knows me well.

The only positive thing about all this is that the new (and larger) phone still fits in my car’s phone holder, so there’s that.

28 comments

  1. When my old flip phone died a couple of months ago, I leapfrogged a few generations of tech and got a iphone mini that would still fit in my pocket. Primary use is still phone functions. Apps are emergency items when my desktop is down. I’m not a phone guy either. My voicemail announcement is “This is Larry. Friend or Foe?”

    Getting used to the iphone has been a challenge. I said “Why so cold, Alexis?” The phone responded “Because I’m Siri, asshole!” She was turned off.

  2. Since 1994 I’m on my 12th phone and the current Samsung has been acting up even though I very rarely use it and I dred getting a new one for all the reasons you’ve stated.

    Because my phone use is so low any more, about 10 years ago I shitcanned the monthly payment arrangement and got a Tracfone. I buy the phone on one of the TV shopping channels when they have their regular weekly deals, for about $100-$130 and it comes with zillions of minutes, texts, and data (mtd) and that’ll last me a year, when I renew the mtd for about $100. After 2 years I start the whole process over again. Tracfone is good about making the cross over painless and seamless.

    Don’t get me started with the Win10 issues. The day is fast approaching when I kick ALL retarded technology to the curb. It’s all so time consuming and provides very little benefit. Seems like everything is like that any more. TV’s, microwaves, vehicles, everything. Bah, I’ll just sit on the porch with my old shotgun sipping alcohol.

  3. Your complaint about car controls is one of my pet peeves. Compare my car (2006 Jeep Liberty) with my wife’s (2015 Ford Edge). The climate controls on my Jeep are similar to those in use from probably the 70s, three knobs. Left-most controls fan speed. Center controls which vent(s) the air comes out of . Right-most controls the temperature. Two buttons above, one turns on the A/C, the other the rear defroster. All very tactile, I can use them without taking my eyes off the road. After the first few times you know which knob position corresponds to what setting and Bob’s your uncle.

    Wife’s has this silly button in the middle, multiple presses to determine which vents are active, two buttons below for fan speed. Practically impossible to use without actually LOOKING at it.

    I just got a new phone last June, after having similar issues to yours with my old Motorola. I did find some differences in controls but chalked them up to jumping from Motorola to Samsung.

    Mark D

  4. I attribute part of that to the human tendency to think we “HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!!!”

    Look at any legislative body. We already have pretty much enough laws to cover every single situation, and a dozen unnecessary ones for every necessary one. So aside from the paltry task of approving a year budget, what does Congress actually have to do? Why, pass more laws. And more laws, and more laws.

    There’s many times at work we’ll look into an issue and when they ask my advice, my answer is “Do nothing. We already designed for this and the system can handle it.” That answer never gets approved because we “HAVE TO DO SOMETHING”.

    So yeah, every new generation of cell phone has to be completely different, how else to charge $800 bucks for an indoctrination device.

  5. One word: “Progress.” The whippersnappers who worship Progress in all things have no idea.

    Buying a new phone is getting to be as painful as buying a new car. SWMBO and I spent two days in AT&T stores and repair “clinics” earlier this year. I turned out to be worth it in that we effectively got two $1200 phones free. But enduring the experience in the moment was … onerous.

    Part of the ritual involves transferring data and setting from old phone to new. There’s an automated process. It works over some radio protocol — I don’t know — wifi, cellular, whatever. It dragged on for several hours until one of us — wife or I, no matter — asked “What’s this wire for?”

    Turns out it was a quick transfer cord, for connections between phones. Plugged it in and the process was done in ten minutes.

    But the radio protocol is new and neat. Technological. Direct wire connections are so last week. Progress.

  6. Well timed article Mr. Kim. I currently have an Apple iPhone 8. Screen and all work well, but the speaker and microphone are wearing out. Speaker is tinny and people saying they have trouble hearing me.

    I know it’s my phone as my wife’s does not do this same thing and the Bluetooth in my car works fine. Even though I may consider changing carriers, this phone is wearing out.

    Apple is supposed to be releasing new models today. I usually purchase a model one or two behind the latest to save some money. (Yes I know Apple is now admitting to scanning people’s phones for “child abuse” pics. I wonder if they are looking for more. Like , Conservatives. But I digress. And if Apple is doing this bullshit I would think other companies are as well. But who knows.)

    Even though I work in IT, I am disgusted with some of the bullshit of smartphones.

    – most new smartphones like any rechargeable device have a battery that starts wearing out in 1 to 2 years even though the phone is fine. Can’t change the battery easily and that means either a huge repair bill on an old phone or a new phone

    – chargers that keep changing. – I don’t mind this in the abstract but it’s 30 bucks for a cable, 40 for a magnetic charger and 60 for a case that allows this all to work. Rinse and repeat every couple of phone models. This shit is built in China. Why the hell does it cost so much?

    – coverage. I use AT&T. Coverage is generally good but lately friends and coworkers with Verizon seem to get better reception. Prices with all carriers are similar now. But the bitch is changing. New accounts. Hour or more in store or on phone. “Activation fees” in addition to monthly fees. Shouldn’t these companies welcome you to their network? Without an activation fee?

    – the voice assistants on any brand smartphone I have used are retarded. They can’t hear you right or they don’t have good enough signal or they search for the wrong shit or they plan don’t work for whatever reason. You end up having to do things by hand. “SMART” phones my ass.

    – I think smartphones are fun and I enjoy some parts of their usage. And I’m guilty of reading on mine all day some days. In fact I use my phone more than my desktop PC. However. I also think these smartphones have not made our lives better.

    At any rate – thank you for the article MR Kim. It helps as I am facing a similar situation and I am a little yet not totally relieved that at least I am not the only one.

  7. The wife and I recently went though migrating from a Galaxy S6 to the Galaxy S10’s. They were 6 year old phones that started acting freaky and the battery life had dropped to less than a day. I bought a multi-pack of Micro USB to USB C adaptors for the 4 micro USB cables we have. So far 2 of the 8 do not work well enough to charge the new phones. They were less than $10 on Amazon and that was a lot cheaper than buying 2 new cables for the vehicles.

  8. I broke one of my phones and had to replace it.

    I bought the same model off eBay slightly used.

    I spent a couple hours in a RCOB last night getting it updated and such.

    Too many adolescent programmers, idiot product manglers and marketing dweebs who think they deserve a Mercedes.

  9. I got a computing science degree in the 70s, worked IT for years and stayed in touch even after I left IT. The most important thing I learned was in a 1st year class from a prof who told us that a trained monkey could program computers to compute stuff and that real intelligence, thought and training were required only in the User Interface design.

    The bigs used to know that, Apple inventing the GUI, Microsoft stealing it, etc.

    Now the bigs are controlled by snotty young assholes, and yes, I know a few of them, who take some delight in knowing how to do secret and difficult things with the UI system and take more delight in befuddling you with them.

    The difficulty of single icon swipes, up, down back and fucking forth is a feature for those pricks, not a bug. Likewise icons that don’t even appear until you long touch a secret spot on the screen.

    They embody the spirit of modern liberalism.

    1. Actually Apple stole the GUI from Xerox PARC when Bill Jobs was given a tour of the facility and saw one of either the Alto, Dorado, or Dragon computers. It was probably invented by Rob Pike who eventually moved to Bell Labs Research in Murray Hill, NJ. There he developed the BLIT terminal for use on UNIX computers.

  10. Having once done tech support, I consider myself to be reasonably competent, but have also found the exact scenario you describe, “change for the sake of change” to be infuriating. My biggest pet peeve is how UI developers use stupid icons that have no wording, no pop up explanation, and their shape has no bearing on what the button ACTUALLY DOES so you have to guess. The industry has finally agreed that three lines means “menu” but that doesn’t excuse their stupidity.

    I have a relatively simple test I’ve used for years now when buying anything electronic, phone, car, stereo, radio, anything. If I can’t play around with it for a few minutes and decipher how it operates without a manual, then their human interface engineers have failed and the rest of the engineering is probably just as bad.

    All of the super-secret swiping on Apple products (among other things) led me to switch to a Samsung Android phone, and after some tweaking finally got the phone UI to operate the way I want it to, something next to impossible with Apple products anymore.

    1. Plus one for Samsung. I went from a S5 to a S21 (only because the S5 couldn’t run a two factor authentication app I need for work) and it’s still pretty similar.

      1. Yep. My only problem going from a Note 8 to an A21 is getting used to having the volume buttons on the other side of the frame. It doesn’t help that I still use the 8 as a small portable tablet, so I’ve got two identical OSs and have to remember which frame I’m on or I get Bixby.

  11. new technology is supposed to make our lives better and easier. Cell phones and cars are failing to meet those basic goals.

    You’re right about new cars with their complex electronics. I’m sure there are features on my 2019 Tacoma that I don’t use. One annoying feature is that when I plug my phone in, the sound system plays the same song immediately. I haven’t gone through the text book thick instruction manual. I’m waiting for the Cliff’s Notes or movie versions come out.

    I’m dreading any cell phone upgrade. I use an iPhone 8 and it’s the last model with the home button it.

    JQ

    1. I upgraded last year from an iPhone 7 to a 2020 SE model. It has a physical home button.
      The Apple site shows an SE with a home, fingerprint button. It has the A13 processor chip.
      They have a smaller screen than the 11s and 12s, but those larger screens are not big enough for me to forego my iPad so I went for the smaller size in my phone.

  12. You didn’t ask for advice, so it’s free. If you want (some of) the old interface back, open Settings, find Accessibility, then System Navigation. Two choices there – Gestures and 3-button. Choose wisely.

    I also hate the new interface. And I’ve turned lots of the “help” off. The only thing that gets access to the microphone is phone calls.

    1. This. I hate that “inscrutable bar” so much I registered just so I could comment on it. On my motorola it’s under “One Button Nav”. I’m in tech and I still had to google to figure out how to turn it off and go back to the standard interface.

      1. In theory, the swiping up thing that replaced the older button bar is simpler. But I tried it out for several months when it came out, and it’s actually a lot more annoying, because the back functionality was replaced with “swipe to the right from the left edge of the screen” everywhere…and that, combined with phones with idiotic curved edges on the sides made it too easy to do that when you didn’t want to.

        The call/voicemail thing is just weird, with the loss of the green/red buttons. I’ve been using Android phones for almost a decade and have never seen that.

  13. > And because I get few phone calls anyway, I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to send the poxy call to Voicemail if I’m busy or don’t recognize the caller.

    Try swiping down (instead of up). That’s how I dispatch maybe 99% of the calls I receive.

  14. My career is in software, and I consider myself a tech enthusiast, though not to the point where I’m always on the bleeding edge. The new user interface that replaces the bottom buttons with gestures is intended to increase available screen space. It’s the same motivation behind the punch hole cameras on many current phones, with some now having the camera under the screen with no hole. When my phone was upgraded to Android 11, I switched to using gestures. It took some time to get used to, but I did. However, I’m actually considering switching back. The phone’s screen is plenty large even with the buttons taking up a row on the bottom, and the buttons will auto-hide anyway in certain situations such as watching a full-screen video or playing a game.

    As for USB-C, it may be inconvenient at first, but it’s so much better than micro-USB that it’s definitely worth it in the long run. It’s reversible, of course, so no more fumbling about trying to rotate the plug into the correct orientation. The design also just makes it easier to plug in overall. There’s a joke image that I’ve seen where it shows how to plug in a USB-A plug (the standard size we’ve had for years). Orient it one way, it’s wrong. Orient it the other way, it’s wrong. Orient it the first way again, it’s right. If I had a nickel for every time that’s actually happened to me I could buy a new phone.

    1. With higher-end phones getting taller but not wider, the justification for extra space for the relatively small navigation bar at the bottom makes less sense than it used to.

  15. In ’12 or ’13, traded in my StarTac for Samsung G3S and that was good.
    But, the AT&T network up here in the NV boonies is not all that great, and it started acting up about a year ago. Drove the required 150 miles to the nearest AT&T store, where I was told that they were not allowed to do any work on that platform, not even changing the battery, or SIMM card.
    Found a Verizon store, and bought a new Kyocera flipper (E4810) – back to basics.
    On very rare occasions I miss email, and the web, but I spend too much time there anyway.
    The worst is that the helpful face on the other side of the Verizon counter was about as helpful as a hand-bucket in a hurricane – and if I want a user’s manual, I have to download from the net.
    Needless to say, there are many features on this phone I will probably never use. But, it answers calls well, and has a great battery.

  16. What are peoples opinions between AT&T and Verizon as of 2021?

    I personally used to think AT&T was king. And their customer service has been good. Reception with all the work to the towers brining in 5G (of which I have no phone that supports) has brought reception issues out.

    What does everyone else think of AT&T vs Verizon?

    Kim – T Mobile? How are they these days with coverage? And How did they work when you visited Maine a while back?

  17. Oh bother (to quote the world’sgreatest living philosopher, Winnie-the-Pooh). My LG is starting to have battery life issues. Once under about 50% battery life plunges quickly. But the battery IS replaceable, so maybe I’ll just see what the price of a new one is and replace it wthout having to go through all the aggravation of having to set -up and migrate stuff to a new phone, since it sounds like absolutely absolute hell. Frustration, especially with working on inanimate objects is THE ONE THING that burns my fuse quickly, making me want to reach for the BIG hammer or the SMLE and deal with the bloody thing that way.

    I’m with ghostsniper – Tracphone has kept me happy for some years now. Getting a new phone, when necessary, is easy and cheap-er, and with their plans, including roll-over and doubling and tripling minutes on certain phones, I now have thousands of minutes and texts that I’ll probably never use in this life. All I have to do ocassionally is buy some data.

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