I see the problem now…

Not to harp on this Moto Q too much but I’ve finally realized the real problem with the speech recoqnition and now, the pain in the butt procedure to unlock the phone.

Last week I finally got around to enabling the device lock on the phone – the one that requires a password after a certain amount of idle time in order to access/do anything with the phone. A smart move I figured the amount of information these things suck off your PC these days.

Setting the password was immediately a challenge, none of the keys would work (i.e. I couldn’t see any “*” filling the screen.) On a lark I tried using the ALT key and typing a number – it worked. The device lock seems to only accept numbers as characters for the passcode.

I sat and looked at the thing thinking “How stupid is that?”. In most apps on the Q where you can only enter numbers it defaults the keyboard into the “ALT” mode that you need to be in to access the numbers – but for the device lock it doesn’t. The impact is it’s borderline impossible to unlock the phone with one hand as you need to press the ALT key and then the number.

Then it dawned on me. The major issue with a bunch of the default apps on the Q is “laziness”. Basically as Motorla developed the Q they must have had a list of functions: “voice recognition”, “device lock”, etc. – then the engineers when digging in the archives and grabbed all the existing bits of code and put them on the phone. The problem? Most of these apps were designed for the previous generation of phones (pre-smartphones).

This is why voice recoqnition is so spotty. It was probably optimized for a phone that had a maximum of 99 or so names, not the several hundred to thousands that are in many people’s address books. On my old phone the “coleman” entries were pretty much limited to my wife, my parents and my brother – not my distant relatives who I call maybe once a year etc. This is why I get so many false hits when I try using the recoqnition.

The numbers only in the device lock is exactly the same issue. It was designed for a phone that used ten keys as the primary input device (numbers 0-9) rather than the QWERTY style keyboard the Q has. This is actually the feature that drives me nuts the most because it’s a simple fix that could have been fixed had someone spent just a minute or two testing how this would actually be used and the reason I blame this on laziness. The device lock code could have been fixed by a simple code tweak that set the phone into ALT mode automatically when it was in the device lock screen – instead they just copied & pasted existing code onto the new phone.

Another issue that I know is out there, but have been fortunate not to hit, is interacting with IVR systems. This isn’t a Motorola problem but basically a problem any smartphone will likely hit at some point. in many cases IVRs want you to enter a name (i.e. searching a company directory). The challenge is the IVR expects number tones in the manner that numbers 2-9 on traditional phones have three letters each on each key. With a smartphone users no longer have those guides on the buttons as the numbers are typically overlaid on the QWERTY keypad. The solution for this could be relatively straightforward if there was a mode where you could set the phone so as you pushed the letter on the QWERTY keyboard it would emit the proper tone for the number it would be on on a traditional phone.

In the end I think this is a pretty good example of why it is important to look at the context and usage of any piece of device or software before building it and sending it out to the masses. I think it’s also a relevant example, in a sense to the importance of localization. What the Motorla guys did was essentially basic “translation” they took an existing item and moved it into a new environment without taking into consideration any of the issues or considerations of the new environment. The end result, frustration and an unhappy user – when if they had just spent some time and “localized” the software based on it’s new environment things would have been much better and my past posts would have been singing the praises of this phone rather than what you’ve just read.

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