Mobile tech has changed so much about the way most us of stay in touch, stay connected, and stay tuned in to the world around us. Go anywhere at anytime and you see folks with smartphones (and sometimes tablets) checking in, reading, watching video, and basically having their snoot stuck into a mobile device with their fingers pinching, swiping and zooming. Each new hardware and software innovation brings with it new features and new possibilities. Along with those innovations and new features occasionally come fixes to problems and annoyances. But there are some mobile tech pet peeves that will probably, in one way or another, always be with us.
Here are some of the pet peeves that drive the GBM team occasionally up the walls of our virtual offices. We’d love to see permanent fixes for these, but the reality is most of these will be with us in way or another for the foreseeable future.
Battery Life Woes
When a new device or operating system revision is announced, listening for the expected battery life is as important to some as is the price point or availability date. In a recent IDC Consumerscape 360 survey over half of iOS, Android, and Windows smartphone users rated it as the top priority over any other single item.
Recent technology innovations and hardware/software optimizations have improved battery life significantly to the point that many users can coax a full day out of their devices with normal usage. But add some traveling to your day, take and share a lot of photos on a special occasion, or just be enmeshed in a heavy work load and you’ll still have to find some time to top up your battery.
Because there are so many moving parts that affect battery life there is probably no magic bullet that will ever prevent battery drain. And when a battery drains faster than expected it can drive users a little batty. Apps have been known to update with code that impacts battery life. OS updates sometimes make things worse instead of better. A misbehaving App that suddenly hangs and won’t shut down until it depletes your battery can be maddening. Sadly, there’s no real way to test for every occurrence.
Even more frustrating is when manufacturers suggest that we turn off core services in order to preserve battery life. That just seems like a big FAIL when that happens. As a general rule pay attention to the many “how to save battery life” posts that crop up when a new device or OS is released and turn off the features you don’t need. It may seem counterintuitive, but it will at least save a little bit of frustration.
Spotty Cellular Connections
Without a cellular connection chances are your shiny new mobile device is just a shiny new piece of glass, plastic, and/or metal. The whole point is to be connected. There are many variables that affect how easy you’ll be able to connect and maintain a connection.
Knowing which cellular carrier works best in the areas you frequent is a must before you make a purchase. Knowing a little bit about how cellular connections work is also a good idea. Being in a busy downtown area or at an event where many users are trying to access the network can be as frustrating as not finding a decent signal in a less trafficked area. One interesting read about the vagaries of cellular connectivity talks about how the light bulbs in a Los Angeles office building were interfering with Verizon’s network in proximity to the building so much that the FCC ordered the company to mitigate the problem.
Voice Call Quality
Supposedly we’re using our smartphones less as phones and more as data devices these days. Texting and messaging have replaced the phone call for many. But a phone is a phone and some people do need to make calls. You would think we’d be beyond the days of the “Can you hear me know?” guy from Verizon, but that’s not always the case. Again, many variables affect voice call quality. The hardware and radios have as much impact as the coverage in your area. The area of the recipient of your call can impact how well someone can hear you and vice versa.
It is tough to gauge what the voice call quality of new smartphones will be. If you’re one who waits and reads reviews, voice quality is becoming less and less of a feature when it comes to reporting what a new smartphone brings to the mix. One of the reasons for that is because what works for one reviewer in one location may not be the same for you in yours. Your best bet might be to really test voice call quality within the return period most manufacturers offer when you purchase a new smartphone. Call everyone you know and see how things sound.
Some folks love having notifications constantly pinging their mobile devices, some folks turn them off completely. And then there is the middle ground of users who tailor which Apps and services they want to hear from and choose accordingly. By and large, controlling Notifications is all up to you. Notifications typically come in three flavors: sounds, pop ups/banners and badges, in addition to what you see in the Notification centers.
Mobile operating systems allow you to turn notifications on and off with a good degree of granularity but unfortunately there is no global setting switch to turn them all on or off. That means you need to make adjustments for each App. iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8.1 offer “do not disturb” or “quite time” features so that you can stop Notifications during times you don’t want any disturbances. There are Android Apps that will turn them all off as well, or silence them.
The bottom line for turning Notifications off is you are in control and not your smartphone or the Apps you’ve installed. The smart move is to take the time to learn how to control notifications on your device.
How much storage your mobile device contains affects the initial purchase price and is affected by your usage. If you download a lot of Apps and content (music, movies, etc..) that bargain that was the 16GB version might quickly turn into a storage space management headache. Some devices offer access to SD card storage to help with large content libraries and some don’t. And with content providers seeking to provide higher quality video and audio, those smaller device sizes with lower prices are starting to look a little bit like a lure for suckers.
A shortage of storage space becomes pronounced when an operating system update becomes available for a device and users have to uninstall Apps or delete content to allow the update to take place.
As a general rule it is probably best to set your sights on 32GB as a minimum storage requirement if your budget allows.
Can’t Delete Default Apps
Every mobile device comes with Apps pre-installed. Some of those are very useful and some are not. Android users know that carriers will load up their Smartphones with Apps that they may never use. Unfortunately, in most cases these default Apps can’t be deleted, regardless of OS platform. They can be hidden or tucked away in folders, but they are still there taking up storage space.
Some default Apps are core to the operating system functionality. Some are promotional. Some are what the handset maker thinks will help distinguish its new gadget from the competition.
Here’s an interesting paradox for Windows 8.1 and Windows Phone 8.1 users. On Windows smartphones you can’t delete default Apps. On non-phone Windows 8.1 devices you can.
This is a good reason to pay attention to the storage size of your device as advertised and more importantly pay attention to how much storage is available for you to access when your device is new.
Assigning Your Own Default Apps
You’d think in an App-centric world that picking and choosing which App you want to use for a specific task by default would be a no-brainer. It’s not. Windows makes this easier to do than Android and iOS. But even so, there are variables involved that are beyond your control.
As a general rule manufacturers want you to use the default Apps they have pre-installed for core functionality. They’ve tested those Apps alongside the operating system and know they work. (Well, most of the time.)
Windows makes it easier than iOS or Android to pick non-system default Apps, but even so, some carrier installed defaults will still reign supreme.
Android gives you a choice to choose a default App, but depending on the OS version, some of those choices don’t always stick.
Apple’s iOS provides Open-In functionality that lets you open files in other Apps. That’s all well and good but if you’ve got a large number of Apps installed you may have to scroll through quite a few selections before you find the App you’re looking for.
Mobile Ads that Take Over
Nothing in life is free. Advertising typically pays for all of those free Apps and services you install on your smartphone or tablet. Ads on mobile devices can be unobtrusive, but they can also be annoying. Especially when they take over a smaller screen forcing you to scroll to find the button to turn them off. Particularly annoying of late are ads that open in another browser tab and force you to close that tab to get rid of them.
Advertising is not going away on our mobile devices. In fact it will increase. Websites that offer mobile versions (and most do) seem to increasingly suffer from this as some ads just don’t translate well to the mobile version of websites.
There are some Apps that offer paid versions without the ads. But don’t kid yourself into thinking that if the mobile App world jumped to a paid only model that all ads would go away. They wouldn’t. You’d just be paying for the privilege of seeing those ads.
The Delay of Android Operating System Updates
More words have been written about problems and delays with Android operating system updates than just about any other topic these last few years. The pace of bringing new Android devices to the market often means that today’s flagship phone won’t get tomorrow’s OS update for quite some time. Once Google releases a new build it takes awhile for carriers to ready a new version for their smartphones.
Will this change in the future? Don’t expect it to. If you want to stay up to date with Android, your best bet is to look at the Nexus and Google Play Store (GPS) lines of Android devices.
Multiple Volume Controls on iOS
You’d think hitting the volume up or down button to change volume on your iPhone or iPad would do just that. In the immediate moment it does. That’s because volume control on iOS is context sensitive. If you’re listening to music the volume controls will raise or lower the volume. But that doesn’t affect the volume level of system sounds or alerts. And as for Siri, well that’s another matter entirely.
iOS sounds generally fall into two categories. General Audio controls the volume of media and voice volume for the phone and FaceTime. Ringers and Alerts controls the ringer for the phone and FaceTime, Alarms, alerts, and other system sounds.
The good news is that depending on context your pressing the iPhone volume buttons will generally increase the volume up or down for the sound event of the moment. The less good news is those adjustments are typically only working in that context.
This isn’t a bug, it’s actually a feature. Apple recognizes that not all sound events are created equally and in most cases the context approach works reasonably well. But there are those times when you think you are safe but you’re not. Suffice it to say, Apple hasn’t quite got this working the way we’d like it to just yet.
Generally its a good idea if you don’t want your phone to make unwanted sounds to flip the volume switch off, or use the Do Not Disturb feature. But note that alarms will still ring, so if you’ve set an alarm you still might get surprised.
These is just a list of 10 mobile pet peeves we think we’ll all still be seeing in the immediate future. What bothers one user doesn’t mean it will bother another. If you’ve got a mobile pet peeve, let us know about it comments.