Blind Choice

I’ve read a couple of stories this week about people choosing their own devices in the office. This was true at the media company where I used to work. Even within our small IT department we had 1 Palm Pre, 1 iPhone, 2 Androids and two “dumb” phones.

The rest of the company was a mix of Blackberries, Androids, iPhones and the occasional Palm or two. I think there was even a Window Phone I saw once or twice.

I take issue with the claim that people buy their own devices because they chose it and it is what they want to use. People who are not tech savvy ask their tech savvy friends, co-workers, spouses, family members. They don’t do much choose what is best for them but what is recommended to them by a person they trust who is good with computers.

For a little background I’ve worked in ground-level IT since 2004. I’ve worked as a Desktop Support Technician ((That guy who shows up at your desk when you call the Help Desk.)) and Help Desk Technician ((Those people you love to scream at when something break.))

Lately, as policies become more lax and there is a better variety of smartphones on the market ((Remember when there was no Android or iPhone?)) people have gravitated towards a variety of devices which I can sum up as this.

  1. iPhone. Because they’re on AT&T already, or Verizon and want one because everyone has them and they’re easy to use.
  2. Android. Because they’re on T-Mobile or Sprint or don’t want to spend the money on an iPhone and associated contract.

The iPhone people are usually set once we setup their corporate email for them. They have few questions overall.

The Android people… look out! They’ll be waiting for you. The biggest frustration in trying to help with Android phones is trying to find which version of Android they actually have.

What dessert powers your phone?

After that, the next step is looking at the device, who made it, and which candy coating they slapped atop Google’s stock Android interface.

I used a Motorola Droid for over a year and was very comfortable with Android. I had a Google Experience phone which was code for “Stock Android phone.” There was no glossy, clunky UI over it.

The Android phones in the wild today could be running Android 1.5, 1.6, 2.0, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, or 3.0 and have HTC Sense, Motorola Blur, Touchwiz, or Timescape UIs running on top of that.

Now we’re at two layers of confusion for the user.

As an exercise, try walking someone through adding a Gmail account to their shiny new Android device over the phone. They’re at the store, or at home or ((My personal favorite)) about to board an airplane and they need help.

Maybe this will help you.

Android is a wonderful OS and has a lot of power and potential and offered a low-cost alternative to Apple and a freed a lot of people from Blackberries.

However, trying to support them in a business setting can be very time-consuming and frustrating for all involved.

The phone’s owner expect the IT staff to be experts on their phone. Having to learn the basics of navigation and naming on the user’s phone slows down the support process. ((Count the number of ways to get access to “Corporate Email” there are on Android phones.))

Normal people do not make technology purchases without consulting the trusted source. Whether it be their spouse, family member, IT Guy at work or ((God help them!)) the salesperson at the store, they will ask someone for advice. In many cases, they’ll follow that advice blindly.

They don’t know what they want. They’re not sure how to figure out what they want. They’ll follow the advice of the trusted source or sales rep and hope for the best.