February 17, 2020

Magid: Devices, services too dependent on smartphones

Two of the many things about modern technology that I find annoying are devices that require you to use a remote control for basic operations and devices and services that unnecessarily require you to use a smartphone app.

Larry Magid (Gary Reyes / Mercury News)

Many modern TVs have no obvious way to do basic tasks such as adjusting the volume or changing channels unless you have the remote control. Even if they have a power switch, it’s sometimes hidden from view and poorly marked, making it very difficult to find and use.

Having to use a remote control is fine if it’s in your hand and working, but if you can’t find it or the battery is dead, you’re out of luck. This is almost always the case with cable boxes and streaming devices. I recently lost the remote control on one of my Roku boxes and had to wait until I ordered a replacement remote before I could use it. Even then, it took me awhile to figure out how to pair the new remote with the device. It seems to me that any of these devices could at least have a couple of buttons on them that let you display a menu on the TV screen to change channels or – at least – pair a new remote control.

Smartphone not optional

Over the past few years, I’ve encountered many devices and services that require you to use a smartphone. Many so-called smart home devices, including smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home, require a smartphone for setup and to change settings. Although it’s possible to drive a Tesla without a smartphone, it’s very inconvenient. You do get a card key that will unlock the door and let you drive the car, and it’s great that you don’t even need to use that card if you have your phone with you. But I wish it were at least possible to unlock the front trunk or the charging port from outside the car without having to use your phone. A few months ago, I was sitting at a Starbucks in Menlo Park when a young woman with a toddler desperately asked me if I had an iPhone charger. Instead of giving this nanny a key card, her boss installed the Tesla app on her phone, but her phone battery died so she couldn’t unlock or start the car. Luckily there was someone at the coffee shop with an iPhone charger.

Another issue I’ve encountered is having my phone ring while I’m using my phone to configure or unlock something. I can either ignore the call or stop what I’m doing, but can’t do both.

Last week my wife and I watched a movie at the Icon theater in Mountain View, and while use of a phone is optional, patrons are required to at least use a touch-screen terminal for any purchases. My wife found this out when she tried to order popcorn from the counter and was so annoyed that …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Business


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