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Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be 291

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.

How long would it have taken you to find these bugs, as a beta tester?

  • The phone's auto-correct changes single-quotes to double-quotes in contractions -- for example, when you type you're, the phone auto-corrects it to you"re .

  • When you backspace over part of a word that you've typed and then type the rest of the word, auto-correct corrects based on the letters that you type after you've finished backspacing, rather than the letters in the entire word that you've just completed. For example, if you type couchsurfing and the phone auto-corrects it to concurring, then backspace over all of the letters except the initial co, and then type "uch" followed by a space to form the word "couch", the Optimus changes "uch" to "such" to form "cosuch", because it thinks it's auto-correcting just the "uch" fragment and doesn't see the entire word "couch".

  • Taking a screen capture still doesn't work, just like it didn't work on the Stratosphere 2. There are official directions on how to do it, but you can follow the steps and nothing happens.

  • The first time I launched the voice mail application, the app prompted me to freely choose a new PIN code, and then sternly warned me, Mao-like, that my supposedly freely chosen PIN code was "incorrect". (I never got it working, and just called in to the voice mail number manually whenever I wanted to check my messages.)

  • When I bought a movie on Google Play and wanted to "pin" it to the phone -- i.e. download a static, non-streamed copy so that I could watch it offline, e.g. on a plane ride -- the phone didn't have enough internal storage left to save a copy of the movie (1.27 GB, most of it taken up in 1-2 MB increments by crapware already loaded on to the phone, so that only about 200 MB was left). So I tried saving the movie to a 32 GB SD card that I had plugged into the phone, but ran into the problem that Google Play wouldn't let me save the movie to the SD card, a problem described in Joe Levi's 2013 article "Why does Google hate your SD card?" and still not fixed almost a year later. (The comments posted on his article indicate that lots of people are pissed.)

    Unlike the other bugs, this may be an example of stupidity not at the testing level but at the design specification level -- perhaps this was done in a misguided effort to prevent illegal copying. But, as Levi says of this theory, "If the DRM being used on Android is sufficient enough for content providers to accept it when media is saved internally, they should also accept it when media is saved to an SD card. Otherwise, the DRM isn't really that trustworthy, is it?" It's pointless from a copy-protection point of view, since anyone who wants to pirate a movie can just download it from various BitTorrent sites anyway; all this "feature" does is alienate people who are trying to pay for a movie legally.

  • In the Messaging (i.e. texting) app, you cannot search for messages by the name of the sender. Your conversations are listed in reverse chronological order by the date of the most recent message in each conversation, but to find a conversation with a particular person, you have to scroll down the entire list of conversations and keep your eyes peeled for the person's name.

  • On certain mobile website forms (the Fandango site, for instance, and some others that I don't remember -- it's not clear why this happens on some website forms but not others), the phone won't let me type "special characters", the ones that appear in the upper-right corner of the keyboard keys (so that you can type the "@" symbol by first hitting the "Fn" key to access special characters, and then pressing the "2" key). This means that since I can't type the "@" symbol, I can't log in to any form that requires an email address as a username. (The workaround is to open the Gmail app, find an email address in an email message, copy the "@" symbol from the email address to the clipboard, and then paste it back in the browser form -- yes, I have to do every time I log in to a mobile site that has this problem.)

In my previous phone-suck article about the Samsung Stratosphere, I listed as many problems as I could think of at the time, and I completely forgot the fact that the phone recorded videos without any sound. (I know it wasn't a hardware problem with the microphone, since the phone app picked up my voice fine.) As part of my research into how to ruin Burning Man forever by telling "tourists" how to get there easily, I wanted to post a video of the quintessential Burning Man spectacle that makes all the dust and thirst and heat worthwhile -- and I had to post it with no sound recording, because Samsung's product testing is done by the same drunken bonobos that worked on the LG Optimus.

And both products raise the same question, not rhetorically, but seriously: How did this happen? More specifically, in a theoretical free market, any product improvement that costs only a small amount compared to the benefit it brings to consumers, should be implemented (and consumers will reward the company by paying additional dollars for the improvement, in proportion to the benefit it brings them). While it doesn't always work out that way in practice, it's hard to believe LG couldn't spring for a few English-language testers to point out that the phone shouldn't be correcting you're to you"re.

I think the answer in both cases is that the free market optimizes mainly for things that are easily quantifiable, like camera resolution and network speed, because those can be listed on the packaging and compared against other products. But the amount of stupid s*#t you run into while actually using the phone, is hard to define on an objective scale, so that's the first thing that companies will cut corners on, even if it's something that consumers would be willing to pay money for.

So my solution is still essentially the same as what I proposed after trashing the Stratosphere: Some Consumer-Reports-type outlet should rate phones on a Stupid S*#t Index (along with speed, reception, etc.), based on how much stupid s*#t they run into in a week of typical usage. Ideally the Stupid S*#t Index should be reduced to a number so that you can do a quick comparison between different models. If a cheap phone has a lot of stupid s*#t problems, but you don't mind because you want to save money, that's a valid choice, and if you want to pay more for a phone with less stupid s*#t, that's fine too. But people should know what they're buying.

More generally, I think people vastly overestimate the ability of the free market to meet consumer demand, in cases where the demand is for something that can't be easily quantified. I've spent a fair amount of time in "entrepreneurial" circles (while bouncing back and forth myself between entrepreneurship and regular jobs) and have heard the faithful reciting a lot of platitudes like "The market rewards the best product," or "Focus on building the best product you can make, and the customers will come." But most of them evidently didn't even believe it themselves -- they spent most of their efforts on search engine optimization, running content farms, networking with important business contacts, and other activities that didn't directly relate to the quality of their products. And who could blame them? Since their products weren't competing on qualities that were precisely quantifiable, there was no reason for any of them to try to create the "best" product, or even a particularly good one. And that strategy worked quite well for several of them.

On the other hand, when you're competing on a quantifiable metric like price, the best product or service can shoot straight to the top without wasting any time on zero-sum games like SEO or networking ass-kissery. If you're selling external hard drives on Amazon for $0.01, you'll make a lot of sales. You'll go broke, but in the meantime, the free market will connect you quite effectively with your customers.

So, make the mobile phone Stupid S*@t Index into something quantifiable, and maybe we'll have less stupid s#*t. One review body could publish the average rating from several different reviewers, or several different review bodies could publish their ratings and consumers could weight the averages themselves.

Not that it's a panacea -- I bought the LG Optimus not because it was the cheapest or because I didn't expect it to have bugs, but because it was the only offering with a slide-out keyboard, and I've become addicted to the precision of physical keys. (It is so much easier to let your fingertip feel its way to the right key first, and then actually press the key in a separate motion, rather than having to hope your fingertip lands on the right spot in the first place.) So I never returned the phone, they kept my money, and I suppose that makes me part of the problem.

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Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:22AM (#47500755)

    Because unlike other Slashdot posters, we're actually forced to listen to him every time we glance over stories on the front page.

  • ...The hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by XanC (644172) on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:22AM (#47500757)

    Why is this on Slashdot?

  • by MoronGames (632186) <cam.henlin@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:24AM (#47500775) Journal
    It's well known that cheap android phones have always been bad, and will always be bad. If you want a cheap, reliable phone, Nokia is more than willing to sell you one of its lower end Lumias. And if you want to have a contract, you can even get a high quality iPhone for "free". Why waste time with bottom of the barrel junk?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:25AM (#47500779)

    1. Buy crappy cellphone.
    2. Complain that it's crappy.
    3. Profit.

  • Re:...The hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:27AM (#47500803)

    Bennett Haselton is the American founder of Circumventor.com and Peacefire.org, two US-based websites dedicated to combating Internet censorship. Peacefire.org is focused on documenting flaws in commercial Internet blocking programs.

  • by bennetthaselton (1016233) on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:33AM (#47500869)
    I think that's part of the explanation, but it doesn't account for why the phone doesn't suck in other ways -- if manufacturers are lazy and cheap, why has the camera resolution, for example, evolved to the point where it's really pretty good? And I think the answer is that camera resolution is quantifiable in a standard way, so it puts more pressure on the manufacturers to compete, whereas usability and bugginess are not.
  • Re:...The hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:51AM (#47501025)

    I can only surmise that a long time ago someone thought it would be a good idea to sign a contract to let Bennett have his own frontpage postings rambling on about nonsense, often cluelessly.

    They obviously forgot to ever add an expiration date to the contract, so they just can't get rid of him.

    Really, I can think of no other explanation as to why he gets his own little regular column on Slashdot. It's certainly not because he has anything interesting to say whatsoever.

    Actually that's a lie, maybe sometimes he does have something interesting to say, but the signal to noise ratio with Bennett is so poor that as soon as I see Bennett in the summary I just switch off now because the odds are it'll just be a whole bunch of useless nonsense.

  • Re:original title (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:52AM (#47501029)

    Would that have made your rambling screed less boring and stupid? Doubtful.

  • Vendor Software (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Drew M. (5831) on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:54AM (#47501061) Homepage

    There's an easy solution.

    ONLY buy phones that receive updates from your OS creator, not from a 3rd party manufacturer hackjob who will leave you high and dry with bugs and old software.

    So this ends up being ONLY a Nexus device, any Iphone, or any Windows Mobile phone.

    I've seen it time and time again, even Samsung can't get the software bugs out of their S-line phones, and other vendors like HTC and LG are much much worse. My boss complains all day and night about the bugs on his LG G2, and my Nexus 5 which runs basically the same hardware is great on all counts.

  • Re:original title (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday July 21, 2014 @10:56AM (#47501071)

    Then post your bullshit on your own websites. No one wants to listen to you ramble on about crap that you utterly fail to understand and whine like a little girl.

    Go back to your hole and whine about what network providers blacklist your retarded lists of open proxies.

  • Re:...The hell? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by plover (150551) on Monday July 21, 2014 @01:01PM (#47502287) Homepage Journal

    No, but receiving a "free" phone and complaining that the free-market isn't forcing the vendor to fix its shortcomings is kind of disingenuous.

    In the olden days, we'd have said he's "looking a gift horse in the mouth."

  • Re:...The hell? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mrex (25183) on Monday July 21, 2014 @01:34PM (#47502511)

    In the olden days, we'd have said he's "looking a gift horse in the mouth."

    In the olden days, few people who paid a company for a product and service considered the return to be some sort of favor magnanamously bestowed upon them by their corporate feudal barons. It's taken over a century of wage slavery to beat down the American worker's psyche to such a low nadir.

  • Re:...The hell? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Obfuscant (592200) on Monday July 21, 2014 @02:11PM (#47502735)

    Actually that's a lie, maybe sometimes he does have something interesting to say,

    Citation required.

    I made the mistake of reading through this, mostly because I was at work, eating lunch, and bored. Then I got to this gem:

    More specifically, in a theoretical free market, any product improvement that costs only a small amount compared to the benefit it brings to consumers, should be implemented (and consumers will reward the company by paying additional dollars for the improvement, in proportion to the benefit it brings them).

    Why yes, Bennett, so many people would be happy to pay for an update to the spelling correction software in their phone. The phone manufacturer would make a nice amount of money from all the "additional dollars" that such updates would bring in. And just as soon as a phone manufacturer followed your "free market" advice and tried charging for a bug-fix update, people like you would be screaming how this company should fix it for free because it was a bug and you've already paid for working software.

    You have no clue at all, do you?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 21, 2014 @09:10PM (#47504941)

    Why Bennett is more annoying than he has to be.

    Because he's an idiot who has no idea how to use a smartphone, yet thinks his long-winded waffling opinion is worth publishing. The real question is how his pointless whining consistently makes it to the Slashdot frontpage.

    I'd say the only way that'd happen is if there was some kind of commercial arrangement with Dice. Now I have to wonder who'd pay for moronic drivel like this?

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