Today, the archetypical road warrior has a lot of equipment. I nearly always carry an Android smartphone, a Wi-Fi-capable iPad and a Windows PC equipped with an HSPA dongle: I am packing a lot of computing power and connectivity.
But even with this formidable device arsenal, it still isn’t always easy to do what I need to do. Let me give you a few examples.
Arriving at a hotel for a recent conference in central London, I had to check my emails just before heading into the first session. But down on “level-2,” where the conference was taking place, my handset display was showing G for a GSM connection and had an intermittent one-bar signal.
In hope, more than expectation, I opened the Yahoo email app and clicked refresh, bringing up the “checking for mail” message, but no actual emails. Reluctantly, I found a table, dug out my iPad and the slip of paper with the details of the conference Wi-Fi, identified the right network and typed in the nine-letter password. New emails began to appear, but searching for a specific message took what felt like ages—30 seconds or so—presumably because there were a lot of attendees on the Wi-Fi network attempting the same thing as me.
Once the conference started, a speaker put up a slide I wanted to show to a colleague. I whipped out my smartphone and took a photo of the slide. Bizarrely, there didn’t seem to be a way to share the photo immediately from the camera app. I had to open up the “My Files” app, find the photo, highlight it and then select the “share” option from the menu—not exactly intuitive. Then, I was presented with a list of options almost as bewildering for me as the choice of salad dressings in an American restaurant—Bluetooth, ChatOn, Dropbox, email, Gmail, Google+, GroupCast, Messaging, Picasa, S Memo, Skype, Twitter, Wi-Fi Direct, Yahoo Mail and so on.
I thought it through. I couldn’t remember what kind of handset my colleague had or which social networks he was on. But I knew I had to send the photo in the highest resolution possible, so the recipient could make out the words on the slide. I chose Picasa on the basis that I would then be able to easily insert the photo into a blog post later.
But uploading the picture over the mobile network proved to be close to impossible: I got a message, “waiting to retry.” The phone valiantly tried again. Still, no such luck. I dug out the conference Wi-Fi details and logged my handset on to that network. The photo finally uploaded and, several clicks later, I had emailed my contact a link to the image.
Making the right choices can be even tougher when traveling abroad. Staying in an airport hotel in Istanbul recently, I logged my PC on to the Wi-Fi network and did some work. But then I couldn’t get my smartphone onto Wi-Fi to call my family over Skype—you only got one personalized password from the hotel, which archaically assumed that each guest would have only one Wi-Fi-enabled device. I ended up having to go back down to reception and asking for an alternative username and password.
Back at the conference in London, my final computing-connectivity challenge was to figure out the best way to post a short article to my blog directly from the event. I could have used my PC, but my notes were already on the iPad, so the question was whether to post via an app or the Web.
“Ideally, your device, applications and your mobile service provider would work together to provide you with ‘smart connectivity,’ so you automatically end up on the right network for the task in hand.”
To avoid latency issues, I opted for the WordPress app for Apple’s iOS. This app has been optimized for the iPhone 5, so it only uses a fraction of the real estate on my iPad screen. Still, the post was rather short, and I was able to cut and paste my notes in order to file the article without too much pain.
In summary, I got through the conference without opening my PC—a small victory. But selecting the right connectivity option for the task in hand was often a case of trial and error. I am a relatively knowledgeable end user, so many others must find today’s mobile computing and connectivity options even more perplexing.
Ideally, your device, applications and your mobile service provider would work together to provide you with “smart connectivity,” so you automatically end up on the right network for the task in hand. If you are trying to upload a photo over GSM, for example, your provider could suggest you connect to a public Wi-Fi network where one is available. The mobile service provider could even send a text message directing you to the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot or 3G or 4G signal.
The bottom line is mobile service providers need to simplify, manage and tailor end-user experiences. They need to ensure consumers know what is possible and what isn’t in any given set of circumstances, so their time isn’t wasted by trial and error and failed attempts. Ideally, service providers should be working together to ensure that this scenario is avoided altogether and that the customer has a simple and consistent experience whether working from a residence, an office, or thousands of miles from home in a hotel conference room.
I look forward to the day when mobile computing and connectivity work in perfect harmony, and end users like me can really enjoy mobile that works anywhere, anytime.Syniverse Chief Information Officer Joe DiFonzo discusses how mobile service providers can improve end-user experiences.