I’ve been shopping for an Android phone.
There, I’ve said it. I feel better now.
However, I do have to plead extenuating circumstances. It’s for my son. He’s 13. He’s ready to replace his crappy “feature phone” with a smartphone, and, rebel that he is, he’s eager to blaze his own trail.
I’m game. Experiencing joy and pain is part of growing up, and I figure Android will give him ample supply of both. However, thanks to Android fragmentation, the pain is showing up early.
We went to the AT&T Wireless store. They had two phones of interest to us, both of which were running Android 2.1. Knowing this wasn’t the current OS, I asked our sales rep a simple question:
Will these phones be upgradable to Android 2.2?
I purposefully didn’t ask when. I just wanted to make sure these models were at least capable of running 2.2.
The rep was honest with us — he didn’t know. But, model names in hand, I figured I could do my own Googling at home.
Wrong. I found nothing on the phone makers’ sites. I found nothing on AT&T’s site. I found no independent articles addressing the upgradability of the models we were considering.
So, a week later, I returned to my AT&T Wireless store. This time I planned to get pushier about it. Hey, they should be able to answer a question about the phone they’re selling, right?
This time, a very sweet woman helped us. She understood my concern, but she hadn’t a clue what the answer was. “Let me find out for you,” she said.
We waited for a long time. Long enough for my son to go through a complete relationship cycle with the Windows Phone 7 models — from flirtation to breakup.
Finally our lady returned with bad news. Unable to ascertain the facts, she couldn’t guarantee that these phones would ever get Android 2.2. She wished me luck searching for answers, and half-jokingly invited me to tell her if I ever found out.
I honestly find this whole thing shocking.
Granted, most people simply want a phone that works and probably have no expectation that it should get better over time. But the more technologically aware — not an insignificant number — genuinely do care. For us, there is only frustration.
Even if you’re an Android fan, it’s enough to make you appreciate Apple’s world a little more. Though at some point older iPhones lack the hardware to take advantage of new iOS features, there’s never a question about upgrading your software. You just click the Update button in iTunes. The idea that a customer should have to wonder if a brand-new phone will ever run the latest OS is absurd.
Rule #1 in customer satisfaction: treat your customers as you’d like to be treated. We can safely assume that no Google or AT&T employee would want to be treated like this. So why does it happen?