Sunday, 12 April 2015

One stride forward and two steps back

Imagine you've just purchased a new computer. You've snipped off the packing tape with a knife, sniffed the unique scent of electronics fresh from the factory floor, and have set it all up on your desk. You know that things are going to be a little different from this point onwards, and as you depress the power button you take a deep breath.

But all the oxygen in the world couldn't help you as you go into battle with a way of doing things so different to what you knew before that you want to turn back the clock, pull the old machine from the skip, and forget all about things new and shiny.

First up, every time you click on anything it takes an additional second to load. Doesn't sound much, but when multiplied across hundreds of interactions in any one session it begins to feel like a lifetime.

Next up is the screen, or rather the characters which appear on it. Call you a luddite but you prefer your letters crisply formed rather than in this new font which starts off strong but, within the space of a few pixels, becomes fuzzy and rather incomprehensible.

Finally, to cap everything off beautifully there's the keyboard. I suppose you do at least have a choice, able as you are to pick between the keys you knew, but slowed down so that each press takes an eternity to register, or one where you can type quickly but every third word will be nonsensical and the entry of punctuation or carriage returns involves a complex and time consuming process.

Before long, faced with this, you will nodoubt have slung your new toy in the bin and have embarked on a process of rebuilding the old device.

Except I don't have that option. Having installed iOS 8 on my iPhone, metaphorically hurling the old operating system into an eternal pit of fire, and suffered the consequences, there is no way I can roll back time.
So, whilst my two year old phone may now be sluggish and frustrating to interact with,, the voice I was used to, effectively the equivalent of a font to a fully sighted user, may be painful to listen to, and my typing options may make writing either time consuming or hideously inaccurate, I am going to have to live with it.

The majority of my ire over the past few hours has been reserved for a little app called Fleksy. In my phone's previous state this was a stand alone application which allowed me to type emails, messages, tweets and other text at a pace approaching that which might be possible on a full size, real life keyboard. It isn't much of an exaggeration to say that Fleksy was at the very center of my iPhone toolkit, absolutely essential to a whole raft of activities. Now, on the new operating system Fleksy has graduated to the impressive status of an embedded keyboard, able to work with almost any program that one might pick. The problem is that, alongside this change, has come an apparent and entirely understandable refocusing of attention on the mainstream market and all the bells and whistles that entails, to the extend that the app is now no longer nearly as accessible as it once was. Not only that, but an increase in vocabulary has seemingly resulted in a degradation of accuracy, requiring one to flick through countless alternative words to find the right one, where before this might have been accomplished with one or two swipes.

It could be that, as with many changes in the way one is used to doing things, I just need to let the new experience bed in, in the knowledge that within a week or so this will have become the new norm for me, as unlikely as that may seem. However, at present it feels as if I am being required to take an enormous step backwards in my interactions with my phone, with direct and increasingly negative effects on the things I use it for. My writing may not be quite as fluid as usual, my spelling and punctuation may be a lot worse, I may shy away from shooting off a quick response because it simply isn't worth the bother, or I may simply be even more irritable than usual as I struggle to get to grips with things. Let's hope it's a bit better than that rather gloomy prediction, but I'm not holding my breath!

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