Monday, 13 June 2011

Business: Of Tech Reviews

You may remember I've ranted about technology reviews quite recently...

Ever since I did I felt I've missed one of the things I wanted to point out, and today I think I remembered what it was. Sadly, I can't remember which particular review contained the silliness that follows so I won't link to anywhere lest I point the finger of blame wrongly. And today's finger of blame points at a reviewer who - probably due to needing to create a required number of words - complained about Nexus S not having an accompanying PC application to use for syncing various information.

There's one silly thing about this, and should have been obvious to any reviewer worth their salt: the whole point of the Google - and by extension Android - ecosystem is that you do not sync stuff via a cable attached to a piece of hardware, but via an Internet link attached to your Google account. It's not even possible to use an Android phone properly without a Google account! And through that account, and maybe a handful of (free) applications you automagically have your mail, documents, calendar, contacts, and even photos (provided you can live with Picasa Web's limitations) all nicely synced between any and all devices from which you can access your Google account. Having that - and knowing that people getting Android phones always have Internet access at least somewhere some of the time - why one Earth you'd even want a cable sync to a custom made application? Plus, as the author did point out to his credit, you can still plug in a cable and "sync" stuff by copying it over as if your phone were a USB stick. For music, if you really want a bit more cleverness in syncing, any music half decent player will happily do it for you.

The second issue I have with this has to do with my personal experience of anywhere between half a dozen and a full dozen bespoke sync applications for various phones by various manufacturers. And you know what? Every single one of them sucked, and sucked big time. Most, if not all, were visually designed so over the top that they could probably all apply for some new age visual design contest - meaning they were difficult to look at, meaning they were therefore also difficult to work with. I don't think I remembered any that just blended in with the user's desktop theme. Criminal! And then comes the fact that their speed, both of general operation (especially startup - probably because of all the crud they needed to load to look "flashy") and of syncing itself was always (and still is) abysmal. Truly horrifyingly shocking. Finally, they all still hark back to the bad old times when we all had one phone and one computer - at most. If we were lucky. So keeping your data synced between, say, two phones and three computers (my case, more or less) is pretty much impossible. Or, it is possible, but the results are hair-raisingly stupid. Witness my ageing Nokia E71 with 739 contact entries out of which only around 190 are unique - the result of attempts to keep it in sync with various places and other phones. I'm sorry, but the whole idea of a dedicated sync application is stupid, silly, and dangerous. Period.

So, tell your reviewer where to stick his sync PC application and embrace the cloud for the use where it excels, and that is keeping your data synced wherever you are, and whichever device you're using. Mind you, there is a sort of data not quite suitable for keeping in the cloud, but that's a different story (and possibly another post). But for contacts and calendar data at least cloud storage is the best way to make sure you're up to date at all times, and that any changes propagate to any devices you may own or even just use temporarily (but do remember to clean up after yourself!).

Oh, and editors: prefer your reviewers be sensible rather than empty column filling...