Google Rants

Here is a brief collection of rants about things Google has done very poorly at. Largely this is, of course, a collection of Android-sucks moments. Generally their core search functionality is flawless, and I avoid Gmail etc.


January 5, 2014

I used Picasaweb for one reason, and one reason only: on Android phones, it was built in. You click share->Picasa, then type in a caption, and shazam you're there. Here is the list of unforced errors Google pushed on me in the 18 months that I've used Picasaweb:

Hello, fuckfaces, the only reason I use Picasaweb is that you tricked LG into bundling your crapware with my phone. I didn't go out questing for obsolete services just to burden your support apparatus, you begged me to use it!

Clearly they want me to use Google+. I have nothing against Google+, in principle, but for photo collections it sucks. They completely abandoned the concept of albums, meaning there is literally no way to conveniently browse all of the photos I've uploaded.

I made my own uploader and photo management system, which I call fPicasa, and which has a photo of an extended middle finger as its icon. It has exactly the functionality Picasaweb had when I first started using it, and it will never get fucked up for no reason. And *oh my god* is my album-viewing webpage faster than Google's.

KitKat Dialer

January 5, 2014

With the KitKat update for my LG Nexus 4, they revamped the dialer.

The old dialer wasn't perfect. It basically gave you a choice between a number pad, most recent calls, and contacts. The only downside is that the contacts list was really a separate app so it wasn't quite as seamless (no real way to get from contacts to most recent calls list, for example). But totally usable, reliable, and unsurprising.

The new dialer brings you to a very busy screen. From top to bottom:

I understand merging most-frequent/recent lists, but having an inconsistent UI (horizontal and vertical lists, with different hidden hot areas within each), and listing some contacts is imbecilic.

It is also imbecilic that it takes two interactions (scroll down -> all contacts; or menu -> all contacts) to get to the contacts list. The search bar is nice, but people still want to see a list of contacts!

It is also imbecilic that they put the menu button on the bottom, since they have been aggressively moving all of the menu buttons to the top since Honeycomb. They are like Apple in this respect, developing a good style guide and then violating it unpredictably in their most popular apps.

But then this really pisses me off -- the contacts list is not the same as the old Contacts (now People) app! If you tap, long tap, or swipe on a line in the Contacts list, it dials the number. So while you are trying to figure out how to edit someone's contact info, it is dialing them!

Then there is the actual way to edit the contact. You click on the face icon (or the tiny "i" in the corner if it is in the horizontal list), and it brings up a screen with the exact same info as in the contacts app. But this is still not the contacts app! If you click on the face, on the name, or on the tiny "person" icon, then it will bring up the same information, but now in the contacts app. And then from within the contacts app, you finally have the familiar menu->edit option.

Or in other words, in normal user experience, you click to bring up the contact and you say "where is the edit button?" and you start clicking random shit until a menu button appears. At the end of the experience you are still not sure under what conditions the menu button appears, so you have to re-learn it the next time.

So here is how to edit a contact: (1) scroll down, (2) all contacts, (3) click on the face of the contact, (4) click on the now-bigger face of the contact, (5) menu, (6) edit.

Here is how it used to be: (1) all contacts, (2) long-tap on the name of the contact, (3) edit.

Twice as many interactions, plus the extra interactions don't *make sense* so no one will remember them after the first time they use them.

Since the upgrade, I have not been learning how to use it. I have just been using it. Most people aren't excited by their dialer app, they just use it. And when you are just using it, you are just absolutely fucking flabbergasted by how difficult it is. You are presented with several different views of your contacts, but only in one of them can you edit the contact, and in the others you cannot. You are constantly clenching your teeth and wondering what is wrong with you that you are so stupid you can't even figure out how to edit a contact.

So I sat down this afternoon to puzzle it out, figuring that once I knew how to use it, I would not find it as offensive. And I have indeed puzzled it out. It took more than half an hour, and I understand now some of its idiocy. And I still fucking hate it.

And what percentage of Android users are going to be excited to spend half an hour just trying to figure out how to use the most basic functionality of its phone dialer?

The funny thing is that all of this trouble could be largely addressed simply by adding a contacts button to the front of the dialer and completely eliminating the gratuitous gimp contact view. It is an entirely unforced error. For no reason whatsoever, they are forcing their customers into an ill-thought-out clusterfuck when they have a perfectly servicable system still in place.

That is a characteristic Google fail.

KitKat Dialer Take II

June 13, 2014

Google sent out a new dialer with the 4.4.3 update. Most of its changes are improvements on the obvious flaws of its predecessor, but it still leaves a lot to be desired.

Instead of three different formats for displaying contacts, it now has only two. The full-width format is used for the most recent call and the contact list, while a tiled icon format is used for the "Speed Dial" list.

Even better, in the tiled icon format they added one of the three-vertical-dots (option menu) icons in the corner, making it obvious where to click to dial vs where to click to see the contact.

Of course, the full-width format still leaves you guessing, but now that it's just one to guess at, I might be able to remember: click on the icon to edit the contact, click on the name to dial them. That even makes sense given how multiple phone numbers for a single contact are displayed in the contacts list.

And of course, if you bring up the contact view, then it still gives you a "person" button that brings up...the contact view. So you still have one completely gratuitous step to edit the contact.

The "all contacts" button is now on the screen all the time (instead of being scrolled off the bottom), but it is just about the smallest icon on the screen, it is the grayest text (not obviously clickable), and it is smushed between some random elements in the center of the screen. Usable, but wtf? I mean, obviously they want you to type in the search box instead.

And "People" is still a distinct UI (and I don't understand how I got to it), which looks just enough like the contacts list that the fact that it doesn't work like it is kind of annoying. Hillariously, if you click on the icon then you have to click twice to get to the normal 'view contacts' page, but if you click on the name then you only have to click once! What a great choice! Clutter clutter clutter.

And they assigned each of my contacts a color, apparently chosen at random. Wtf? Are we Microsoft now?