Friday, February 15, 2013

My New Kindle Fire Goes Rogue

Another one of the WIAD (World Information Architecture Day - see my last post) speakers gave me a an unbelievably timely perspective on mobile devices. Greg Nudelman from Design Caffeine streamed in live from the east coast to speak about cross-platform user experiences. Perfect timing because I'm in mobile mobilization mode.
Mobile in So Many Ways
 Greg pointed out that on a small device tapping is easier than swiping because you want one hand optimization for routine tasks. On a larger mobile device people want to use more of their hands (plural) in larger gestures. One of my friends is in the market for a new smartphone and was asking me about the differences between iPhone and Android phones. Dangerous territory to wade into, given the fervor with which people take up their cause. My friend is fairly new to this world and was describing the features she has experienced and likes, such as the ability to flip from landscape to portrait mode. Now that is a nice cross-platform mobile UX feature.

After I mentioned that to her, I took out my new Kindle Fire and started rotating it in a slow circle to see how well it kept up with me turning it around and around. I wished that my recently ordered Google Nexus 4 phone would arrive so I could flip them both together and see if one was more likely to give me motion sickness in a moving car. Both my friend and I get terrible motion sickness so this could be an important mobile UX feature. I wonder if anyone has created an anti-motion sickness mobile app.

Speaking of my new Kindle, I had the most interesting mobile UX nightmare when I first got it a few weeks ago. I was so geekily excited. The first thing I noticed (and was quite amused by) was that all the screen saver advertising was in French. Odd, but ok... (I was most definitely not in France). I poked around, got it set up. I only had to go online to the computer a few times to figure out how to do something - although why I should have had to go into the Amazon customer conversation forum at all is a valid UX question.

Then the real trouble began. There was supposed to be a category for "Kindle Owners Lending Library", and there was supposed to be a free trial month of Amazon Prime. I received email telling me my Amazon Prime had started. The Kindle itself popped up with a message welcoming me to Prime. But there was no Prime and no Kindle Owners Lending Library. There was however, a mysterious note on the Kindle suggesting I get the most out of my service by going local at (Amazon France). In English. The Kindle apparently wanted to see the world.

Enter Nightmare: over the next week, over 8 hours reading Help pages, plus 7 phone calls to Amazon, 3 chat sessions, live conversations with at least 12 Amazon service reps at various nested levels, and each time (each time) I had to repeat the scenario over and over: this is what happened, this is what we have tried so far, this is what is going on, where is my Amazon Prime? Where is the Kindle Owners Lending Library?

We upgraded the OS (which for some reason was a few versions old), hard reset the system, looked at this that and the other things. The service reps were some of the most patient helpful people on this planet but the problem did not get identified. I can't tell you how many times I read out the names of the menus, categorization labels, and navigation aids. I don't fault the Amazon reps at all, because they seemed truly concerned and this was really weird.

Perhaps you have figured out what I eventually figured out: the Kindle had decided I was in France (clue: the French advertising) and placed geographic restrictions on my device.

Even after this dawned on me and I called Amazon to fix it, it took 2 more phone calls over a 24 hour period to get the machine permanently in the US. The first time they switched it to the US, the Kindle took it into its head to put itself back in France as soon as I turned it off. Perhaps it preferred the ambiance over there.

I was about ready to tear my hair out by the end of all this. I finally (knock on wood) have a properly functioning Kindle Fire. If the Kindle ever ever decides that I am in France (or New Zealand or Argentina) I don't know what I'll do. I'm a bit concerned, because I travel internationally sometimes and I planned to bring the Kindle. I'd have to contact Amazon to inquire.

I really like my Kindle I do. I am getting rather attached to it now. I lost over a week of my trial version of Amazon Prime, and I thought about asking Amazon to extend my expiration date, but that would mean having to contact Amazon and talk through this whole experience yet again. That feels a bit traumatic.

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