Strategist, Speaker, Designer, Instigator

Little mysteries [post 47/100]

This morning I updated my iPhone to the latest version of iOS. About an hour later, I left for the airport. My phone was in my jacket pocket, as usual. My headphones were in and I was listening to music on Spotify, as usual. Only this time everything got a bit weird.

First, the music started pausing, unpausing, jumping a few seconds forward and backward for no apparent reason. Then the Voice Control came on to tell me it didn’t understand me (I hadn’t said anything). Then the music resumed its stop/start. I managed to stop Voice Control calling someone random as I was waiting for my coffee at the corner.

I spent the whole of my journey to the airport – a little over an hour – trying to work out what was going on. I hadn’t changed any settings and yet the things I use most were behaving differently. The update notes had said it was bug fixes and a new emoji library, nothing about new ‘features’ or functionality.

First I tried turning off Voice Control. I never (ever) use it anyway, so since that was an obvious culprit, it seemed like a good first step. Only you can’t turn off Voice Control, apparently. What you can do is a multi-step process that hopefully stops VC from pocket dialing while the phone is locked. That stopped the random calls, but the music was still acting weird. A few failed hypotheses later, I opted to turn off Spotify’s lock screen controls. Outcome: I could no longer control the music with the button on my headphones, but I could control it from the lock screen that I had just disabled. Go figure.

My Oyster card stopped working too, even though it had been recharged just a few days ago, but that’s another story (that I also haven’t figured out yet – apparently I need to call Oyster and ask, because nobody at the station could help).

The iPhone side of my morning is an excellent example of how lazy design can have unintended consequences, make technology behave mysteriously. Our personal tech is more complex than it has ever been, and the various elements that comprise anyone’s personal ecosystem are increasingly intertwined. It logically follows that if you make a change in one place, it will have an impact in lots of other places. That could work in your favour or very much the opposite, especially since we rely on our technology more than ever.

It’s not enough to think in your own product or service bubble. Any interaction is part of the bigger picture of your service, and your service is part of the bigger picture of somebody’s day. Mine wasn’t ruined or anything, but it was pretty annoying and bewildering to have the two things I rely on to get me across London in my semi-somnambulent state go a bit haywire and not be able to fix them. Imagine how much crankier I would have been if it had been my kettle, or my shower, as well. The more technology we want to bring into people’s lives, the more conscious we need to be of the broader system in which that technology lives. People are the focal point, not the tech. People first, people.