2.5 hour struggle with technology

I am not impressed with user-friendliness (or user-hostility) of either of the two major cellphone makers. Last night I had to port contact list from a Galaxy 5s to a newly bought iphone 7+ for my mother-in-law; for the record, I would never buy a luxury good like that for myself. Initially the solution seemed straightforward. The conventional means was to set up a google account (which my MIL hadn’t because of restriction in China), and export and import contacts there. It turned out that the galaxy device wouldn’t allow me to use gmail at all, possibly because it was configured for Chinese users, who have no legit use of google products. This in fact took me a while to discover and confirm, as I tried installing the gmail app from the built-in samsung store, which then prompted me to add an email account, only to be rejected because I don’t have google play store installed. The latter turned out to be unavailable in the samsung store, presumably because samsung didn’t want google to takes its market share of mobile apps. Even an unsophisticated user like me can easily sniff competitions going awry at the expense of users with these design choices.

The next option was to use the sim card as a physical medium of transfer. This again was a dead-end because when I tapped on the menu option on iphone 7+ that says import contact from sim card, I got instantly worm-holed back to the home screen without any explanation (or apology). Could this be a case of incompatibility with foreign sim card (previously used on a Chinese device)? I also tried switching the iphone locale to en/us, as iphones were notorious for incomplete feature implementation in secondary locales, but still had no luck. The complaint for localization bugs will be fodder for a later thread. After researching on the web about this turned up no relevant results, I was briefly flummoxed.

The saving grace was the realization that the iphone 7+ did carry a scanty few contacts from the old galaxy phone. Initially I thought it was due to an incomplete exportation to sim, but after switching the sim hosts several times, and consulting with my family members, I started looking at my MIL’s newly created gmail account (which is inaccessible on galaxy). Then it became clear that those few contacts came from an earlier porting attempt by my wife. So a third solution emerged: try loading the contact list directly into the gmail account, and then hopefully it will automatically sync with the iphone.

The next episode simply proves the adage that bad things all come at once. First it took me a while to figure out how to access the local file system on the android: there turned out to be an app just for that, fortunately already installed. It took me no time to locate the file storing the contact list. But how should I send it to other devices? Gmail is out of question. This left me with basically only one option: use wechat. In a moment of unequivocal stupidity, I logged out of my MIL’s wechat account and got into mine, and sent the file as an attachment to myself there. The goal was to retrieve the file on another mobile device/macbook so that it could eventually be uploaded to gmail. I then started checking my personal android phone for the sent file, but it was running soon out of battery. I connected it to the my mac air and made sure that the battery charging mode was on (indeed the data transfer mode was not supported any more by the itune version on my mac air, which was only 4 years old!). But the battery turned out to be really depleted at that point, despite the indicator showing 30% before shutting down. After a few failed attempt to reboot without instantly shutting down, I decided to plug it into a wall socket and simply wait. Meanwhile, I had the ingenious idea of sending the file to my wife’s android phone. It was no longer possible for me to log back into my MIL’s wechat account since she forgot her username and password, and my wife, being the only person knowledgeable in this matter, was upstairs breastfeeding or something and could not be disturbed. For about 10 minutes, I tried to use wechat on my mac air directly, only to find out that it required 2d bar code scanning from a mobile device, which was out of battery at the moment. Even though I eventually succeeded in this regard, the sent file was not showing up in any self-conversation tab, on either my phone or the laptop. So finally I forwarded the file to my wife’s phone, and it appeared instantly on her device’s end. Could that be a bug in wechat regarding self-conversation? Only John von Neumann knows. The rest was happy ending, though to be fair I could have spent that 2.5 hours babysitting my younger one or pretended to do some math in my head.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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