/ Technology

Buggy smartphones are stinging early adopters

It’s been an exciting few months in the world of smartphones. There’s the iPhone 4S, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the first Nokia Windows Phone, the Lumia 800. What do all these launches have in common? Bugs.

All three of these handsets – which are supposed to be the brightest and best of their kind – have all lumbered their owners with frustrating problems.

Both the iPhone 4S and Lumia 800 have had complaints from some users about batteries running down faster than they should.

And the Galaxy Nexus is affected by a strange bug where it turns the volume down (stopping you from hearing a call) if it uses the 2G 900MHz mobile network.

Is enough time spent testing smartphones?

Now, I know manufacturers want to get their phones out to market as soon as possible, but are they really spending enough time testing them?

Of course, as smartphones become more sophisticated there’s more that can go wrong, but these errors stem from the battery and volume control and these aren’t exactly new mobile phone features.

OK, managing battery life in a smartphone is a complicated process but, if these flaws only affect a few customers, it sounds more like there’s been a failure in quality testing.

The downside of being an early adopter

It’s nice to see the manufacturers stand up and admit there’s a problem – especially for Apple, which normally seems to opt for sticking its fingers in its ears and saying ‘nah nah nah, I can’t hear you’. This time Apple has promised software updates to fix the iPhone 4S’ battery problem. Nevertheless, one software update later, this is still frustrating some iPhone owners.

We do want these shiny new phones and we want them now, but we’d also rather they finished making them before they’re released.

It’s getting to the point where anyone who buys a smartphone as soon as it comes out is almost guaranteed to come across some kind of flaw. And, frankly, that isn’t good enough.

Do these bugs put you off buying a new smartphone soon after launch, or is this simply the price you pay for being an early adopter?


Amen to that.

I have an HTC Desire Z and it’s riddled with faults. This is my first personal “smart” phone and I have to say I have never been more disappointed with a phone in my life. The worst thing though is the customer service from people like Carphone Warehouse. All they will do is send your phone away for “repair” and then it returns being “reflashed” and then resumes it’s poor performance after a week or so of usage.

It isn’t the hardware that is the problem, it’s the software. Software made by google to work on HTC phones that use all kinds of component manufacturers sitting on a UK network.

Basically, everyone has someone else to blame and seeing as these “phones” are mini-computers, they need to expand their knowledge of how they work and how they should test them.

The best phone I ever had was an iphone 3GS on vodafone network in Germany, faultless, and will be returning to it as soon as I can get out of my contract with Orange, but that’s another story 🙂

FinDesireZ says:
12 August 2013

What a shame, Desire Z is absolute worst phone I have used myself as well.. It crashes at least twice on me per day. It has stopped showing battery drainage and completely drains out in few seconds some time.
I have never gotten to make a call longer than 5 minutes without crashing..
I swear to god, I will never buy HTC phone agian, it is a horror company who produces garbage hardware and software.. be aware folks.. f**k

Mark R says:
29 November 2011

Google have already released a fix for the Google Nexus volume bug, so that’s no longer an issue.

To be honest, when you’re dealing with this level of technological sophistication there will be bugs. They’re just unavoidable. Of course, they shouldn’t be deal-breaking, but at the same time you simply have to accept reality. Or a company can wait longer to release their product… and by that time a competitor has stepped in and stolen the thunder. Really, if consumers cared that much about buggy software, they’d close their wallets. As it stands, Android is now leading in terms of smartphone market share, and that OS has some issues compared to iOS.

Bugs are not unavoidable if the firm has a commitment to quality. I was test manager for vodafone 360 which was an unmitigated disaster. I could list all the reasons for this but there are too many.

You have to ask yourself why Apple is so successful. Yes they are not entirely bug-free, but they have a much, much higher commitment to quality/usability. I don’t think it is a coincidence that with the 4GS they are seeing more bugs. This is because they are cramming more features onto the phone that it doesn’t need, but this is a response to the other smartphones on the market.

Absolutely, and to put it without the double negative, bugs are avoidable. Well most of them.

We should be returning a lot more sub-standard electronic goods and software. The trouble is that so many people have grown up to accept things that don’t work well or last for very long. Older people will remember cars of the 1960s which had all sorts of problems and sometimes rusted through in three years. Cars have improved greatly since then.

With smartphones people are prepared to put up with some problems and sacrifice reliability but with a little more care, a lot of the problems are probably avoidable.

Steven says:
1 December 2011

What users need to realise is that newer Smartphones are effectively a PC in your pocket. Few of us would expect the operating system and apps on a PC to be perfect. There are simply too many lines of programming for there to be no errors or interference from other parts of the software system. It is theoretically possible to be bug free, but the devices would be too expensive and take too long to get to market. How would you like your iPhone 5 to be released in 5 years time and cost ten times more than now?
Software bugs are simply something you have to minimise as far as practical.
NB: when comparing smartphones to cars, FYI, several cars of people I know have had software bugs too and needed remaps or new software versions installing. 🙂

I take your point Steven, but I don’t think we should be happy with mediocre products just because we can have them sooner. They need to be fit for the purpose, but that does not mean that they need to be perfect. As you say, they are computers.

Have the phone manufacturers even sorted out the basics, like producing phones that will not be destroyed by using them in the rain? I doubt it.

The only reason companies release things without adequate testing is they simply don’t care about their customers or they have too high opinion of themselves. People should vote with their wallets.

I worked for a software company that would repeatedly release software without proper testing and in some cases before internal testing had started. And as someone who hated that and would point it out every opportunity I got, no wonder they made me redundant.

The issue of software, hardware and network contracts seems to make it difficult for consumers to get faults fixed or reject faulty phones or does it ??
Is SOGA upto dealing with modern technology where the software/firmware is more important for functionality than the hardware ?
Maybe an issue Which could do a report on ?

I don’t think the Sale of Goods Act gets a look in when it comes to mobile phones. They are so unreliable that customers are increasingly dependent on goodwill from companies and the companies do their best to retain customers that are on the more profitable contracts.

I would like to see Which? focus on consumer rights. It’s why I subscribed many years ago.

A Norton says:
30 November 2011

Just got a samsung galaxy s11 which annoyingly keeps powering off intermittently.

have an HTC Desire and have not had any problems but that maybe is because I bought it SIM free so I didn’t have one of the networks imposing their software on top of HTCs and Googles.

drossco says:
2 December 2011

I use CYANOGEN MOD on my HTC smartphone. It’s the least “buggy” of all the after market software I’ve tried and the Cyanogen developers have a real commitment to quality and bug fixing. Ir’s also free.

James says:
12 December 2011

I just got my new Samsung Galaxy Nexus 10 days ago, paying full price. After only 5 days it failed to send or receive calls, indicating” To make a call first turn off aeroplane mode”. I checked and found that aeroplane mode was off. Brought it back to supplier who examined it and had an update installed. Everything was great again……for 2 days, when everything blacks down. I thought battery was down but when I tried to recharge it the screen remained black and dead. Have any of you had similar problems?