July 27, 2015
My wife tried to switch from iOS to Android. She failed.
The motivator for the attempted switch was handwriting. She wanted to be able to take handwritten notes on her phone. Notes. Calendar entries. Lists. She tried to switch to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.
The case to switch from iOS to Android, iPhone 4 to Galaxy Note 4, seemed compelling. The 2 year lock-in contract was up. Moving to the Note was cheaper than upgrading to the iPhone 6. It felt good to add some diversity into our family’s technology ecosystem.
The iOS to Android experiment lasted 3 weeks. This weekend my wife returned her Galaxy Note 4 phone to the Verizon owned store, paid the $35 restocking fee, and walked out with her new iPhone 6.
The reasons why her migration from iOS to Android failed tell us something about the power of technology lock-in.
We often talk about how sticky educational technology platforms and services are in higher ed customers. Switching costs are high for campus enterprise systems because change management is so difficult. A move to a new campus LMS, SIS, or e-mail platform is a multi-year process.
When it comes to Apple, it seems as if some of the same forces working for enterprise lock-in are operating at the consumer scale.
In my wife’s case, the culprit for forcing her to switch back to iOS was messaging and the inability for someone, Verizon or Samsung or Apple, to take some responsibility for the problem.
There is a well known problem with iMessage for users trying to go off the iOS platform. In order to get an receive texts from contacts the mobile phone number needs to be deregistered from Apple’s iMessage servers. Apple even provides an online tool to deregister from iMessage.
For some reason deregistering didn’t work for my wife. The techs at the Verizon store couldn’t figure it out either.
The only explanation the Verizon folks could come up with was that it was an issue about how Apple sent messages. They recommended that in order for my wife to receive texts, all her contacts would have to delete any previous messaging threads.
This suggestion from Verizon, that everyone else to that my wife had previously messaged delete every thread from those past messages, was a nonstarter.
My guess is that this all could have been fixed somehow on the Apple side. But at this point my wife had spent so much time trying to untangle this messaging / iMessage mess and was frustrated with the fact that nobody was taking responsibility and ownership in helping her. Ultimately, paying the $35 restocking fee to be done with it was worth it to her.
We like to think that we own our technologies, but increasingly our technologies own us.
Breaking our dependence on the companies that supply our technologies becomes harder by the day.
How could I switch from Amazon to another digital book platform when all my e-book and audiobooks are in Amazon proprietary platforms? How can I move off Apple devices when communication across the barriers of the walled garden is so painful? How could I move from my dependence on the Google ecosystem when so much of my collaboration takes place over Google Docs and Gmail?
What technologies, and technology companies, have you locked-in?
Read more by
Opinions on Inside Higher Ed
Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U
What Others Are Reading