Communication Breakdown, or Why I Still Don’t Trust Smartphones to Be Smart

4317715562_896a1ea357This is a cautionary tale. This particular combination of assumptions, inattention to detail and poorly thought out product design (hey, it’s not entirely my fault) cost me several hundred dollars in missed work opportunities and lost productivity. Learn from my mistake.

I finally got on the smartphone bandwagon a few months ago – an HTC EVO. Being “fully committed” to making the most of it, I set up all my accounts on it – Facebook, Twitter, my main email accounts, etc.

Just a couple of little things I didn’t notice, didn’t think to check for, and assumed would be configured by default the way any reasonable person (i.e., I) would:

  1. The Android email client is set by default to delete messages from the server (Seriously? Who uses their phone as their primary email client?)
  2. It’s also set by default to check/download messages immediately when you start the the email app.

This makes for a deadly combination. See, if you accidentally start the email app (easy to do if it’s right in the middle of your main menu), even if you turn right around and immediately close it, you’ve just unwittingly downloaded your messages to your phone, and you’ll never see them on your primary email device – in my case, Outlook on my laptop.

Thing is, since I never use my phone for email, I never noticed this was going on. It wasn’t until I started having some clients tell me they had sent me stuff and I hadn’t received it that I even started suspecting anything was wrong. And my first thought was spam filters, and then server problems. It took me a couple of days to finally figure out it was the phone, and why. And in the meantime, having accidentally or deliberately accessed email 3 or 4 times on my phone, all at times I had been away from my office for a few hours, I ended up missing a couple of hundred emails – some of them actually important.

My apologies to anyone who got caught in my communication breakdown.

So, lessons learned:

  1. Don’t make assumptions.
  2. Check the details.
  3. Software should be set by default to the way any reasonable person (I) would use it.
  4. Smartphones aren’t really all that smart.

Image: 31jefe


  1. David Bullock


    The culprit here isn’t the Android, it’s POP3 – a protocol that has no place in the multi-client world of 2011.

    The native Android Gmail app doesn’t delete messages off the server, and elsewhere I use IMAP whenever possible.

    POP3 clients can be configured to leave mail on the server, but that’s just a hack for the single-client/single mailbox folder mentality of POP3.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *