My Mortifying iPad Experience


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How Apple’s Famed UI Made Me Look Bad

0415_topbutton_380 I took my iPad to a consulting gig this week. Instead of impressing my clients, it embarrassed me. Granted, I’m still an iPad neophyte. I have been using it primarily as a personal entertainment center. I downloaded my favorite TV series. I carry around my photos, my music library, and a PDF of my latest book to show off. There are lots of things I haven’t yet learned how to do. But determined to turn my iPad into a working asset, I turned up at a client engagement with two note-taking programs (Notes and Pages), a mind mapping application, and a wireless keyboard to make it faster to capture notes and thoughts. I carried both iPad and keyboard around in a simple padded carrying case. So far, so good. Very professional.

Until my iPad began bursting into song at very inopportune moments! I would be on a tour of a facility or sitting at someone’s desk interviewing them and, all of a sudden, we’d hear a burst of a Beatles song, or the dulcet tones of Billy Holiday, or a rousing chorus from the Pirates of Penzance! A lot of fumbling would ensue, while I zipped open my carrying case, extracted my iPad and attempted to shut it up. And fumble I did, muttering apologies as I did so. I turned it off, but the music would keep playing. I put the audio on mute, and it would shut up for a while, but then burst into song again an hour later! Why was this happening? I was both mystified and mortified. My clients were bemused and surprised that I couldn’t master this seemingly simple device.

Apple_ipad_controls1-540x304 I’ve had badly behaved devices before. I had a Blackberry that used to make unsolicited phone calls from my pocket. So I realized that it was probably being jostled into action. But I was still puzzled. I hadn’t turned it on. I hadn’t fired up the iPod application or the iTunes application. Yet my iPad was mysteriously turning itself on, opening an application, selecting a song, turning the audio on, and blaring it out.

I sent an SOS to my brother, Jonathan and his daughter, Nancy, both long-time Mac users and iPad early adopters:


“This is bizarre. I thought the on/off switch was the black button top right. But when I turn it off and carry it around in my briefcase, my ipad suddenly turns itself on and starts playing music from itunes (even tho I didn’t think I had itunes “open” when I shut down and I definitely wasn’t listening to music).”

What am I doing wrong??”

Gpower Within a couple of hours I had my answers. First, there’s the “how do I turn this thing off? part.” Jonathan patiently explained to me how to turn off the iPad. It was embarrassing for me to admit that I obviously wasn’t being successful in turning the iPad off. Once my brother explained how to do it, I was abashed.

Even though I have an iTouch, I had forgotten that the way you “turn off” one of these Apple appliances is to hold the key at the top right down for a while until the red bar that says “Slide To Turn Off” appears at the top of the screen. I hadn’t actually noticed this “Slide to Turn Off” button. I was in the habit of closing the leather cover of my iPad and then pressing the “sleep/off” button. So I was mystified that it wasn’t turning completely off. When I opened it up to try to deal with it, I would only see the “slide to unlock” bar at the BOTTOM of the screen. I never even SAW the “slide to turn off” red bar at the TOP of the screen. Probably because a) I didn’t hold the button down long enough, or b) when I did, I had the cover closed… How embarrassing…

Nancy solved the “bursting into song” problem. She asked:

“Are you carrying your keyboard with you? I have a hard time telling whether the keyboard is on or off, and if it is on, and still connected to the iPad, jostling the keyboard will wake the iPad up. To be sure, I turn off Bluetooth when I am in transit.”

Ipad-keyboard That turned out to be the second part of the puzzle. Nancy’s right. The Bluetooth keyboard’s on/off switch is a button at one end of the keyboard. There’s a tiny green light that comes on and then goes off to show that it’s receiving battery power. It’s hard to tell whether it’s on or off. But once I turned Bluetooth OFF on my iPad, the random tunes are no longer playing. What a relief!

But I still haven’t figured out how to name and save files on the iPad. Or how to print. (Even though I have the latest SW upgrade). So how long will it take me to master this “user-friendly” device?? And how long will it be before I’m no longer embarrassed by my ineptitude?

Two morals to this story:

1. If you want to look cool, practice in the privacy of your home, first.

2. When you’re designing a system, try not to make your customers feel stupid.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Patricia Seybold
With 30 years of experience consulting to customer-centric executives in technology-aggressive businesses across many industries, Patricia Seybold is a visionary thought leader with the unique ability to spot the impact that technology enablement and customer behavior will have on business trends very early. Seybold provides customer-centric executives within Fortune 1 companies with strategic insights, technology guidance, and best practices.


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