Help: Is this a mobile developer FAIL?

Whilst we get busy with the new design and arranging of developer interviews, I need your assistance on this conundrum. I’m not sure whether it’s a complete ‘FAIL’ (as the phrase goes) on the part of the developer, or whether it’s just-one-of-those-things.

I’ve been using my Android G1 a lot since I arrived in America because, conveniently, my US T-Mobile sim works perfectly with it (even though it’s a UK device). I didn’t have to do any configuration since HTC thoughtfully included the T-Mobile US web settings on the device already.

So I’ve been taking pictures.

As you do in a city as nice and as varied as San Francisco.

I’d like to send them directly to Flickr. Since there’s no ShoZu service on Android at the moment (and I haven’t re-installed Pixelpipe yet) I thought I’d have a look around the Marketplace on Android.

Unlike others, I take it upon myself to buy as many applications as possible. I did a certain amount of evaluation on ‘Flickr Upload’ when I came across it. From memory it was $0.99. Or perhaps less.

I scrolled down to the comments.

On the 28th of April, ‘Matthew’ commented:

Works wonderfully. Well integrated.

.. and he gave it five stars.

I suspect Matthew is referring to the share option. When you take a photo on Android, there’s a button that pops up called ‘Share’. Click on that and you get the choice of sharing by Email, by Google Mail or — to Flickr (enabled by this application). Smart. I was warming to the concept.

I noted that it’s had between 100-500 downloads. Ok. Not a brilliant well-trodden path. I continued with the comment review.

On the 21st of April, ‘z0mbix’ commented:

Will not authorise with flickr on t-mobile/G1. Can’t get any reply from the developers em[ail]…

Er.

I’d gone off it right away.

The final comment on the app’s frontpage was a day before z0mbix’s one from Benjamin:

Exactly what I was looking for works perfectly

Hmmm.

Z0mbix’s comment put me right off. But I reasoned there must be a reason, maybe he/she didn’t know what they were doing? Afterall if Benjamin and Matthew each had a good experience, I should be ok?

Right?

As I walked out of the Westfield Mall in downtown San Francisco I spotted an advert I wanted to write about. I decided to download Flickr Upload there and then, configure it and get moving.

I paid the money, the app downloaded and within seconds I’d got to the main prompt, asking me to authorise my Flickr account to work with it. Fair enough.

I typed in my Yahoo account username and password and hit ‘login’.

Nothing happened.

Nothing.

The screen went blank.

Er.

‘I’ve just paid a dollar for this,’ I thought, rather disappointed. I was experiencing the pain of fellow user, z0mbix.

I tried again. Maybe I typed my details wrong?

Again it failed. The app just sat on a blank screen like this:

Rubbish!

I ended up sending the photo to my email account and walked home, rather annoyed with myself.

I was annoyed because I thought I’d obviously got my Yahoo password wrong.

What self respecting developer would allow an application to go live — a chargeable application at that — which doesn’t actually work?

Then I reasoned that it must be a Yahoo screw-up and spent a good few blocks cursing them in my mind.

I got back to my desktop and immediately changed my Yahoo password to check I had it correct.

Again I tried authorising the app.

Nothing. Nada.

I’ve bought a dud.

I don’t know who is responsible. It COULD be Yahoo, entirely. But one assumes that the two other recent commenters on Android Marketplace aren’t lying and they got it to work.

I’ve tried a few times over the past few days to activate it to no avail.

So I looked up the developer online.

They’re called Macrospecs and they’re a privately-owned startup in the bay area.

Ah hah! They’ll have a GetSatisfaction page, right? Or a forum or something?

No.

Nothing!

It’s a one-page website and — ultra annoyingly — the ‘contact’ page goes straight through to their email address.

Confusingly there is absolutely no reference to the Flickr Upload application on their site.

I then had a look back on the Android Marketplace and saw that the ‘developer site’ is listed as FaceofMobile.com/Flickr. Ah hah!

No, hold your excitement.

This is the entire site:

Yup… it’s one page. It consists of three screenshots and a macrospecs logo, with no link. No contact details. No support option. Nothing.

In fairness to the developer, one wouldn’t expect that many support enquiries from an application that simply sends a photo to a Flickr account. It’s not rocket science and there’s hardly any failure points.

Except the authorisation process.

And, of course, macrospecs don’t control that, Yahoo do.

Tough luck for me and z0mbix, right? If it ain’t working, you can try contacting macrospecs but it’s rather clear they don’t want to know — and are not expecting to support any enquiries.

I hunted around and I found a support forum for macrospecs’ Face of Mobile application, a $1.99 Windows Mobile Facebook app.

I suppose I could try posting there.

But I’m not feeling very welcome — or smart for buying the app. Indeed I’ve paid a dollar for the privilege.

It’s perfectly fine for it to happen to me, I have a good understanding of the trials and tribulations of mobile development — but if this is the experience of your average consumer who’s just picked up a G1 or G2 and is expecting 100% friction-free total quality-assured service from the Android Marketplace, they’re not going to be at all impressed.

Like the ringtone marketplace a few years ago — you’ll pay once and if the experience sucks, you definitely won’t ever pay again.

What’s the right response?

Is this a FAIL on the part of the team at macrospecs? Is it a Yahoo FAIL?

Or is it an Android FAIL?

Would this have happened on an iPhone?

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Originally published on Mobile Developer TV and automatically republished here on Mobile Industry Review. View the original post.

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