I’ve worked on many software projects over the years, and the trajectory that most software development efforts takes is something like this: You gather initial requirements from stakeholders and users, make an initial release, and gradually increase the feature set and improve upon existing features. Not so with Bluetooth. In the span of about six years, Bluetooth went from “awesome” to “almost useless” for me.
About six years ago, my wife and I both had Bluetooth enabled Nokia phones. It was great! We could beam contacts, pictures and other files at each other across the room. I could exchange files with my Powerbook and sync directly with the Apple iSync application. I could also use the Bluetooth connection as a cellular modem if I was out of range of WiFi, and TMobile supported it with an inexpensive data plan. It was sweet.
About four years ago, those phones began to wear out, and so my wife and I got new phones. However, we found that we were no longer able to send contacts and/or files between our phones using Bluetooth. Furthermore, my wife was no longer able to sync her phone to her Apple’s iSync using Bluetooth. I could not get the Bluetooth to work with my computer any more either, but by that time it was a windows machine and not a Powerbook, so I wasn’t surprised. We could still exchange pictures by text message. And we did get a Prius, and I fell in love with the built in Prius hands-free kit that would seamlessly connect to my new phone. We were annoyed, but confident that we would do better next time.
A few weeks ago, that phone drowned in a severe rainstorm. I didn’t leave it out, but it was in my pocket which got thoroughly soaked. We went to TMobile, and we have TMobile at home now, so I talked myself into getting a compatible phone: the Samsung Katalyst. Big mistake! The Bluetooth functionality was further degraded into “Hands Free” and “Car Kit” profiles. Apparently, this means that they have officially neutered Bluetooth functionality so that it cannot exchange data other than voice to/from a Hands-free device, probably at the behest of the recording industry. Furthermore, it would not connect automatically to my Prius anymore.
I called Samsung tech support last night and verified this: the official recommendation of the Samsung tech support person was that I had to manually pair the phone with my car EVERY time I got into it. Luckily, I’m still in my grace period, so it’s going back.
In conclusion, I’m just left wondering: why, over the span of six years, did a great technology like Bluetooth get so degraded as to become almost completely useless to me? Again, the usual arc of technology is engineering towards more and better features. But here’s a great example of a technology that was introduced with great features and gradually became useless through engineering. I mean, you don’t just accidentally ‘lose’ those features described above, it took actual effort on someones part to take them away.
Any help in understanding this would be appreciated.
I replaced the Katalyst with a Samsung T339 – and I had just made it back to TMobile before they started charging mandatory restocking fees. The T339 just works in all respects and it connects to my car with no problems at all, although it is not as exciting to look at as the Katalyst. It works fine with my TMobile@Home though.