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Icky Software

Despite all the jazzy hardware, it’s frustrating, not fun, to use the Q. This is a phone that should fit into the life of the user and the context of use, rather than forcing the user to understand its internal organization. Yet that kind of understanding is precisely what the Q demands. Geeks might gravitate to the Q for the challenge of figuring out how it works, but most average users will be exasperated.

Just consider the steps you need to go through to take an MP3 from your desktop computer and play it through the Q’s stereo sound system:

First you need to set up your desktop by installing Microsoft’s ActiveSync. This should be a one-click maneuver, but it’s complicated because ActiveSync also wants you to configure calendar and e-mail synchronization settings. If you use Microsoft Outlook, those settings are automatically imported. But if you use Microsoft’s free Outlook Express, ActiveSync recommends that you switch to Outlook! Once ActiveSync is installed, you need to reboot.

When ActiveSync is installed, a new “Mobile Device” icon will appear in your desktop’s “My Computer” window. I loaded my MP3s onto the Q by dragging the files onto this icon. Each MP3 needs to be resampled at 160 kilobits per second, a process that can be excruciatingly slow. While the songs are being resampled, Windows Explorer is frozen.

Once the MP3 is on the phone, you still can’t play it, because Microsoft’s Media Player doesn’t know it’s there. After all, Media Player is a separate application. So you need to follow these steps. First, run Media Player from the phone’s “Start” menu. Then click on the Q’s “Menu” button. Select “Library,” click “Menu” again, and select “Update Library.” This makes Media Player search through all the files on the Q, looking for new music. The phone tells you how many songs it found; you click “Done” to acknowledge its report, after which Media Player displays the “Library” screen again. But this screen doesn’t actually show you your music. Instead, it allows you to select “My Music,” “My Videos,” “My TV,” or “My Playlists.” Choose “My Music,” and you have a choice of viewing “All Music” or music grouped by “Artist,” “Album,” or “Genre.” Select “All Music,” and you will finally see the MP3 files that you transferred from your desktop. Select a song using the arrows, and then press the left button below the screen, which is now labeled “Play.”

This whole process is very logical. But I think that most people would rather just select their favorite songs, click a button that says “Put on My Q,” and have all these steps happen automatically in the background. To play music, most people would like to click a button and see a list of their songs; somebody who would rather see the list sorted by artist or album could click on another button to display some kind of menu.

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Tagged: Communications

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