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My Mom's First Time Using a Galaxy Tab 2

Date: 2013-01-27
Tags: android mobile development

My wife and I bought my mother a Galaxy Tab 2 today. My mother is the age you’d expect her to be (she’d kill me if I told everyone). She’s intelligent, but scared to use computers because of how easy they were to screw up when she was first introduced. She does, however, use the ones at the hair salon she works at and will occasionally use my father’s laptop to look up real-estate, but other than that she doesn’t really use computers daily. She’s not sure what to expect when she does things and always wants someone there to make sure she doesn’t mess up the computer. She also, I personally feel, gets intimidated by my father, brother, sister, and I just zooming around and doing a bunch of things at once when she watches us. (I’m the worst! Everything is in a terminal.) I have been wanting her to learn how to email recently and for the past few weeks she’s been commenting about a couple of her friends’ iPads. That is when Anne and I decided to spring for a tablet.

I set her up with some accounts and apps and then proceeded to teach her how to send email and use some of the other apps. While doing so, I learned a lot of lessons about what I take for granted when using a tablet (or computer). I also learned how much I use that knowledge to recover when things don’t work.

Email

I taught her how to send me an email, and then I showed her that I had received it on my phone. One of the things she is still having trouble with is that there is no confirmation that an email is sent. It may seem silly to anyone who knows how email works or has been using it for a while, but if you think about it you click “send” and then nothing. Normally something changes, something happens or you get a confirmation that you’ve done something. This doesn’t happen with email. I know, knowing how SMTP works, that the sender doesn’t actually know if an email is received or not, but a brief overlay or message at the top of the screen saying the email is sent may be useful for those who are less-in-the-know. (If there is in the GMail app, I didn’t notice it.)

System Font Size

One of the first inconsistencies I noticed was that many apps, including the GMail app, don’t respect the system font size. I bumped it up to help my mother read text more easily, and there were a good handful of apps that I had to adjust the font for, if I could. Please, app developers, respect the system font.

Looking into it, there doesn’t always seem to be a system font size option in all versions of android. I think that that is a shame. I do know there is a “Large Font” option under Accessibility, but I haven’t not tried that on her tablet. I will have to next time I am home. This may or may not be a real complaint, but it seems odd for Samsung to place it in the system settings if it only affects a few apps.

Back Button usage and other quirks

There have been many gripes about how the back button works in Android, but this is a slightly different problem (as the inconsistency most people dislike didn’t seem to phase my mom). The back button shouldn’t be used to accept changes to a form. Also, an action should make an overlay or overlay-menu disappear; you shouldn’t have to tap the screen to make it disappear.

I also noticed that some apps seem to not use the system default widgets, or at least the theme styles that the other apps seem to. This causes confusion, or at least hesitation, to people who are lest familiar with multiple desktop environments and themes.

Fat Fingers

My mom, a skinny lady, also uses the pad of her finger to touch, giving her fat fingers, which causes problems often: the object wouldn’t respond or something else would. I’m not sure what would fix this besides practice on her end. Sure, bigger buttons and more space between them, but there is an economy of space on a 7” screen.

Terms

I also stopped using the term “click.” It just led to confusion and for her pushing into the screen. I’ve moved to using “tap,” as it conveys the action she needs to do more correctly.

Also, on a desktop, you often tell people to go to their, well, desktop. Even before my mom got her tablet, I switched to using Home screen. It makes more sense and also feels more inviting (“Mom, if you ever are lost and don’t know what you did, just hit the ‘Home’ button and you know exactly where you are”).

Conclusion

All-in-all I think she’s getting the hang of it. By the time I and my wife, my brother, and sister got back to our respective homes and dorms, my mom had sent us all emails telling us how much she loves us and to thank Anne and I for the gift (She then called us to make sure we got them, see Email above.) I’m going to slowly introduce her to more functionality and more apps on the device as times goes on. Once she’s comfortable with it and use to how it behaves she’ll be able to learn more and more each time I sit down with her.

I was also a little hesitant to get the 7” tablet at first because I wanted a larger screen for her, but the Tab 2 fit into the budget my wife and I laid out. Seeing her using it, I think it was the perfect choice. She didn’t find it unwieldy, commenting that it feels just like a book, and it fits well into her purse.

My one big complaint is that it uses what looks like a 40-pin adapter for power. Why!? I really feel it should have used a micro-USB adapter. Other than that, however, I really like the device, and I think (well hope) my mom does too; she seems to, but time will tell how well it fits into her life.

Another bug I noticed is that the drawer is only 2” wide; I feel like it should be the width of the screen. While that would be wide, it would allow for large fonts for those who have poor eye sight.

Ultimately, I think that Android will work out well for her. I just implore app and system developers to be as consistent as possible.