At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: texting

Work-Related Texting On the Rise

How many texts do you generate each month?  How many of them are for work?  If you can’t answer either of these questions, chances are you have an unlimited texting plan.  If you don’t, you might want to reconsider…

How many texts do you generate each month? How many of them are for work? If you can’t answer either of these questions, chances are you have an unlimited texting plan. If you don’t, you might want to reconsider…

I’m not a big texter. Or so I thought… Sure, I normally send out a few texts a day to my wife or friends to handle simple or immediate communications.
Like…“Running late. On 6:53 train.”

I’m not constantly carrying on conversations, using this convenient technology in place of a phone call.
(Maybe the occasional back and forth banter)

For the past seven years, I’ve lived comfortably using a $5/month texting plan from AT&T that gave me 200 free texts each month.
(And 10 cents/text after that…which, of course is criminal)

But I’m here to report that 200 texts a month are not enough to live on. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been regularly crossing that line and getting dinged. And I’ve got to tell you; those ten-cent nicks are really painful.

Not so much from a financial perspective (not yet)
But emotionally.

Clearly I’m the last one at the party to realize this, as I’ve found out that my $5 plan isn’t even offered to new subscribers anymore.

So what happened?
The workplace happened…

Texting in the Workplace
I used to think that texting was reserved for personal thoughts, leaving my work email to handle my job-related written communications. There was a clear line separating the two…

But then a funny behavior developed.
That line disappeared, and I started receiving work-related texts on my iPhone.
(I only use one device.)

I’m not talking about the need for a quick back and forth… like, “Where’s the meeting?”
(Yes, guilty as charged)

Or a quick update… “Will be 5 minutes late”
(Me, again)

…Or other moments requiring an immediate response, which texting is obviously better suited for.

I’m talking about those moments where an email would do just fine.
But my colleagues choose to text me anyway.

What’s up with that?

This goes beyond the fact that texting is more popular with the younger generations. A recent Gallup poll reconfirms the trend that “texting is the dominant way of communicating for Americans under 50.”

That said, the last time I checked… email is still the major force in the workplace…

Email is So Yesterday
But if you’re not at your desk chained to your computer, even I’ve got to admit that texting is easier than sending out a work email from your smartphone.

So is this simply all about convenience?
I think it is…

And also about effectiveness.
When someone sends you a text, you look at it pretty quick, right?

Email… not so much.
That’s because we all receive so much email… both at home and at work. Some of it you need to read… a lot of it you don’t.
(Not to mention some of the spam that slips through your email filters)

It can be overwhelming just trying to keep up.

Sure you can check your smartphone every fifteen minutes to review the 20 emails you’ve just received… but it could take until tomorrow to respond to every one of them.

Supersize my Texting Plan, Please
It doesn’t take rocket science to explain why the art of texting at work has become a necessary practice just to get through your day.

Has some kind of social rule been rewritten with the growth of work texting?
Well, I may be the last person on earth to even consider this a problem.
I think I hear all of humanity whispering…. “Get Over It!”
(The average American sends and receives 32 texts a day. I’m sure a healthy percentage of that is work related.)

So I called AT&T and upgraded my texting plan to ‘unlimited’ for an extra $15/month.

If you do the math, that means I’ve got to burn through at least 150 more texts to break even on the new plan.
I’m not sure I’ll need all that for work.
(Well, not yet.)

Back to the Future
But I know one evil force that will firmly push me into this ‘new’ frontier is the variable of group texting….
(Whoah!)

That can really goose the number of texts you get!
(I’m not sure my new unlimited plan is going to be enough…)

I imagine one day in the not too distant future, people will grow weary of slogging through too many texts. And then all those texts will sit unread like their email cousins.

And then what?

You’ll need to resort to a really extreme measure…
You’ll have to pick up the phone!

Nooooooo!!!!!!

Where Are All Your iMessages?

Have you noticed you’re receiving noticeably fewer iMessages on your iPhone recently?  Maybe that’s because you’re not receiving any iMessages.  So what’s the problem…?

Have you noticed you’re receiving noticeably fewer iMessages on your iPhone recently? Maybe that’s because you’re not receiving any iMessages. So what’s the problem…?

I missed a text message from a friend on my iPhone the other day. I realized the problem when I got home and saw the lingering comment glowing on my iPad as an old iMessage.

I looked for it on my iPhone 6 Plus, but it simply wasn’t there…
Strange.

Why was my Wi-Fi iPad receiving iMessages that my iPhone was missing…?

So I decided to take a closer look…

Is iMessage Activated?
I opened up the ‘Messages’ settings on my iPhone.
The red flag was immediately evident….
I saw that ‘iMessage’ was simply turned off.
(That’s confusing.)

And to rub it in, the Off setting was accompanied by an ‘error’ message.

What?
How did iMessage get deactivated?

Come to think of it, I had recently noticed that some of my texts which would typically travel on the free, ‘blue’ iMessage road to another iDevice were only showing up as normal ‘green’ SMS texts that count against my texting plan.
(Yes, I still have a free-texting limit. Is that too old school?)

I didn’t think much of these little green monsters, because sometimes the blue path gets inexplicably blocked, forcing an iMessage to morph into a standard text.

Why Is iMessage Suddenly Turned Off ?
So I immediately reactivated iMessage on my phone, which required my thumbprint’s touch ID authentication.
(Why was my phone treating me like a stranger?)

More importantly though, I wanted to know why this had all happened in the first place.

I had recently upgraded my iPhone’s operating software to iOS 8.3. Was this the culprit…?

I took a look online at some Apple message boards, and in fact there were others talking about similar problems. But I found no official determination that an iMessage issue had been created by iOS 8.3.

Huh.

Check the Facts Again
Then I did a little more diagnostic research as to when the green texting regression actually cropped up. I tracked my daily texts to my wife, and in fact, they started turning green a month back on April 1.

D’oh!

And that was before iOS 8.3….

It’s possible I did a previous iOS upgrade on that day, but I no longer have any evidence.

All I’m left with is… April Fools!!!
(seriously?)

Don’t Anger the Tech Gods
So what are the lessons learned here…?

  1. Never ignore the playful (and frustrating) power of April Fools’ Day.
  2. It’s probably a good idea to check your iMessage settings every time you upgrade the iOS on your iDevice.
  3. If it takes a month to figure out you’ve got a tech problem, you can’t place all the blame on someone else.

Let’s move on…

Starving to Stay Connected while Feasting on Smartphone Tech

How difficult is it to understand this?  It’s only a problem if the smiley face shows up instead as the letter ‘J.’  But this could be the least of your smartphone problems when it comes to keeping you feeling comfortably connected to the rest of your life. Especially when you’re away on a trip…

How difficult is it to understand this? It’s only a problem if the smiley face shows up instead as the letter ‘J.’ But this could be the least of your smartphone problems when it comes to keeping you feeling comfortably connected to the rest of your life. Especially when you’re away on a trip…

8:26pm…

“Hello?”

“It’s Barrett.”

“Who?”

“Your husband!”

“I can barely hear you.”

“We just landed.”

“What?”

“Jus w ntd you kno tha I can’t  m do mak ak   fo bap   rit.
…I’ll tell you more later.”

“What?”

“Bye.”

Click

Deep down, we all know the wonders of technology are only as good as the weakest link.

It wasn’t that long ago when mobile phones freed us from our homebound communications tether.
(But those sky high cost-per-minute charges… ouch!)

Eventually, the business model matured and then truly blossomed when phones morphed into email and texting machines.

Today, smartphones connect us in ways unimaginable only a few years back.
That you can talk with and sometimes see your loved ones from almost anywhere is two parsecs shy of science fiction.

Welcome to the World of Words
As smartphones developed each new trick, that capability quickly became the dominant one.

As a result, the near lost art of writing is experiencing an amazing renaissance.
It’s the new normal.
Why would you endure the rigors of a phone call when you can ‘more easily’ email or text someone?

It’s like we’ve already abandoned using the smartphone as a simple voice tool.

Ring, Ring
That said, I have long been a stubborn proponent of the seemingly old fashioned practice of calling up someone instead of forwarding along a bunch of alphanumeric characters and butchered words.

Plus, emotional context is inevitably absent throughout the act of texting.
Though the use of emoticons does help.

And think of all that incessant back and forth of an email chain, often over the course of hours. You’d likely arrive at the same facts as with a one-minute phone conversation.

And remember, your more highly evolved smartphone is not as limited as your grandfather’s Ma Bell indestructible monster. With mobile video enabled technologies like Skype and Apple’s FaceTime, you can enjoy the purity of non-verbal communication cues to help you stay totally in sync with your phone buddy. It’s almost like being in the same room.

Why wouldn’t you want to reach out and touch someone?

What Did You Just Say?
Well, if you don’t have access to a strong connection, that value proposition falls apart pretty quickly…

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how frustrating it is having a conversation with someone on a spotty cell connection.
Understanding one out of every three words just doesn’t cut it.
And adding video into the equation is immediately hopeless.
You get the first video frame or two, and that’s about it.
Then the call crashes.

Conversely, getting a simple text out into the ether over a mediocre connection feels downright glorious.

Keep it simple. Get it done.
The pleasantries can wait till next time…

In Search of Clarity of Communication on the Go
I’ve just returned from a short business trip to Charlotte, and I clearly stretched the limits of parts of AT&T’s cell phone network in North Carolina.

While waiting at the airport gate, I tried accessing
the voodoo of a Skype video call to watch my son open up a present.

I got about 30 seconds in, and the call tanked.
(though I did get a chance to see a few of his shouts of delight!)

So sure… you’re supposed to have a Wi-Fi connection for optimal Skype results, and I was working it with a mere three bars of signal.
(FaceTime doesn’t even try to operate without Wi-Fi.)
That it connected at all is probably a miracle.

But I also had trouble successfully reaching out
via simple voice communication.
When you can’t hear all of what your wife is saying over a few minute stretch, that quickly becomes a problem.
You can only intuit so much.
And you can only say, “what?” so many times.

So sure, one time I was travelling in the car rental shuttle bus, and my wife was driving down Route 95.
Maybe I should be satisfied the call worked as well as it did.

The Frustration-Free Moment
Our nationwide cellular networks still have their holes, even in metropolitan areas.
And calling from inside thick tall buildings or moving metal cars doesn’t help much.

The truth is… smartphones can’t yet mimic the magic of a Starfleet communicator on the prescient ‘Star Trek.’
(You can’t really have a crystal clear conversation from inside a Horta’s cave with your starship in standard orbit above Janus IV.)

There are limits…

So when my plane landed back at LaGuardia airport, I texted my wife instead of going for a quick phone chat from inside the cabin.

She texted back a question about a contractor’s phone number. I pulled up the contact on my iPhone and texted it to her.

When I received back a happy face emoticon 30 seconds later, I felt this rush of happiness.

After a series of generally splotchy phone connections to my family during my trip, I had finally found some Tech Zen:

  • Simplicity
  • Clarity
  • Accuracy

In this instance there was no need for a call.
Even if my iPhone had access to a strong signal, it would likely be marred by the competing sounds of the plane’s engines blended with the loud, nasally passenger in row 12B.

And trying for a video call…?
Forget about it!

Just because you can access the wonders of your tech, doesn’t mean you should.
Especially if your experience isn’t going to be so wondrous.

Just the Facts, Ma’am!
So finally, I’ve seen the light.
When you’re on the go, texting is the clear leader for straightforward communication.
(as long as you’re not driving!)

When you just care about getting the facts across, it takes all the frustration out of the equation.

Sure… you’ll lose all the personal touches of a phone call.
But how hard is it to interpret a smiley face emoticon?

Well, that is until it shows up as a letter ‘J.’

Agent J
Even the clarity of written communication is not totally immune to misinterpretation.

One morning, while on my trip, one of my colleagues walked over to me with a worried look as he stared at his iPhone. He explained that recently he had been receiving messages that ended mysteriously with an uppercase ‘J.’

He thought it was code for some kind of newfangled valediction.

I had no idea. So we took the question to the rest of the room, which included representation across several generations.
Nobody else had a clue either.

I half expected a Man in Black to walk up with the explanation before he pulled out his neuralyzer.

But we successfully Googled it instead.

Get this… The ‘J’ apparently originated as a smiley face.
But then it got lost in translation on its way to his smartphone.

Some mail clients get confused by a 🙂
and simply replace it by a ‘J’ instead.
It’s something about a smiley becoming an upper case ‘J’ in the ‘Winding’ character world.

Weird.

My Mind to Your Mind
So really, there’s no foolproof way to ensure 100% accuracy when communicating with someone from any distance beyond 4-6 feet.
After that, all bets are off.

Technology can help through the precision of ‘word delivery’ to your phone, but only up to a point. It’s ironic that in a world overflowing with communications technologies, we often feel more disconnected than ever.

Until we master the Vulcan Mind Meld, we’ll have to struggle along as best we can.

J

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