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LisaGModerator
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To Speak of the Horror that is Google Android Support: a Lurid Tale
      08/04/12 11:01 AM

In my review of the lovely Google Nexus 7 tablet, I mentioned that Google's product support, particularly for software, is pretty poor. Now I love Android products and have respect for Google as a company. I'm not saying this to be a cranky person. I am not an iOS fangirl. As part of my job, I do test tech support from time to time, and each time I've tried Google's Android and Market (Play Store) support, it's been pretty poor. From a faulty USB sync cable on a Nexus phone that took 6 weeks to be replaced due to red tape (Google hadn't created a billing SKU the manufacturer could use to bill back Google) to my latest fiasco trying to get support for a crashing Google Play Store on several devices.




This one is so bad, I just had to share it. And it illustrates why an Android newbie might be better off buying a manufacturer branded device (HTC, Samsung, Toshiba, Motorola, etc.) because those manufacturers offer their own support. If you're already into Android and hang out on forums where peer support and alternate apk downloads are a part of your life, it's all good. If you're not a forum regular and have no idea what an apk is, then you're probably among the millions of "normal" users who just buy a product and expect it to work. If it doesn't work, you call the 800 support number and expect them to help you get it working.

With Google, all support is via email. There is no 800 number. So I sent in a support request because the Google Play Store crashed at launch when using one of my Google accounts. My main account where I actually buy stuff that I'd like to load on new phones and tablets. It was a pain. I couldn't load any content from the Google Play Store--no apps, movies or other goodies. That turns the phone or tablet into a paperweight.

I submitted a support request stating that several brand new devices that ship with Android OS 4.0.3 and Google Play Store 3.4.7 have this Play Store crash on launch problem (Acer Iconia Tab A700, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 along with a few smartphones). I wondered if there was a problem with my account, but I assumed not since side loading Market 3.5.16 cures the crash and the subsequent auto-update to Market 3.7.13 worked fine.





It's happened to all of us. The first tech support response we get clearly ignores the problem and is a generic reply. I was frustrated but unsurprised. It's sad but we often have to play this game where the second support email is the one that actually gets someone looking at the problem. Here's Google Play Support's reply to my support request:


July 19, from Google Play Support

"Hi Lisa,

Thanks for writing in today. I am sorry to hear that you're having a problem with the Google Play Store. I will work to resolve this issue for you. I took a look at our records to investigate further, and it looks like there's a problem with your actual device that's affecting the performance of Google Play. We recommend contacting your device manufacturer for support with this issue - you'll want to tell the manufacturer's support team that you have system apps that are crashing."



I did wonder what "records" they looked at...


And my reply on July 19:

"Dear Google,

As I mentioned, this is not a device specific crash, but rather a problem with version 3.4.7 of the Google Play Store that's shipped on several current Android products. I review these products for a living (MobileTechReview) and we receive brand new, never used Android smartphones and tablets for review from the manufacturers via their PR and engineering departments.

- We have contacted the manufacturers and they say it is a Google problem.

- This happens with several model and brand tablets: Acer Iconia Tab A700, Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 to name a few. This is NOT ISOLATED TO A SINGLE MODEL OR MANUFACTURER.

- A hard reset does not cure the issue, as mentioned. Replacing the tablet with a new unit does not fix the crash.

- If I sideload a newer version of the Google Play Store, market 3.5.15.apk, the problem goes away.

- Only some accounts have this issue

I would suggest you forward this to engineering, and it may be a known issue already since there are reports of various Market versions crashing on launch. It certainly is an unpleasant bug for folks buying brand new devices."




So, it took Google Play Support two weeks to answer this time! Imagine a less technical owner staring at their tablet for 2 weeks, unable to download any apps, music, movies or ebooks from the Google Play Store. You know that tablet would be going back!

I honestly thought they weren't going to respond. When they did, it was a bombshell. Once again they ignored what I'd said in my support requests (mentions of multiple model devices having the issue and it being linked to a certain version of Google Play Store). Worse yet, they provided incorrect and damaging info about Acer's flagship HD tablet not being officially supported by Google for use on the Google Play Store! OMG.


August 3, from Google Play Support:

"Hi Lisa,

Thanks for writing in with your question and I apologize for a delayed response- I’m happy to help see what’s going on. Unfortunately right now, the Acer Iconia Tab A700 isn’t supported for use with the Google Play Store app or with play.google.com, which is why you’re getting an error on the Google Play.

Not all devices running Android are licensed to use Google Play. This happens because manufacturers use the free Android software on their devices, but sometimes these devices don’t pass Google’s compatibility requirements to have the Google Play Store app installed. To help with this confusion, we’ve published a complete list of supported devices here:"


The list of devices includes the Acer tablet.... OMG again. And for the third time they ignored the other devices in the list!

What will the next reply be? At this point, I hope there isn't one. Google wins. The torture is unbearable.





-

--------------------
Lisa Gade
Editor in Chief, MobileTechReview

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