It’s nice to tell the user what’s happening sometimes…

As much as I like Android and my HTC Desire, there are still a few niggles that need ironing out. One case in point is a problem I’ve had for the last week or so and only just got round to investigating and finding a solution for.

For some reason, Android Marketplace on my Desire stopped working for me. I could browse, search and choose to download apps, but they just wouldn’t get beyond the “Starting download…” step. I tried cancelling the downloads and restarting, with no success. I also tried switching between WiFi and 3G, toggling the radios on and off, restarting the phone – several times. No success.

A similar problem happened to me a couple of months ago when I switched my Google account from “” to “”once it had become available again in the UK. I did a lot of investigation into this problem at the time and found that a lot of people were being affected. If I switched back to everything worked fine again. I tried removing the old Google account from my phone so that I could replace it with a account instead, but it wouldn’t have it. In the end I backed up my apps and data to SD card, reset the phone to factory settings and started afresh with a Google account. Once I’d restored my apps and data I was back in business – everything worked just fine.

At the time I remembered seeing references to the Google Talk service so this time round I tried starting the Talk app – and it just died immediately. No error message or other information. Nothing. Tried again – same thing. So, I used the very handy aLogcat app to view the system logs just in case the were any clues in there. And lo and behold, there was an exception message stating that the Talk app couldn’t be started due to a lack of device storage space!

Now, I’d not really paid much attention to the low space notification that I’d been seeing for the last few weeks, because I knew that I was close to the limit of the measly built-in storage in the Desire. But I didn’t for a minute think that this could be the cause of my Marketplace problems. After deleting some unused apps and trying Talk again, it worked! I went to the Marketplace and that worked too! Bingo.

So, a few things to note from this experience…

  1. Don’t ignore the low space notifications any more – it could affect more than you think!
  2. Count the days until Android 2.2 is rolled out by HTC to the Desire (when I’ll be able to install apps to the SD card)
  3. Wonder why on earth app developers don’t think it’s important to tell users what’s happening when something they don’t expect happens

On this last point, why does the Talk app not show an error dialog informing the user why it can’t start? And likewise, why does the Android Marketplace app not tell me why it can’t download items. From a UI design perspective this is inexcusable. App developers – take note!

Alternative text input methods on Android – Swype and ShapeWriter

I recently heard about the ShapeWriter ( alternate text input method for Android devices and read some glowing reviews of it so thought I’d give it a try.

If you haven’t already seen or heard about ShapeWriter, it’s an alternate virtual keyboard for mobile devices which lets you type words by dragging your finger from one key to another rather than pressing each individual key. Each time you release your finger, that marks the end of the word and a space is inserted. You can still press each individual key if you want, so you don’t lose any functionality, but you obviously don’t benefit from the big speed increases you can get from using the new finger dragging method.

In use I found that it’s definitely quicker (for me at least) than pressing each individual key and my word input rate has gone up.

Since installing ShapeWriter I also heard about another very similar alternate keyboard called Swype which is currently in beta phase ( I’ve installed both of them so will compare the two over the next few weeks.