Blog Post

Anatomy of a Gadget Fail

A study out on Sunday from the Pew Internet and American Life Project took a look at a computers, Internet access and cell phones to figure out how often such devices failed in the last 12 months and what people do when those failures happen. Unsurprisingly, such failures were pretty common, with 44 percent experiencing some kind of web connection failure, 39 percent experiencing a computer failure and 29 percent experiencing a cell phone issue within the last 12 months.

Surprisingly, reboot was not an option for fixing the problem, although that pretty much solves whatever issue I happen to encounter. So how did people deal with tech breakdowns? Almost 40 percent called customer support, while 28 percent fixed it themselves and 15 percent called on friends or family. Only 2 percent found help online, and 15 percent couldn’t solve the issue. Most people found such failures to be frustrating as they went through the steps to figure out how to fix the issue:

  • 72 percent felt confident that they were on the right track to solving the problem.
  • 59 percent felt impatient to solve the problem because they had important uses for the broken technology (who are the other 41 percent?!).
  • 48 percent felt discouraged with the amount of effort needed to fix the problem.
  • 40 percent felt confused by the information that they were getting.

If, on top of the high percentage of failures, two out of five people are confused by the information they’re getting as they try to solve service issues, this is a problem for everyone — especially as companies and startups are using these devices and services as platforms to launch revenue-generating services. The more time a device is broken, the less time a consumer is clicking on ads, shopping or downloading applications.

One Response to “Anatomy of a Gadget Fail”

  1. Tomas - University Place, WA

    Either I’m easier on cellphones than the “average user” or I’ve been incredibly lucky in my choice of devices.

    I’ve had at least once cellphone in personal service since my first one in 1984 (a Motorola luggable about the size, weight, and shape of a car battery with service from NewVector) to my current one from Sanyo (SCP-7050, service by Sprint).

    In all that time, and with all those units I’ve only had two that problems, one electrical (NEC handheld analog the just quit for no reason back in about ’95) and one mechanical (the current Sanyo PCS with a simple mechanical failure of the battery retention latch).

    With computers (all but two being Macs) I’ve had three failures since 1983. First was a hard drive failure in my original UNIX server in 1986 (TRS 16B+ w/Xenix), second and third were laptop failures – one damaged screen, one failed logic board.

    Internet access failures are simple short-term failures, and are expected of any complex utility type service. I cannot begin to count the number of failures in 36 years of internet use (my first Usenet post was back on 03JUN1982), but luckily all have been reasonably short term problems.

    Just looking at the past 12 months I’ve had the one cellphone failure and numerous short term internet failures.

    All in all, my experience with “high tech devices and services” has been very good. Actually VERY good.