stupid phones

You know what's dumb? How receiving SMS pictures works on a Sprint Treo.

Someone sends you a text message with a picture attached. You get a text message that says "You have a new PictureMail! Click here."

  1. Click it.
  2. That takes you to the web browser, looking at a page that says "New picture mail from xyz", with a thumbnail that's, like, 12x12 pixels. Click the image, or the text below it that says "View Media".

  3. Now there's a slightly larger, but still unreadable, image, and now, for the first time, you get to see the actual text that was included in the text message. Don't click the image! Click the text below it that says "Save to Phone".

  4. Oh, now we're back to the tiny thumbnail again. Click the link that says "Download to Phone".

  5. Now we're out of the web browser and into a dialog box that says, "Do you want to download?" Click "Yes".

  6. Oh, another dialog. Click "Save and Open".

  7. Oh, another dialog. "Accept media?" Click "OK".

Now you can finally see the full sized image on your phone. Seven clicks! "Click, View, Save, Download, Yes, Open, Accept!" All with a two to five second delay between each opportunity to click.

And it's been this way for years. Don't they even try this crap before shipping it? What kind of person could ship software that behaved this way and feel ok with themselves?

I guess it's better than an iPhone, though, which can't send or receive SMS images at all.

What year is this?

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48 Responses:

  1. violentbloom says:

    teleco grade=complete crap

  2. greyhame says:

    I believe it's the year two thousand and screw the consumer.

  3. dr_memory says:

    Jesus, Sprint still hasn't fixed that? It worked that way on the Treo 300 (the original Sprint CDMA Treo), and at the time everyone chalked it up to some horrible implementation wonkiness of Sprint's SMS/MMS servers, undoubtedly due to be fixed Real Soon Now. What the hell is their excuse in 2007?

    (For once, it's not Palm's fault: this shit works just fine on the Verizon Treos.)

    • jwz says:

      Steps 5 through 7 not being one step is totally Palm's fault. And I'm prepared to blame Palm for not figuring out the URL regexp magic to collapse steps 1 through 4 into a single step, too.

      • asw909 says:

        This whole process is the network's issue, though, I would think. Over here in the UK if you get an MMS, it loads/opens on the 'phone first time (without having to mess around with the image) - unless you don't have the correct settings installed on the handset. Then, you get a message saying you have a picture message to collect, which you have to go to a complicated URL on a desktop (without the correct settings, of course, you can't access the internet on the 'phone either!) to see a badly rendered version of the MMS.

        I'm suddenly wondering which is worse.

      • sc00ter says:

        On my old 650 and my current 700p from Verizon I get a notification that I have a message, click OK and I see the message, the picture, and hear the voice memo if they sent that too. One click.

        The Palm software works, it's Sprint choosing not to use that implementation.

        • jwz says:

          Sprint's network doesn't really do MMS, and that's stupid of them. But given that constraint, the fact that Palm chose to make their software such that I have to click OK seven times in a row, and then left it that way for years, can't be blamed on Sprint. It would take 20 lines of code to fix this and make it be a one click process, srsly.

          • noweb4u says:

            Actually, it does and doesn't all at once. My wife's samsung model (800 something) has a vga camera, and she has to do that wacky "click this URL" song and dance. My model (a900, 1.2mp) gets the picture directly as I'd expect from a modern MMS capable device. So it's possible on sprint, I just don't know why they haven't implemented it on more devices.

            Of course, when I send a 1.2mp image to someone else, they resize it to qvga or whatever the hell the 320x??? resolution is, and link a few layers deep to the real 1.2mp image with EXIF tags (the samsung cameraphone has real EXIF tags, even). Livejournal picture posting doesn't understand it. Flickr does. If this is the bus to the future, can someone let me off?

    • If it helps figure out who needs to be put to the fire, it works seamlessly on my Cingular Treo 360. The image pops right up.

  4. funjon says:

    iPhones can send SMS, just not MMS.

    But, I agree. This was one of the major reasons I bailed on Sprint in 2006. I was saying the exact same thing, when I cancelled: 'What the fuck year -is- this, Sprint Lady?'

  5. ivan_ghandhi says:

    Right... how about making calls from my Sprint Pocket PC? First, it says it's dialing. For about ten minutes. You go crazy, you pull out the battery, and put it back, and it wakes up. Now you dial the number again. The phone says it is "off". Do you want it "on"? Yes, I do. Okay, the dialog closes. You dial again. Now it is in Flight Mode. Do you want to turn the Flight Mode off? Yes I do. Off it goes. Dial again. It's still in flight mode. Do you want it off? Yes, I do. Off it goes. Dial again. Sorry, could not dial your number, please check the number. (Say, it is your own number, i.e. your voicemail. Or anouther number on your own account - and they know it. Could THEY check their own number?) Okay, dial again. Now... maybe... it connects. It says connected. And you hear the long beeps. What is so connected about it? Plywood modems, 20 years ago, knew better what is "connected".

    Is not it weird how any physical device looks so dumb these days, although all they do is just run a program? They remind me mainframes. Are they programmed by mainframe programmers?

  6. cow says:

    ha. About half the time I get a picture message, I get a link to some T-Mobile page that stores it sent to my phone instead, except the site doesn't work from the phone's WAP browser, so my only retrieval method is to manually key in the long hex URL to my laptop.

  7. vxo says:

    This kind of makes me wonder if one can just throw the phone back into analog mode and shoot SSTV over it.

    The Kenwood VC-H1 would, I suppose, have beaten all camera phones to market.

    • nrr says:

      I don't think the newer Treos speak AMPS. Even if they did, it'd be pretty hard to hack the transmitter in the phone to be general purpose enough to send SSTV (evading AMPS registration aside ;).

      Regardless, though, that's an interesting thought.

  8. korgmeister says:

    That is indeed a pretty big UI screwup. I hope one day when I'm working in embedded systems I can in some way help to make mobile phones less annoying to use.

    (Mobile phones and mobile computing have fascinating potential, but stuff like this shows how they're still a really immature technology.)

    • waider says:

      I don't think the problem is immature technology so much as it's immature use of technology. Constant UI stupidity is possibly the single most annoying thing about owning a cellphone. You can't even rely on "same manufacturer, same UI", since it seems like every time someone gets any way good at UI, they suffer cerebral explosions that cause them to think things like "I know, we'll put a CURVED keypad on this!" or "Let's make the user go through an Are You Sure? dialog for every action".

      • korgmeister says:

        In my opinion, if a technology is routinely being used/developed in a stupid way, it's still immature. My opinion of the maturity of a technology generally has more to do with how it's used than the technology itself. It takes a long time before a consensus can be reached about what the right way to use a technology is.

        Although bear in mind I tend to regard most technology less than 100 years old as being "immature". By the time a technology has been around for that long, there's an accumulation of "accepted wisdom" widespread amongst those who work with it. Compare how much civil engineering (with several millenia of history) is 'nailed down' compared to electronic engineering. (To say nothing of computer programming, which is even more immature.)

        Bear in mind I do not describe a technology as "immature" as a pejorative. It's more an acknowledgement that there's still a great deal left to understand about it (and, of course, plenty of low-hanging fruit for those who want to make a buck advancing understanding of it).

      • luserspaz says:

        I got a goddamn LG Chocolate because it was free.

        Worst. UI. Ever.

        The damn thing has a touch-sensitive panel instead of real buttons, but all that means is that you hit the wrong button something like 90% of the time. Also, they designed it to look like a scroll wheel (ooh, shiny), but it does not in fact function like one, despite the fact that the menus are also round. It is probably the most worthless phone I have ever had.

  9. scullin says:

    Yeah, on an iPhone you're expected to email photos. That's like 1960's technology, wtf?

  10. robflynn says:

    I feel your pain. I was bitching about this same thing warlier today!

  11. diapholom says:

    lol all hackers have bad karma

    i use a siemens ef81
    why pocket calculators

  12. jered says:

    Not to be an apologist, but you can view MMS on an iPhone with exactly the same rigmarole. You get an SMS that says something along the lines of "You have a new message! Go to to see!"

    Conveniently, the iPhone fails to recognize that link as clickable, so you just have to remember it when you go over to the browser. From there, the experience is similarly painful. Also, you can't download images off the web, only view.

    The underlying reason for all this is that MMS is the biggest crock since... oh, I don't know, ISDN? (No, not complicated enough.) It's all "HTTP is a session layer" bullshit that was the rage in the late 90s, with a big dollop of OSI on top. I'd applaud Apple's effort to kill that in favor of simply using email, but I'm sure it was just that they didn't have the MMS app done yet.

    • sc00ter says:

      From some testing I've done with two people at work, it doesn't always work like that.

      Sometimes the iphone user gets the url, sometimes nothing happens, and sometimes the sending user get a bounce back that says that the receiving user can not receive MMS messages.

    • diggets says:

      The one time someone tried to MMS me on my iPhone, it simply didn't arrive.

      What's wrong with emailing photos? I'm not an apologist, I've simply never sent a MMS.

      I'll tell you this much, the iPhone's SMS application is the most simple and elegant I've ever seen. My grandma could text on the iPhone. Since June 30th I've texted more than I have my entire life thus far.

      • grahams says:

        What's wrong with emailing photos? I'm not an apologist, I've simply never sent a MMS.

        How is he supposed to control how OTHER people send him messages?

      • Ironically, on my Treo (cingul^wAT&^wNSA), it's far, *far* faster and easier to send pictures via MMS than via email. So, I guess "crappy phone email software (if you don't have an iPhone)" is the answer.

  13. kevincarter says:

    Good Messaging for the Treo is pretty seamless-- two clicks and you can see the SMS.

  14. 7ghent says:

    That's because apparently Sprint has no idea how to implement a proper MMS server. T-Mobile, Cingular/ATT and Verizon all work fairly well for this so long as your hardware isn't retarded.

  15. darkengobot says:

    What year is this?


    I sent a picture message to my wife once--both of us are on T-Mobile--and she had to go to a Web site to see the image. I never tried to determine whether it was a Nokia/Symbian thing or something else; I was simply too flabbergasted to bother.

    Funny thing is I've received MMS from other carriers on my Motorola just fine. Sometimes I wonder why I get up in the mornings.

    • tiff_seattle says:

      it's a t-mobile thing, not a platform thing. the first mms to a tmo number initializes the account and they make you view it from a web site for the first few messages. after that, it downloads directly to your phone, regardless of the platform.

      • darkengobot says:

        Well, hell, that's good to know, but man alive, I assumed it was going to be such a pain I never sent her another picture of the baby being cute as fuck.

        I guess my first MMS did the same thing, but I don't recall it. Of course, I came to T-Mobile through corporate acquisitions rather than rational choice.

        • tiff_seattle says:

          usa mobile carriers are bastards

          • darkengobot says:

            It's funny, my first carrier was a smaller one, Powertel. Good prices--they had an unlimited minutes special for $59/mo back in 1996, IIRC--and great service. Bought by Voicestream. Not horrific, but not my beloved Powertel. Then Voicestream was acquired by T-Mobile. I've mostly stayed through laziness, though their all-you-can-eat EDGE data @ $20/mo is better than the rest of the industry, if laggy as all hell.

  16. ultranurd says:

    Sadly, I have no difficulty receiving the occasional spam stock tip image via MMS.

  17. loic says:

    Sprint uses bizaro proprietary CDMA rather than GSM. You're using the AOL of phone networks.

    I just wish there was a non-sucking GSM carrier in the Bay Area I could tell you that you should be using instead.

  18. defenestr8r says:

    wait, weren't you once upon a time making fun of me for not being able to receive pictures on my phone? and now i can because you harassed me into getting that set up.

    had i known you had such a hassle receiving them, i would not have sent so many irrelevant pictures to you. well, ok, maybe 10% less.

  19. ghosthacked says:

    What year is this?

    Whatever year Steve Jobs says it is.

    Not going to buy an iphone/touch that puppy with a 30' pole. Not the first rev of any device for that matter.

  20. jakichan says:

    Of course it's evil. Sprint's Picture Mail is a completely outsourced solution. It's outsourced to VeriSign.

    So every time you get a Sprint picture message you are making money for VeriSign. Do you feel dirty yet?

    • artlung says:

      Holy shit that's depressing. My boycott of all things VerSign? FAIL.

      I have no advice for jwz though. FAIL2.

      I have Sprint and an M500 phone which I like because I installed Opera Mini and Gmail App and that pretty much covers my interwebs needs. I can take pix and email them to flickr and they "take" pretty well. Picture mail on the phone works good when I get it from other Sprint customers. I don't send or receive enough sms with pictures to have experienced what you experience but it reminds me for all the world of the stupid process of just emailing it to myself and trying to read it on a desktop machine. Dumb.

      I have not found a way to allow the apps to communicate with each other -- no attachments can be added to a draft in Gmail and Opera can't access the local MicroSD drive (that I can tell).

      • jakichan says:

        Oh, BTW, VeriSign operates the biggest SS7 network in the country. So if you call long distance across networks then you use VeriSign. You can't escape them.

  21. webwench says:

    Sometimes I get a picture mail an hour after it was sent, sometimes a day or two, sometimes a week later, and sometimes later. Same for picture mail that I send. It's retarded.