Arnt Gulbrandsen
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2012-03-19

Why do people tolerate suckage?

When I feel the phone growing hot in my pocket, I don't have to guess why. Menu→Settings→Battery usage, and high on the list I invariably see the Economist. Yesterday it spent about a minute helping me read the magazine. Later, in my pocket, the app went into battery-burning mode, spent eighteen minutes working the CPU as hard as it could, and then I noticed the heat. (A few weeks ago it did the same on my desk, and the phone reached 71°C before I noticed.)

Last Friday, just before flying home, I thought I'd check whether it had downloaded the latest issue, as it supposedly should do automatically every Thursday evening. No, it hadn't. Further, it refused to download the issue then, saying I wasn't connected to the internet and would I please try later. I read my mail and surfed the web, then tried again. Still no internet connection, said the Economist. I couldn't read the magazine during that flight.

That's when the app is broken. When it works as intended, it's not much more pleasant. It has the mark of the navel-gazer, it doesn't remember which articles I've read, registering a print subscription requires the user to (I quote the on-screen instructions) hit back twice, then log in again, and it sports advertisements that glue themselves to the screen. Swiping right is supposed to lead to the next article, but those ads stay right there. The only way to read on is to return to the main menu, scroll down and select the next article.

Yes as I write this, half the reviewers have given the thing five stars. Why do people tolerate such suckage?

Update: I wrote to the Economist and cancelled my subscription, saying that much as I appreciate the magazine, I appreciate a working phone incomparably more. Four days later they sent me a fixed version of the app by email. I infer from this that the Economist people may tolerate a suckful app, but they don't like it when their readers decamp. Makes sense: If the app is acceptable to their customers, it's acceptable to the Economist. I'm still no closer to understanding why people tolerate suckage in general.

Update: The updated version is in the Android Market now, but it still drains the battery occasionally. Suckage, tolerate, why oh why.