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Saturday, 22 February 2014

Google + Nexus = Not the technical excellence I expected

[Short link to this article if you need it -  - or retweet me]

I bought a Nexus10 tablet - brilliant hardware for the money (especially that screen, although AMOLED would've been nicer but pushed up the price a lot I suspect). Good news right? Well I thought so except for two issues I started having with it (Google+ links included which in turn have links into forum threads from others talking about each issue)

  1. It crashed roughly once a day
  2. The notification LED on it seemed to stop working.

The background

At this time I couldn't be sure if both were happening with the "out of the box" Android 4.2 - it updated over the air (OTA) to 4.2.1 within 24 hours of using it 

In an effort to diagnose the problem I tried changing the applications I was using on it, but it didn't appear to make a lot of difference. I then decided it was worth having a shot at a factory reset... Which appeared to fix the LED notification issue. Great problem solved I thought. Until either the first or second crash/reboot when it stopped working again. Subsequently this has happened a few times - if I reflash/reset then the LED works until one of the first few reboots. Therefore that issue appears software related.

February 6th - calling Google

Here was a page I got to while looking up the contact details - with their own browser it doesn't seem like they want to provide any contact options!

So I called up Google to discuss these. The American lady on the end of the phone seemed very sympathetic. Almost too sympathetic. "I know how frustrating it can be ..." seemed to be her favorite phrase, empathising with me on the subject of hardware not just working as it should, and offered me a replacement device. Now bear in mind that the LED was clearly not broken, and many others had similar faults, it was hard to believe that it was a hardware issue. At the same time the issues appeared specific to the Nexus devices - particularly the 10 - which suggested it was in some way related to the hardware on there.

But what the heck - they're going to send out another one, put a "pending" charge on my account for it until I return the old one (within 21 days of receiving the replacement)

The second device

So I got the second unit, and decided to leave it at standard out-of-the-box 4.2 and not allow the OTA update. It appeared that the LED worked fine, and it took a while for the first crash to occur, but it eventually did.
Now at this point I still had the original Nexus. And while there wasn't an OTA 4.2.2 available to me yet (it was a staged roll out) there was a version of 4.2.2 which could be downloaded and installed. Since I had the other device, on February 13th I decided to give it a shot and pulled it up to 4.2.2. Once again the LED worked., but once again it stopped after a couple of reboots/crashes. I then followed a process to reset it it back to 4.2. Same happened - LED stopped working after a couple of reboots. So the second device appears to consistently fail with the LED, but the replacement - still on 4.2 - appeared not to have that problem, but still crashed. Here's a couple of screenshots from "Bootlog Uptime":

So the old one on 4.2.2 (on the right) seems more stable, but then I wasn't using it as much during that period. The original one on 4.2 was still crashing. For the next few days I used the 4.2.2 one and it started crashing slightly more regularly.

21st February - Contacting google again - via email

I thought I'd try to reason with Google at this point. After all, they're a major technology company who I have a lot of respect for, so surely they'll respond to their customers on a technical issue ...


I'm ready to return one of the devices back to you know (I've been running some more experiments on both before returning it) but I wanted to report the current situation.

My original device has been updated to 4.2.2. Every time an OS upgrade happens on it the notification LED appears to work correctly until the first - or occasionally second - restart (which,of course, happens in under a week because of the crashing issue)

The new second device you sent me appears to have no problems with the LED so far, but I've declined to perform any OS upgrade on it - it's still at 4.2. However it still crashes regularly - there is a screenshot of a log from the "Bootlog uptime" app at showing how regularly each of the two devices has been crashing so far. As per the comment in there, the 4.2.2 one is showing less crashes,but that's because I've been mostly using the new one to detect any problems.

The bottom line is that the crashing issues is still present on the replacement device. I do not know if the LED issue would be present if I allowed the system update to 4.2.1 or 4.2.2 to proceed, but I am reluctant to try it in case it doesn't work and I can't get the LED working reliably again.

Can you let me know whether there is any outlook on getting a fix for these issues, and what you suggest I do, because it seems reasonably clear that these devices have faults. The LED issue is common to many people (See ) and likewise for the crashing (See!topic/mobile/VFYnt7uN9d0%5B1-25-true%5D ) I would really like Google to acknowledge and provide a tracking mechanism/outlook for these issues as any self-respecting software development company would (I work for one myself) Despite the suggestions of some, the reboots are not specific to when Chrome is being used as the foregound application, although it is possible it has been started and in the task switcher in each case.

One of your other emails said "Thanks for using Google Play and we look forward to your feedback!" so there it is. Please advise how to proceed in order to get these significant issues resolved - I've been along time big supporter of google, but this is seriously damaging your reputation in  imy eyes. I would be delighted to work with you to resolve them, as a customer service of "Oh we'll just replace it" probably isn't going to appease your users if the fault is a software one.

Which gave this response, which did not give me confidence that the person on the end had any technical ability whatsoever - it was just another sales/marketing response:

Hello Stewart,

Thank you for contacting Google Play. I understand you had concerns regarding your Nexus 10. I understand how important this is to you. I'm happy to assist you with that today. Please let us know as soon as possible if you wish to return your Nexus 10 for a refund as you only have 2 more days of your buyers remorse. We appreciate your suggestions about Google Play. We frequently share customer feedback with our development team and will be sure to pass along your input. 

Thanks for your interest in our Nexus 10's..

If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to reply directly to this email. Also, you may visit us at:

A generous offer, but I wanted to work with them if possible to try and get a resolution to the issues. I sent this back to them:

Thank you for the offer. However can you offer any suggestion as to the issues I mentioned? By seemingly not giving any acknowledgement of an issue or any suggestion that there will ever be a fix then you are doing your customers a disservice by keeping the device on sale. I would go as far as to say you are misadvising it as having a notification LED which doesn't work in any useful manner. I've offered all the info I have, I'd run diagnostics if it would help, but if all you can do is replace/refund (i.e. such issues are being hidden by sales teams rather than being addressed by the passionate developers I know you have working for you - I've considered joining you myself) rather than show any interest in such flaws then I'm staggered ... A vague promise of passing it along is useless.

I love the device. My choice would be not to get a refund if possible, but I need some assurance that the problems, which are not limited to just me, are being worked on. Can you give any reassurance in any of these areas, or can you find someone who can?

And got absolutely no response whatsoever. I guess they didn't want to provide any such reassurances. My respect for Google has now dropped significantly. They're not interested in dealing with resolving technical customer problems with their devices. I find myself thinking "Apple would probably have done this better" but as most people know I'm just not an Apple person. I figured I'd get the original unit packed up and sent back to google was within the 21 day period, but I'm keeping the second one. The screen's just too nice, and I need some sort of device ...

Where am I now?

So I did indeed keep the device despite the problems. On the plus side, the LED on the replacement unit was ultimately reliable - it's now running 4.4 (KitKat) of course. But it still crashes on average over once a week (78 times since I got it) So ultimately it worked, but it seems strange that they had what appears to have been a software issue that wasn't acknowledged by the staff.
Do I regret buying it? I had serious reservations after the above interactions with google, and I still think I'd still rather have had a 2nd gen Surface it it had been available at the time, but ultimately the Nexus10 has had plenty of use and was worth the money.

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