Convenience vs. Reliability

The tradeoff in technology of convenience or other advanced features for reliability is fascinating to me1. I’ve used both my AirPods Pro and my Bluetooth speaker today, and neither one has worked on the first try. What do I do? It’s not like there’s a way to debug these things (not one I’m willing to attempt, anyway).

I just put the AirPods back in their case for a few seconds, then stick them in my ears again and hope that, this time, they work. This happens, I don’t know, maybe 5% of the time? But it’s enough that I looked up the process for sending them in for repairs today.

My Bluetooth speaker, on the other hand, I don’t even expect that to work; every so often I turn it on and, despite not having changed anything since the last time, it just… doesn’t connect to my phone. Sometimes it takes a minute, and then inexplicably connects, sometimes I don’t wait, and just turn it off and on again, and, usually, after a few tries… it works.

So here’s the thing: wireless earbuds and wireless speakers are super convenient… but when you plug a wire into a jack on your device, instead, it works. Almost always. Sure, the cable frays. Sure, the jack gets lint in it.

But it’s the difference between failing once every thousand times, and failing once every twenty times. That’s the difference between “reliable” and “flaky”.

I think about this with my cool Hue lights, too: I love being able to set my lighting to different colours and brightness levels. On the other hand, every so often I try to turn my lights on (or off), and they just… don’t.

When you walk into a room and flip a light switch, if the light doesn’t come on, you pull the lightbulb out, throw it away, and put in a new one, because, unless the bulb is burnt out, that mechanism always works.

You never flick a lightswitch off… and your lights just defiantly stay on.

We’ve got all this cool technology, but reliability has gone out the window.

I don’t know what to do about that, other than accept the tradeoffs or complain about them on the internet. But… well, here we are. ¯\(ツ)

  1. That is, when it’s not driving me crazy. 😜 [return]
Dan J @danj