Are you a digital Frankenstein too?

Image - digital frankenstein.jpg

I admit it; I’m a digital Frankenstein. And I’m curious to know how many other Frank’s are out there, suffering the slings and arrows of our pitchfork-wielding providers…

This week I’ve been feeling the pain of my digital Frankenstein life. I’ve never been a zealot; I love technology when it works well, but that means following the best and not the brand. As a consequence I - like I imagine many people out there - have a patchwork of technologies stitched together. It’s a strong combo at times, but it can be ugly too, as Frank would be the first to admit.

My phone is from Apple, as is my watch and my laptop and tablet - but I use G Suite for email and Google for Docs and Sheets. I don’t think the Apple Homepod is worth the money they demand for it, and love the smarts in Google Home - so my home has three Google Home devices, and the Google Wifi setup is a treat.

It’s the same with music and movies - I use iTunes at times, I especially love their 99c movies on rainy weekends - but I’m also signed up to Stan, Foxtel and most recently Amazon Prime. I own digital movies on Google Play and iTunes. I have a Kindle reader which is amazing for reading outside, and a Spotify family account we share for music. My car, since I have an iPhone, connects to Apple Carplay and Siri.

Musical mopes

Let’s start with my musical pains.

For a while I had Apple Music. Great music, family options, and I could select music in the car just by asking Siri. But arrive home and ask for music, and nothing happens - Google Home won’t play iTunes.

So I got a Spotify free account. That kind of works, it’ll play some of the music you ask for, but the ads and the approach wore me down and I eventually upgraded to Spotify, then (as the children complained) to Spotify Family. But paying for two accounts seemed crazy, so in the end I canceled Apple Music, reasoning that Spotify will play well at home, and there’s a Spotify app for the iPhone which plays through Apple Carplay.

Now my kitchen experience is awesome - but in the car I can only use the menu to navigate to Spotify and pick music, since Siri refuses to play nice with a third party app. Recently on a long drive (in and out of radio range in the back of NSW) Spotify stopped playing nice entirely, and I spent 4 hours in the car with nothing at all to listen to.

Worse than this, I recently discovered a huge flaw in the Google Home platform. I’ve used my G Suite email address to configure everything, including Spotify. But I’ve now realised that Google Home can’t integrate G Suite calendars with the device. If you have a free Gmail account it works fine and tells you when you’re appointments are - but nada if you have a pro account.

And even more painfully, it won’t let me add my wife, because she too has a G Suite email address.

That means when one of the kids gets up and starts playing their music in the kitchen, Google thinks it’s me - and promptly stops my Spotify music playing in the car or at work or wherever I am. This now starts a fun little game of ‘own the Spotify baton’, which normally ends with both parties getting the hump and nobody playing any music at all.

So I’m being punished by Google, for paying for Google services. People who use Gmail for free get told what ‘s on their calendar and can teach Google Home to recognise each other, and play their own music. Those idiots like me who paid for professional Google services - well, we can just go spin, apparently.

TV bloopers

Now my TV is a Sony Smart TV, which means it mostly plays nice with everyone. It has apps for all the streaming services I use, and my Apple TV device plugs in fine. I can ask the Google Home to play something on the TV and it works fine. Great! So great, in fact, that there are now no less than three different ways to play Stan (through the TV, through Apple TV and through the Fetch TV box). All of which have different app interfaces and commands, which is fun.

Except, the bedroom TV isn’t a smart TV, and uses the Nexus Player from Google - note that, also from Google. Another Google interface. This device will play Stan, but doesn’t have apps for anything else - so my subscriptions to Foxtel and Prime are worthless, at bed time - as is my iTunes library, unless I unplug and move the Apple TV player or downgrade to a tablet. Two devices with the same operating system, but completely different support levels for content.

Reading the riot act

Amazon is a great platform to read, and lets me have apps on my other devices - however since those devices are iOS devices, it won’t actually let me purchase books through a store. I have to go out of the reader and open a browser and log into the account and find the book, and then purchase. All because I’m not on an Amazon platform.

Laptop laments

Finally, since I’m using G Suite I’m using Google Drive for work, a great app. But on iOS devices, somewhat hamstrung; the apps don’t work as advertised and have some serious flaws in terms of how they integrate - using Google Sheets on iOS is a completely different experience to using it on the desktop, Mac or other. Don’t ask me why, it makes zero sense - but the entire way you use Sheets and Docs changes.

Apple, I think, is limiting what they can do as it wants you to play with iCloud, not Drive.

Which pieces to lop off?

Okay, I’m a digital Frankenstein. I own movies in several platforms, I have Google devices and Gmail but also iOS and Amazon hardware. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, life can suck.

But here’s my dilemma - which pieces of my Frankenstein self do I lop off?

I could go complete Apple, and switch to Books, iCloud and Homepod - but that means losing my library in Amazon, my movies in Google Play, losing my Kindle device, throwing away my Google Home devices, and downgrading from a pretty okay Google Assistant to a relatively unfriendly Siri replacement (along with around $1500 in costs to replace the three devices I’m using).

Or I could switch to the Google or Amazon versions, and go through the same - or even worse - pains and costs.

Or, alternatively, these three Doctors could stop playing games with us, and let their tech work together just a little better.

After all, Victor, we’ve suffered enough…

Gary BunkerComment