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The Invisible Hand

I hesitate to report on this for fear of being pitied and mocked, but honestly compels.

If, like me, you are the proud owner of a Verizon-Motorola-Google Droid, you will be interested to know that its synchronization problems that cause the entire machine to seize up, its dumb search function that cannot even find appointments in its own calendar, and other sundry design problems are dwarfed by a new one I’ve discovered: The Invisible Hand!

Lest you think I am the only poor soul so afflicted, I recommend you google or bing “motorola android touch screen jitter”.

This is the situation. Sometimes, the Droid screen starts to jitter, as though stroked by invisible touches from some phantom Dybbuk trying to arouse it. It looks as though it is suffering endless and continual touch screen input. The screen scrolls up and down, left and right, opens up the picture gallery, displays menus, asks you to enter data, ceaselessly.

Needless to say, this makes looking at your calendar or dialing a phone number an impossibility. Often, it makes unlocking the screen and using the smartphone in any way at all a non-event.

I’ve experienced this occasionally over the past few months, and it seemed to happen after I put the phone in my pocket. I thought that maybe it was accumulating touches from my pocket lining and then trying to parse them. Trying to kick it out of its Parkinsonian tremors, I eventually removed the battery, but when I re-inserted it the behavior continued. I thought perhaps that, being a smartphone, it buffered all its touchscreen inputs, and that even after I put in the battery again, it was still trying to parse the meaningless strokes it experienced in my pocket. Usually, after a few hours, it seemed, the buffer emptied.

But this may have been my fantasy. For the past day or two my phone has been in extremis, trembling at invisible touches that seem to resume even after a quiet night spent batteryless.

I googled the string above and discovered with some relief that I am not the only one with this problem. People similarly afflicted seem to be divided as to whether this is a software problem or a hardware problem (something to do with high humidity and the electrocapacitive touch screen). Ours not to reason why, but the iPad and the iPhone don’t seem to have similar problems.

To paraphrase a slogan about dogs and cats I saw in a store recently, iPhones have owners, Droids have staff.

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