Stupid mobile tricks: 7 stories of smartphone horror

If the word "smartphone" has ever struck you as ironic, you aren't alone. Thank your lucky stars these horrors didn't happen to you

That might be an understatement. On the ill-fated occasion, Arrow and his colleagues were meeting with a new enterprise client. After having some laughs over their HangTime history, the client caught them off-guard by downloading the app to his own phone and giving it a whirl -- right then and there, outside the Mutual Mobile offices.

"Before we knew it, our biggest client was throwing his iPhone in the air as high as he could," Arrow recalls. Arrow watched nervously as his new client's phone went up, up, and -- yep, you guessed it -- away. The device landed on the roof of the next building over.

"The worst part -- when it landed, we heard a splash," Arrow says.

Here's hoping the poor chap at least had insurance.

The moral: When it comes to mobile technology, be careful what you suggest. You never know when your amusing anecdote might inspire a client to toss his phone onto the roof -- literally or figuratively.

Smartphone horror story No. 4: The case of the disappearing data For a mobile road warrior, the smartphone is an invaluable weapon. And when that weapon fails, all bets are off.

Tom McClintock knows the feeling. McClintock, a partner with marketing firm NSI Partners, was traveling to meet an important client when the unthinkable occurred: His smartphone, which contained all the files he needed for his meeting, stopped working.

"I'd passed through airport security, and suddenly, the phone died with no explanation," McClintock says. "I realized I'd forgotten to pack my sync cable, too, so I couldn't even connect it to my netbook to try to access the data that way."

McClintock thought fast. He called his assistant and arranged to have her dash to the airport with the cable, figuring he'd find a way to download the files off his phone once he landed. But with the clock ticking and his flight rapidly approaching, things were looking iffier by the minute.

When McClintock's assistant finally arrived, he didn't have time to make it out of the terminal and back through security again. Amazingly, the airline -- yes, those same people who scowl when you ask for a second bag of peanuts -- offered to have an agent grab the cable and bring it to McClintock's gate. He got it moments before his flight started boarding.

The moral: Never rely on a single source for important data, especially when traveling on business. Bring backups -- or, better yet, store your files in the cloud -- and you'll never have to worry about crashing and burning midway through a journey again.

Smartphone horror story No. 5: The data dollar disaster Talk may be cheap, but data sure isn't -- at least, not when your company uses capped plans and you shatter the limit.

Blake Bookstaff of CharterJets.com depends on his business's BlackBerry to keep in touch wherever he roams. He's no data hog, though: Bookstaff has only a certain amount of data he can transfer within his company's plan. If he goes over that amount, each additional megabyte costs a pretty penny.

One month, Bookstaff noticed something strange on his smartphone: an icon indicating the device was sending and receiving data far more than it normally did. He didn't think much of it and went about his day-to-day work. Weeks later, he got wind of the month's total bill -- and it practically knocked the wind out of him.

"The bill came in, and it was several hundred dollars more [than usual]," Bookstaff says. "Whatever was happening with my BlackBerry went way over my data usage allotment."

Bookstaff figures his phone started syncing data at regular intervals -- something he didn't typically allow it to do. As he discovered, one tiny setting can lead to one massive charge on the corporate account.

The moral: Unless your limits are sky-high, keep close tabs on your data and minute usage throughout the month. Whether it's a mistakenly toggled setting or some unexpected international-travel surcharge, it's all too easy to stack up accidental fees and end up with a nasty surprise.

Smartphone horror story No. 6: The sleeping smartphone Let's face it: Corporate conference calls can be pretty damn dull. So maybe it shouldn't come as a total shock that even our smartphones sometimes fall asleep midsession.

As the president of Wireless Communications Alliance, David T. Witkowski relies on his wireless phone for all of his communication needs. He regularly uses his Motorola Droid's speakerphone to help an entire room take part in a conversation.

The problem: Occasionally, the Droid fails to wake up after its screen goes dark during a call. And because the phone doesn't have a hard-wired button to end a call, this leaves Witkowski with no easy way to hang up.

"Normally I just wait until the other person drops off, which terminates the call and clears the problem," he says.

One time, that work-around plan didn't work so well. Witkowski was in the room with some clients, chatting with their customers via his Droid. His end of the conversation concluded, and the customers asked him to disconnect so that they could continue speaking privately on their own. Unfortunately, Witkowski's phone had decided to take a little nap.

"So there I am, trying to hang up the call, and the customers are saying, 'Are you still on the line?'" he remembers. "Very embarrassing, especially given that I'm the president of a 4,000-member wireless industry alliance. Of all people, I shouldn't be struggling with my phone."

The moral: No piece of technology is 100 percent dependable. Sometimes, a good old-fashioned landline -- or, if all else fails, a call-ending sledgehammer -- can go a long way.

Smartphone horror story No. 7: When a smartphone makes a splash Our final smartphone horror story gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a dropped call.

Robert Van Gool is one busy dude. His company, Gonzo Games, strives to create viral video games for a range of different electronic platforms. There's always work to be done, and Van Gool uses every minute he can to get ahead.

That means he's frequently multitasking, and not in the way you might be thinking: Van Gool, you see, sometimes takes care of business while -- er -- taking care of business. You know, a very personal kind of business.

One day, Van Gool was chatting with his lead game developer from his secondary office, so to speak, when something went terribly wrong. "The phone slipped out of my hand and plopped into the toilet, big splash and all," he confesses.

The porcelain gods were evidently watching out for Van Gool that day: His phone miraculously survived and even maintained its connection. His conversation, however, didn't fare quite so well.

"I gingerly pulled it out and realized my developer was still on the line, still talking!" Van Gool says. "I had to hang up on him, as there was no way I was going to put that phone to my ear."

The moral: Even in our culture of constant connection, some places should remain sacred from communication. Do the world a favor: When you enter the john, put down the damn phone. Your colleagues -- and your fellow restroom users -- will thank you.

More tech stupidity in action:

This article, "Stupid mobile tricks: 7 stories of smartphone horror," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com.

Read more about adventures in IT in InfoWorld's Adventures in IT Channel.

Tags Mobile platformsapplicationstelecommunicationMisadventurescareerssoftwareIT managementMobilizemobilemobile applicationsAdventures in IT

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JR Raphael

InfoWorld

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