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RANT! Pulling A Vlingo – A Case Study

Since we mentioned Vlingo we have been receiving a ton of emails and comments with complaints about the software. I could not believe what readers were claiming so I decided to try it myself. I was disappointed to say the least.

RantThen I got this rant from Harold and had to share. I think this is an important lesson that Vlingo has learned the hard way. Releasing a service/software without the correct quality assurance has led to thousands of people being disappointed and turned off from their service. This is a lesson all developers should take to heart. Below is just one example of how users react to such issues in a final release.

Please understand that the main reason I am sharing this is not to point fingers but rather to show how a flopped launch can alienate a company’s potential customers. The fact that the service and application are free does not rectify the issue.

While Vlingo may have fixed some of these usability issues by the time you read this, the purpose and point of the rant still rings true. I truly feel bad since Vlingo really has a great idea but fumbled with the launch. They are not the first with such an issue and they will not be the last. Hopefully they are working hard to fix these issues in a future release.

(Begin Rant!)

An open letter to Vlingo from your former user Harold

How in the world do you get to the point where you are named one of the “Ten Emerging Mobile Players to Watch in 2008” and then release a product to the unsuspecting public that does not function as advertised?


Very early in the morning I received an email about this great new software that was going to change the way we use our BlackBerry Phones forever. I bit on the hype hook, line, and sinker and downloaded it OTA, only to find that there is a glitch. Ha glitch funny. I continued for four hours fighting with the Vlingo application. Going back and fourth to the forums to see if there was a fix. There was none but we are assured that one is on the way.

The hang up was at step 4 in the set up process. Vlingo prompts you to speak a phrase into the phone and then attempts to connect to its servers to do its thing. That’s as far as it would go for my 8100 and for many users. I tried in vain to change all the settings that Vlingo recommended, network settings, firewall, and permissions. NO JOY. There is a feature that lets you send in a help request to Vlingo and they send you a code to start the trouble shooter but alas that too failed as it is voice controlled.

What happened with the beta? I am not sure, I wasn’t in on it. Was it even beta tested on all the different Blackberry Models? Carriers? Maybe the data it is trying to send to the servers is to much on a GSM/CDMA connection and it will only work on WiFi. But isn’t that the purpose of beta testing?

Can it be fixed? I hope so. Vlingo will have to take a look at what the differences are between the beta and the release and see where they missed the boat.

I am not a developer or anything close to a technoweenie. In fact I am the polar opposite. I am a user of technology and devices that can seem frivolous to some but actually do serve a purpose in my life and work. I depend on the techno elite to do their service just as there are those that depend on me to fulfill my military duties on a daily basis.

Vlingo has released a product that does not perform anywhere close to what was advertised. This product was beta tested and some of those testers have responded on forums elsewhere that the beta version, though it had some issues, worked better than the release. The press release states ” Vlingo is currently supported on the BlackBerry(R) Pearl(TM), BlackBerry(R) Curve(TM) and BlackBerry(R) 8800 series smartphones. Vlingo will be adding additional devices and operating systems in the third and fourth quarters of 2008.” Not even close!! It may work on some of the phones (WiFi) but many users were left out in the cold.

So you might resort to saying: Whoa dude but it is a free service!!! You should be appreciative of their generosity.

Yeah, well, so is getting rescued at sea, but if I or my organization came to rescue you at sea half assed you could bet there would be some backlash. Nonetheless, I appreciate those that release their wares as free even if they are a little buggy. I even enjoy a beta test here and there. This is just beyond belief. I am supposed to be thankful that I downloaded some junkware, and I should be supportive of the effort, even after being misled?

Vlingo, in my opinion has lost some street cred in the Blackberry world, but not enough that it can’t recover it. Vlingo should also do themselves a favor and make sure your product works before you e-mail blast 3/4 of the free world in the early morning.

Yours truly,

17 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. i ranted about this Vlingo crap on PinStack literally minutes after it was released and got blasted by users for complaining about it. it sucks a$$ and was released waaaaay too early. it has some potential, but was extremely over hyped by that joker hayden trying to drive site traffic. they may have 400K+ users, but they are no longer the go-to site for BB users….sorry Crackberry owns the BB community currently, as well as berryreview. Vlingo is worthless at this point…..and that is why its free and half a$$ed. just another example of how PinStack doesn’t get it anymore and why i no longer use their site.

  2. In fairness to vlingo I had the polar opposite experience. Download while driving on I95, installed fine and was functioning with minutes. This was minutes after Pinstack made it available. This is a vioce rec. App that really works, unlike the canned one included with my curve. This will become the second app that will not be deleted, right behind Viigo.

  3. i had ZERO problems with install. most install problems are due to user ignorance and/or combination of 3rd party apps. IT policies generally cause issues as well. vlingo is just not at the level yet to claim to be a BB experience changer. its interaction with its own server, and the lack of speed, creates issues if you try to speak more than a few sentences w/ out letting go and allowing the app to catch up (and for you to correct its mistakes). ALSO its slower than Christmas launching apps after you say “Open Browser”. i could hit my apps button, launch the app, and already be a couple steps ahead by the time Vlingo launches it. its just not that great, period.

  4. My experience was half good and half bad. As soon as I installed it, I followed all the directions, and it worked really great, all except the “Open” or “Start” command to open an application. I could open the Calendar, but not the Camera, and other BlackBerry apps, etc… All this was while I was at work, over WiFi. Once I left my WiFi zone to have lunch with my Wife, I wanted soooo much to show it to her. It’s amazing I said, look! I spoke a command, waited, waited, waited…. Oh, it don’t work on EDGE looks like. How embarrassed was I? Had to uninstall it, because I can’t always be on WiFi.

  5. I’m running on an 8100 and couldn’t get past step 4 either, but I didn’t bash the service as a result. Also, I’ve seen Vlingo in action and it does work, but I think a big part of it is learning your speech patterns and adjusting Vlingo to better recognize what you’re saying. In any case, I don’t think it’s fair to judge an app in its entirety based on one poor experience – the mileage of others may vary.

  6. The point is not to bash Vlingo. They have a great idea. I am sure it works and is very innovative. I applaud them for being so creative.

    The problem arose when they released a product that could not have possibly passed quality control. Especially when they had an extensive beta test.

    Imagine if RIM released an OS that only let you make calls over WiFi. It could have the most amazing features and be extremely innovative. Users would be rightfully pissed. Even if it was a free OS upgrade.

  7. Its a simple case of burn me once shame on me, burn me twice… I don’t think users will be lining up to try Vlingo now.

    Its a shame because it is essentially a free version of the expensive voice to go service

  8. I’ve yet to get past step 4 as well, and Simons comments on adjusting voice patterns and such, may work for some…but really I have tried everything, I had 5 different people use their voice to try and get past the step with no go, also adjusted my speech (Canadian accent eh) by accentuating certain words and letters..still no go..what I find odd though, is that the stupid MS live search recognizes my voice fine as kind..Ahh well, I hope they figure it out and can fix it for for I dunno what i’m missing out on anyways cause it never worked lol!!

  9. Like most people here, I got stuck on Step 4 where the application would not recognize my voice. I have a Curve and I could not get it to work after over 15 attempts. I then decided to wait until I got home, and tried it using my network (UMA) instead of EDGE (I have T-Mobile), and in my first attempt, it worked fine. I heard on PinStack that if you turned wireless off while on EDGE, it would work, but it didn’t work for me.

    Once I got it fully installed on UMA, I tried using it at work the next day or EDGE and I was back to having the same problem. I really wish the application would work as I think it would be really cool (especially for text messages and/or email). Unfortunately, I just haven’t had any success with it outside of my home.


  10. My BES policies don’t allow the users to set the Vlingo permissions to the desired low security level. The lowest users can go is ‘Prompt’ (afterwards they can allow). I requested Vlingo for a workaround and they replied me to contact my BES Administrator… Now if you know that my message to them started with ” Dear Vlingo, I am a BES Administrator for….” you understand that not just the app, but the people themselves seem to be unable to listen.

  11. “….I continued for four hours fighting with the Vlingo application. ” Right there is your problem. I don’t give crap software that much of my time. If it doesn’t work pretty quickly, 20 – 30 minutes tops, I will ignore it until it improves. Or I may never go back, depending on how bad it is. This seems more of an issue for users the companies. If a company knows that no how crappy their product is users will go way out of their way to get it to work without much complaints, why bother releasing quality software. The burden falls to all users to quick using crap products and put worthless companies out of business (not that I am saying vlingo falls into this category, but I am not saying it doesn’t either)

    I was able to download the app, and it installed without problems, but I don’t think it is very useful. I think only a tool would talk to their blackberry instead of a few quick keystrokes, but that is just me.

    Crap + Free = Is still crap!

  12. I have been on vlingo from beta and i had a great experience with them. it worked flawlessly from the get go…all the guys that complain they can’t open other applications should read the instructions/set up wizard that comes up in the beginning when installing the software. it clearly says that it currently supports only few default applications and i think they r working on supporting other apps later (which i wud love). and as for brinky who thinks only tools talk to blackberry…isn’t that what u do on a phone? the idea is to use voice to text to do some of the things that u normally won’t.

    i use vlingo all the time for some of its awesome features like notes2self, text message and emails and sometimes to call ppl as well. these features especially come in handy for ppl like me who r on the drive and help get some things planned and done.

    i agree that vlingo shud have considered the impacts/effects on its system when releasing on a large scale…but their beta was pretty extensive. they got tonnes of feedback/bug reports that they worked on and fixed. they selected beta testers based on the carriers, phone model and even OS among some other criteria. anyway…i just thought i shud post my positive experience in favor of vlingo just coz most of the posts here are negative posts here for an awesome software with a great potential. also, keep in mind, more ppl with problems tend to post than all the ppl that dont have any and r busy using the software and not posting to complain (some complaints r legit…but other “ranters” need to get a life) if the software doesn’t work for u, u dont have to “fight” with it all day..and kyle – no single community “owns” the blackberry world…just my 2 cents!

  13. It didn’t work for me either (step 4) but doesn’t the old saying go, “Any publicity is good publicity”. Everyone with anything to do with CrackBerry, BlackBerry Forums, PinStack or BerryReview now know what Vlingo does (or was suppose to do). When the word goes out that all the issues have been resolved then 10 times as many will download it just to see if it really works.
    Bad for Vlingo, I think not…

  14. I agree Greg. I wasn’t interested in Vlingo before reading this article, but now I’m interested in loading it to see how it will work on my BB. Especially since no one has mentioned that it caused any damage, just didn’t work properly.

  15. ” My experience was half good and half bad. As soon as I installed it, I followed all the directions, and it worked really great, all except the “Open” or “Start” command to open an application. I could open the Calendar, but not the Camera, and other BlackBerry apps, etc… All this was while I was at work, over WiFi. Once I left my WiFi zone to have lunch with my Wife, I wanted soooo much to show it to her. It’s amazing I said, look! I spoke a command, waited, waited, waited…. Oh, it don’t work on EDGE looks like. How embarrassed was I? Had to uninstall it, because I can’t always be on WiFi. ”

    I agree with you alot. Only worked UMA, but the program worked perfectly with me after extensive use, it did 90% of what it did, that is speaking clear and concise easy words. But I felt stupid because I was so hyped up to show my cousin like look what my phone can do, and it didnt work on EDGE, so I said the service is probably bad and Ran away to keep some pride lol.

  16. I tried Vlingo for exactly four hours and immediately uninstalled it. I found it annoyingly slow and inaccurate. For those of us who do not speak American English, e.g. UK English, the voice recognition is hopeless and kept coming up with the weirdest words. I tried an admittedly bad American English accent and it seemed to work much better, but when people started looking at me strangely, because I sounded like a bit player from a B-Grade Western movie and talking to my phone, I realized it had to go. Worse still, was when it disabled the speaker and microphone on the handset. I would receive a call, but could not hear the other party or say something to them. Once uninstalled and restarted, the phone works fine.
    In principle, I think its a great idea, but the developer needs to work out the bugs, before I would be tempted to try a second time.

  17. Apparently I should be happy I missed the drama versions. I just dl’d it and so far I’m extremely impressed. Easily the best app I’ve put on my Curve. Only thing I’d change is making it applicable to all applications. Now obviously you can’t program something for all variables and there would be problems with similar sounding things, but what I’m saying is I speak “anything” and if it doesn’t have a default match it prompts me with the option to assign whatever I said to any application on the phone. Similar to calling a Windows desktop shortcut whatever you want and pointing it to anything you want. Now if this is already possible, by all means I’d love to know how, because their website, under “Technology” claims “Any application can be speech enabled” … but I dont’ see it, and their support tab on the same site says “You can use the vlingo™ software to open the following applications on your device:” and it’s a finite list.

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