Upgrading My Gadgetary Life in China: More Blessings from Frustrating Failures

Over at the Nauvoo Times, I just shared a story involving the frustrating failure of two Samsung devices that happened within the same week. Wonderfully, the failure of the camera led to new information from a Samsung technician about known trouble with Samsung’s USB cables. While that was irrelevant in resolving the camera problem (that had to be shipped to a US repair center for a major overhaul), it made me wonder if the firmware upgrade disaster I had experienced with my Samsung tablet might have been due to a cable problem. When I tried the upgrade again with a 3rd party cable, the problem was overcome, allowing me to keep my main Chinese translation tool in my hands instead of losing it for a couple of months. The failure of the camera (which I don’t really need anyway) was a blessing that helped me regain the use of something I really needed at the time.

Here’s an update: One week ago, my 3rd Samsung device, my most important one, also failed. I was in Atlanta, Georgia for a couple of important meetings, including the AIChE Annual Meeting, when my old but essential cell phone, a Samsung Galaxy, died. The touch screen wouldn’t work at all, so I couldn’t send or receive calls or texts. Suddenly I was a bit isolated and vulnerable. How did Primitive Man ever survive without these things?

This phone was 3 years old and had some other problems already, like a memory issue that made it impossible to add applications. I had lost so much time fighting problems with my Samsung tablet that I resolved to buy a better device next time, even if the cost was painful.

In fact, I had been trying for a few weeks to buy an iPhone 6 Plus in China, a device that could be both a phone a replacement for my tablet, but the demand here is so high and the supply so small that it is just about impossible to buy one. You have to sort of win an online lottery held each morning around 8 AM to reserve a phone, and my efforts so far had all been in vain. Now on my last day in Atlanta, as I was wrapping up my conference and about to head back to my hotel after a little shopping, my cell phone died. I had been told by an Apple employee in China that it would be best to buy my phone in China since a US phone would be locked and might be difficult to get it working on the Chinese network. But when I went to the mall near my hotel in Atlanta, to my surprise there was an Apple store there, so I thought I should at least inquire.

In the Apple store, I learned that a Verizon-version of the iPhone had been reported to work OK in China. It might work, but they couldn’t guarantee it. But they had the phone I wanted in stock, the 64 Gig 6 Plus–and in gold, the color of choice in China. Do I dare risk buying it, knowing that it might not work at all? Foolishly perhaps, it just seemed like the thing to do, and having done all I could to make this decision, chose to risk it. The full story is shared on my “Shake Well” blog about life in China, but basically it ended up being the perfect choice and the 4G SIM card from China Mobile ended up working fine, even though a China Mobile technician explained that the model Apple sold me could not possibly work in China. In fact, I have now heard that had I bought the phone in China, it would only work with a China Telecom contract and the card my company provides wouldn’t fly. Not sure if that’s the case, but I certainly have to be grateful for the perfect timing of another Samsung failure that helped me upgrade my gadgetary life.

The wonderfully timed failure of the Samsung cell phone gave me the impetus and courage to respond to the surprise encounter with an Apple store to get the phone I felt I needed for roles and activities that really require having a good gadget with me (Chinese translation, communication, and many other tasks). I was able to get it at just the right time, leaving me just enough time to also visit the nearby Atlanta Temple that night before taking an early flight back to Shanghai the next morning.

Sometimes failures are blessings in disguise, though the disguise was thinly veiled in this case.

Your bad luck, your trials, your pains, can sometimes lead to good that might not have been realized otherwise. So don’t be overly frustrated when things around you fail, or when you look back at your own failures. Look forward to the good that come next and be grateful for each new blessing that comes your way. And for all I know, there’s probably even an app for that.

Author: Jeff Lindsay

4 thoughts on “Upgrading My Gadgetary Life in China: More Blessings from Frustrating Failures

  1. What an awesome bit of geekery, Jeff. Such trials you've endured! Such pains! But for those with the patience and faith to endure, what blessings await!

    It's as if the Book of Job were to be rewritten as the Triumph of the Frustrated Shopper. What a perfect illustration of the modern Mormon spiritual sensibility.

  2. Your kind words are always appreciated, Orbiting One. I don't think I said anything suggesting these were gruesome trials on the order of Job's. Just annoyances. "A bit isolated and vulnerable" wasn't all that melodramatic, was it? A minor event.

    LDS folks coming to China often find this blog, and since expats in China do struggle with the US-China gadget divide, I hope my experience might be helpful.

  3. Funny how life works sometimes, isn't it?

    While it's certainly not the worst thing you could endure in life, getting suddenly cut off from your electronics isn't easy with the way we live today.

    We lost our Internet once because of a mixup and it took several days to sort out. I couldn't access my bank, pay bills, work (freelance writer,) or communicate with people (e-mail and VOIP phone that works via Internet.) I'm not going to lie, I was sobbing in a crumpled heap by Day Three.

    First-world problem? Yep. Still sucked.

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