Notion Ink’s Adam: Dream or Nightmare?

Very rarely a product comes along, gathering tremendous support and anticipation even before it’s launched. A huge fan base is built even before anyone has seen the product. Product companies fail to get that sort of PR even after spending millions. Adam was one such product. It was touted as the Apple killer. The underdog that’ll for sure, kick butt.

I got my Adam yesterday after more than a 40 day delay. 40 days more than the promised ‘six to eight weeks’ delivery assurance. Adam probably is a brilliant product no doubt, but customer experience is much, much more than just a great UI or prodigious engineering. Here’s why:

  1. Taking the ‘personal’ ‘we are a small outfit’ charm too far: I understand that Notionink is a start-up but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to jump in and collect pre-orders, without even as much as a decent website for the product! So many pages are ‘under construction’. Their initial demo videos were so amateur, I was wondering if I bet on the wrong horse. Jazzy imagery can never replace solid information dear NI. I hope it’s not too late to rectify that. Your fans have set up better websites than you have.
  2. The CEO also doubles up as the PR person and posts – at times adoloscent- pleas, product announcements, and updates! That, on a blog hosted on wordpress.com. Are you telling me setting up a blog on your own domain is tough work?
  3. Not communicating with customers: After I placed the order, I got an order confirmation mail from NI. But it didn’t mention anything about additional ‘Customs Clearance’ fees. I get to know about it two days before the delivery through the shipping company, GATI. I understand that customs fee is something I will have to pay, but why wasn’t I told about it? Why didn’t NI tell me about it through a mail? Some people told me that it was posted on their blog. Heh! I have a job and I can’t be following NI’s blog. Not after I have paid some 23k INR. I expect them to be professional about it. And, their address, as it appears on their site, indicates their office is in Bangalore. Either NI doesn’t care about the Indian market or they are as naive and silly as I am: why should I pay additional customs fee to buy something from an Indian company? I know it sounds silly but that’s the first thought that crossed my mind.
  4. Not offering standard communication channels: No phone numbers that I can use to contact NI are listed on their website. What now, you are a start up so you can’t afford to hire a few people to man the phone lines? Then act small! Don’t make expansive statements like ‘change the world’. The only way to contact them is through e-mail.
  5. Focus on jazzing up the product instead of focusing on user’s efficiency and productivity: Simple tasks like firing up the keypad is made cumbersome because of the apparent lack of attention to detail. I conclude this after asking my colleagues (who are used to touch interfaces and who use the Internet for more than 5 hours a day) to perform simple tasks like ‘enter a URL’ ‘Delete configured mail account’.
  6. Unless Adam is meant for the geek, it is astounding that the interface ignores basic UX tenets like learnability, efficiency, system status… I could go on.
  7. It is obvious that Adam was never tested for usability with actual end users. I doubt if they even know who their end user is. Apple’s iPhone and iPad target the lay user and their design is centered around that user’s context. Which is why iPod, iPhone are cult products. If NI wants more people to buy Adam, they need to sell it lay users. And if they want to do that, they will have to do a lot of work on the product to make it user friendly.
  8. Lack of product documentation: Adam’s manual says little or nothing about how to use important features like 3G. How many users know what an APN is? And worse still how many will know how to configure it?

These are observations from using Adam for barely more than a few hours. I got it last evening and my disenchantment and disillusionment grew starker the more I used the product. I bought Adam because I thought that we should encourage products like these: products that are a result of a young man’s dream to change the world. To show the Goliaths that great products needn’t necessarily come from big corporate houses. That, Adam is from India. If Notionink continues to ignore end users, their aspirations, and their problems, forget Apple, they can’t beat the neighborhood grocer. Notionink needs to understand that it takes years to build a brand. And you need only minutes to ruin it. The rate at which they are getting bad press, I wouldn’t be surprised if their sales demand drops, when they graduate to real retailing.

Rohan, the CEO, of NI should probably leave PR to professionals. And stop posting stuff like ‘the customs department wanted bribes’. It serves no purpose and it makes him sound like a whiner who’s looking for excuses and will exacerbate NI’s PR predicament.

I wrote this in a fit of mixed emotion: rage, disappointment, and disillusionment. I wanted to gift Adam to my wife. But alas, if I find it difficult to use – I am a UX pro – I really doubt that she would like Adam. Unless of course, I am a complete noob and got it all wrong.

If you think I have read something wrong or if I wrote something factually inaccurate, do leave a comment. But I don’t think I let my emotion get the better of me. Which is what Notionink should be doing.

14 thoughts on “Notion Ink’s Adam: Dream or Nightmare?”

    1. That’s a bit harsh. I believe you’d like to elaborate on that. Are you referring to all Indian companies? I can think of Airtel right away which has done a fairly good job of providing good customer care.

  1. Good show for writing this. I particaularly feel strongly about how, in an interview, Rohan Shravan said India was not ready for tablets and it wasn’t going to be their market. So much for the pride we felt when we first heard of Notion Ink.

    And then a teardown revealed shoddily put together innards. And now this experience. Creating an “Apple killer” is going to take more than a slate with a screen that lights up.

  2. Hi Suman,

    I think their stock UI is best circumvented with something like AWDL launcher, and the tablet is best rooted for full functionality..

    Can I get in touch with you for a hands-on/Review for technoholik.com?

    1. Suman,

      My Adam has reached India and you know I have purchased Adam for exactly the same reasons as you. Luckily, PO2 guys haven’t had that much trouble in delivery as PO1 or even PO1.5.

      I am very worried that I have spent 25K on a product which might not be usable. Even after edenX – is that true?

      -Aman

  3. Nice written Suman,

    you know i don’t agree with you in all your points. But I too think that Apple has set the standards about easy-UI very high. So high that even all non-nerds want an elektronic device like phones and tablets.

    NI/Adam does meet the high qualitity in specs and freedom of change and apps. I am feeling in prison when i use a product of Apple. It’s is well dressed (UI) but specs are lower dan standard.

    Again, thanx to share your first hands-on experience with Adam.
    Now let them get him some decent clothes. The inside is good!

  4. This is a post which I wanted to write! Except that I have not got the product in my hand yet nor the details asking me for the money. I am in the ‘early access program’. Emails sent to the team never get replied. With such a poor customer response I have now started looking for companies big or small for a similar product.

    Thanks for writing this post. Much appreciated. And your peeves are certainly justified.

  5. @ koko Edenx does improve Adam’s ux but there are certain things that need fixes from NI. For instance the default browser functionality. Mail’d needs improvements. And, stuff like I am still figuring out how to log out of my gmail app…

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