New Coke. Apple Newton. Microsoft Zune. Vegemite 2.0.
A list of epic product failures.
It appears the Foxtel iQ3 can be added to that list, at least for now.
After a long wait, and repeated delays, Foxtel released its new iQ3 on 23 March, the day before Netflix launched its Australian service.
The iQ3 was meant to be a leap into the future of pay television entertainment, and it does sound amazing … in the marketing materials. In reality, it’s a buggy beta version of a product that’s plagued with problems. Customers who were charged $125 for the box and $75 for the installation, or $25 if they chose to self-install, rightly feel ripped off. On top of those one-off fees, customers are paying for a pricey monthly subscription service and in return they have been given a product that will surely be a contender at this year’s Shonky Awards.
Reports of a malfunctioning iQ3 flooded social media and the Foxtel Community site immediately upon its release and things failed to improve since. Customers have also been complaining on Whirlpool about the issues they are experiencing.
The Foxtel Community site itself tacitly acknowledges the seemingly endless problems with the iQ3, by providing a list of known issues, but offers little to no resolution, by simply noting in respect of most issues that ‘we are aware [of the issue] we’ll have it fixed soon … Once we’ve fixed the issue, we’ll automatically send an update to your iQ3 overnight.’ In any event, this list does not appear to have been updated in over a month.
Nik, a Community Manager on the Foxtel Community, made the following comment in response to complaints by a customer, with the screen name ‘Alasdair’, about the iQ3 clearly not being ready for release to the market:
We completed extensive testing across all of Australia but as with all implementations there are scenarios that can occur when you get to a live environment in someone’s home. Apologies that these issues have occurred in your household but we will endure to get these issues resolved.
Another customer, with the screen name ‘portadelaidefan’, responded to this as follows:
See i have a problem with this, as a software developer i am well aware of the issues that can arise from switching on a new service for thousands of people. But these issues would’ve been picked up in your testing and even if they werent then thats not a viable excuse it just means your testing program is not set up for real world scenarios and fails at its job entirely.
The testing shouldve takeplace in a live environment (which i assume it did) in someones home (which again it shouldve) all around Australia (which you said it was). Thats the point in testing. You test the box in real world scenarios to work out the bugs before retail day, you can’t do that in a lab (its not proper real world testing then) and it wouldve been done within the company (im assuming) using employees.
So i dont understand what you are saying, you are saying that you did the testing and yet at the same time you’re saying that these scenarios occur in a live environment in someones home. But thats exactly what you shouldve been testing for in the first place….. thats the point in testing. Otherwise its redundent. Of course bugs can be expected, but not this many and not machine breaking bug. Thats a big no-no at my work, someone wouldve lost their job for this.
The iQ3 we tested was self-installed on 9 May. The installation process itself was straightforward, but the user-experience has been patchy, at best:
- the Bluetooth remote, although it paired and remains stable, is very slow – there are significant, up to 5-second plus, delays in response times which becomes very noticeable when surfing channels or fast-forwarding and trying to stop and play again, however this length of delay is apparently considered acceptable by Foxtel;
- the design of the various user screens leaves a lot to be desired – it’s difficult to tell how much disk space there is left, it’s hard to tell what recorded programmes have been watched already and navigation feels needlessly complicated;
- it is not possible to return to the last watched point in a recorded program – the program needs to be restarted and fast-forwarded to the last watched scene;
- pressing the ‘Play’ button on the earlier iQ2 (also known as iQHD) model returned the user to the last watched point of the last watched recorded program – the iQ3 appears to be missing this useful functionality completely;
- a recorded program designated to ‘Keep’, once watched, can’t be deleted and the ‘Keep’ designation can’t be altered or removed;
- the new search function is tedious and surprisingly less user-friendly than the search function on the old iQ2;
- Foxtel’s answer to most problems appears to be a ‘Full System Reset’, but doing so deletes everything that has been recorded on the iQ3, all the series links and customised settings – the iQ3 is meant to be a flagship personal video recorder (PVR); constantly losing your recordings defeats the ‘R’ in PVR;
- it takes forever to restart the box, up to 10 minutes each time, and since the box needs to be restarted almost daily, sometimes more than once a day, for it to work, this becomes very time-consuming; and
- Foxtel keeps assuring customers that everything will be fixed with a mythical software update – but the last update they rolled out, version 184.108.40.206, was almost two months ago on 26 March.
If you were planning to move from the iQ2, or an older Standard box, to an iQ3, you would be well advised to wait until all the kinks are ironed out by Foxtel. Judging by their effectiveness in dealing with the iQ3 issues to date, expect that process to take a while. In a competitive new media landscape, the iQ3 could prove to be a serious issue for Foxtel.