Friday, October 9, 2015

Android System Update Easter Egg

Project Status: Feature Request

It seems pretty unlikely that I am the only one so far to have this idea, but I think it would be super cool to see something like this happen one day. The basic idea here is to add a small game to the Android settings screen which allows users to check for system updates. Yeah, let that sink in for a second.

Every time a new version of Android comes out Google Plus, mostly in the Android communities, floods with screen shots showing "Your system is up to date. Last checked...", or something to that effect. Imagine though if you could go to this screen to check for updates and after multiple consecutive touches on the "Check for Update" button a small game pops-up.
Proposed User Flow

Many people already know about the Flappy Bird like game which is an easter egg that you can get to by touching several times on the phone's version in the system settings. If you haven't played it go give it a try, all you need is the Lollipop version of Android to be able to find it.

What I am proposing here is that Android adds on another game such as Pac-Man, Snake, Pong or basically any simple game they can as an easter egg. The simplest result we see here is that the user now has a fun way to interact with checking for system updates, as opposed to sitting there mindlessly refreshing the screen.

Actually to tell you the truth I have never heard of anyone touching the "Check for Update" button and finding a new update waiting out there. This is because the operating system is already really good at checking for updates on it's own. The proposed easter egg game goes from a dead-end hopeless screen, with a button the equivalent of hitting a brick wall, to a secret door of sorts opening to an interactive experience.

Now let's think this through a step further. Let's say each time the game ends the system goes out and checks for a new update. We are most always going to have the same dead-end result as before when touching the "Check for Update" button, but now we have a fun time-killing game between checks. On top of that now they can gather some data from game play statistics such as player score, times played, length of time in the game and so on.

When new versions of Android come out they are always deployed in a staged roll-out, vs a mass one-time push to all phones. There are several problems this type of roll-out solves such as network loads and bug handling. However; I have always wished there was a way to request a higher position in the roll-out schedule, sort of a way of saying I would gladly take the risk of more bugs to be an earlier adopter of the version than to wait in line for a more stable roll-out later on.

There are many users who actually don't care if they get the newest version right away or in a few weeks or even months. On the other end of the spectrum are those who would love to have it as soon as possible, these are the people who will often flash new versions to their own devices before an over-the-air version is available. Just next to this end of the spectrum is the user base this idea really appeals to, that group which wants a quick update but doesn't want to side load versions on their own.

This is where the idea gets more interesting now that we have that player data. We can use this data as a behind the scenes leaderboard of sorts. The higher scores they achieve and the more often users play the higher they can be placed on the roll-out schedule. Meaning each time you end a game not only could it go out and check for a large or incremental system update, but it could also provide some feedback as to where you are on the roll-out schedule based on your player statistics.

There are several ways in which the feedback can be provided at the end of each game and they all depend on how transparent those that control these roll-outs want to be. Most often they don't want to give out date ranges which the update could possibly appear within and a pretty precise position number of the order the devices will pickup the roll-out likely doesn't exist.

All the users need to keep interest though is a simple carrot on the end of the stick so to speak, not necessarily a specific goal to reach but just a little hope hanging out there for us. Results as simple as showing the users which percentile they are grouped in for the update. For example; maybe users who are playing often and doing well with the game see that they have joined the top 10% of users next up for the roll-out.

All of this of course depends on a game quite unlike the current Flappy Bird-ish game referred to above. First of all that game is not very fun to play for more than a couple minutes because it is very hard to play, the controls are far too sensitive for the average person to play and not soon gain frustration. Secondly, a game which has a larger range of scores would help quite a bit when comparing them to each other. Even double digit scores are pretty tough for the average user in the current easter egg game.

Surely they can use the current game if they only tweak the controls and redefine the scoring to a much faster distance based score, but where's the fun in redesigning the existing game. Let's hope for a new game and one that is actually tied into the roll-out system. I know, it's a pretty far fetched pipe dream and it will likely stay a dream, but that's not going to stop me from hoping for something like it.