Today (yesterday by the time this post goes live) was the 2011 U.S. National Texting Championship that was sponsored by LG. 12 contestants, of which I was one of, were sent the LG Doubleplay, which was the phone that we had to use for the contest. While I was knocked out in the second round, I have some things to say about the handset as well as the “competition”.
The competition was well organized by the people who were putting it on and managing the contestants, press, workers, etc.
I usually don’t do these types of things whenever I lose at something, but this one was just too fishy… I wasn’t planning on winning. Was hoping to finish within the top 4 so that I can get some prize money, but to be knocked out so early just didn’t seem right.
Issues started when the main competition began. Previous to that, there were 3 full rehearsals, all of which seemed to be fine (especially for me, since I won most of the rounds, although the phrases that we had to type were the same each round).
The main competition started out alright, considering it was short-lasted. The phrases were slightly longer and more difficult, because instead of regular letters, there were a few characters here and there, such as a ‘@’. Round 1 was fine. Just had to type a simple phrase and send it off. I completed it at about the same time as half of the other contestants. 8 moved on to the next round. I was 7th.
Round 2 was where things started to go downhill rather steeply. We had two text 5 different phrases correctly in a row within a minute. I typed the first phrase, sent it off, and kept waiting for the next one to show up; it took much longer than in the rehearsals. By the time I finished number 5, half the contestants were just putting down the phones. So, there were some who were still typing. 6 people from this round were moving on, so only 2 were being eliminated. At least 3 of them were still typing when I was finished. This round was based off of accuracy, so if you get one phrase wrong, you can’t move on to the last one. If you get the last one correct, then the phrase will stay there on your screen. I made sure of this by typing it and sending it off a few extra times, and the phrase stayed there.
During this round, a number of us were having issues with capitalization on the phone. We were told that all of that functionality would be completely disabled. Every time you start a new sentence, the first letter would automatically be capitalized. To make it lower-case, you have to press the shift key three times. The issue is that this works every other time. Others experienced the same.
This brings me to my next complaint, which is regarding the phones. The LG Doubleplays that we were all given were using pre-release build of their version of Android 2.3.4 (according to their product team). If I remember correctly, the build number was “QRJ22″. The phones that we were given were different than the ones that were on our podiums, which we were told were using final shipping versions of their version of Android. After a quick check in the Settings application, the build number was exactly the same, which tells me that it’s not using software that’s any different. Considering the physical keyboard on the phone is poor, paired with the mediocre operating system (which goes for all Android devices, it seems), being able to accurately and efficiently get anything done is difficult or impossible. We, the contestants, are basically their beta testers, and we have to pay for it (in taxes for the trip & the phones themselves, supposedly). It makes much more sense to give us already released products that are using less buggy software (although that seems difficult for Android). The other contestants noticed the same issue.
I’m still not sure why I was knocked out. I was told that, on the leaderboard that was visible by only the audience, I was 6th (remember that there were 6 who were advancing on to the next round), but the leaderboard quickly changed, then it was disabled altogether for all of the remaining rounds. Those of us who were knocked out early were 20 years old or older. Must’ve been a coincidence, right?
A number of the proceeding rounds had a number of repeats, so the rounds were repeated, either due to a technical error, an error made by a number of the contestants (not entering a phrase correctly, for example), or a tie. The older ones were slowly knocked out. The final three were 17 or younger. I, and others, have a feeling that they wanted last year’s winner to win again, which would’ve provided far better (and more interesting) news headlines. The faces on the managers seemed to have changed when she said that she thinks she didn’t do very well (at all) during the last round, and then someone else won. By that time, it was too late to try it again or something else.
It just seems as though there were a lot of loose ends surrounding all of this. A bracketing system (for scoring and determining the winners) would’ve made more sense, and would’ve been more fun when compared to holding several elimination rounds. Participating in future contests looks unlikely because of this. But oh well. Congrats to Austin for winning.
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