Armored Phone: Part 2

Monday started with my alarm not waking me up. Fortunately, my alarms almost never wake me up because I hate alarms and always try to wake up before they go off. However, this time I had not cancelled the alarm because I wanted to confirm it was working. It was not. I decided it was probably some quirk with the Do Not Disturb mode. I set the Wake Up time to 2 minutes before I normally set the alarm under the theory that even if it doesn’t audibly sound immediately, once it went out of Do Not Disturb mode I would probably hear the alarm. Then I moved on with my day.

Except, I next noticed that my 7:55 alarm hadn’t gone off. I live by my alarms. My 7:55 alarm makes sure that I deliver Calvin and Julian to school on time. I start each work day by reviewing the meetings on my calendar and setting a 2 min alarm for each meeting1. I set alarms for Calvin’s late afternoon coding class and Julian’s swim class and every other thing that I need to make sure I attend on time. When I got back from dropping of the kids I tested the alarm and it seemed fine so I decided that it was probably a one-time quirk and set my meeting alarms for the day. Unfortunately, it was not a quirk and I almost missed my first meeting of the day without my reminder alarm.

At lunch time, I poked around at the various settings and thought I fixed things. At least my alarms worked for the rest of the day.

Supper brought new complications. The audiobook which I had started Sunday was no longer in the Libby app. I thought that was weird as I knew I hadn’t returned it. I’m a late adopter to Libby, having stuck with the original Overdrive app for years, and only switched to Libby when they officially announced end of life. It seems a little buggier to me than the Overdrive app was. For example, sometimes when I try to listen to an allegedly already downloaded audiobook, it just spins until I give up and switch to a podcast instead. This had started prior to changing to Android so I gave the early check-in problem a 50/50 chance of being due to an Android glitch. I wrote a note to the library about the problem, and also contacted Overdrive support directly, and then checked the book out a second time2.

My wakeup alarm once again failed. I did a little more searching which is where I first ran across rumors of battery optimization being to blame. Except, I thought I had already turned off any battery optimization. That is “Battery Saver” and “Battery Manager” were off.

I decided to download a different clock app and see if I had any better luck with it. I eventually settled on Talking Alarm Clock Beyond. After downloading and opening it up, the first thing the app told me to do was to go into the “Battery optimization” part of settings, which is not under the Battery menu, and make sure the app isn’t optimized. Turns out it was, which might have been why the prior Clock app didn’t work. I appreciated the app warned about this problem but I was also irritated that Android made it so intuitive to find. In my testing, it appeared that alarms were working.

I decided to screencast each time I opened up the Libby app. I specifically wanted to make sure the early return problem wasn’t being caused by Android Auto. I listened to the audiobook at lunch time with no issues. When I went to pick up Julian from school, my audiobook also existed in my account, though we listened to a different audiobook on the way home. Then supper time came. I started the screencast, opened the Libby app, and discovered my book was gone again. I sighed, appended the screencast files to my Overdrive ticket, and checked out the audiobook a third time.

Tuesday evening, with hopes that the alarm clock problem was solved. I emailed Unihertz tech support about the problem I had with starred contacts not coming through when Do Not Disturb was on.

My wakeup alarm did not go off. On the upside, Unihertz support had responded with some suggestions of some settings to check for the Do Not Disturb issue. I glanced at it and decided I’d explore it more in the evening.

I was hoping the alarm issue was just a wakeup alarm and the other alarms would work. Alas, no. At this point I was seriously considered bailing and just using the phone as a replacement for my bedtime phone and getting another iPhone SE as my primary phone.

During lunch I pulled up the instructions on what to check for Do Not Disturb and discovered yet another setting that can keep apps from working in the background: App blocker, under Intelligent assistance. When I turned that off, all sorts of notifications that I had been missing, but were a lower priority than my alarms, started working. This included my work’s authentication app. The authentication app not popping up had been slightly annoying but since I always knew when I sent a push, I had just been working around it by opening up the app ahead of time. In any case, App blocker was to blame.

Back on the Libby front, my audiobook disappeared sometime prior to me starting supper. This time I sighed, gave up, and did not check it out a 4th time.

That evening I turned of Battery optimization and App blocking for everything. However, starred contacts still couldn’t get through Do Not Disturb. I created a screencast for Unihertz support of every setting as well as a demo of the Do Not Disturb issue and emailed it off.

My alarm went off!! Starred contacts not being able to message me was annoying. However, my alarms not reliably working would have been a deal breaker.

In less fun news, Unihertz had escalated my ticket and a developer had responded essentially saying that the Do Not Disturb problem is an Android 11 bug, they weren’t going to release Android 12 for the phone, and they recommend I not use Do Not Disturb. I responded by pointing out that, as far as I could tell, the Android 11 bug had been fixed by Google back in 2020 and I was hoping even if they weren’t going to release Android 12, they could at least incorporate the Do Not Disturb patch into an update for the phone.

I also got a response back from Overdrive saying the reason the title kept auto returning is that it wasn’t suppose to be on the library’s website to begin with. Annoying, as I was multiple hours in at that point, but at least it wasn’t a phone bug.

By this point, I had gotten the phone into a usable condition for me. It still has some quirks but they’re ones I can live with and being able to use one phone for everything is really nice. I also really love the size. I thought I’d get annoyed by how thick it is but so far that hasn’t been a problem at all. However, it’s not a phone I can recommend to anyone else. The amount of tinkering I had to do for basic functionality is appalling.

  1. Yes, I realize using the calendar notifications in the usual method to do that. However, calendar notifications aren’t noisy enough for me if I’m deeply involved in troubleshooting something.
  2. Books randomly returning themselves is a problem because often the library will lose access after around 15 checkouts and have to “buy” the book again. If this was a bug happening to a lot of patrons, it’s a problem the library needs to report so Overdrive can fix it quickly.