I went to Newport café in Malé once.
The café is located not far from the airport ferry terminal – in what is allegedly the trendy part of town. My friend who happened to work in a nearby office took me there.
It was a small café. There were about ten or so tables inside. The interiors were pleasant enough. We took our seats by a large glass window facing the street.
The trouble started when we asked for the menu. The waiter brought us two Apple iPad tablets, one of which had a crack in one corner.
This device, I was assured, was the menu.
Sure enough, when I turned on the screen there appeared a menu of food items.
Tapping on the items didn’t do anything. But when I swiped to the right it took me to the next page. When I swiped to the left, it took me back to where I was.
The more I swiped, the more agitated I felt.
It was all so completely wrong. The more I interacted with that expensive display, the more frustrated and upset I became. All my love of technology and my background as a software guy conspired to ruin the night for me.
Just think about it. I had a five hundred dollar device in my hand, equipped with a camera, and microphone and gyroscope and internet connectivity and antennas and wireless radios and proximity sensors and dedicated graphics processors.
And all I could do with it was swipe through a stupid PDF file.
I couldn’t place an order with it. I couldn’t tap on an item to learn more about it. There were no videos or elegant transitions or animations on it. No sound came out of the thing. I couldn’t talk to the kitchen. It didn’t calculate my bill or service charges. I couldn’t pay with it.
In fact, the PDF was locked with a password so that I couldn’t even exit from the menu screen, and check my email or browse or do anything actually useful at all with it.
It was such a gimmick for a gimmick’s sake. It seemed to be screaming out “Look at me! I’m an expensive branded device served at your table! This place must be so cool and trendy!”
Now, it would have been fine if the iPad menu did anything at all remotely well. But the tablet was objectively worse than a paper menu in every imaginable way.
Sure, the iPad has a hi-res display, but paper has stuff actually printed on them. Swiping through the somewhat long menu on the iPad was tiresome. With a paper menu, I could jump to the beginning or open a random page. I could fan myself. I could swat flies with it.
Technology is a tool. It is meant to be used in a certain intelligent way. But, I suspect, had Newport café been a carpentry shop, they’d have used the iPad as a hammer.
In fact, I’m not quite sure why they didn’t serve the food on an iPad as well. It would have made about as much sense.
This botched attempt to impress someone left a definite bad taste in my mouth.
Thanks to this experience, I probably will never go back to Newport again.