I had another go with the BBC/Samsung micro:bit mobile app this week – and I’m afraid I was left wondering what the point of it is.
Now, I should admit I spent no more than an hour playing with it, mainly because I had to borrow the mobile devices as my own phone won’t run the app.
First I tried again with the Android version of the app on a Motorola Moto G phone, with an old and a fresh micro:bit, newly-flashed with some block code. And neither micro:bit would pair with Moto G phone after numerous attempts. I gave up. The reviews on Google Play are now littered with people who had similar Android pairing problems, so I know I am not alone with this.
Next I tried the iOS version of the micro:bit app on an iPhone 5C. This would pair with the exact same micro:bits, suggesting the Android app may not work with all phones – perhaps it only works with Samsung products since it’s their app?
I managed to write and flash some code from the basic block editor on the iPhone to the micro:bit, but I found using the block editor very fiddly on a phone screen – I think you need something tablet-sized at least.
There were two problems: the buttons to compile the code got easily lost off the top of the screen and were hard to get back to; and on my first attempt I could not edit the text in the ‘show string’ block – though this did work normally on a later attempt.
The compiling process does work for the block editor on an iPhone, though it’s not quite seamless. You get presented with this screen:
You then click on ‘open in micro:bit’ and then you can flash the HEX file to the micro:bit over Bluetooth. But man, is it slow! I mean, really slow, much slower than flashing over USB.
I had less luck with the official Python editor on the iPhone. When you compile the code you get an error message that makes sense on a desktop computer, but not a phone. You then get an error message saying the file cannot be downloaded.
Now struggling to find a reason to use the mobile app, I tried to write some block code to trigger an event on the phone:
I may have been doing something wrong, but even with the camera app open on the phone I couldn’t get it to trigger an event (other than displaying the words ‘say cheese’).
So: writing code on mobile devices is fiddly, pairing devices seems to be a lottery, and it’s very slow to transfer code. Add to this the fact that we are told only ever to power micro:bits from batteries or a computer’s USB port, and I am really struggling to see the point of the app, especially if you are powering the micro:bit from a computer that is easier to code on and faster to transfer the files.
If you have had better (similar, or worse) experiences with the mobile app, please let me know!