I've been on the support side of Android remote sessions, and it is never easy. Unless you can see the end user's screen, Android remote support can be challenging. Not knowing what version of Android, what home screen launcher, or what carrier can block your success. That's why, when I was invited to join the beta for Inkwire, I jumped at the chance.
Inkwire is an incredibly simple app that enables you to do remote support sessions on Android. The app is currently in early-adopter beta, but anyone can sign up and test it out.
Before you dive into this app, know this: There are bugs. Inkwire is early beta. And also understand that Inkwire is not an application that will allow you to take control of another user's screen—it enables you to view the end user's screen and guide them through the solution (I'll explain in a bit). First, let's install.
SEE: Power checklist: Managing and troubleshooting mobile devices (Tech Pro Research)
Before you install the application, you'll have to opt into the beta program. After you join the beta (the end user will have to join as well), you can install the app by following these steps.
- Open the Google Play Store.
- Search for inkwire.
- Locate and tap the entry by ClockworkMod.
- Tap Install.
- Read the permissions listing (if applicable).
- If the permissions listing is acceptable, tap Accept.
Once installed, you'll find the launcher for the app on your home screen, or in the App Drawer, or in both spots. Tap the launcher, and Inkwire will start up. If Google Play services is not up to date, you may get a warning to update the app (Figure A).
Once you've updated Google Play services (if necessary), Inkwire will run and take you to the main window (Figure B).
If you're on the device to be shared, tap the SHARE button; a 12-digit key will display that is for the support technician accessing the device. If you are the support tech, tap the ACCESS button and then enter the 12-digit code. Press the new ACCESS button (Figure C), and enable or disable the device microphone for the session (by tapping either NO THANKS or ENABLE MICROPHONE), and the end user's screen will display.
Helping the end user
The reason you would want to enable the device mic is so you can more easily help the end user. During a session, you cannot actually control the end user's device; instead, you talk them through the issue. Inkwire makes this easier by highlighting the spot on the screen where you tap or drag.
Say, for instance, you need the end user to drag down their notification screen, and they're not sure what you mean. If you make the gesture on your device (within the frame of the Inkwire session - Figure D), Inkwire will draw the gesture on the user's device so they know exactly what to do. Without enabling the mic, the task of supporting the end user device will become significantly more challenging.
To stop the Inkwire session, the end user must drag down their notification shade and then tap the STOP button associated with Inkwire (Figure E).
It just works
Inkwire isn't perfect, but it's an amazing start for a product that will make remote Android support much, much easier. Using voice chat and screen drawing, you can help your remote end users through their Android issues and avoid pulling out your hair or having to double-down on your blood pressure medication.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.