Difficulties when using multiple devices

I used DeltaChat on iOS and I’m now setuping on Windows. Here are some feedback. For each step, I added what my thoughts were at the time, so that you can understand what’s going on in the user’s mind and find ways to fix the issues. I also included my own suggestions.

  1. The first screen didn’t provide clear instructions on how to setup a new device. Should I login in my email account or restore from a backup? I didn’t had a backup so I clicked the big blue Login button

    It would be great to have a button that’s like “setup a new device using an existing account” or something like that.
  2. Login worked properly. Nice!
  3. The list of messages from my iPhone appeared. At first I was happy that it had transferred all my old messages, but then I quickly realized that only very old messages were transferred. The recent ones were missing. My guess is that it only transferred non-encrypted messages that were sent as new conversation starters. (I’m assuming here since it’s unclear. I could be wrong.) Matrix/Element has a cleared way of displaying messages without keys: the messages appears as “this message couldn’t be decrypted. Tap here to request keys”.
  4. My guess then was that I needed to transfer encryption keys somehow. I feel that Delta Chat should have detected that encrypted messages existed on the server but that the keys were missing, and offered instructions on how to recover them.
  5. After lots of digging, I managed to find the “Send Autocrypt Setup Message” hidden deep in Settings > Advanced Settings. It sounded like what I needed. (is it? I don’t know! If it is, then it should be more visible than hidden in advances settings)
  6. I wasn’t sure if I should do this from my previous device or from the new device. I assumed it would be better to do that on my phone. So i did.
  7. It took a while (~1 minute) but the message eventually appeared on my computer (the new device).
  8. I copied the numbers from my phone to my computer. But then, I don’t know if it was successful or not because I still don’t see my newer messages.
  9. Now I’m uncertain how to proceed.

As you can see, this isn’t a nice first impression. I’m a technically advanced user and even I couldn’t figure out what the problem was and how to fix it. For less tech-savvy users, this would make it impossible for them and they’ll just go back to their favorite non-secure privacy-invasive apps.

3 Likes

I agree, I think it would be useful to have some sort of “welcome screen” that briefly explains certain aspects of delta chat.

If you want to synchronise a second device the easiest and “safest” way is to import a backup from the first device, if you log in without importing the backup, delta chat will generate a new, different key pair so the two devices will not be “fully compatible”.

I also agree with this, but I do not know how complex it would be to implement such a function.

That option I think is designed more for configuring other clients, other than delta chat, that support autocrypt, so I think it is fine that it is among the advanced options.

The easiest thing to do is to delete the account from the second device and import the backup from the first device

2 Likes

For the synchronisation to work properly, you must also enable settings > advanced > send copy to self on both devices, and if you have set automatic deletion of messages from the server, you must set an appropriate time so that if one of the two devices is temporarily offline, it can find the message on the server when it comes back online (I personally set it so that messages are deleted after one day).

2 Likes

Hi, you’re right that this experience should be improved! The right way to set up a second device is to export a backup on the first device and use the “restore from backup” button on the second device. As already explained this avoids having multiple encryption identities generated. It will also reduce the number of messages that have to be fetched from the server again (where they might even be missing depending on your configuration).

We are aware of shortcomings with respect to the multi-device experience, and improving this has very recently been included in a grant application proposal. So we hope this will be accepted and be able to dedicate some efforts to improving this.

Reports like yours are very valuable to steer development efforts though. It is good to have a real-world experience and suggestions reported. So thanks for writing this down!

2 Likes

Unfortunately, exporting a backup from my first device doesn’t work because of this issue: Exporting backup fails silently · Issue #1780 · deltachat/deltachat-ios · GitHub

This seems to be the default when installing Delta Chat because I haven’t touched that option and it’s already turned on. On that topic, I also created a ticket about the suggestion that Delta Chat sends when setuping a second device, because it’s vague and often unnecessary: The automated message when setuping multiple devices isn't accurate · Issue #3889 · deltachat/deltachat-core-rust · GitHub