The 3DS is pretty great, but one annoying thing is that Nintendo just don't seem to be very good at this "intertubes" thing... Here's a couple of examples:
Example 1: Alex
I went to "friend" some lovely people I know who already have 3DS's. The process was, shall we say... less than ideal.
The 3DS assigns you a 'friend code' (like the ones on the Wii which I also disliked), a twelve digit number. So to add Alex as a friend, he has to enter mine, and I have to enter his.
I should note that I take the XBox 360 experience as a baseline: "Hey, what's your name on xbox live?", "blahdeblahblah", "Cool."
As soon as I tell the xbox that I would like to friend blahdeblahblah, blahdeblahblah gets a notification saying "Hey, somethingorother wants to add you to their friend list."
You do not get that with a 3DS: Instead, you have to find a way to exchange some arbitrary twelve digit codes completely separately to the system.
A few facebook messages / emails occur, and some furious transcription of long numbers into a touch screen, but we're finally friends. So what can I now do with my friends? The answer is: Not much. I can see their name, I can see when they were last online, and finally I get to see what their favourite game is (mine is Health & Safety Information, so fun!)
But that's about it. Want to send your friend a message? Nope. In theory I should be able to see when they're online and possibly join in the game their playing... maybe.
Seriously though, there is no way to send an online message to a friend on 3DS. THAT IS INSANE.
You also get to set up an account on Miiverse, Nintendo's little game-centric social network, but it appears that account is completely separate to your friends list. Say I'd like to see what public posts Alex has made on Miiverse, I need to know Alex's "Nintendo Network ID", which is shown nowhere in the friend list. Even then it's just "following" someone (Twitter style) and there's no way to send them a message.
Example 2: Andrew
A few weeks after I started down the 3DS road I visited Andrew, proud owner of a shiny new Wii U for some vitally important Mariokart 8 action. While he was on the menu I noticed it had the same little "friend" icon as the 3DS (it's the orange smiley face on the bottom left)
Now I'm not expecting to be able to play against him, but checking in on what people are playing is always interesting so I fired up my 3DS and went to the add friend screen.
It did not go well.
Turns out I need a friend code to add Andrew, but the Wii U doesn't have one. In the meantime Andrew can send a friend request to me (with my Nintendo Network ID), but I can't ever receive it on my 3DS. Just for a start, it's pretty confusing that they're using the exact same icon and yet have completely separate environments. Also allowing a Wii U owner to send a friend request that can never be received, not a great user experience. Anway, after a little more fiddling it turns out the best we can do is open up MiiVerse and "follow" each other's posts.
It's 2015, my expectations are ever higher, and Nintendo's handheld online services don't cut it. A chunk from this great Eurogamer article about dealing with Nintendo in the run up to the Wii U launch comes to mind:
"...we probed a little deeper and asked how certain scenarios might work with the Mii friends and networking, all the time referencing how Xbox Live and PSN achieve the same thing. At some point in this conversation we were informed that it was no good referencing Live and PSN as nobody in their development teams used those systems (!) so could we provide more detailed explanations for them?"