The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

Summary: Thank goodness for early termination fees, two-year contracts, and other evil tactics mobile carriers use to lock in customers. Thanks to those roadblocks, I did some research. Instead of impulsively dumping my Windows Phone, I'm quitting AT&T instead. Here's why.

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Mobile phone carriers in the United States make it nearly impossible for their customers to make stupid, impulsive decisions. They lock in customers with two-year contracts, early termination fees, and family plans, and it takes months of careful planning to escape from the clutches of an evil (or just awful) carrier.

Thank goodness for that. If they made it any easier, I might have stupidly abandoned my Windows Phone last week, after I read Microsoft’s laughably lame explanation for its latest update woes. Instead, I’ve decided to keep it for another 90 days. Here’s what I’m waiting for.

For starters, there’s an update that was promised back when the first generation of Windows Phones first shipped. It’s full of bug fixes and performance improvements and, most importantly, the copy-and-paste feature that was inexplicably unavailable in the initial release.

The Windows Phone engineering team has actually done its job. That update (aka "Nodo") is ready now. It was finished roughly 90 days after the first Windows Phone devices went on sale, and it’s already been delivered to unbranded phones (also known as "open market" devices) and to many handsets in markets outside the United States. So how come my phone doesn’t have it?

Last week’s blog post from Microsoft’s general manager of Windows Phone Customer Experience Engineering, Eric Hautala, was supposed to answer that question. Indeed, that was the whole point of the post, which was titled "'Copy and paste' update status."

But it was clear from your comments that many of you want a better idea of when to expect your update. Is it on the way—or weeks away? These are natural questions.

Yes, they are. But actually answering those questions is apparently not so natural, because the document that Microsoft came up with is a masterpiece of hand-waving and corporate double-talk. You can practically see the hatchet marks where lawyers chopped away the good stuff.

My colleague Mary Jo Foley already reprinted the original table that Microsoft used to purportedly answer that question. It goes into excruciating detail to provide almost no information, and the design is very curious. On the International "Where's my phone update?" page, there's a column labeled Mobile Carrier. There, you can see that 14 of Microsoft's international partners are already delivering the February update, two are scheduled to begin delivering it shortly, and only three are still testing. For the March update, 15 of 19 partners have completed testing and the process of scheduling/delivering the update has begun. [The preceding paragraph has been updated to reflect differences between the two updates and to correct one minor error. - Ed]

On the United States version of that page, it's a completely different story. The Mobile Carrier column is missing, replaced with a Phone column that lists the handset name. Here’s what that same table would look like if lawyers weren't involved:

Mobile Carrier Handset Update status
AT&T Wireless HTC Surround Testing/unscheduled
AT&T Wireless LG Quantum Testing/unscheduled
AT&T Wireless Samsung Focus Testing/unscheduled
Sprint HTC Arrive New device; includes update
T-Mobile Dell Venue Pro Scheduling
T-Mobile HTC HD7 Scheduling
Three carriers in the United States are selling Windows Phone devices. Two of them are shipping that update on new devices or will be delivering it to customers via Microsoft's update mechanism shortly. The laggard is AT&T, which is still "testing." There's absolutely no indication of when those tests will be complete.

In a statement in response to caustic customer comments on this issue, Windows Phone boss Joe Belfiore comes perilously close to 'fessing up:

The “where’s my phone update” table is our first step to try to remedy this in the face of technical problems that have made our first wave of updates take longer than we expected. We know the table would benefit greatly from more detail, and we are hoping to add more to it by working with the Operators who own the “testing” phase to get more clarity.

That's about as close to the truth as we're likely to get until the lawyers exit the conversation.

This situation brings back unpleasant memories for me. Back in the Windows Mobile era, I purchased another Samsung device from AT&T. The Samsung/AT&T tag team finally delivered an update for that device 14 months after Microsoft shipped it and five months after it was originally promised, in writing. I'm not making that mistake again.

For me, this is a resounding strike three for AT&T, whose network coverage is miserable. Until last November, my home office was a complete dead zone for AT&T. An update to their transmitters last November improved the situation, but only slightly; I can now get a single bar of coverage and occasionally can even make or receive phone calls on the AT&T network, as long as I remain perfectly motionless.

So why have we stuck with AT&T this long? Simple. My wife loves her iPhone, and we're locked into an AT&T contract that ends in June. I love the Windows Phone interface and even with these teething problems prefer it to either an iPhone or an Android device.

Sadly, Sprint's coverage doesn't reach my office, and now that AT&T has announced plans to buy T-Mobile I have no desire to do business with them. I've already tested Verizon's coverage in my office. It's rock solid and strong. They now sell iPhones, and rumor has it that an HTC Windows Phone device will be for sale on Verizon's network within the next few weeks. When our contract is up, it's hasta la vista, AT&T.

Related coverage:

Topics: Windows, Microsoft, Mobility, Operating Systems, Software, Telcos, AT&T

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116 comments
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  • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

    And I was feeling so smug with my HTC HD7 and T-Mobile service, including signal quality and customer support. Curse you, AT&T!
    CarlS
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @CarlS I figure any contracts on T-Mobile will be up by the time there is any impact of the ATT + T-Mobile deal.
      orcmid
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @orcmid

        If that soon. Consumer guru Clark Howard is predicting it'll be at least two years before (and if) the deal gets through the regulatory process.
        fairportfan
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @CarlS Actually, the real problem is the structure of the mobile 'service' in the US. Contracts, poor service, locked phones and everything else that denies a user to use whatever phone the way and when he likes. My dear American friends, CHINA has better service and choice...no locked phones, more hardware choices and if you want to hop from carrier to carrier every month...that too is possible. The same can be said for most of Asia...fone freedom!
      Bradish@...
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @Bradish@... i grew up with that system in europe, the only problem is you have to drop the full price of the phone at the beginning. you CAN do that here in the US but people think that $500 or more for a phone is outrageous! and pay as you go plans
        tykazowsky
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @Bradish@... China and other countries in the far east have almost no land line service, so instead of the investment in wire they made the choice to go with wireless systems which are cheaper and easier to implement. Also you probably have only had experience with the larger cities, rural areas are only spottily covered.
        Rndmacts
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @CarlS Did the deal go through?
      Jimster480
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        drumandyou
  • Windows Phone 7 has major problems

    Windows Phone 7 is still lacking basic OS functions (eg, does not have full multitasking).

    Windows Phone 7 won't even allow you to set a custom ringtone (any cheap feature phone can do that).

    Windows Phone 7 was released onto the market prematurely. This is Microsoft's fault.

    Windows Phone 7 is not getting updated rapidly enough. Example, adding Copy-&-Pate as the only major feature of 2011 is pathetically little. Like with all its OS updates, Microsoft is slow. But in mobile, competitors Android and iPhone are moving fast. Windows Phone 7 has been left behind.
    Vbitrate
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @zndac
      You always find flaws with EVERY Microsoft's products. Just say that you hate Microsoft with all your heart and soul and we'll understand.
      illegaloperation
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @day2die
        You always find no flaws with ANY Microsoft's products. Just say that you love Microsoft with all your heart and soul and we'll understand
        Return_of_the_jedi
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @Return_of_the_jedi LOL I love your retort :)
        hwangeruk@...
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        Everything MS produces is a gem. Including that evocative blue screen.
        john_gillespie@...
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        [i]You always find flaws with EVERY Microsoft's products. Just say that you hate Microsoft with all your heart and soul and we'll understand.[/i]

        OK.

        :D
        ScorpioBlue
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @zndac <br><br>If you had actually used one, you'd realise that WP7 is way ahead of any other phone on the market, measured by it's superior functionality and UI. Sure we'd all like free updates, but you seem to miss the point that it's working well now and is a welcome relief from Apple's dreadful UI and reality distortion field and the rolling mess that is Android.<br><br>But then again you need to use one and have an open mind, so you are probably stuck with your delusions <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/wink.gif" alt="wink">
      tonymcs@...
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @tonymcs@...
        Don't worry is official troll of ABM group.
        Ram U
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @tonymcs@...

        You are a windoze fanboy, clearly. Android is not a mess, rolling or otherwise.
        mejohnsn
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @mejohnsn I think you'll find it is a mess. My GF almost bought a Xperia X10 mini, she'd still eb stuck on 1.6 Android with crummy battery life with no hope of Foyo+ (and the battery improvements it brings) I like Android, but fragmentation certainly put me off. Windows Phone 7 updates might be pathetically slow, but at least we know we will get it :)
        hwangeruk@...
    • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

      @zndac - What specific type of tasking are you referring too? i.e. you'd like to do what and what else at the same time. I ask because I have the Dell Venue Pro and I don't quite understand the multitasking broohaha.

      You are right about the ring tone but thats not a deal breaker for me.

      The OS was not released prematurely. If thats true then iOS and Andriod were also released prematurely.

      Yes WP7 is getting Copy & Paste just 5 months after its official U.S. launch. If I remember correctly thats significantly faster than the iPhone did. In addition WP7 will be getting antoher update in the 4th quarter thats two major updates in one year.
      NPGMBR
      • RE: The real Windows Phone problem is with AT&T, not Microsoft

        @NPGMBR . and how many times you have to hard-reboot your Windows phone? Just tell us honestly, please. I had mine every 2-3 days until I switched to Android. Since I switched, I did not do a hard reboot even ONCE! As for me copy/paste function is a must-have feature, it's not bruhaha, OK? It's pathetic to release a phone without a normal file operation!
        zbatia