Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

Summary: Microsoft really needed to hit a home run with WP7 to make a comeback in smartphones. So far, I'd say they've fallen short of what's needed. What do you think, WP7 users and potential buyers?

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Windows Phone 7 devices began shipping last October to largely positive reviews. I had a chance to check one out and saw enough to like that I seriously considered making WP7 my first smartphone -- and my first Windows phone.

But in the four months since, I've begun to waver. And the latest back-and-forth over the first update for WP7 has made me increasingly WP7-shy.

Here's the back story: Microsoft announced on February 21 that it planned to push out to WP7 users a first "minor" update -- something that seemed to be an updater for the real first update due in early March. As soon as some users began receiving notifications that the update was available, reports of "bricked" WP7 devices began appearing around the Web.

Microsoft issued a vague statement, saying the company was investigating reports of problems caused by the first update. But company officials said nothing about plans to halt or fix the first update.

On February 23, Microsoft issued a new statement, claiming that the company had pulled the first update for Samsung WP7s. Here's the statement from a spokesperson (which I received hours after some European outlets did, and only after I requested any updates on the situation):

"We have identified a technical issue with the Windows Phone update process that impacts a small number of phones. In response to this emerging issue, we have temporarily taken down the latest software update for Samsung phones in order to correct the issue and as soon as possible will redistribute the update."

However, contrary to the official statement, the first update still seems to be available. According to at least two blogs, the update had not been pulled, as of Wednesday morning, and is still available for download. Makram Daou, who runs MobileTechWorld.com, just checked again for me a few minutes ago. Here's a screen shot he took, showing the update is still available for his Samsung WP7 device:

Daou said his only guess was that Microsoft "may have stopped the OTA over-the-air) notification to the devices that weren't notified yet, but didn't actually pull down the update. That's why handsets that have already been notified (like mine) are still getting prompted to update."

I sent another query to Microsoft, asking again what was going on with Update 1. I also asked what the company was recommending to users whose phones have been bricked. I asked when Microsoft planned to reissue a new version of Update 1 (beyond "ASAP"). So far, I've received no word back. See bottom of this post for an update from Microsoft.

My biggest qualm about buying a WP7, as I stated last fall, was that the device -- in spite of the "7" in its branding -- is a version 1 product. Four-plus months after the phones began shipping, Microsoft is getting around to releasing its first updates for them. There are two "major" updates slated for calendar 2011 for the devices -- "NoDo" and "Mango." As Windows Phone Secrets author Paul Thurrott said, if the first update is any indication, I don't have a lot of faith in what's going to happen with the later ones.

Meanwhile, in other WP7 news, it looks like Sprint is about to announce its first CDMA WP7 handset on February 24 (according to various tweets company officials have been sending this week).

That's good news for those of us here in the U.S. who still have no WP7 devices available on our carriers. But given CDMA support isn't slated to arrive until NoDo, and NoDo is expected around March 8 or so, I'm curious when those Sprint devices will ship.

(For the record, Sprint announced on February 24 that the HTC Arrive phones will start shipping on March 20 for $199.)

Those of us on Verizon still have no idea when we'll see our first WP7 phones (other than first half of 2011, last we heard). But given the current update chaos around WP7, I'm thinking it might be a good thing that Verizon still has no WP7s in sight to tempt me....

Microsoft really needed to hit a home run with WP7 to make a comeback in smartphones. So far, I'd say they've fallen short of what's needed. What do you think, WP7 users and potential buyers?

Update (5:20 pm ET on February 23): Just got some answers to some of those aforementioned questions from a Microsoft spokesperson. Here's the latest:

Q: Has the WP7 update 1 been pulled? If so, for which phones/carriers? When will it be reinstated, if it has been pulled?

A: “We have identified a technical issue with the Windows Phone update process that impacts a small number of Samsung phones. This software update remains available to customers with the exception of Samsung as we are in the process of temporarily taking down the update for those phones in order to correct the issue as soon as possible.” Q: How many users are affected? A: Worldwide, we’ve seen a 90% success rate for customers attempting to install this update. Of the remaining ten percent, the top two issues encountered are the result of customer internet connectivity issues, and inadequate storage space on the phone or PC. These account for over half of the reported issues with this update. Q: Is MS doing anything to help users whose phones were bricked? A: All but a small number of customers have been able to restore their phone to the pre-update state.  As a precaution, we are in the process of temporarily taking down the software update for Samsung’s Windows Phones in order to correct the issue and will re-distribute the update as soon as possible.

(Note: I am asking again what those users whose phones were bricked could/should do. Update 2: The word: “If your device is in an unrecoverable state, you should contact your mobile operator or device manufacturer regarding your options for repairing your device.”)

Topics: Operating Systems, Microsoft, Mobility, Software, Telcos, Windows

About

Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

    Despite all the talk about the update bricking handsets, i think it's important to keep in mind this is ONLY ONE handset affected by the update bricking (from what i've read) - w/ that in mind, i don't see how the blame can lie solely on MS. Also I am not really clear if this bricking only occurs if you attempt the OTA upgrade (due to no backup made) or if updating via Zune gives the same result.<br>In any case, I've been fond of saying "If everybody's X and you're Y, the problem likely isn't everybody". In this case if every other handset works fine w/ the update, except the omnia, then the problem likely isn't (solely) the update and/or the update process.<br><br>I'm not scared by this, but what I am (still) miffed by, is the fact that MS has admitted carriers can block an update (provided they didn't block the previous one). I'd like to know if my carrier blocks an update, can i still update thru Zune?

    And i'm right there w/ ya, Mary, i want my WP7 on VZW!
    -Brandon
    bc3tech
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      @bc3tech and from my experience in "hacking" wp7, it?s probably samsung?s fault because they were the only OEM messing badly with registry and hardware default settings. Coincidence?! i doubt it
      bnlf
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

        @bnlf : so how come Android phones haven't had that problem.

        "Messing around with the system" is basically what HP does with Windows (sans Phone) 7. Their start menu is a butterfly and several other hacks. If Windows Phone 7 was indeed a mature build, no problem will have occurred.

        The real problem is not the UI which is just a fancy makeover using Silverlight. The problem lies on the underlining OS (Windows CE 6.0 R3). It's damn buggy (aka the R3 release) and am sure most of the bricking on the Omnia was a result of incompatible device drivers.

        With that said, Windows Phone 7 is a fancy OS hidding a bug ridden, never complete OS refresh that Microsoft started just after Windows 95 and never actually completed. All OEMs had abandoned Windows CE and rather than fix it, they changed the name to confused the non-technical guys (now it's called Windows Embedded Compact 6.0 in line with the successful Windows XP Embedded and Windows Embedded Standard).
        cosuna
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

        @bnlf Coincidence. According to Microsoft...

        "Of the remaining 10 percent, the top two issues encountered are the result of customer Internet connectivity issues and inadequate storage space on the phone or PC," the company representative said. "These account for over half of the reported issues with this update." Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-10805_3-20035622-75.html#ixzz1EskrR0he

        Not Samsung...
        Socratesfoot
      • The biggest deal? The disaster response.

        To me, the biggest deal about the updater update debacle is the PR engine that comes out to laud this as 90% fantastic. Hooray! It might have been MUCH worse. They didn't brick them ALL!

        That pretty much says everything that needs to be said about the level of confidence we have in these engineers. We were only decimated. They didn't kill all the WP7 handsets yet. Party time at Windows Phone blog poster central. Tap the keg, pop the bubbly! Unleash the snark about user error. Prepare to attack our partner Samsung. This must NOT be our fault!

        And of course blaming the handset vendor and the users is a master stroke. That's got to inspire confidence in people pondering a purchase or partners considering a deal. The user error that happened here is that the user chose a WP7 phone.

        Of course, when the real update comes they get to try again to wipe out the rest of the WP7 user base. They can do more damage next time, with an update that also changes things. I believe in them. Maybe with the real update they'll find an opportunity to blame the mobile carriers as well, for something more than blocking this update which was "ready to go in December". That'll be the trifecta of hateful marketing.

        Nokia's engineers have to be ecstatic about this. Their new software partner can deliver a minor, feature-free update that doesn't wipe out the entire installed base. That's quite an achievement.

        Samsung's got to be a little less enthusiastic. It's bad enough that most of their initial run of WP7 handsets is accumulating dust in a back storeroom somewhere. That they have to eat most of the margin on the ones sold to provide swapouts for a software issue that's not their fault must be salt in the wound. It's going to affect their cost/benefit analysis going forward.
        symbolset
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

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    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      @bc3tech First, to clarify; it's multiple phones, but generally one manufacturer that we know of at this time. That's a little different then one phone. Secondly, the whole point of the Windows Phone 7 vs. Android debate was that by regulating and controlling the user environment Windows guaranteed no fragmentation and a flawless UI experience. So at what point does this obvious fragmentation start being Microsoft's fault and not Yahoo's , the carrier, or Samsung?
      Socratesfoot
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

        @Socratesfoot

        Weren't early reports of bricking for the Samsung Omnia 7, as opposed to the Focus (which seems to work fine with the updates?)
        spacespeed
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      @bc3tech

      I agree. I'm not scared of this at all. We've seen all the big phone players have issues with updates. This isn't any different.

      My wifes on Tmobile so I bought her the HD7. She absolutely loves it. I'm just waiting for VZW to release it's WP7 so I can make the leap!
      Rob.sharp
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

        @rob.sharp@...
        make sure you have see solid terra firma before you take the leap ...

        good luck
        desilvav
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      sarc<br>Despite all the talk about the update bricking handsets , i think it's important to keep in mind that WP7 hasn't sold well. Only a portion of this number, Samsung users, might be affected by the issue. It isn't a problem worth reporting.<br><br>/sarc
      Richard Flude
      • Yet it bothers you that they do not purchase an iPhone

        @Richard Flude
        Why is that? It would be an interesting subject to discuss.
        :|
        Tim Cook
      • Perhaps 600K units?

        @Richard Flude That's worthy of reportage, I think. That would be 60,000 failed handsets with maybe 10,000 rendered useless. Several million dollars worth damage, thousands left without cellular communications while they work out their issues - maybe 4-6 weeks.

        The share of sales isn't noteworthy really. It should be lumped in with "other". But the scale of this mess is disproportionate to market share.

        http://j.mp/gl6Fom
        symbolset
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      @bc3tech Hello, it's technology folks. Not everything works perfectly for every user. However, I agree, this is not news worthy based on the installed base and % of users affected.

      For me, Windows Phone 7 is the best phone / smartphone experience I have encountered. Since November, I have not had to remove my battery or have my device become unstable. Remarkable.

      Perhaps we should discuss what this OS get's right - cloud integration. I travel the entire U.S. and I don't have to worry about syncing my photo's or OneNote across multiple platforms... It's seamless. Wow, now that is a feature that changes the game and brings real value.
      tskiki2@...
      • Remarkable

        @tskiki2@...
        Since November, I have not had to remove my battery or have my device become unstable. Remarkable.
        wow, double wow. 2 1/2 months running, for a Windows device, remarkable
        theo_durcan
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      @Mary Jo

      Mary Jo please, you constantly come here and bash Microsoft.
      Go back to your useless ipad and write about Apple and how awesome you "think" the ipad and iphone and ipod and imac and ibook and i*.* is.

      Windows phone 7 is way better than iphone was at this point in it's life, and it will end up being a lot better than what iphone will be, and droid for that matter.
      I HAVE a SAMSUNG FOCUS AND MY PHONE IS NOT BRICKED!!!!

      You people amaze me, you talk as if a iphone has never been bricked by an update. Well, if you think about it, and iphone should NEVER be bricked. Apple has total control on the hardware. it's not like MS where they have 6 to 10 phones currently out there to support, with a lot more on the way.

      Its like if MS farted, you anti MS people would be there to report that. You all are hyper sensitive, let it play out then report on it.
      mikroland
      • Your take on the matter is, well, outdated...

        just like all excuses that try to justify any deficiencies with any product or service.<br><br>Look, when a tech company is going to compete with a product, they had better put out a product that can compete with the "current" technology of the other companies. That stuff about "at this point in its life" is not going to cut it, and it is not going to be any kind of a plus for anyone seeking to make a new purchase and who is going to be looking for the latest and greatest of technology in their purchases. <br><br>While Microsoft tries to catch up with the features available with the competition of 1 or 2 or 3 years ago, that competition is moving further away with their added features or their new and improved products. <br><br>Catching up with what used to be the technology of 1 or 2 or 3 years ago, isn't going to be very convincing to someone looking to plunk down between $800 to $1000 for the next two years. <br><br>Microsoft needs to get it's act together fast, or they'll be left even further behind, and it might take them another 3 or 4 years to catch up, if they ever do at all.
        adornoe
      • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

        @mikroland

        It has always been amusing to me to see the arguments that partisans of this camp or the other put up to support their statements and delusions.
        "WP7 is way better than iphone was at this point in it's life"
        Wow. I presume this is a plain admission that WP7 only compares to a product of... 2007! What an accomplishment!
        But the real issue here is that... competition is healthy and should be hailed! You guys got WP7 (good or bad whatever) just because iphone and Android obliterated Windows Mobile and Windows reacted.
        If we all had Windows (just as with PCs) innovation is stifled.
        So let's hope Windows also get bashed in the PC realm.
        andesia
      • Kool-aid drinker

        @mikroland Mary-Jo is the biggest MSFT booster on ZDNet.
        MSFTWorshipper
    • RE: Microsoft's Windows Phone 7: When bad things happen to good phones

      Ten percent of WM7 users? Why all the fuss about six or seven people?
      SkateNY