T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile’s lackluster performance on firmware claims another victim; the Lumia 710. I’m sick and tired of catching fire from them, for talking about it. Here we go again…
Today word comes out of Finland that one device in particular won’t get the improvements of Windows Phone 7.8; T-Mobile’s first Windows Phone. The T-Mobile USA version of the Lumia 710 will apparently be stuck forever on Windows Phone 7.5.
As usual, the problem appears to come down to cost: T-Mobile routinely refuses to pay for the testing and approval costs of firmware updates, when competitively they don’t feel it’s necessary.
Last time with T-Mobile & Nokia, same story… different device. The Nokia 5230 Nuron was Nokia’s promised first round of S60 touch devices to hit American shores, and carrier doors over here. Back when Nokia was insisting it finally understood the American market, it clearly didn’t. We could tell, we told them so, and they just didn’t listen.
But, when it came to patching up the Nuron’s lackluster feature set, web browser, and performance, T-Mobile was the one unwilling to raise a finger.
It’s not that T-Mobile is alone in this one. Virgin Mobile also won’t pay for testing and approval on firmware upgrades. They will test and approve bug fix releases – but it’s a no go when pushing out firmware that actually adds stuff. If you’re wondering why your Virgin Mobile Galaxy S II and EVO V’s chances of getting Jelly Bean got smaller, it’s because of that.
These problems show a painful part of the wireless industry, where manufacturers and carriers simply are not getting along. Carriers insist on testing and approving code that hits devices for which they subsidize… but then, they don’t want to incur the costs and resources needed to do it.
For carriers, it’s a calculated business decision. The failed Sony Tablet P on AT&T didn’t get Android 4.0, because approximately ninety percent of units sold, were sold as rebadged “refurbished” units, that actually were new old stock for which neither Sony nor AT&T could convince anyone to purchase new. This decision hits carriers like T-Mobile, and prepaid operators like Virgin Mobile the most.
Carriers defend this action, of course not on record to PhoneNews.com, as being necessary due to the risk they take. If an over-the-air update bricks a phone, they are going to be named in the class-action lawsuit that will follow… unless they bite the bullet and replace all the bricked phones. After all, the carrier is typically the company that purchases and resells the device, and has tested the firmware that came with the device, as well as powered the network that delivered the update.
But it’s the tech-savvy that are also most likely to be the ones who seek out, and will pick the winners in budget wireless. Virgin Mobile and T-Mobile have both realized this on the plan/pricing side of things, as they’re the ones pitching unlimited data once again.
Once again, we’re left calling in people that shouldn’t be involved in the situation, to fix the problem. Consumers need to complain to the carriers about their interdiction of firmware updates, even if it’s for an old device that is no longer for sale. Often times, the carriers make it downright impossible to file a complaint properly… does anyone at T-Mobile or Virgin Mobile think that customer service is going to log that kind of a complaint properly?
In the end, we’re left calling up Google and Microsoft for help. Microsoft has promised to offer “unofficial” firmware updates for Windows Phone 8 devices (at least, whenever a carrier pulls what T-Mobile apparently did here), though they have admitted to PhoneNews.com on background they really aren’t sure if that’s going to be possible, let alone how it will be implemented. While Android is more powerful, its freedom makes Android far more technically difficult for Google to modularize. Google is going to have a tough time taking over updating Android System as a component, a la Windows Update on desktop Windows, or Software Update on a Mac.
One could just say buy Apple, and you’re promised firmware updates… since Apple controls both the hardware and software. Problem is, as we’ve noted in the past, Apple doesn’t hold their own there either. iPhone 3GS gets iOS 6.0 and 6.1, where as the equal-or-better iPod touch and iPad get left in the cold at iOS 5.1. We don’t think it’s a good idea to let one company control everything, it tends to get rid of the competition that forces firmware updates (and continuous improvement) in the first place.
We do give credit where credit is due. T-Mobile woke up on unlimited data. But, they had to or face complete irrelevancy. From the old Nokia Nuron, to the atrocities that Sidekick 4G owners had to endure, to the latest slap-in-the-face to Lumia 710 owners… they still don’t get it, apparently. We’re getting tired of telling the about it for free.
To T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile, our message is pretty clear. You’re on an island with your firmware update policies. And it’s a bad island to be on, because we’re on the verge of telling customers to jump ship over crap like this. It sure stinks already.