There has been a lot of coverage this week of the issues arising following the first update released for Windows Phone 7.  This problem has been made bigger by the lack of information coming from Microsoft, now corrected (More answers about our first software update) although that in itself has caused more sensational headlines, and the usual inability for the carrier helplines to deal with customer issues (although Microsoft should shoulder blame here too).

The problem is that despite Microsoft trying to calm the situation they chose to quote percentages with no baseline of the number of devices that were sent the update. This has led to sites using the number of licenses sold to calculate the number of devices affected.   There are also websites saying that the update itself was buggy causing the problem but as I understand it the “bricked” handsets are due to firmware issues (affecting Samsung devices) not the update itself.  Given the understandably slow rollout of this update and the fact that only Samsung handsets had a major problem, with only a subset of those unable to recover, that the number of devices adversely affected isn’t that big.

This is my understanding of the situation from what I’ve read. This release was to make the update process itself more reliable so that should be clue enough to people that there might be issues and Microsoft should have been ready for that.  The update process follows these steps as I understand although remember I have no inside information, or experience of the update process, so some is based on assumption:

  • The carrier sends a signal to the phone telling it there is an update
  • Connect the phone to the computer
  • The Zune software downloads the update
  • Zune takes a full backup of the phone including data
  • The update is installed onto the phone
  • The phone restarts with the updated operating system

Problems can arise with the download due to Internet connection, the backup process due to insufficient space on the computer, there can be insufficient space on the device (I’m not clear if this is for the backup or the installation of the update). Depending on how far into the update process you get then you’ll need to free up some space or sort out internet connectivity issues.  If the update process actually starts to flash the update onto the phone before the process is interrupted then it’s possible the phone could be left in an unusable state.  This risk is the same on any device when you are flashing the ROM.  This is where the problems start but even then the phone should be recoverable by reconnecting to the PC so that the Zune software can restore the backup.  Some useful links are here:

Windows Phone – Help and how-to – Phone updates

Installing and troubleshooting problems during the software update for Windows Phone 7

In extreme cases this might not resolve the problem, however, with guidance you can put the phone into download mode which will allow the phone to be recovered from this state (I’m not sure if that recovery happens automatically or requires manually flashing a ROM onto the device).  Unfortunately due to an issue in one version of the bootloader (version on Samsung phones they can’t enter this download mode ( and so can’t be recovered (they require servicing or replacing by the carrier).  The real issue for me is who takes responsibility for fixing/replacing these devices?  This is something we discussed on TDL Mobile Show 67 this week.

Microsoft will send you to your carrier but when you speak to them the uninformed agent they will send you back to Microsoft (who don’t have the luxury of retail stores like Apple) or maybe Samsung.  Looking at this from a consumer perspective if a single phone is now unusable that is unacceptable.  The carrier hasn’t done anything wrong, Microsoft don’t sell devices, they just licence the software, and Samsung have no direct relationship with you. What I believe needs to happen is Samsung should take the initiative and ensure carriers are briefed on how to talk customers through recovering the phone and where that isn’t possible a replacement should be sent for a straight forward swap-out.  Microsoft’s responsibility is to provide as much information to the consumer and to make sure that all these parties communicate to ensure the customer issue is resolved quickly.

Flashing any ROM on any device can cause problems, no matter how many safeguards are in place, it’s how these cases are handled that is the real story.  There should be no customer left out of pocket paying between £25 to £35 a month for a device they can no longer use.

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