First major Windows Phone update starts rolling out to (almost) everyone

Windows Phone 7 logoThe first major update to Windows Phone, version 7.5, codenamed "Mango," is finally nearing its consumer release, two months after being released to manufacturers and networks for testing. Microsoft is now delivering the update to every handset on every carrier in the US and the rest of the world, with a handful of exception. Handsets should start receiving update notifications at any time over the next few weeks.

The biggest exception is for Telefonica customers in Spain. Telefonica is still "testing" the update, with no indication of when this testing will be complete or what the cause of the delay is.

The remaining exceptions are restricted to certain handset models. Updates for the Samsung Omnia 7 are not yet available for Deutsche Telekom/T-Mobile customers throughout Europe, nor for SFR customers in France, though updates for that phone are apparently available for users on other networks. AT&T is only rolling out the Mango update for users of the HTC Surround, LG Quantum, and hardware revision 1.3 of the Samsung Focus. The update for the HTC HD7S is currently "scheduling" (meaning that it has finished testing but is not yet being deployed), the update for hardware revision 1.4 of the Samsung Focus is still in "testing," and updates for the Dell Venue Pro are in a mysterious "planning" state.

In all, the company says that around 98 percent of users are eligible for the upgrade; the remaining two percent will become eligible as AT&T, Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom, and SFR resolve the remaining issues.

Though available to all, update notifications will be staggered. Microsoft is aiming to notify 10 percent of users by the end of the week, 25 percent by the end of next week, and the remainder within another couple of weeks. Should problems arise, the process can be halted.

The update process itself may result in several updates being actually installed to handsets; an AT&T HTC Surround running build 7392 (NoDo with a security update) was first upgraded to build 7403 then build 7720, the final Mango build. During the installation of both 7403 and 7720, the Zune client made a device backup. After all this, the phone might prompt to install device-specific updates, too.

This simultaneous global rollout represents an enormous improvement over the situation with the "NoDo" copy-and-paste update. With NoDo, updates trickled out, with some carriers quick to approve it, and others dragging their feet. Further, a number of technical difficulties were discovered, particularly for users of Samsung handsets; some phones were bricked, and the rollout was temporarily halted so that these issues could be investigated.

NoDo was eventually made available for everyone, but the process was neither as quick nor convenient as anyone would have liked. If the Mango rollout is as smooth as Microsoft hopes—and company representatives we spoke to were confident that it would be—it will leave the company well-positioned for quick and effective deployment of future updates.

This is not just significant for delivering new features to end-users; it's also important for security. Mango's Web browser is fundamentally identical to Internet Explorer 9 on the desktop, and that similarity will extend to security flaws. While Patch Tuesday-style monthly updates for the phone are unlikely to occur, timely deployment of fixes is nonetheless essential to the security of the platform.

The decision to open the update up to everybody suggests that carriers, manufacturers, and Microsoft have together resolved the problems that caused so many problems for NoDo, though Microsoft was unwilling to share any specific details. The exact nature of the testing remains unclear; company representatives said that their intent with carrier testing is to ensure that updates do not break any phone networks, but admitted that Apple doesn't perform any equivalent testing for its updates. Most carriers also permit the use of unbranded handsets (which receive their updates without carrier-imposed delays), suggesting that they do not have an overwhelming need for such updates either.

Part of the promise of Windows Phone, and one of the benefits it offers over Android, is smooth, reliable access to updates. That promise wasn't really delivered on with NoDo; it looks like Mango is going to be a very different story.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Microsoft, mobile phones, Windows Phone 7

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