Strike 3 for AT&T?

In my entry on AT&T’s Unlimited Plan debacle I discussed why despite AT&T’s customer unfriendly policies I was probably going to stick with them.  Now I’m having second thoughts on that conclusion, because of AT&T’s refusal to ship Windows Phone updates in a timely fashion.  The latest slap in the face is AT&T’s apparent refusal to ship build Windows Phone build 8107, which fixes a disappearing keyboard problem on some Windows Phones (including on my Samsung Focus).  Microsoft made this fix available at the beginning of January, and we are approaching the three-month mark without AT&T having allowed it to ship to their customers.  This is inexcusable.

The problem isn’t isolated to simple bug fixes.  In March of 2011 fraudulent SSL certificates were issued by hackers of the Comodo Registration Authority.  This was a serious breach of one of the key Internet security mechanisms and vendors reacted quickly.  Windows was patched almost immediately.  Apple pushed the IOS 4.3.2 update to iPhones and iPads in mid-April.  Microsoft made the certificate fix available in build 7392 of Windows Phone in early May.  When did AT&T make build 7392 available on my Samsung Focus?  Not until October, when I received it as a prequisite to the Mango update.  So my Windows Phone was vulnerable to a site faking that it was Google or Live for 6 months, all because AT&T refuses to ship updates to Windows Phone in a timely fashion.

The update situation around Windows Phone is intolerable, and while the fault might not be Microsoft’s the repercussions certainly will accrue to them.  I am on strike against Windows Phone (and Android, BTW) on AT&T, and on any other carrier that doesn’t have a customer-friendly update policy.  This means I won’t be getting a Nokia Lumia 900 or any other new device until I am assured that I’ll be receiving software updates in a timely fashion.  The policy I want to see is that the carrier will ship all updates made available during my contract period within 60 days of the OS vendor or OEM making them available.  I’d prefer 30 days, or less.  Absent this, or a similar clear and customer-friendly, policy from the carriers I will likely move to the iPhone.  For better or worse that is the only smartphone platform that currently enjoys an update policy unfettered by the customer disdain shown by the carriers.

I know that Microsoft is working the problem of carriers not making Windows Phone updates available in a timely fashion, so I’m not abandoning the platform yet.  They have some time, at least until the next generation iPhone ships.  If they haven’t solved it by then I probably will make the switch.  But it certainly won’t be to the iPhone on AT&T.  This is strike 3 for them, and unless they announce a customer friendly update policy soon I’ll be looking for a new carrier.


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9 Responses to Strike 3 for AT&T?

  1. deiruch says:

    How is Microsoft working on this situation? AFAIK they never commented on actual steps they’re taking. I don’t even quite get why it has to be this way – if Apple gets away with pushing updates on their own schedule, why can’t Microsoft?

    This is the main reason why I haven’t ordered my Lumia 900.

    • halberenson says:

      Like most negotiations these things take place in private. They can’t piss off the carriers by taking them public. The root of the situation is that the carriers have always controlled the updates. When Apple started pitching an “iPod Phone” to carriers they (apparently) offered exclusivity as well as taking over the first line of support in exchange for the right to control their own update destiny and awesome (to Apple) financial terms. Carriers wanted the “iPod Phone” so badly that they gave in to Apple’s demands, and thus the current situation with the eventually named iPhone took hold. No other vendor has had something nearly as valuable as the “iPod Phone” to cause carriers to put their preferred mode of doing business first. In fact, their experience with letting Apple have so much control was to transfer customer loyalty from the carrier to Apple. They don’t want to let that happen with any other vendor, which also explains why they like having multiple phones from multiple OEMs running multiple operating systems. That lets them be in charge rather than any one OEM or OS vendor being in control. They can’t undo the situation with Apple, but they can stop it from developing with anyone else. Android, which is a total mess on the update front, already has enough traction that the update problem is just that, a problem. Windows Phone doesn’t have enough traction yet, so that carrier stupidity can sink it. I am sure that one reason AT&T doesn’t want to yield more update control to Microsoft is that they’d then get the same requests from Google and its OEMs. And then AT&T is on the slippery slope to complete loss of control. Which, from my standpoint as a customer, is exactly where they should be.

  2. Bob says:

    I became an AT&T customer about 7 years ago when my work group moved into a building where Sprint, T-mobile, and Verizion phones got poor to noexistent reception and AT&T came through full strength. As a bonus I also got improved reception where I lived at the time. I no longer work for that employer and am waiting to replace my horrible WinMo not-so-smartphone with a Windows8-based smartphone in a year. I was planning on staying with AT&T because they appear to be the only carrier that offers more than one model of Windows phones.

    However, like you, I’m getting fed up with AT&T. I want security updates from my carrier ASAP and I don’t want to spend a lot of time “managing” an Android phone. I won’t be heavy into Apps, but I do want a few key apps, including the “refill my scrip” app for my pharmacy. It’s available on iPhone and Android. I’m not an Apple fan. I want to be able to change my battery when it runs down and I’m not in a position to charge it. I did just that Saturday when my extended battery ran low and I swapped it for the standard battery. I don’t like the idea of being tied to iTunes to do any syncing of my phone.

    The good news is that all the phones we have are off contract, so unless somebody’s phone goes swimming or something, I can wait.

    • halberenson says:

      I’m hoping that as Windows Phone 8 roles around the end of the year that all four major carriers in the U.S. will be offering multiple WP8 phones. Beyond the issues I raise about updates and other customer unfriendly behavior on AT&T’s part the main problem with the Nokia Lumia 900 is that we are inside of the 6 month window when WP8 devices are likely to be shipping. And so the longer one delays the more incentive there is to wait and see what the fall brings. For example, I am a heavy use of my phone for photography so why not wait to see if the fall brings an updated Lumia 900 with Nokia’s Pureview 41 megapixel camera technology?

      I’m happy with my Samsung Focus, other than the disappearing keyboard, and my main personal reason for getting a Lumia 900 would be to have a front facing camera. Right now I’m thinking I can live without that for a while longer. Of course I may have business reason to get the Lumia 900 despite my issues with AT&T, but that is another story.

  3. txabi4 says:

    I feel your pain. I was very frustrated with AT&T and what I finally did was head to the XDA devs forum, downloaded the Rogers Canada retail ROM (which is a pretty clean, generic copy of the original MS WP7 OS) and flashed my Samsung Focus.

    The process took me about 15 minutes, upon connection to Zune… voila! Received all updates up to 8107, since Rogers is keeping a good pace with the updates. No customer should have to resort to hacking their phone to get the updates, but such seems to be the fate of AT&T customers. At least now my phone is secure again – and faster, and free of all AT&T customizations that bothered me to no end).

    Just something for you to consider 🙂

    • halberenson says:

      I personally have a number of ways to circumvent the system, but the question is do I really want to? And will doing so help consumers in general?

      • txabi4 says:

        Oh, agreed! That was just a personal solution, that’s all. It’s still lamentable that most consumers – who don’t even know what flashing a ROM means – are stuck with older OS versions. Hopefully WP will gain traction eventually and become one of the leading mobile forces, and maybe then MS will have the economic/market strength to pressure carriers into letting them handle the updates themselves. The mobile world would surely be a better place.

  4. Pingback: Strike 3 for AT&T? | Pizza And Code

  5. dave says:

    Well said on the tardy update problem, especially regarding security.

    How to change this situation? Perhaps a public petition from 100 Chief Security Officers working at ATT’s top corporate customers. Those companies have employees, who, if they are with ATT risk having their phones being compromised. Imagine if top 100 corporate customers said they would be moving to another comms option unless Android and WinPho updates are timely.

    ATT will repsond to two things – loss of business and bad publicity. This crazy idea hits both points.

    Now, how to get this started?

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