After complaints from end users, Microsoft has suspended its first Windows Phone 7 update for Samsung handsets, in order to correct an unidentified "technical issue with the Windows Phone update process." But the glaringly public glitch has highlighted the fact that the "Windows Phone update process" involves more than just Microsoft, its code, and the end device. Some afflicted end users complained in online forums that neither the handset manufacturer nor their mobile carrier were even bothering to help.
A user with the handle Qboid_WP7Fail, complained at the Microsoft Answers Web site that his Omnia 7 phone, on Virgin's mobile network in the U.K., "is currently unusable, even after hard reset."
And anything like tech support, let alone customer service, was in short supply: "Samsung Customer Service were useless (I had to explain what Zune was) and Virgin (the carrier) told me they haven't approved the update so were washing their hands of this issue."
Another U.K. user with a different carrier had a similar experience. "In my case, T-Mobile UK also said 'it was nothing to do with them'," wrote Loconinja. "This does not bode well."
Microsoft says the problem affects a "small number of phones." Once the fix has been completed, the update will be released again for Samsung Windows Phone users.
Microsoft's complete statement on the matter is: "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."
That will be too late for some irate users. Another T-Mobile customer in the U.K., gcaw, says his handset is "quite literally bricked." A minor, routine software update now promises to be a weeks-long ordeal, compounded by business and support procedures that now look strikingly inflexible.
"What's most annoying is that T-Mobile UK, who sold me the phone just two months ago, are claiming this isn't their problem," his post continues. "They're telling me that I can take it to one of their stores [which Microsoft tech support has told users is the only option for a bricked phone], but it will have to be submitted as a manufacturer warranty claim - so rather than T-Mobile providing me with a replacement handset today, I'm going to have to wait "4-6 weeks" for the phone to be sent back to Samsung, for them to perform "diagnostics and checks", and to assess whether or not I'm entitled to a replacement handset."
"I'm pretty p"ssed off right now," he concluded, in a model of British understatement.
The troubles began on Monday, when Microsoft announced and released a kind of preliminary update for the Windows Phone 7 firmware, in preparation for a pending, more substantive update that will add features such as copy&paste. Ironically, the initial code change was intended to make the whole process of software updates work smoothly for users.
Almost at once, some users of Samsung phones such as the Omnia 7 and Focus began posting at online forums that the update process stalled, usually at Step 7, and wouldn't complete. In some instances, the phone "bricked" becoming completely unusable. Microsoft support techs were recommending checking to make sure users had the latest Zune software, removing and re-installing the phone's battery and then running the update again, and doing a "hard reset" of the phone.
Not all Samsung users, apparently were affected. And other brands seem to run the update without incident. The impact of the flaw was also limited because the new firmware was being phased in, so everyone did not get a greenlight for the new code at the same time.
John Cox covers wireless networking and mobile computing for Network World.
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