On walkabout in life and technology

Non-upgradable Smartphones

Today, Microsoft announced it’s new Windows 8 smartphone platform, and it looks quite good. But they also announced that their recently released Windows 7.x phones cannot be upgraded to Windows 8. Which means all those early Metro interface adopters who purchased the brilliant Nokia Lumia smartphones are screwed until their lock-ins expire in two years time.

It’s the same in the Android space, whether caused by manufacturers or carriers, they both seem to spend too much time blaming each other so in my book, they’re both responsible. If you buy a brand new Android phone from Samsung or HTC or Motorola today, chances are it’s still running Android 2.1 and will never be upgraded to the latest version 4. Oh, promises have been made, none kept.

What none of these suppliers understand is the smartphone is no longer an appliance like the old school ‘dumb’ phones. It’s no longer the carrier’s device. It’s a fully fledged personal computing device that just happens to also connect to the carrier’s network for voice and data communications. Users of dumb phones understand that they will never change. But users of computers expect that their computers can and will be updated to the latest and greatest software during the viable life of the computer. They expect to keep up. And are very disappointed when they are stuck with a faulty or old device while locked into a carrier contract.

The carriers and the phone platform providers still have the dumb phone mindset.

Consumers who purchase smart phones have the computer mindset.

They assume that their new devices will remain at the leading edge for at least the 2 years of their contract lock-in. They expect bugs will be fixed, new features will be released, just like they expect on their computers.

But, so far this has not happened. And based on this year’s CES and Microsoft’s announcement today, it does not seem likely. You’ll either be stuck on Android 2.1 or Windows 7 this year.

Which means that consumers are being mistreated by the carriers and the smart phone platform makers. As their software falls further behind, bugs do not get fixed, new services and features remain unavailable, and their devices become useless without recourse to update or replace until the contract expires. And consumers do not like this. An unhappy consumer will not use your network or device again, they’ll tell their friends to go elsewhere, and even though these unhappy people are locked in now, you can be sure they’re gone at the end of the contract.

There is only one who truly gets that the smart phone is a personal computing device and ensures that it is maintained and updated for its useable life. Apple and it’s iPhone. They battled the carriers to ensure that Apple maintains control of the platform and thereby enabling them to update and upgrade the device on Apple’s schedule. Making us iPhone users very happy. Even those with the more-than-2-year-old 3GS will get iOS 6, on the same day it’s released for all.

This is yet another reason why I stick with this platform and support Apple.