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What Happens When You Buy a Smart Phone From a Dumb Carrier

One thing that I learned first-hand working for Nokia was just what carriers do to phones. It’s truly awful. Even when it is supposedly in the name of an enhanced experience. It certainly doesn’t seem to be for the user’s benefit. Take the Windows Phone 8107 update, for instance, as described by Paul Thurrott:

The latest AT&T/Windows Phone uproar involves the Windows Phone 8107 update, which wasrolled out by Microsoft in the first week of January. This update includes fixes for several bugs,including a common one where the on-screen keyboard inexplicably disappears while you’retyping. Other fixes include Gmail syncing and location access, among others. It’s exactly the typeof fix that all Windows Phone users should get automatically.

Windows Phone SoftwareUpdates Revisited, there’s been a lot of confusion around how and when wireless carriers canblock software updates from reaching end users. And the answer, it turns out, is that carriers canblock updates whenever they wish to. AT&T, somewhat surprisingly, has been the mostaggressive about doing so. In fact, it’s never immediately delivered a Microsoft software update tocustomers. Not once.

Microsoft’s Eric Hautala wrote at the time, 8107 update is “available to all carriers thatrequest it.” AT&T has obviously not done so. And as of this week, it appears it never will do so.“We are not currently planning to offer the Windows [Phone] 8107 update,” an AT&T communitymanager wrote in the company’s support forums in response to numerous complaints.

AT&T and every other carrier need to stop treating these smart devices like dumb phones. These smartphones are just like desktop computers. They ship with software bugs. And while dumb phones shipped with software bugs as well, unlike dumb phones, smartphones can actually be upgraded. Easily. Over the air.

Apple is the only company that managed to get this whole phone software update thing right. When Apple releases a new iOS update, everyone can get it. Unlike On Windows Phone where individual operators can decide not to take it, or Android, where it can take months, assuming you ever do see one.

Clearly for the best experience, the only way to go is a factory unlocked phone not tied to an operator. At least being on AT&T, I have a choice. People on Sprint or Verizon aren’t so lucky as you can’t buy a phone not tied to their service and expect it to work.

Why do people put up with this? Is it because they don’t know better or because they don’t have a choice, really?


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