Windows Phone 7.8 : Where do you stand ?
By now we all know that current Windows Phones will be getting 7.8 whilst only new hardware will be getting WP8. By now we have almost certainly all read a ceaseless slew of blogs and posts and articles criticising Microsoft for abandoning its loyal user base, its early adopters. That user base has taken to comments sections in their droves to either side with the many writers taking shots at Microsoft, whilst the camp splits in two and others defend the Redmond-based company.
The question is: is it so bad? The commonest examples provided by supporters of the move are Android and the iPhone 3GS. With the former, buying into that ecosystem with a brand new phone does not even guarantee the latest version of the OS, let alone future upgrades – Sony is shipping its line of new Xperias mostly running Gingerbread, version 2.3 as opposed to 4 (admittedly they are getting updates out as I write this, but the point stands). That puts us Windows Phone users in a better position, with a guaranteed 18 months of updates. As for Apple’s now-archaic (by modern standards) hardware that is the iPhone 3GS, that will be getting iOS 6 it seems. However, that will not be the same iOS 6 running on the iPhone 4S or even the iPhone 5 (or “new iPhone” to follow their iPad naming convention); it will be a stripped down version, applying only what the hardware supports and presumably will make the device even slower. In effect, it is more of a 5.6 than a 6 – but then it did not even have the full 5.0 either. With Windows Phone, we will get the features our phones can support without slowing down our phones – a consistently great experience has preceded any need to just hurriedly bolt on the latest features until now, and should continue to do so.
The point with Apple is that iOS 6 on older hardware is not the same as iOS 6 on its newer counterparts, but by being ambiguous in their naming scheme consumers are happier to let slide that their phone is missing features and has been slowed down by updating. It is almost as if being honest has hurt Microsoft. They have accepted that they cannot deliver the full Apollo update to us on our existing phones, will do the best they can but have also acknowledged that by giving the update a different number. That was their big mistake; I am not convinced that calling it WP8 but also saying it has its limitations would have gone down as badly as 7.8 did.
People point to how first-gen devices cannot and will not be able to download apps that were designed for the new kernel in WP8, but again Apple has set the precedent here. I have a second generation iPod touch; whilst I can access the App Store, very few new apps are downloadable as they were designed for the latest and greatest OS build, which my hardware does not support and Apple cut off that touch from future updates. So phones are more expensive and dearer to people as it is their communications hub, but the principle remains. It was such that even when the OS build my touch is on (2.3 or something) was the latest, downloading certain apps would incur an error along the lines of “this application does not support your device’s hardware” or whatever.
The other point people are making is that we will only be getting a new start screen. We do not know for certain that that is the case, as I understand it. With the exception of the new-look start screen (which I am glad to finally see), the new features announced at the Developer Summit were all generic things (but which are great additions to the platform): NFC, a Wallet, better resolution screens, new mapping service (Nokia) to be used, and so on. None of these are readily copy-able by either of the main competitors at Cupertino or Mountain View, or things they were not trying already; Apple announced a similar feature set at its WWDC. Microsoft have already promised that more features will be improved or added for the launch, with details coming closer to said launch. Why would Microsoft announce these now, three months in advance, just to appease users and let Apple and Google copy and perhaps give them the time to come out with competing products by launch? I fully expect that as more features are detailed for Windows Phone 8, we will be seeing several of them on our first-gen devices once we update to 7.8. I cannot see the start screen on its own bumping up the version number to 7.8. If that were the only update, it may as well be included in Tango – it has already been showcased, no need to keep it hidden, and they could get some great usage statistics and improvement suggestions for the feature to make it an even better experience on Windows Phone 8.
I may be wrong, of course, but I see the outcry as being a bit premature. Microsoft has to keep its planned features under wraps to not give an easy advantage to Apple and Google, who already have considerable market share, and cannot be divulging its secrets to put at ease some worried Lumia 900 users (although a “we’ll be announcing more WP8 features soon, some of which will make their way to WP7.8″ would go a long way to silencing vocal critics).
Right now, the biggest problem is the uncertainty about updates, especially with those who just last week were proud owners of shiny new Lumia 900s. Some have said that if they were happy enough with the device to buy it, they should be happy with it on its current OS build even in six months’ time but it is never nice to be left behind so soon after purchase. I have seen several posts about people threatening to defect back to iOS and Android, but really, to do so before the release of WP8 (around the time of the suspected new iPhone as well) would be rash to say the least, and by then there should be far more concrete information coming from Redmond to allay our fears and reassure us that WP7.8 is not Microsoft deserting us, but trying to give us as much of that Apollo goodness as our old hardware can manage.
For what it is worth, this was all typed on my Windows Phone using the Office Suite. Update or not, it is still a powerful tool.
This is a guest post by Max Nilsson ( from BestWP7Games.com )