iPhone vs. WP7 Update Frequency Explained

WP7 has not received any updates to this date.

Recently, Paul Thurrott wrote a controversial article claiming that Microsoft’s lack of updates within 3 months of initial release indicates that Microsoft has done “absolutely nothing”. The validity of this argument needs an in-depth analysis to see if it truly is a quality complaint, or simply a way to gain click-traffic to his website.

The iPhone’s History

The first iPhone was released on June 29th of 2007. A month later, on August 1st, Apple released update version 1.01 for the iPhone. This update was simply a security update, fixing the vulnerabilities in the phone’s web browser, Safari.

The first iPhone. Image courtesy of iPhoneHeat

This update was critical as Computerworld pointed out, since these security holes could allow hackers to obtain data from user’s iPhones, initiate phone calls, and even unknowingly record user’s phone conversations.

After almost another month, update 1.02 was released on August 21st and fixed some unspecified bugs. Some users claimed it boosted their Wi-Fi signals, but Apple never stated if they fixed anything relating to Wi-Fi.

Another month later (three months after the initial release), Apple released update 1.1.1 on September 27th. Unlike the last two updates, this actually added some features. One of their main new features was adding the ability to access the iTunes music store from the iPhone. However, you could only access it through Wi-Fi, not your data connection. They also added a setting so you can disable the data connection. Some other very minor features were added, like double-tapping the home button to instantly go to the Phone or iPod app, double tapping the space bar to add a period, added video out, increased speaker and headphone volume, added custom ringtones, and added screen rotation in the Email app. However, you could still not use the keyboard in landscape mode within the Email application; the landscape keyboard only worked in Safari, the web browser.

WP7’s History

The HD7. Image courtesy of T-Mobile.

Windows Phone 7 was released to most of the world on October 21st, 2010, and then to America on November 8th, 2010. At this point, Windows Phone 7 had a developer SDK and the ability to send text messages to multiple people, type in landscape mode, surf the Zune Marketplace over data connection, create website shortcuts on the Start screen, rearrange Start screen tiles, use cellular triangulation, and more. However, it has not received an update yet.

Comparison

Because WP7 has not received any updates after being available for less than three months, does that mean it is a failure? Lets compare the iPhone updates to what WP7 had from release:

The iPhone’s first three updates, which were each released about a month apart, mainly fixed security issues. Update 1.01 and 1.02 only fixed some critical security issues and a few unspecified bugs. Does WP7 have any security holes that could allow hackers to unknowingly listen in on your phone calls? I believe WP7 does not. The third update Apple released, 3 months after releasing the iPhone, added features that are already very basic and included in Windows Phone 7. For example, browsing the music store from your device through Wi-Fi was one of the new features, however with WP7, you could do that from day one, even through your data connection. Also, Apple tried to add more landscape support to the operating system, but the keyboard still didn’t work in landscape except in Safari, compared to WP7 where it works in landscape everywhere from day one.

The updates Apple released to the iPhone were either insignificant to the end user (unspecified bug fixes), necessary for the device’s security (Safari vulnerabilities), or minor feature additions (which were few and far apart). The only substantial update the iPhone received within the first three months compared to Windows Phone 7 was the addition of custom ringtones, which is slated to be added to WP7 within the next month (February) anyways.

Conclusion

Measuring a company’s work effort based off of the updates they release within the first three months of a device’s introduction is an outrageous way to evaluate success. Microsoft could have released WP7 three months earlier and then added the current features we have as updates, and this whole “Apple makes more software updates” argument would be invalidated instantly. But instead, Microsoft waited and released everything together, instead of adding a music store browser two months later. When we consider that Microsoft has to get cellular providers to approve updates for Windows Phone 7 before they are pushed to the end user, it would be irrational for Microsoft to try to release many small updates compared to a few large updates, since that could lead to some users having outdated versions of WP7. With the pace Microsoft is moving, providers can test and accept one large update and push them to users who will then be on the same OS version at a reasonable time, which is a lot easier for developers to manage and leads to far less headache for everyone in general.

Was Paul Thorrott’s article written to simply gain site traffic? Possibly. He clearly didn’t examine the issue in depth when he claimed that Apple’s “sheer pace of improvement and innovation” is “stunning in retrospect”. Microsoft is developing at a similar pace; the only difference is that Microsoft is waiting to release their updates as large packages while Apple released them in short small bites.

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About Author

As an avid gamer, I see the Windows Phone as a solid platform for mobile gaming. I will review almost every WP7 game and give you an idea if it is worth your money or not! In addition to gaming, I have been using Windows Mobile since 2005, and understand just about everything there is to know about the Windows Phone platform. Xbox Gamertag: DirtSurfer07 (add me!)