posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Dec 2012 23:09 UTC
IconSo, last night, Windows Phone 8 got its first update - specifically for the HTC 8X. In this day and age, where iOS is the gold standard and shows the industry how it ought to be done, and Android is the exact opposite, Windows Phone 7 was a bit of an in-between - every phone got every update, but the staggered rollout was slow and frustrating, often due to carrier meddling. How will Windows Phone 8 fare?

I bought my HTC 8X off-contract, unlocked, and completely free of any carrier control. This means my 8X was among the first to receive the update, and so I performed it this morning. Luckily, WP8 finally supports over-the-air updates, so no PC required. It was all pretty painless, but it did take a long time - a total of about 15-20 minutes for what is a very small update, with several moments where I wasn't sure if the phone was doing anything at all.

After the final reboot, I was greeted by a new feature that I've been wanting in Windows Phone ever since I bought my HD7 when the platform was brand-new: the ability to maintain a wifi connection when the device is locked. This has already greatly enhanced my user experience, and I've only had it for a day. Amazing it has taken them this long. The update also addresses a reboot issue some 8X owners were encountering, and also adds SMS drafts and SMS call reject.

Sadly, it seems like little has changed when it comes to who will get the update when. Yes, unlocked 8X owners have already gotten the update, but those with branded devices from their carriers won't be as lucky. There's currently no schedule for when these updates will go live, and it all indicates that Microsoft still can't roll out updates on its own - it needs to go through carriers.

All this highlights the idiocy of the update situation on smartphones when it comes to carriers. The same device, yet the locked version needs "additional testing" or whatever else carriers do, while at the same time, unlocked devices get the update anyway - even without testing. It makes me wonder what, exactly, these carriers are doing that takes up so much time - since it's clearly not needed, as unlocked phones demonstrate.

The situation on Android has already demonstrated that carriers make a mess of things, but the existence of Android skins and OEM customisations has muddied the waters there when it comes to finding out who, exactly, contributes the most to delays. On Windows Phone 8, however, no such muddiness: any delay on branded devices comes from carriers.

As an unlocked WP8 owner, I'm happy with the process of this first update. It just goes to show: buy unlocked. At all times.

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