A few days ago, Microsoft released the long-awaited Windows Phone 7.8 update for all those users who will be stuck on Windows Phone 7 forever because there’s no upgrade path to Windows Phone 8 other than buying a new phone. Now that it’s here, what, exactly, does WP7.8 to the table?
Windows Phone 7’s core consists of Windows CE 6.0, as we already detailed a long, long time ago. For Windows Phone 8, the company made the bold move of leaving the venerable Windows CE behind in favour of the just as venerable Windows NT. According to Microsoft, this brought with it heftier system requirements that Windows Phone 7 devices couldn’t fulfil.
This was a slap in the face of the – admittedly, small – existing Windows Phone userbase, especially since Windows Phone 7 devices were still being sold, and, in fact, are still being sold today. As a sort of peace offering, Microsoft promised us Windows Phone 7.8. Its release has taken quite a bit longer than anticipated, but now that it’s here, was it worth the wait?
Well, first of all, we’re looking at yet another one of them phased rollouts, so it’s very likely your phone hasn’t been updated yet at all. There are a few ways to force the update – the Zune trick, manual .cab files, or the automated .cab install – but if you don’t want to take any risks, it might take a few weeks before you’ll get the update. Even though I’ve already happily moved on to an HTC 8X, I grabbed my unbranded and unlocked HTC HD7 out of the closet to see what WP7.8 is all about. I had to use the automatic .cab tool to update, but it worked.
So, what does Windows Phone 7.8 bring to the table? To be honest, very, very little. Despite the version number jump from 7.5 to 7.8 and the update’s symbolic function as a peace offering, it’s purely cosmetic, and other than resizable live tiles, a few new accent colours and minor changes to the lock screen, it brings absolutely nothing to the table. So, it basically comes down to the only new feature being resizable live tiles – of which the small versions, the new size, look fuzzy because the developers haven’t updated their applications to include the proper resources.
The deprecated nature of WP7 also becomes apparent when looking at applications. You see, just as with the shift from 7.0 to 7.5, developers can’t just submit a single version of their application to Microsoft. Instead, they have to maintain both a WP8 and a WP7.8 version of their application. With Windows Phone already playing a distant third fiddle to the Android and iOS juggernauts, you can’t really blame developers for not bothering with WP7.8 at all, moving to working on WP8 versions only.
And so, Rowi on WP8 is version 3.2.0, but only 2.2.0 on WP7. Facebook – 4.1.0 on WP8, 2.8.0 on WP7. Not only is the operating system itself outdated, the applications are as well. You’ll have to settle for slower versions, possibly with bugs that have already been fixed in the WP8 version. For a platform with few users, this doesn’t seem like an inviting prospect for developers.
Really, that’s all there’s to it. There’s nothing else to add here – that’s how utterly insubstantial the Windows Phone 7.8 update is. There’s no noticeable speed improvements, no defining new features, and – my biggest complaint, which I saved for last – it didn’t address Windows Phone 7’s biggest problem.
I was under the impression that Windows Phone 7.8 would significantly improve upon its predecessor in one particular area: the browser. Internet Explorer 9 in WP7.x was already lagging behind when it was new, and this has only gotten worse with the years. Sadly, Windows Phone 7.8 does not update Internet Explorer to version 10, which is way, way better. In other words, you’re getting an update, but you’re left with an old and outdated browser.
So, all in all, Windows Phone 7.8 is hollow, pointless, and essentially useless. It does nothing to address the total and utter abandonment of loyal Windows Phone 7 users, and doesn’t solve the problem of current Windows Phone 7 buyers already buying outdated, deprecated stuff.
I honestly have no idea why this was released in the first place.