The Nokia 800 will not be able to receive an update to Windows Phone 8.
Being able to upgrade a phone's firmware is one of the great leaps forward that's been made in mobile phone technology over the last few years. A phone is now more like a computer than ever, and a major software update can make an old phone feel like a new phone, if implemented correctly. So its not surprising that tech-savvy phone shoppers now look for phones that can be updated in the future.
Despite this, Nokia and Microsoft are wandering down a dangerous path this year, with the Lumia-branded Windows Phones. These phones are the latest and greatest from Nokia, but they will not be compatible with an upgrade to Windows Phone 8 due to an incompatibility of hardware — a software update that is expected to be announced later this year. Lumia phones offer a great selection of features, but should someone avoid buying one today, knowing that they will definitely miss out on the enhancements of tomorrow's software?
Manufacturers also face similar brand-loyalty woes for older products in the market. Recently, Motorola posted on a customer-facing blog, explaining why many of its recent releases won't be upgraded to Android Ice Cream Sandwich. In its own words:
You may be wondering why all devices aren't being upgraded to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Here's the deal: we work very closely with Google and cell phone carriers for every software update. And obviously we want the new release to improve our devices. If we determine that can't be done — well, then, we're not able to upgrade that particular device.
The cynical among us will assume (probably correctly) that this is Motorola's way of politely saying that it doesn't want to spend the money upgrading these devices, but this post begs an interesting question. Do all phones need an upgrade? If your phone is running smoothly, and it handles the tasks you need it to handle, do you really need new firmware? Are you entitled to it?
There are hardware limitations to consider, too, as Motorola alluded to in its statement. HTC attracted the ire of fans this time last year when it announced that the popular Desire handset would not be upgraded to the Gingerbread version of Android, citing insufficient memory to support the update. Fans responded through social media channels, and convinced HTC to reconsider, which it did, building a version of the update with several memory-heavy features removed.
Overall, it's become one of the biggest tech headaches for everyone involved; manufacturers, telcos and customers alike. Customers want the latest firmware for their devices, as they want to feel that their tech investment is running as well as it can. For manufacturers and telcos, the process of updating firmware is time consuming, and therefore costly, so it's not surprising that many updates are shipped late, if at all.
These businesses would also agree that updates are still extremely important, especially for building brand loyalty and attracting return customers. Vodafone, for example, has developed an Android Software Update blog to keep its customers in the loop on when updates are being tested and delivered. It may not speed up the process, but at least it attempts to be more transparent, and it recognises that its customers feel that this is a big deal.
The Android examples are different from the Lumia example, though. With the Windows Phones, Nokia and Microsoft are upfront about the compatibility issues; customers who buy a Lumia 800 or 900 should be aware that they cannot upgrade their phones. People using Android phones now assume that their device will be upgradable. But for how long is it reasonable to expect this? Is it sufficient to expect a single major platform update, or should a phone be updated until it is no longer for sale, or until your warranty has run out? Should the manufacturers define an update period when the phone is launched, so that we know what to expect in advance?
I'd love to know what you think about this. Do you feel you've been burnt by a manufacturer's update schedule? Have you updated your phone, only to discover that its performance suffered somehow? Let us know in the comments below.