It turns out, if you and a group of others can protest hard enough and communicate your message to the right people, you can achieve action. Telstra, Australia's biggest phone carrier does NOT have a good track record of releasing phone updates, especially to their line of Android Phones, but when Microsoft last year announced how they were going to architect their phone OS (in terms of strict, uniform standards) and how they would deliver the updates to customers, Windows Phone users felt a lot easier that Telstra wouldn't get in the way for them on this particular platform. Well unfortunately, that changed somewhat between the release of the phone and the time the first update was actually released on February 22nd 2011. It turned out that while Telstra wouldn't need to actually modify the phone OS or work with the manufacturer to get the update working on the phone, they would be allowed to test the update that Microsoft had created and already tested to see if would impact their network. So today (April 29th, 2011), minutes before the Royal Wedding began, Telstra tweeted that they had approved the March Update for the HTC 7 Mozart and updated their smartphone table to reflect this announcement and show that their other less popular phone (the LG Optimus 7Q) would be approved to be updated sometime in May. This whole process has involved a lot of fighting, complaining and ultimately writing to the CEO to be resolved, so let's have a look at how this whole situation panned out.
Microsoft had some initial issues with updating their phones internally in February, which is why they released the small pre-update on February 22nd 2011 to fix small issues with the updater on the phone. In the US, they were some issues with a small number of Samsung Focus phones which had been sent out to consumers in an incorrectly configured state. So initially, this small February pre-update did not go out to phones for a couple of weeks, but by the end of March, most phones in the world had this update available to them. Then on March 24 2011, Microsoft announced the rollout of the March update (codenamed NoDo) which was the update to include features such as cut & paste, better Marketplace Search for the US & Europe, faster launching and closing of apps and CDMA support for the US. There were complaints around the world that many people didn't know when they would get their update (because phone carriers weren't publicising that information), so Microsoft created a table on their website which allowed us to track if an update was in testing or had been approved and would be available on the phone soon. On April 6th 2011, Telstra finally decided to approve the February pre-update, that nearly every other carrier had already approved weeks beforehand, so we thought it was a sign that they might also be releasing the March one. Turns out this was not to be. By the second week of April, the majority of phones in the world had the March update, and the only holdouts were Telstra AU, Optus AU, Telefonica Spain, Deutsche Telekom Europe & AT&T US. Then on April 15, AT&T announced that 2 of their 3 phones (Samsung Focus & LG Quantum) would be updated to NoDo on April 19th (US Time) and this occurred, leaving 4 carriers and 1 AT&T phone left to get NoDo. Then on April 28th 2011 it was announced that, Optus, Deutsche Telekom & AT&T's final phone (the HTC Surround) had all approved the update and would be receiving it in Early May. This left just Telstra here in Australia and Telefonica in Spain without any news on when the update would finally leave their testing phases. Telstra had nothing to say, other than - check out our smartphone updates chart for more information.
So now we come to look at how Telstra has been operating through this whole mess. Firstly, it was only user action (one particular user in fact) who pushed Telstra to create this smartphone update chart in the first place. Sheeds of "Sheeds' Blog" campaigned hard on the Telstra feedback website to get a single page to list all of the smartphones that Telstra sells and when respective updates for them will be released to customer's handsets. You can read about it in his blog entry (http://www.sheeds.com.au/blog/?p=125). So once Telstra listened to this user feedback and created the table, they populated it and then said - "job's done" and didn't update it again until today (in respect to the March 2011 Windows Phone Update). The problem was, the table entries for Windows Phone quickly become out of date, because it said, they were "expecting to receive the software to test in April" and that the release date was "TBC", even though we knew they already had it, because other phone carriers had already received, tested and approved it and Telstra was even selling a phone called the HD7 which included this update out of the box. So when customer representatives were telling users to check the smartphone updates table, they were leading customers to a page which lied and mislead them - Telstra had managed to turn Sheeds' great idea into a useless excuse for a timeframe. So on April 28th when Optus and most of the other holdout carriers finally approved the update (and leaving Telstra as the only Australian carrier to not approve the update) a number of us started to get really angry and blogged about this (http://www.sheeds.com.au/blog/?p=529) and even wrote to the CEO of Telstra to show the company that we were fed up.
So this is the entire contents of the letter I sent to Telstra's CEO David Thodey:
To CEO Of Telstra: David Thodey,
I'm writing to you after a month of being a very unhappy Telstra customer. I purchased a HTC 7 Mozart from Telstra in November last year as an excited Microsoft customer and with the expectation that updates to the device would be released quickly to fix the missing features the phone has when you compare it to an Android or iPhone handset. Microsoft is doing their job, but Telstra is not doing theirs.
Microsoft released the Windows Phone 7 March Update to phone users on March 24, 2011. 14 days later, most carriers in the world had tested and released this update to their customers with no issues (including Vodaphone AU). It's now 2 days until the start of MAYand Telstra has still not approved this update or even given some type of timeframe as to when they will approve it. Today Optus and European carrier Deutsche Telekom also announced they had approved this update for release to their customers. This leaves Telstra and Telefonica Spain as the LASTtwo carriers in the world (and Telstra the LAST in Australia) to not have approved this update to their customers’ phones.
All questions and complaints about this issue to Telstra staff have resulted in one of two actions. They have either said to me, "we don't know when they'll be approved, we will share more when we know" OR they have said, “Take a look at the Smartphones Update table on the Telstra website (http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile/phones/smartphones.html)”. So if you look at this table, it does two things. Firstly it gives you absolutely NO meaningful information about when the update will arrive, it just says To Be Confirmed. There's no point having this table, if you're not going to fill it in properly. Secondly it actually treats me like an idiot by LIEINGto me! The text reads "Expect to receive software for Telstra testing in April" for HTC 7 Mozart's March Update. I know this is a lie, because every other phone carrier in the world has received the update, tested it ANDreleased it and did so weeks ago. Microsoft wouldn't release the update to every phone carrier in the world and exclude Telstra, so we know you have the update or have access to the update, so that table is incorrect.
So if you have the update, what exactly are you doing with it? Apparently you're "testing" it to see if it will impact your network. This update needs VERYminimal testing. I know what this update does - it provides 4 major features and some bug fixes. It adds Copy & Paste support to the OS, it improves searching the Marketplace to allow for separate searching of Apps & Music (this doesn't apply to Australians as we don't have the Zune Music Marketplace, so it only searches apps anyway), it improves the speed of launching and resuming apps and it adds CDMA support (which again doesn't apply to Australians as we don't have any CDMA networks). The bug fixes include Marketplace stability, Wifi settings, Outlook app improvements, Facebook integration fixes, camera fixes and audio fixes.
Microsoft engineered their OS to work differently from Android phones. Unlike Android Phones, Windows Phone all have the same base hardware and therefore the OS works on all these phones with very little customisation to the OS, whereas Android phones require major configuration by hardware manufacturers as they can choose to use nearly any combination of hardware they like. This means, that when Microsoft makes small changes to the OS, it will work on all the handsets with little to no customisation too, unlike Android where they essentially have to start over with a new updated base image to customise again. So trying to use the same "testing" reason to justify the absolute lateness for this Windows Phone March update that you use for Android updates just doesn't cut it. The changes that this update includes don't involve how the phone works on the cellular network and therefore they don’t need to be tested for over a month by a phone carrier. Microsoft tests the actual OS software features thoroughly before they give them to you, so we know the phone will work.
This is proved by two things. Firstly the HTC 7 Mozart is sold in Europe and users and carriers there haven't had any problems after the March update, especially with networks. Secondly, you're selling a phone on your own network called the HTC HD7 which INCLUDESthis update out of the box and it's working fine. So there are now many of us who have come to the (I suspect correct, although you'll deny this I know) conclusion that the only reason you're blocking this update from reaching our phones is to sell the HTC HD7. I know this is a common sales technique; try and make the consumer exit their contract early, pay the early termination fee and then resign with a new contract to get the new handset. This can be the only plausible explanation because there is no other reason why the HTC 7 Mozart would need over a month's worth of testing when we know it works elsewhere. It's insulting to hear the HTC HD7 being advertised as "the only Windows Phone in Australia to include the NoDo (March 2011) update", when it really should be on ALLthe phones. Also, if I were to buy this HTC 7 Mozart outright with the update pre-installed from overseas and wish to buy a Telstra SIM card to put in the device, I'm very sure you aren't going to stop me from doing that, even though theoretically it could damage your network (although we know it won't) the same way a phone sold by you would.
There is a much bigger and much more important update coming out later this year, which will bring ALL Windows Phones up to approximately the same feature set as current iPhone and Android devices. I am quite worried, through the waiting process you’ve put me through for this relatively small update, that when the bigger update is released later this year, the process will be significantly worse and that I may not see that update until 6-12 months after it’s released or possibly never! Your current track record isn’t putting confidence into me that Telstra is going to do the right thing in the future.
So to conclude:
1. Please just release this March update to Telstra customers and stop blocking it for "testing" for no good reason - it's been long enough.
2. If you absolutely can't for some reason, please explain to us exactly why you can't (or what your process is in proper detail) instead of
a. ignoring us
b. telling us to wait OR
c. asking us to look at an inaccurate chart.
3. Fix that inaccurate chart so it's semi useful to Windows Phone users.
4. Stop LIEING to us about the update, saying you're still receiving it and saying you need to "test" something which doesn't need testing.
5. Please have the decency to reply to this message. I'm a Telstra customer and shareholder, I think you have a good network, but this is ridiculous and makes me consider switching carriers.
6. Once you get this March update mess sorted out, do the right thing in the future for the bigger updates.
Finally, as an extra piece of information. There's an update which is going to be released sometime in early May which is an important security fix for the phone (around SSL certificates). I believe this update requires the March update to be installed first, so if you continue to block the March update, there's a very good chance you'll be putting your customers at risk by stopping them from receiving the security update and I could see lawsuits heading your way over that.
So please update the phone. You're EMBARRASSING yourself as a company by being one of the last 2 carriers to approve the update (see Microsoft's Official Update Table: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsphone/en-us/features/update-schedule-world.aspx ) and you're just angering customers.
I eagerly await your reply. If I don’t receive a reply, I will consider other avenues including the Telecommunication Ombudsman.
Here’s some reports from the Press Today About The Issue Too – All Mentioning Telstra’s Failings:
To Telstra's credit, I received a phone call today from the CEO's office telling me they had received my complaint and were looking into resolving it. Well, this evening during the middle of the Royal Wedding coverage, Telstra quietly tweeted that they had approved the update to the HTC 7 Mozart and would approve the LG Optimus 7Q in May. They also updated their smartphone table to say the new estimated time of arrival for the update for HTC 7 Mozart users would be Early May and LG Optimus 7Q users would be May. So thankfully we now will finally get our update.
I have some thoughts and comments on this process though. Firstly, where's Telstra's explanation of why it took them 37 days to approve the March update, when it took most other carriers around 14 days to do so (and why it took 44 days to release the tiny February pre-update as well)? Secondly, I don't think the timing of Sheeds' and my own letters to the CEO and this news finally being announced is a co-incidence. Why would they not release the update yesterday with the other 3 carriers who did and save themselves all the bad press they got just yesterday from news media all around the world? Finally, I think the timing of this release (7:15pm on a Friday night, during the middle of the Royal Wedding) was very deliberate, to avoid as much discussion about this as possible by doing it when everyone was distracted, a very sly move indeed.
So well done Telstra for finally pulling your finger out and releasing this update to your customers (and it's time for Telefonica in Spain to do the same, they're officially LAST now), but let's hope you don't repeat your poor poor efforts on future updates including this May security update to fix SSL certificate issues and the extremely important and major Windows Phone 7.5 (codename Mango) update later this year. This platform NEEDS all the updates that Microsoft churn out for it, so it can catch up to the iPhone & Android phones on the market today. We don't need Telstra to delay that process any more than absolutely necessary. It turns out though, that writing to the CEO of a company who's giving you trouble & having a few people do it, sometimes helps.