A Brief Comparison of Upgrade Support Between Phone OSs

Much todo has been made about the recent decision to not provide upgrades to Windows Phone 8 for existing devices.  Indeed some of this criticism is warranted but I think before we go further, we need to put this into perspective.  Many references have been made to Apple’s rather good track record of providing OS updates for existing devices so let’s start there.

The iPhone released June 29th 2007, the last OS update for that phone was released Feb 2 2010, so it recieved 950 days of upgrade support.

The iPhone 3G released July 11th 2008 and the last OS upgrade it was eligible for was Nov 22 2010, so it got 865 days of upgrade support.

The iPhone 3GS was released June 8th 2009.  As of today it is still getting OS updates, but the last one was May 7th 2012 giving it at least 1065 days of upgrade support.  iOS6 comes out much later in 2012 so obviously this number will increase.

The 4 and 4S released in 2010 and 2011 and show no immediate signs of losing OS support.

So with those numbers in mind how does Android do?  This is a difficult one to peg down, because so many different manufacturers offered varying amounts of support.  Let’s take the reference design from Google, the Nexus line, and see how it fairs:

The first “Google Phone” was actually a reference design from Google/HTC released by T-Mobile as the G1.  This phone released October 22 2008.  The last OS it was -officially- eligible for was released September 15th 2009 giving the phone just 329 days of support.

The next reference design, the Nexus One released Jan 5th 2010, the last official update it recieved was September 2 2011, giving it 606 days of upgrade support.

The Nexus S released December 16th 2010.  It recieved its latest upgrade March 29th 2012 and continues to get updates for the forseable future…thus far giving it 470 days of official support.

So now that we have an idea of those OS support histories, what of Windows Phone?   The first Windows Phone devices released in Europe October 21st 2010.  If we presume that the 7.8  update will release after Windows Phone 8 (speculated as late Sept/Oct) this will mean devices at release will have had approximately 2 years of OS support or 730 days. Other markets released shortly afterwards in 2010 (November for US) so the time frame here is roughly the same.  We also don’t know if 7.8 will be the last update, I’m guessing it probably will be though.  From a support standpoint however it is very plausible we could see 7.8.x updates into 2013.

This puts Windows phone behind Apple’s support schedule but looking MUCH better than Android’s support schedule.  I will not go into the fact that each subsequent Apple iOS releases excluded features for earlier devices.  There are still lingering issues however.

One of the common complaints is that people buying Windows Phones in the last few months have been abandoned.  Indeed, the Titan II and Lumia 900 were only released mere months ago.  The Samsung Focus 2 released only weeks ago.  So for these new phone owners, their lifecycle support is drastically reduced to a few hundred days, if that.

There are certain Android device makers that have done the same thing however.  Samsung, Sony, and LG to name a few have released 2.3.x devices most recently that are not upgradeable to the latest Android 4.0 release.  One difference however is that they are not limited by Google to provide this update, they simply choose not to.  Microsoft on the other hand is defining this hard cutoff for device makers, giving no recourse for customers to pressure the device OEM for an upgrade.

This may be the largest fracture for recent Windows Phone adopters, which by recent numbers, make up a huge bulk of the Windows Phone user base.  Users who bought launch devices are vastly outnumbered by post-Mango buyers simply from the fact that Nokia is the largest Windows Phone OEM now, and has only released 7.5 devices.  How these users will react remains to be seen, however it can be safely assumed that the upgrade announcement has killed sales until the fall.

So in summary:

iPhone       950 d
iPhone 3G 865 d
iPhone 3GS 1065+ d

Google/HTC G1  329 d
Nexus One           606d
Nexus S                470+ d

Windows Phone (first devices) 730+ d (est), possibly continued support?

Microsoft has struck a healthy balance it appears on paper it seems, if not in the minds of their customers.  Microsoft can never hope to attain device support tenures to the length of Apple’s, as it does not control device release schedules for the various OEMs.  It can and has provided better support than Android reference designs.  I would speculate that it also has had a better support lifecycle that the average times for all Android OEMs.  Going forward, Microsoft has committed to an 18 month support cycle for devices, but as of right now it is unclear if this means from the release of the major OS revision, or when a device actually ships.

Microsoft needs to do something to relieve the angst held by the late cycle Windows Phone owners.  Providing a very complete 7.8 update would go a long ways towards this.  By complete, we are talking IE10, Wallet features (even NFC Wallet for the Lumia 610), replacing the maps with Nokia Maps along with the enhanced Local Scout improvements, additional Bluetooth and networking support (VPN), and improved support for Skype et al.

For all devices, OEMs need to also be mindful of curing any and all lingering hardware bugs (Dell compass, HTC memory crashes) so that customers can really feel like they have reached the pinnacle of their device’s performance.

Windows Phone 7.8 needs to see devices going out with a bang, the absolute best they can be, while still providing the smooth user experience we have come to expect.

Does Windows Phone 7.5 now offer the best Exchange experience?

When Windows Phone released in 2010 it was widely panned by the business community for lacking the feature sets businesses had come to expect with Exchange and Windows Mobile 6.5.  Indeed, with every release of Exchange, the next release of Windows Mobile would almost always support the full functionality of Exchange. 

To exacerbate the situation iPhone licensed certain Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) policies from Microsoft which put them ahead of the initial Windows Phone release in regards to EAS.

With the release of Windows Phone 7.5 (Mango), support for several EAS policies came as well.  I believe it is important to now contrast these improvements between the latest versions of operating systems on the three major platforms.  I will go through the current list of support provided by Wikipedia and have discussion points of the specific Windows Phone discrepancies as current of Feb 1 2012.  For this exercise we are going to only discuss Windows Phone 7.5 as there is simply no reason why you would not be upgraded to Mango at this point.

Company
Microsoft Apple Google
Product Windows Phone[4] iPhone/iPod (iOS)[5] Android
Version 7.5 5 4
Mango Ice Cream
  Sandwich
Exchange ActiveSync 2.5 – Exchange Server 2003 SP2
Features:
Direct Push Yes Yes Yes
Email sync Yes Yes Yes
Calendar sync Yes Yes Yes
Contacts sync Yes Yes Yes
Tasks Sync Yes Yes No
Remote wipe Yes Yes Yes
Sync multiple folders Yes Yes Yes
GAL lookup Yes Yes2 Yes
SSL encrypted transmission Yes Yes Yes

With what we would regard as basic EAS support, or 2.5, pretty much across the board all phones support full features.  Chuckles do go out to the fact that Android 4.0 still cannot sync tasks from Exchange.  GAL lookup on iOS only returns basic information for the user instead of the full contact info on Windows Phone.  It is safe to say that Windows Phone offers the best EAS 2.5 support.

Exchange ActiveSync 12.0 – Exchange Server 2007
Features:
User started remote wipe (server side) Yes Yes Yes
Link Access No No No
HTML email Yes Yes Yes
Server Search Yes Yes Yes
Set Out of Facility/Office (OOF) Yes No No
Follow-up flags Yes No Yes15
Meeting attendee information Yes Yes No
PIN reset No No No
AutoDiscover Yes Yes Yes
Bandwidth reduction Yes Yes Yes
Policies:
Allow attachment download (client side) No Yes Yes
Maximum attachment size No No Yes
Enable password recovery No No No
Allow simple password Yes Yes Yes
Password expiration (days) Yes Yes Yes
Enforce password history Yes Yes Yes
Encrypt storage card No N/A No

 

With Exchange 2007, the EAS version jumps to 12, to match the version of Exchange itself.  Feature wise none of the operating systems support Link Access or reset PIN.  Link Access allows Exchange to proxy through links to SharePoint and UNC files without need to use a VPN.  I do have to take exception with the information provided by Wikipedia as I have personally witnessed and performed access to a file via Exchange email.  None of the OSs support the ability for Exchange to reset the lock screen PIN.  With 7.5, Windows Phone offers a leg up on the competition by having the ability to set Out of Office replies directly on the phone as well as set and sync follow up flags in mail (which iOS cannot do)  Windows Phone can also view meeting attendees which Android does not do.

In regards to EAS 12 policies Windows Phone does not support the policy “Allow Attachment Download”, this policy allows the phone user to choose whether to download the entire message with attachments or not.  Since the Windows Phone user has the ability to do this manually in each message, support of this functionality is unnecessary, although other OSs will respond “True” to a query from the server.  Lilewise, neither Windows Phone or iOS will respond to a Maximum Attachment Size query from the server.

Windows Phone does not support the policy to encrypt storage cards.  This is an issue that has been mentioned before by enterprise security pundits.  It should be known that only one Windows Phone to date has supported a user removable storage card, the Samsung Focus which uses the SD Card Association encryption scheme to encrypt and pair itself with the card.  Removing this card from the phone resets the phone and renders the card data useless.  Because of this, support for removable storage encryption is unnecessary.

To summarize, Windows Phone offers the best EAS 12 features support, but does not support the most EAS 12 policies from a strict compliancy perspective.  However, it equally supports the most –pertinent- EAS 12 policies compared to other mobile OS.

Exchange ActiveSync 12.1 – Exchange Server 2007 SP1
Features:
Cancel remote wipe (server side) N/A N/A N/A
Remote wipe confirmation N/A N/A N/A
Default mobile policy (server side) N/A N/A N/A
Bandwidth reductions (compressed/removed headers) Yes Yes No
S/MIME13 No Yes No
Policies:
Disable desktop ActiveSync Yes18 N/A N/A
Disable removable storage Yes18 N/A No
Disable camera No Yes Yes
Disable SMS text messaging No No No
Disable Wi-Fi No No No
Disable Bluetooth No No No
Disable IrDA Yes18 N/A No
Allow internet sharing from device Yes18 No No
Allow desktop sharing from device Yes18 No No
Disable POP3/IMAP4 email No No No
Allow consumer email No No No
Allow browser No Yes No
Allow unsigned applications No N/A N/A
Allow unsigned CABs No N/A N/A
Application allow list No N/A N/A
Application block list No N/A N/A
Require signed S/MIME messages No No No
Require encrypted S/MIME messages No No No
Require signed S/MIME algorithm No No No
Require encrypted S/MIME algorithm No No No
Allow S/MIME encrypted algorithm negotiation No No No
Allow S/MIME SoftCerts No No No
Allow device encryption No Yes16 Yes
Require device encryption No Yes16 Yes
Minimum number of complex characters Yes Yes Yes
Configure message formats (HTML or plain text) No No No
Include past email items (Days) Yes Yes No
Email body truncation size (KB) No No No
HTML email body truncation size (KB) No No No
Include past calendar items (Days) No No No
Require manual sync while roaming No Yes Yes

Service Pack 1 for Exchange 2007 brought us EAS 12.1. From a feature perspective not much was gained.  However, policy wise, many additions were made.  EAS 12.1 was designed with managing with quite some granularity, Windows Mobile 6.x devices.  As a result, many of the policies we see in this release are not supported by any modern OS.  Feature wise, Windows Phone supports Bandwidth Compression, as does iOS.  Windows Phone does not supprt S/MIME.  The reasons for this are many, but I invite you to look up the background on S/MIME and its difficulties of implementation

For the policies, Windows Phone will reply in the affirmative when queried by the server to disable certain features.  However, features such as IrDA, CAB files, etc are not even applicable to Windows Phone, so support for these deprecated features are to maintain backwards compatibility as much as anything.  Windows Phone does not support the disabling of the camera or browser.  Also at 7.5, Windows Phone does not support on device encryption.  This is an issue for many corporations who need to secure devices physically out of their control.  Microsoft has indicated at Windows Phone 8, Bit Locker encryption will be provided to encrypt the phone and presumably meet this criteria.

To summarize EAS 12.1 support, Windows Phone supports the features equally, but currently is deficient in policy support. We hope for this to improve in Windows Phone 8.

Exchange ActiveSync 14.0 – Exchange Server 2010
Features:
Conversation View Yes No12 No
Move always No No No
Reply state Yes No Yes
UM card (client side only) No No No
Free/Busy lookup No No No
Nickname cache Yes No No
SMS sync No No No
Downloadable client No No No
Notes sync No No No
Policies:
Allow mobile OTA update N/A N/A N/A
Mobile OTA update mode N/A N/A N/A

EAS 14 ships with Exchange 2010.  Windows Phone supports the broadest set of the new features.  With Windows Phone we get the Conversation View, similar to GMail.  Windows Phone also supports Nickname Cache which is a sync of commonly used emails (So type Bob and it knows that as bgood@contoso.com), and this is synced between all clients such as Outlook and Outlook web access.  Windows Phone and Android will also reflect the reply state of the message, so you are not left wondering if you have replied to the email.  The only new policies introduced are regarding over the air update functionalities for Windows Mobile devices.  Support for this is not applicable.

In short, the new features brought by Exchange 2010 are best supported on Windows Phone.

Exchange ActiveSync 14.1 – Exchange Server 2010 SP1
Features:
Conversation segments Yes No No
GAL Photos Yes No No
IRM support Yes No No
Block/Allow/Quarantine List (device info) Yes No10 Yes
Allow attachment download (server side) N/A N/A N/A
Policies:
Allow IRM over EAS Yes No No

Most recently, Exchange Service Pack 1 introduced some new and useful features for EAS 14.1  ONLY Windows Phone supports these new and useful features.  With SP1 we get full support for Information Rights Management (IRM) which is a more straight forward and practical way of securing corporate information via email.  Windows Phone will also now pull contact photos from GAL if utilized in the enterprise.  It can now pull segments of email conversations as well.  Of the policies, only Windows Phone supports IRM over EAS.

There is no question, if you want to extend the latest features of Exchange SP1, Windows Phone is your only solution.

So, does Windows Phone offer the best Exchange experience these days?  Feature wise, without a doubt.  If you want to enable the most EAS features across platforms, Windows Phone is the way to go.  It is important to note that none of the modern mobile operating systems support EAS features like Windows Mobile, but then again, some of those features (like CAB black/white lists) are obsolete.

From a policy perspective, Windows Phone is still lacking in three areas, device encryption, camera disablement, and browser disablement.  If companies are not currently or planning to implement these policies then I can say Windows Phone still holds the advantage here.  Also, if you want to take advantage of new enterprise friendly technologies like IRM, Windows Phone is the only way to go.

Learned something new today

You can’t restore tour phone backup to a new memory card. Fortunately this really only affects the Focus.

A tale of two platforms….Sameapp Shodown!

 

 

 

 

Netflix:

iPod Touch v1.1.2-773

Windows Phone v1.1.5.1

 

As soon as the Windows Phone came out I couldn’t wait to compare the same app on both it and the iPod/iPhone.  The obvious first one of these is of course Netflix.  Netflix goes out of their way to try and offer a similar experience across all screens for their app, so this would provide a good opportunity to highlight the GUI advantages/disadvantages.

The first thing we are presented with for both apps is of course the home screen.  The iPod screen features a familiar row of soft buttons along the bottom of the app for Home Genre Search and Instant Queue.  Windows Phone has the same topics implemented through sliding text at the top.  Being that Windows Phone is panoramic in nature, the text actually scrolls off the screen.  This would seem to give the iPod version an advantage since you can click any of the buttons without scrolling.  However, I noticed that when I turned to landscape for the Windows Phone all categories were now present.  I could then click on each one just as I would the IPod soft button.  Trying the same thing on the iPod reveals….well, it reveals that the home screen doesn’t switch to landscape.  Bummer.

Another point to the home screen is that the recommendations are broken out into screens.  On Windows Phone, the recommendations are presented all on one scrolling page with thumbnails and the ability to stream directly.  Definite advantage to Windows Phone here as you are not flipping back and forth between pages.

When it comes to playback, the iPod shows some advantages that Windows Phone chooses not to implement.  One is the 30 seconds back button on the player.  The other is an aspect ratio button that allows you to view 4:3 in original or stretched.  I could find no such functionality on Windows Phone.  One hindrance to the iPod Touch version is that due to the lack of a hardware back button, it has a “done” button.  However, what I have found with this is that if you hit “done” in the middle of a movie, Netflix does not save your spot.  It actually makes the Resume function worthless because you are always going to start the show over.  I presume this is something that will get fixed when Netflix brings it up to version parity with Windows Phone.

 

In all, I have to give the Windows Phone version of Netflix a slight edge here.  The ability to browse in portrait or landscape as well as browse all recommendations from one page definitely shows some UI advantages of a modern phone OS.  The iPhone version does show some refinement in the playback portion, but these are minor features that get little use.  If the next update to the Windows Phone version adds 30 sec back rewind and aspect, the iPod version will definitely start to look aged.

Google + RIM: The Perfect Shotgun Wedding

Now that the sleeping giant has awakened and graced the world with Windows Phone 7, many are looking around the room at who the odd man out is.  Most people will agree that the incumbent, Apple, is not too concerned about this sudden 4th player coming to the table.  I think soon the stats will show that not too many defections occurred with the release of Windows Phone.

However, the ones that seem to be knashing their teeth the most are the Android crowd.  In fact, shortly before WP7’s launch, Google was bold enough to come out and say the world doesn’t need another OS….clearly worried about fragmentation.

What then of RIM?  The Blackberry is flailing to find a voice in the consumer smartphone fervor.  Certainly, it provided a good corporate alternative to Windows Mobile when it came to email.  But how many people do you know are saying “hey, I want to go out and buy a Blackberry!”…?  The Torch was a miserable failure from a consumer standpoint.  No doubt, corporate users will replace dying BBs with Torches, but one has to wonder how many of those users carry an iPhone or Android.

Then we have what is perhaps the most damning announcement, Dell is kicking RIM out of the house.  Even in good economic times, CIOs had a hard time stomaching a secondary server that was needed to work with the corporate Exchange infrastructure.  Now Dell is boldly announcing what more companies are thinking…why do we need a Blackberry Enterprise Server when now we have a phone that works directly with Exchange and is something people would actually want to carry?

Certainly not the position RIM wants to be in, and with the recent privacy fervor with India, Saudi Arabia, et al…how comfortable do you feel emailing someone with a Blackberry?  It could all come together for a perfect storm of bloodletting (or juicing as it were) for the Blackberry.

So who might be the white knight in all of this?  Well Google of course.  They are dying to get inside enterprises, and their Google Apps suite certainly hasn’t been doing the job.  Google and Blackberry hitching up would suddenly get Google’s name on a server in practically every major company in the world.  From there they could launch an attack on the enterprise from the inside. 

First task would be to separate BES from Exchange and make it a force unto itself with a Google messaging platform.  It would essentially be an Exchange and Office Communication Server (now Microsoft Lync) wrapped up into one.  Consumers already rave about Google Voice….GV for the Enterprise?  Even better.

Then of course Google could put the aging Blackberry OS to rest and migrate everything to Android, while keeping the more coherent app store Blackberry has fostered.  No need to stay in the hardware business either.  There is something to be said about letting OEMs make the hardware, just go the Microsoft route and establish a chassis standard.

RIM escapes their current debacle altogether and Google removes a player from the market while firmly wedging themselves between Microsoft and Apple….while staying relevant.

Funny things my son says

So this weekend the weather was particularly nice, my son and I were sitting out in the back yard in our chairs watching the airplanes and I was telling him the name of each tree in the back yard.  I told him botany was the science of plants and trees (way over the head of a 4 yo, yet it spurned this thought):

“Dad, when I was at Mimi’s we learned about science”

“Oh really?”  “What science things did you learn about?”

“Pirates.”

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