Further details emerge on Windows Phone update plans, including Blue

Earlier this week, Microsoft announced that it is extending the support lifecycle for Windows Phone 8 - originally 18 months in length - to 36 months, guaranteeing platform updates and security patches for the operating system until January 2016. 

Yesterday, the company detailed its latest update, General Distribution Release 2 (GDR2), which will begin rolling out to devices over the next few weeks. Like the update before it - GDR1; better known by its development codename, 'Portico' - the upcoming update will deliver a set of relatively minor fixes and improvements to the OS, including FM radio support and broader availability of its Data Sense feature. Many Windows Phone 8 owners have already expressed frustration over the seemingly lethargic pace at which new, and more substantial, features are being rolled out. 

It looks like things may not get much better any time soon. The Verge has been doing some digging, and has shared details uncovered from their sources regarding the state of Windows Phone updates. The most significant revelation appears to be confirmation of what had been widely feared - that the 'Blue' update for the OS won't arrive until early 2014. 

Why such a long wait? It seems that Microsoft had originally intended to deploy more regular and more significant updates, but unexpected problems in testing updates scuppered those plans. One particularly problematic issue arose with testing unlocked, off-contract devices, specifically with how those handsets are identified by mobile networks. Issues such as this one proved harder to resolve than expected, holding up development work on subsequent updates. 

For now, Microsoft is said to be concentrating on enhancements to the OS to support new hardware. As we've previously reported, the focus of the next update, GDR3 - believed to be the last update that Microsoft will deliver this year - will be on introducing support for quad-core processors and higher-resolution 1080p displays.

This will pave the way for the first 5- and 6-inch Windows Phone phablets, which the company promised earlier this week at its Worldwide Partner Conference, at which it laid out some of the broad strokes of its product plans for the next twelve months

So the Blue update - expected to take on the name 'Windows Phone 8.1' - will be the next really substantial update for the OS, bringing significant features such as enhanced multitasking and, finally, a notification center, along with a range of as-yet uncovered improvements. The company has already announced that, in early 2014, it will launch an "enterprise feature pack" for the platform - delivered as part of an OS update - which will bring better support for corporate customers, including auto-VPN, email encryption, and device management controls for IT administrators.

But Microsoft is also said to be reviewing the possibility of bringing some of those features forward to deliver them to users in the GDR3 update later this year, apparently at the behest of the device manufacturers. 

Whether that means current Windows Phone 8 users will get to enjoy some exciting new features this year remains to be seen. With Apple's iOS 7 already gearing up, and Google's Android 5.0 expected later this year - and new competitors like Mozilla's Firefox OS launching to compete with Windows Phone in the fast-growing lower-end of the device market - Microsoft can't afford to delay. 

Source: The Verge

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I am sure gd3 will bring more than just 1080 and quad core support, I wouldn't be surprised if ms add some other stuff that will be finished by then and not wait for wp8.1 to release it, I think gdr3 will now be more than a minor update. wp8.1 will bring in the business stuff and more unification with w8.1.

Locking to operators happens in the phone's radio stack which is ofc responsible for all communications. Most operators have customized versions of the original radio stack to improve compatibility with their network. They also have to update a .dll in the OS though. So when a phone is unlocked without the traditional code from your operator and you replace the radio stack, then you run in all sort of trouble. I say Microsoft shouldn't care as each OEM also has the WWE of phones which is unlocked.

Riva said,
Locking to operators happens in the phone's radio stack which is ofc responsible for all communications. Most operators have customized versions of the original radio stack to improve compatibility with their network. They also have to update a .dll in the OS though. So when a phone is unlocked without the traditional code from your operator and you replace the radio stack, then you run in all sort of trouble. I say Microsoft shouldn't care as each OEM also has the WWE of phones which is unlocked.

Is this what operators do in the US? If so they should just stop messing around. In Europe you buy your phone in any electronic store, insert your SIM and you are good to go. If you do not have one you walk in a carrier store and buy one.....
The carrier racket lock on the US market is really outrageous.

That's what they do everywhere. If you go to settings >about>more info you can see a different radio version between a locked and an unlocked phone of the same make and model

Riva said,
That's what they do everywhere. If you go to settings >about>more info you can see a different radio version between a locked and an unlocked phone of the same make and model

Do not confused unlocked with unbranded, there is a difference. Said that I have used unbranded phones here in the US forever and I never experienced any signal issue. I once bought an iPhone for my wife, do not remember what model it was, and the only difference between that one bought in Europe and the ones, at the time, solely sold by AT&T was that my wife one was capable of sending and receiving MMS, a feature that AT&T enabled with a patch after several months.

I am not talking about unbranded but about unlocked
I am not sure how the iPhone works, only windows mobile and windows phone

While I also wish the pace of updating was faster, you do have to realize they have released MUCH more updates AND faster than the Android and iOS. So I'm not sure why you're all complaining about the pace.

Because people always want more more more now now now. These people represent the worst of instant gratification culture. I remember people claiming Microsoft doesn't update Windows Phone fast enough not even 4 months after releasing WP 8. There's not a lot you can do about it as a company but release high quality software when it's ready.

j2006 said,
While I also wish the pace of updating was faster, you do have to realize they have released MUCH more updates AND faster than the Android and iOS. So I'm not sure why you're all complaining about the pace.

As a general rule I always respect other people opinions regardless of the fact I agree with them or not. Said that I completely disagree: the pace of updates is very slow and the way they are delivered is cumbersome to say the least. There are basic functionalities still missed and without any indication about when and even if they will be added; an emblematic example is the separate volume functionality; check how many votes it has and still no word from MS about it.
As for the usual argument about how the competition is performing..... well, I cannot care less about it: I bought a WP powered device and I care about how my device is handled.
And to be very honest the idea that the same person who was in charge of WP development is now in charge of my desktop/portable OS is very concerning.

It is clear now that WP hardware is evolving at a much faster pace than the OS itself. Kinda sucks for nokia. And there are lot of little things here and there in terms of WP updates that are just unacceptable at this points. VPN support is coming? really?

One thing talked about previous was allowing phone owners to bypass the carriers/OEM and get updates directly from Microsoft. Some how this option is no longer talked about.

Also, my lumia 920 as well as other win phone 8 users lost the ability to send or receive Facebook messages through the message center.

Also, why do we need a separate Skype app? why can't they bake this thing deep into the OS and make it function natively like sending text messages or receiving phone calls?

red hook said,
One thing talked about previous was allowing phone owners to bypass the carriers/OEM and get updates directly from Microsoft. Some how this option is no longer talked about.

Also, my lumia 920 as well as other win phone 8 users lost the ability to send or receive Facebook messages through the message center.

Also, why do we need a separate Skype app? why can't they bake this thing deep into the OS and make it function natively like sending text messages or receiving phone calls?

Its easier for them to update the app separately than rolling out an update for the OS just to fix skype. I think this method is faster. Look at Google Maps and YouTube on iOS.

I hope moving the WP team together with the Windows team and not off on their own in E&D will help speed things up now. Maybe if the last bit of the story is true and they're actually going to push things forward from 8.1 into GDR3 then the change has helped.

Either way, they need to speed up bad, and though it's easier to catch up instead of staying ahead, they're still behind. 8.0 was a nice update but we should've been rolling out GDR3 now and talking about 8.1 for the holidays.

Thank you again for using my amazing face on your Windows Phone picture Sure to get more view now.

In other news, Blue for Windows Phone hurry up and come out, I need VPN Access !!!

Microsoft has been seriously harming their partners and the evolution of Windows Phone hardware since day one. I honestly don't get why they are doing this. They have a potentially great platform on their hands, but it will never catch on if it doesn't support the latest hardware and isn't updated on frequent basis.

.Neo said,
Microsoft has been seriously harming their partners and the evolution of Windows Phone hardware since day one. I honestly don't get why they are doing this. They have a potentially great platform on their hands, but it will never catch on if it doesn't support the latest hardware and isn't updated on frequent basis.

I don't think the poor hardware support is what will kill off the platform, i don't even think slow updates to the OS and feature set will kill it off. For example, take Apple's iPhone, although it arguably has more features then the Windows Phone, it's updates provide little and hasn't changed much since its initial release of iOS in terms of features.

Now, the big difference for most users is the Apps and Games, something the Windows Phone has been struggling and continues to do so even if Microsoft tries to boost how fast the market is being populated by fart soundboards and sexy wallpaper apps.
To make matters worse, in most cases if you buy an iOS app, and even more so on Android, you can use it on your Tablet. In Microsoft's world, you buy the app on your Phone, then on your tablet, then on your xbox too if you feel like spending more yet again. 
Not only that, but prices of apps and games on the Windows platform are ridiculously expensive compared to iOS or Android. Unless you're lucky enough to have one of your apps or games come on sale for the Windows marketplace you're looking at least 400% marketup on our iOS and Android counterparts (thats without even taking into consideration cross hardware use/phone/tablet etc).

Microsoft really need to get a grip on their pricing, you can go and check the reviews of almost every xbox live title on the windows phone and you'll see the reviews are littered with people saying the prices are too expensive. These are people who're actively looking to play and buy the games, not just people ranting on the internet.

Its a real shame because over the years now Microsoft has told use how the unified platform and core NT kernel will allow for games and apps to be run with little or no change to code on all platforms. Yet, still we're being ripped off and we see little effort from developers or Microsoft to support what pipe dream we've been lead to believe.

I love my Windows Phone, and although I hate how Microsoft is moving, I don't want to leave it since I think the OS is great for what I want. However, as much as I did like Windows 8 and the xbox, I've now got a Mac and actually enjoying it (ironically). I could go back to Windows 7 on my PC, but I like the extra speed of Windows 8 (among other things) but the app ecosystem they've forced upon everyone is not something I want to continue with...

(he says as he purchases Flight control on WP today ...)

sagum said,
updates provide little and hasn't changed much since its initial release of iOS in terms of features.

Obviously you never used iOS/iPhone OS v1.

.Neo said,

Obviously you never used iOS/iPhone OS v1.

I think he meant the other way around. iOS (and Android) have added several visible features whereas Windows Phone has remained largely the same because the WP7.5 to WP8 transition was more of a back end change than adding new user features. I think the issue now is that since they've completed that difficult switch to WP8, leaving WP7 users behind, we're demanding to see more from Microsoft in terms of feature set, like what you get in the major iOS and Android updates.

We haven't had a major update since WP8 came out, and MS has been pretty quiet about it up until this week. Having to wait until 2014 is also making people very anxious to see what is in store for the future.

.Neo said,
Microsoft has been seriously harming their partners and the evolution of Windows Phone hardware since day one. I honestly don't get why they are doing this. They have a potentially great platform on their hands, but it will never catch on if it doesn't support the latest hardware and isn't updated on frequent basis.

I agree. Look how long Apple and Android phones have had 41 megapixels cameras already. How can they ever lead?

LogicalApex said,
I don't get it... Why is updating WP so hard? The move to the NT Kernel was supposed to make it easier; or so I thought...

From the article above

One particularly problematic issue arose with testing unlocked, off-contract devices, specifically with how those handsets are identified by mobile networks. Issues such as this one proved harder to resolve than expected, holding up development work on subsequent updates.

LogicalApex said,
I don't get it... Why is updating WP so hard? The move to the NT Kernel was supposed to make it easier; or so I thought...

the move to wp8 and shared kernel means updates will not require big platform changes and should make adding things easier, but the issue here is not the codebase - its supply chain. Ms update, carriers test and it deploys, but the issue here relates to how devices are identified when they are unlocked off contract. I'm not sure about anything else nor do i know a detailed explanation, but i do know its nothing to do with the shift to windows 8 kernel

duddit2 said,

the move to wp8 and shared kernel means updates will not require big platform changes and should make adding things easier, but the issue here is not the codebase - its supply chain. Ms update, carriers test and it deploys, but the issue here relates to how devices are identified when they are unlocked off contract. I'm not sure about anything else nor do i know a detailed explanation, but i do know its nothing to do with the shift to windows 8 kernel

Is it really that hard for Microsoft to check for SIM lock when checking for new firmware updates, and if it's not SIM locked supply stock firmware flash for the user, effectively by passing the carriers that don't want to provide updates for their users.

Carrier contract phones are the same hardware as retail phones, they just have a branded firmware installed. Of course, it does mean that carriers that provide a unlocked phone by default might be a bit annoyed by users having their phone flashed clean of branding by Microsoft... but, there is always that thing called giving users an choice of if they want to flash to stock or keep with their branded services on the phone... shocking I know, but we did have choices in the past and users dealt with it pretty well.

I'm confused, Apple only updates it's phones with a major version once per year. Google hasn't had any major changes to Android since 4.1 (4.2 is a minor release honestly). Microsoft has already had a minor release with GDR1 in December/January and now GDR2 in July, with GDR3 this fall.

Are you complaining about the lack of updates or the lack of features?

sagum said,
Is it really that hard for Microsoft to...

It's much easier to be an armchair quarterback on Sunday than a real one.

dagamer34 said,
I'm confused, Apple only updates it's phones with a major version once per year. Google hasn't had any major changes to Android since 4.1 (4.2 is a minor release honestly). Microsoft has already had a minor release with GDR1 in December/January and now GDR2 in July, with GDR3 this fall.

Are you complaining about the lack of updates or the lack of features?

I know... strange.

sagum said,

Is it really that hard for Microsoft to check for SIM lock when checking for new firmware updates, and if it's not SIM locked supply stock firmware flash for the user, effectively by passing the carriers that don't want to provide updates for their users.

Carrier contract phones are the same hardware as retail phones, they just have a branded firmware installed. Of course, it does mean that carriers that provide a unlocked phone by default might be a bit annoyed by users having their phone flashed clean of branding by Microsoft... but, there is always that thing called giving users an choice of if they want to flash to stock or keep with their branded services on the phone... shocking I know, but we did have choices in the past and users dealt with it pretty well.

The problem with allowing customers to flash to stock is that carriers also bundle network settings and optimizations into their phones at the firmware level (or, as with the iPhone, in a carrier settings bundle). This is how certain phones come with UMA (Wifi calling), Visual Voicemail, and other carrier specific features. When phones are unlocked and/or come with stock firmware, carriers then have to test phones to make sure they at least work properly and can be provisioned correctly on their network (you know, SMS/MMS, voicemail, and data) so they don't have to spend so much time troubleshooting phones and don't have to worry about phones placing a larger load on the network than they're supposed to.

Anthony S said,

The problem with allowing customers to flash to stock is that carriers also bundle network settings and optimizations into their phones at the firmware level (or, as with the iPhone, in a carrier settings bundle). This is how certain phones come with UMA (Wifi calling), Visual Voicemail, and other carrier specific features. When phones are unlocked and/or come with stock firmware, carriers then have to test phones to make sure they at least work properly and can be provisioned correctly on their network (you know, SMS/MMS, voicemail, and data) so they don't have to spend so much time troubleshooting phones and don't have to worry about phones placing a larger load on the network than they're supposed to.

I understand what you're saying and that can cause problems for the networks like you said, but also confuse some users, but if they're willing to unlock their handsets they should be informed via the service provider or the software doing the flash that they might lose functionality offered by their provide. Given a choice if they want to flash to stock or not....
Regardless of that, here in the UK unlocked handsets are common with people moving networks frequently, and when a new phone is on the network for the first time, a ams is sent to the number containing setup details for the phone. You just have to accept settings, and the phone is setup with the internet/mms etc, in-fact when I recently forced a firmware update on my LG Optimus 7, on reboot, the network sent me the settings again. So its very possible for providers to setup this method for their own network to provision new handsets with the basic of settings.

Customers making the choice to unlock and move providers are probably more then happy to add a few remaining settings to their phone to get it working... and I bet there will be an app to do it for you if it was possible.. i know LG have their own 'network setup' app from their branded store, that includes all UK providers and is a 1 button setup for everything.

This doesn't account for networks in countries where each carrier isn't simply a "dumb pipe" as they are in the UK and the rest of the EU where all of the networks operate in much the same way and have few (if any) special optimizations. In the US and Canada, for example, every carrier's network is built and operates entirely different. Even GSM-based carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. This is why the US and Canada only receive a very specific set of phones that are optimized for each carrier. We rarely ever get unlocked phones here.

(Disclaimer: I am using a 920)
I think that WP has come a long way, and it's really impressive. The comment raised in the article however regarding the speed IS right. There are just core features that are taking FAR too long to land. I'm feeling the other OSs are actually pulling ahead, rather than the other way around...

UseLess said,
(Disclaimer: I am using a 920)There are just core features that are taking FAR too long to land. I'm feeling the other OSs are actually pulling ahead, rather than the other way around...

Agree somewhat, it is pretty slow to get done.. but I'd still rather have them release it when it's ready and get it right the first time versus rushing it out the door regardless of what state it's in. That's one of the reasons I dropped Android on my phone. (Still use it on a couple tablets though, stability isn't as important there for me.)

agreed, im surprised they are taking so long, i thought that was the point of unifying the code base onto NT. They need to quickly step up the iterations of it's windows phone platform to keep them up and sometimes ahead of the competition. Notifications is particular noticeable absentee

Sorry but updates with new features every 6 months is not that bad at all. Every other OS is once a year if I am not mistaken. I would rather have something properly tested instead of getting it on my phone rushed so that I report on (bad) progress see iOS