For a few months now, Windows Central has concluded that one of the reasons AT&T was chosen to carry the Lumia 950 over other US carriers was due to the flexibility afforded to Microsoft for OS updates. Windows 10 Mobile (like Windows 10 proper) relies on a steady flow of OS refreshes to improve the user experience. This concept – known as Windows as a Service (WaaS) – is already being proved with at least one OS update and now a new rolling out firmware update.
On Saturday, an AT&T support forum representative posted a statement reaffirming this position and adding substance to our earlier reporting. The news was quickly picked up by Reddit late last night. The AT&T rep known as Alison posted this response to a user regarding updates to the Lumia 950:
"The 950 will be receiving monthly WaaS (Windows as a Service) updates, and the latest one released on December 8th (Build Version 10.0.10586.29.) These updates are not certified by AT&T, and will be delivered via Microsoft over-the-air. A Wi-Fi connection is required. From the App List, scroll down and tap Settings > Phone Update > Check for Update."
Frankly, we were going to skip this story if for one reason: it's technically not official. Right below the statement from Alison is a disclaimer noting "I am an AT&T employee, and the postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent AT&T's position, strategies or opinions." That is a rather significant caveat meaning whatever Alison posts is non-binding. Nonetheless, the specificity in her language including using the technical 'WaaS' terminology suggests this statement is scripted and fairly representative of AT&T on this matter.
What changed and what about firmware?
Back at the beginning of December I wrote "Windows 10 Mobile updated for Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL as carrier blocking may have just ended". I later clarified that Microsoft changed the architecture of the OS so that the radio stack is separate from the OS. Since carriers are only concerned with the radio stack working on their network, Microsoft has an easier task when they want to do an OS update.
The bigger question that still looms, however, is not so much OS updates but firmware. The current firmware that is rolling out globally – albeit slowly – does alter the radio stack. Will AT&T let that update through without any substantial delay? At this time, it is still too early to know as Microsoft is collecting data (telemetry) on the firmware update before going wider. Even their unlocked Lumia 950 XL dual SIM here in the US is not being updated yet.
At the very least, those who own a Lumia 950 on AT&T can be assured that monthly OS updates should be a typical experience. Then again, we've mostly known this for a few weeks now making this story interesting, but not ground breaking.