In a new forum announcement Microsoft has revealed details about letting those on the Insider program for phones grab new firmware direct from Microsoft. Currently, if enrolled in the Insider program phones cannot receive new firmware updates, only ones for the operating system. This issue has caused problems for those looking for hardware-specific fixes in the new firmware.
In the post by Jason[MS], details about the recent workaround and future plans were outlined:
"We have been getting a lot of feedback on making mobile device firmware updates more accessible to our Windows Insiders with devices in the Fast and Slow rings. We have heard you loud and clear and are working to enable this. As more Windows 10 Mobile devices come to market, we expect that firmware updates will be an ongoing activity within the Windows Insider Program."
Jason goes on to confirm what we already knew, which was that Microsoft works closely with mobile operators when the software "talks to a mobile operator network". This approval process can take weeks for testing before rolling out to users. OS updates, however, do not need such a process streamlining general updates.
Microsoft notes that it will be a "few weeks" before the new system is in place:
"Currently the system that publishes firmware updates is only targeting devices that are configured to receive production updates. We have teams working on the tools to make this happen seamlessly for Windows Insiders, but it will take a few weeks to get this rolled out in a way that works for current and future firmware updates to Windows Insiders."
For now, a new option in the Windows Insider app for Windows Phone lets users jump out of the Fast or Slow rings and into a new Production branch. Enabling this feature will reboot the phone, but it will not erase any data. The user can then check for a firmware update and once completed they can re-enroll in the Fast or Slow Ring of the Insider program. While this feature came out recently in an app update the new version is more explicit with the choice for Production ring.
Enroll in Production ring (temporary workaround)
- Open the Windows Insider application on your device
- Select "Get preview builds" There will now be three options to choose from: Insider Fast, Insider Slow, and Production Select "Production"
- Read the presented message and tap "accept" to confirm your selection
- Your device will prompt to reboot
- After the reboot, check for updates. If available, your device will display an update to receive the newest firmware. Settings > Updates & security > Phone update > (check for updates) If the device shows a "no updates available" message, your device has the most recently available firmware
- If available, complete the update by following the on-screen directions
- Once installed, re-open the Windows Insider application
- Select your desired update ring (Insider Fast or Insider Slow) and reboot as prompted
- Your device now has the newest firmware available and is set to receive the next flight when launched for your selected ring
Once Microsoft updates their Insider backend this above workaround will not be needed.
Carriers still in play
It should be noted, however, that it does not appear Insiders will get early access to new firmware. Firmware is tailored for each device, as explained by Microsoft:
"A single device model like the Lumia 950 or the Lumia 950 XL, will ship in many configurations around the world for various network types, mobile operators, device resellers, etc. When we update mobile devices we can target devices based on the OS build version, the model, or the specific configuration down to a particular mobile operator in a particular country. "
Instead, this change by Microsoft is simply to let Insiders continue to get necessary firmware updates for their specific device when they are available. It does not mean (to our knowledge) that firmware updates will come to all devices at the same time.
At the very least, this goes a long way in making the Insider program for Windows 10 Mobile more palatable. Previously, users would need to exit the program and rollback the OS to get the new firmware, requiring an OS back and restore that took a few hours to accomplish. Now, with these changes users can just grab the firmware when available regardless of program status.