AT&T caught a lot of flak over the weekend regarding their semi-public announcement to not support the 8107 OS update for their current Windows Phone lineup. That update, as many of you know, is critical for security fixes as much as for fixing the famed disappearing keyboard bug.
We just spoke with AT&T on the situation and we can confirm and clarify a few things on the record. First, it is true that they have passed on 8107 or what they referred to as "Windows Phone Mango Commercial Refresh 1" or just CR1. They've also passed on CR2, which is what the Lumia 900 and Titan II are running (that's build 8112). That update brings LTE and Visual Voicemail support for AT&T with the first aspect obviously being pointless for current Mango phones.
So that's the bad news.
The good news is they have not shut the door on OS updates for their current lineup including the Samsung Focus S, Focus Flash and HTC Titan. Stacey Harth, a spokeswoman for AT&T, told us this morning "AT&T plans for a Windows Phone update that will contain the improvements in the 8107 update and more" with no commitment to a time-frame.
So what does that mean exactly? It means "Tango", which goes by the alternate name CR3, is something that they are looking to evaluate for an OS update. While they did not want give any time-frames they are definitely committed to updating those devices with a post-8107 OS update from Microsoft. "Tango" (or a build post-Tango) is certainly the most viable candidate for such an update.
Of course what you want to know is why are they passing on 8107? It's a bit complicated and you don't have to agree with their position but they do have a rationale (and it's not to get you to buy a new phone). In short, each update comes with a corresponding OEM firmware update which also fixes hardware bugs and/or optimizes the software (these are often at the request of AT&T). Those updates need to be scheduled with the "bits" from Microsoft and it does take a bit of coordination to get that to happen. Moreover, while 8107 does fix a pretty annoying bug, the updates in CR3 (aka "Tango") brings that fix and even more . For example, AT&T very much likes the idea of multiple-photos in MMS, voice notes, etc. that Tango brings to the table.
And that's the crux of the matter: AT&T is admittedly conservative on OS updates and would prefer to not certify every single one that Microsoft releases for evaluation. Instead, they prefer the method where you can pack numerous bug fixes and new features into a single, bigger update. It's similar to the "do I buy this phone now or wait 3 months for a better one?" scenario that many of you face when you follow technology. For AT&T, the question is do we push this update or do we wait for that even better one just a few weeks away?
That does raise a larger, ongoing issue, which is why can't Microsoft just push out mini-bug fixes to the OS without interference by AT&T, especially if it does not touch the radio firmware? It's certainly a very valid point and the reason seems to be a combo of "this is how carriers operate" and Microsoft has not made "patching" as easy (or perhaps they've just conceded too much power to the carriers).
Regardless, the take away point is that AT&T is planning to update your phones and that update will be a larger, post-8107 update which will include that keyboard fix and even more features. We can disagree on what makes an update imperative and yes, we consider the keyboard fix to fall into that, but that is the current situation.
In the end, it may not be the answer you want to hear but we think it is a lot more palatable than the perception left from this weekend.