Windows Phone 8 OS update - when can the rest of us expect it?

Last night we broke the story about the international version of the HTC 8X receiving the Windows Phone 8 OS 10211 (Portico) update, which included a fix for the rebooting issue and some new features as well.

Of course the majority of you with Nokia Lumias or branded 8Xs are probably frantically checking to see if your update is ready too. So when should we anticipate it?

Unfortunately, we don’t have any specific dates for you—not yet at least. But past experiences and some common knowledge tell us that this will be a controlled, rolled out procedure. The reasons for that should be obvious but in case it’s not, let us explain.

Some history

With Windows Phone 8, over-the-air updates (OTA) are finally realized for the first time to deliver OS fixes and patches straight to a users phone with no syncing to a PC required. It’s a fascinating method that in theory will allow Microsoft to dynamically update our phones with either new firmware, OS patches or new features when necessitated.  The problem is it’s brand new.

For those of you who remember on Windows Phone 7 when its first update (affectionately called ‘NoDo’) was released, it too was very staggered and slow, more so than the proceeding Windows Phone 7.5 ‘Mango’, requiring a few apologies from Microsoft. Even carriers got in on the blame game at the time. Part of that interruption was because the update system was novice and Microsoft was collecting diagnostic data for feedback—to see if was working or not.

Interestingly, it was estimated that nearly 50% of users were on Windows Phone 7.5 just one month after its release. That was a massive improvement from NoDo.

From what we understand, this update too will be staggered, at least initially (and not on the level of NoDo). This first update, pushed to non-branded HTC 8Xs, is a bit of a test bed for the company and they’re now anxiously reading your comments here and getting feedback from support forums, etc.  What for? At least two reasons:

  1. To see if anyone is having a problem getting the update e.g. freezes, failed loading, boot problems, etc.
  2. To see if this indeed fixes some of the problems it needs to address

That latter part may sound odd but there are a lot of variables going into a sudden reboot issue. As any software developer can tell you, you can internally test, test, test but it’s a whole different ballgame when that app goes “live” to the world. (Just ask our own thorough and fastidious Jay Bennett who is never surprised at the bugs our app faces in your hands).

In short, there are no guarantees that this update will fix everything it is meant too, though the chances of it doing so are quite high (the Windows Phone team wouldn’t push this if they weren’t confident in it). There are also the unintended consequences of patching a mobile OS, numerous times we may add, all over-the-air that need to be taken into account.

Types of OTA updates

As we've detailed earlier, Microsoft has planned Windows Phone 8 around numerous types of OTA updates, which we'll repost below:

OEM updates

  • OEM code (drivers, customizations, QC code – modem and BSP changes (encrypted))

Microsoft updates

  • Extra small – (<1MB) – i.e. cert changes, security updates
  • Small – (<10BM) – i.e. diff and canonical changes – predominant MSFT update
  • Medium – (TBD) – i.e. feature pack dot updates
  • Large – 100+MB – i.e. Major update release (e.g. 7740 update) w/o language pack – uncommon
  • X-Large – 150+MB – i.e. Major update release (e.g. 7740 update) with language pack – uncommon

What are the chances your phone getting this update?

We'd say very good. In Windows Phone circles, the role of carriers in allowing or blocking updates is a notorious source of contention. Often the carriers are seen as impeding the update process e.g. AT&T’s Tango update for the Focus 2 just a couple of weeks ago. Indeed, they are often the cause for delays but we think this update will be different. Why? Because it’s high priority. And yes, updates deemed critical by Microsoft do get prioritized, even by the carriers.

The Portico (10211) OS update is not just an optional feature-set to be added, like multiple MMS in Tango. Its main function at this point is to stop random reboots. That’s not something that Microsoft would put under the “optional” category for carriers but rather “critical”, making this something that users can expect to be getting. Sure, Microsoft has also tossed in some highly desired new features and if they can sneak those in with a critical update, even better for us. But at this point, fixing the OS is the main concern.

Our advice

There’s no need to frantically check for this OS update, as we fear many of you are now doing. For one, your device will notify you if and when your update is ready (it checks once every 24 hours every every few days). In fact, your best bet is to pay attention to our site or the Windows Phone Blog, who will announce more information when it becomes available.

Our guess is that we won’t see this update for a few more weeks through the carriers—some faster, some slower. But we should give Microsoft a little breathing room in case they need to tweak the OTA process, especially on their first run with it.

Oh and for those asking for an official change-log for these updates, it is our understanding that on the “finish” screen where it now repeatedly says “Update completed!” that repetition may be removed in future deliveries to provide exactly that information. So just consider it a placeholder for now.

Don't be these guys. Not until after Christmas.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • I'd like to also add that they specifically reference Knowledgebase (KB) articles for the update, which means that eventually we'll be able to look up that article on the KB site and read all about it.
  • Just point me to the enthousiast program Terry Myerson talked about in June 2012 and I am good!
    I could brag about getting feature X before everyone else and feel special for 2-3hrs...then back to my low self esteem issues.
  • I agree. I definitely want to know more about the enthusiast program or whatever the hell they call it. I don't like the "secrecy" nonsense, and I'd be more than happy to run "beta" code.
  • Exactly!  Even Paul Thurrott is asking on Twitter what the heck happened to the Enthusiast program.
    Sign me up dang it!
  • Update installed but the caller sms reply function is not working properly. I can change the 4 texts but when i got a call the button is missing... But overall portico is running the same as Apollo (smooth thus)
  • Nah, it works just fine, even on your phone. But it only works for mobile numbers in your contacts--otherwise you may falsely send an SMS to a landline. Think about it. 
  • As I posted in the other article about it, it's mostly likely ONLY an option when a recognized (ie. in your contacts) mobile number is calling you, since the OS itself will only allow you to text to mobile numbers. This makes sense since texting a land-line is pointless.
  • Not trying to be Captain Obvious, but texting to landlines is not pointless as those texts are read out loud with a computerized voice when the receiver picks up. At least that's how it works in Germany and I assume everywhere else?
  • Not here in the US, AFAIK.
  • It probably depends on the phone company. In Denver, text messages came through that way on my home phone (Qwest/CenturyLink).
  • Actually I'm on Mediacom and I've gotten those when a friend txted my landline by mistake.
  • It does in my home. USA.
  • It doesn't for me.  I've texted numbers from Craigslist before and get an error text back saying it wasn't sent because it was a land line.  That makes me believe it does matter who you have for your home's provider.
  • All Landline numbers here in canada will read a txt out loud for you.
  • In the US, I think its only does that for people that are hearing impaired and have a relay box.
  • Yeap,  my work voicemail receives text messages and reads them when I "check my voicemail."
  • Ueah you guy's are right. I feel so dumb right now!
  • It actually does do that here in the USA! Has for years!
  • I'm a futurist man..I last had a landline in 2003.
  • ...meant 'enthusiast'
  • Just got my phone yesterday with Verizon. So Im guessing the update didnt come preinstalled already
  • No.
  • Between AT&T's inherently user-hostile behavior regarding previous WP updates, and Microsoft's infuriating silence regarding updates and carrier involvement, I'm not holding my breath.
  • I wouldn't either.
  • Then that is your first mistake.
  • Somehow I get the feeling that here in the US carriers are going to play the same role as they did with 7.5... Hell, my old focus still never got the update that AT&T promised to fix the disappearing keyboard. Douchebags
  • My focus got 7.5 on AT&T. I had the 1.4 version of the phone.
  • I think he meant to say that 7.5 didn't roll out smoothly but that was due to a variance in hardware between 1.3 and 1.4 of the Focus (Mango for Focus 1.4 came out months after it was released for 1.3). Regarding the disappearing keyboard, he is correct. 8107 was never released for the original Samsung Focus and neither did Tango.
  • No, he meant the disappearing keyboard bug that was INTRODUCED by WP7.5 and fixed in a later update that never came to any of the AT&T WP7.0 phones.
  • This. I'm typing this now on my Samsung Focus 1.3 that's still running AT&T's last update for pre-Lumia devices: 7720. And yes, the keyboard still disappears all the time. So what am I supposed to do, AT&T? Spend $100+ and buy another phone from you that you'll never update? What a slap in the face that Microsoft won't control the update experience so that users who don't know better don't blame Microsoft for persistent bugs like this never being fixed even though it was 11 months ago.
  • Samsung Focus owner, here. I feel your pain.
  • Focus owner that is why i went to xda running 7.8 on it
  • and that is sad.
  • The thing that caught my attention was that our phones check for updates every 24 hours. I went to the phone update setting last night on my L920 and it said that the last check for updates was done last Tuesday. Either my phone isn't checking once a day, or the status only updates when I check manually.
  • Same for me... 
  • Same - mine had been checked 3 days previously...
  • The article already corrected that. It's not "every 24" hours anymore but every "few days".
  • I wonder when we'll be able to manually force update with Zu..... oh, right.   ;)
  • I miss those days... Press update, wait a few seconds, disable internet, repeat....
  • Yeah actually that was pretty fun.
  • LOL!
  • My store hasn't shown me any updateds in over a week, despite being available. Hopefully the OTA fixes that too.
  • it is so annoying that there is no "check for updates" button in the store. All it needs are 2 lines of code but for some reason they refuse to do it.
  • Maybe it has something to do with Battery Saver? The phone disables push notifications with that on so its possible the Store isn't pushing the notification to your phone..
  • If ms wants to compete with apple, then they should update the same way. Announce it and push it out for everyone. Ms remaining tight lipped does nothing but piss their users off. The WiFi "fix" is a major annoyance and at most involves 1 line of code to implement. Ms is truly slow as molasses and that is unacceptable if they hope to succeed in the mobile space.
  • "at most involves 1 line of code to implement"
    The ignorance of this statement is amusing.
  • Ok, half a line... lol.
  • The logic behind implementing this behavior in the first place is amusing
  • Obviously not a coder....
  • Great post Daniel. Joe Belfiore should be thanking you.
  • +1
  • For Canadians: Nothing yet here for my Lumia 920 with Rogers. My boss has the 8X on Bell and he does not have it yet either.
  • Same here. My 920 is update-less and probably will be for at least a few more days im sure.
  • The phone will not check for an update every 24 hours. I've gone to the update page in the past, and it will say last checked X days ago. Usually 4 or more.
  • Mine said "about a month ago" lol.
  • Thanks... I guess. :/
  • So this update really is "Portico"? I was hoping for a few more enhancements from Portico than those outlined so far in this update. But I will be patient!
  • Same here...
    I tought Portico would be more...
    Jut saying...
    Using Lumia 820, no updates by now.
  • This article would have went a long way to say, in big bold letters somewhere in the middle that THE CARRIERS ARE STILL INVOLVED IN THE UPDATES.  Not enough has been done to break this OTA update myth.
  • No it should say in big bold letters. p.s. Inteller, stop trolling every WP update article.
    It was already known that the carriers still get to test and approves updates. But it has also been stated many times, that you as a USER maybe able to opt out of get blocked by the carrier:
    This might be in a future update, or something that comes over the air - we just don't know. Microsoft has been tight lipped about this. Yes its frustrating, but its too early to get excited over this.
    Windows Phones get way better updates (in most cases) than Android, only bested by iOS (And even then, iOS still has backward compatability issues. I know this as a iPhone 3G user of old)
    So please, stop trolling every update thread. You, I or Danial Robhino himself knows what the full picture is yet on future updates. If you knew anything about development, getting a software patch out in under 6 weeks since launch albeit a small one is pretty impressive, and this is  not the feature set updates that are due out early 2013.
  • You butchered Daniel Rubino's name.
  • The myth is that OTA means carriers aren't involved. OTA simply means that you don't need to plug into your PC
  • So Microsoft can release Windows updates to hundreds of millions of users simultaneously for countless hardware configurations, but they have to release Windows Phone updates in a "controlled, rolled out procedure"? I'm calling BS.
  • preach on brother!
  • What a mess. Im glad i didnt get WP8 yet.
  • how is a staggered update a mess compared to no update hell in Android? #DA
  • Same crap as windows phone 7. No point getting windows phone 8 right away.
  • Am I the only one who gets frustrated at these complaints of update releases? Seriously, what are you guys expecting...W8P just released, let them perfect this update rather then complain that you don't have it. Im just happy that my lumia is everything ive ever wanted *tear*. Updates are icing on the Nokia sized cake :D
  • Don't get frustrated because there will always be those people who are here not to be helpful but to destroy the platform.
  • You are missing one point.
    There were total 4 updates for HTC 8X named in usual MS fashion, KBxxxxxxx (KB stands for knowledge base)
    KB updates for Windows desktop versions mostly contain decription even  if brief though few updates don't have any description mostly because Microsoft doesn't want to reveal what is updated, often for some security reasons and considering closed nature of MS OSs, thats absolutely fine.
    Back to point, only second update (KB 2788412,   8.0.10211.204) had description, rest of 3 had none. Those 3 might be security/critical updates and MS don't consider that its important for everyone to know whats updated. And 2nd update was about quality improvements and brought changes which are actually visible such as SMS, WiFi improvements.
    Now, if one is familar to Windows updates for PC, it shows installing update and update installed notification for every individual update even if multiple of such are in queue. This was the case with first "series OTA updates" for WP8. It just notified that "update completed" for other 3 updates which had no description and displayed "For more information about what is included...." like info. for an update which had description. Repeated update complete notification is not a placeholder, it is a very usual practice by MS when they don't want to tell anything more about what is updated. Nobody should expect the exact information for every single update in future in MS environment.
  • This is the main reason I've held off replacing not only my Focus, but my Wife's as well.  We both really would prefer WP8 devices but one thing that is a deal breaker is not getting updates that address things that are just broken with these devices. Doesn't matter if it's MS or the carrier if it seems like WP7 all over again then we'll be getting something else.
  • I'm sorry, but thats kind of a lame reason for not upgrading. I'm just wondering where you think you stand with a Focus and getting updates? I didn't read anything that said WP8 phones wouldn't be getting updates. Just because MS didn't open the flood gates for updates, doesn't mean we wont be getting them. 8x people are essentially the guinea pigs, let them go first and once it is verified that things are working properly the rest of us will be updated. 
  • Well my reasoning is this.  Those with the Focus in Canda recieved the Tango update, those of us here in the states didn't.  One of the most frustrating things has been trying to use the keyboard on this device and have it disappear multiple times and knowing there is a fix out there that wasn't given out probably due to the greedy carrier.  For that matter going all the way back to Nodo, knowing that that update had been ready to go for months and was also probably stalled by the carrier.  Yeah I know there will be some updates for WP8 but Microsoft says a lot of things (enthusiast update?) and then nothing happens. I personally don't care whether it's on them or the carrier bottom line, I know a lot of people who have iPhones and they aren't worried about getting updates and neither should Windows Phone users. Escpecially considering what we all pay for a two year contract.
  • Rest assured that the release firmware that Lumia phones are running are very stable. Yea there've been instances where the phone will run hot or burn down battery but as long as you don't manually reset you're good.
  • All of you with Nokia L920 getting all the exclusive software haven't got this yet but us on the middle tier with the lowly HTC 8x have. I'd rather have it this way. Read the reviews guys while you're waiting. HTC don't do updates....think you may be wrong ;)
  • I agree lol..
  • Sorry to break your bubble and I thought this was clear: the 8X was sold in large quantities unbranded. Heck, even I have one. Whereas the Lumia 920 was 9 times out of 10 sold via carriers. In fact, it's near impossible to find one unlocked--they're like unicorns. As far as I know, only the BUILD ones are the only truly unbranded 920s. That's what drove this update. It has *zero*, read carefully here, *zero* to do with HTC better supporting their phone. If you want to believe that, go ahead, but I'm telling you it's a myth. Another way to re-phrase is it the 8X is the lab rat here, used for testing. If anything, the critera for choosing was Smaller sample size Unbranded  
  • Agree. Its a usual practice in industry to choose appropriate set of devices/machines before jumping all guns. Lumia 920 unbranded is rare to find. Huge markets like India where 100% phones sold are unbranded (infact no such concept here) are missing from L920 launch untill now.
  • +1
  • Daniel, you are sometimes so full of it. I tell you what. From the 5th of November this year it was difficult in my country not to purchase an unbranded unlocked Lumia 920. Fact. You are just living in the wrong country. A country in which it seems to be forbidden to sell unbranded unlocked mobile phones in high street electronics stores.
    This however is your problem and you should not always act as if it is the same in every other country.
  • I wish wpcentral's editor in chief wasn't so US-biased.
    There are tons of Lumias available through carriers and retailers worldwide, the unicorn status is an American delusion.
    And Nokia still was a European company last time I checked.
  • Agreed... I bet that +90% of all 920 sold ouside the US are unlocked. The US are not the center of the world...
  • What?!
  • Just wait until the 8x is no longer the flagship, then we'll see who has the better support ;)
  • One of my managers just told me yesterday that the Verizon update is imminent.
  • Sweet. I'll keep refreshing then.
  • Just go the new update. It installed perfect, and now also works without any problems.
  • Already there is talk of an update, and I still can't buy a phone!  TELUS!  You've let me down.
  • Nope... Im skipping wp8.. When I feel like its mature enough I will add another line... With the current line u... If nokia makes a phone with galaxy note 2 size I will definitely add it to my family plan.. 4.5 or 4.7 its just not enough...
  • Do you have anything to contribute about the article?
  • As a long time Android user, 3+ yrs now, I feel the pain of these users. Let me also say I tried the HTC 8X from Verizon & tried to live with it for just shy of a week. Now I'm a lifelong Micrsoft devotee & Windows user & have really grown to absolutely love Windows 8. But there were just too many holes in WP8 for me to accept right now. So I had to return the 8X & go with another Android.
    Between the long suffering process of getting updates approved by the carrier & at the very least hoping the manufacturer doesn't abandon the hardware for the next new hotness to roll of the assembly line, looking at you HTC/Samsung, Android for now is what I'm stuck with. But I'm holding out hope Microsoft can get this ironed out. I've got an upgrade I've been sitting on for 5 months just waiting to be used on my family Plan. Now that Verizon is giving me the choice between more than just Android & iOS, the ball is in Micrsoft's court to get the apps in the ecosystem & get the updating process fixed like they promised forever ago.
  • yeah sure.
  • I'm not sure the multiple month delays of android quite equate with the so far 12 hour wait for WP8. If every single current WP8 device isn't updated within 2 weeks I'd start to get a little uneasy about the future of WP8 updates, but not yet. I think it is very promising that the first update is here already, it took a lot longer with WP7 and when it arrived it was underwheming. At this rate we will have a very impressive stable OS on our hands in the very near future.
  • I hope for a fix to disable the accelerometer ASAP
  • not whole accelerometer but rotation lock please
  • Yes, but rotation for video's and games should still work, not forced for portrait, but all apps that normally start in portrait should STAY in portrait.. It's not possible now :( I'm hope that there will be a fix.
  • Forgot to post yesterday.  As soon as I read this article I checked my 8X.  It didn't notify me of an update but when I ran the checker there it was.  I was surprised as I'm on '3' in the UK and on my Omnia 7 didn't get updates this quickly.  Portico running smooth here, no update problems and all is working well.
  • I have an unbranded, unlocked HTC 8X bought in Hong Kong. Still no update ... any idea why that is the case?
  • In WP we could already deploy the updates ourselves using cabsender. Seems the OTA updating actually works against us enthusiasts. :/
  • on my HTC 8x this update fixed the sync issues. Now i can finally use skype
  • I seem to remember something about some kind of enthusiast update option, in which you would sign up as an enthusiast and microsoft would allow you to be an early adopter for phone updates. Did i misunderstand that? Is that program actually going to happen?
  • Is it sad I had a dream about this just last night? The update pretty much ruined my 822 in my dream. Hmmm. 
  • Gapless playback yet anyone? :(
  • HTC 8x on t-mobile UK.  Updating now.  Had to "check" for it though as last auto check on Monday.
  • well, if any of you have been in an ATT store recdently, (not sure about ALL stores, but the ones by me) all of the employees wear windows 8 shirts and every one of them tries to sell you a windows phone, my mom walked in and wanted to get a 4S, and they tried to get her to consider a windows phone,  (i explained that i had one and she just wants a newer iphone.)  and given the amount of $$ ATT has invested in advertising the lumia 920 and 8x, alone, they have millions of  dollars (maybe more) worth of incentive to roll out updates as quick as possible, i just wish Microsoft had taken carriers out of the question.
  • HTC 8X on o2 UK updating now, I don't know if they are related but the maps also pushed an update (200<mb)