iPhone 2.1 firmware available; why don’t other phones get upgrades this fast?

24 Comments

Iphone21firmwareChances are the next time you tether your iPhone to your PC or Mac, you’re handset will be hungry for the latest firmware. Version 2.1 became available this morning although it didn’t automatically appear for me when I connected my phone. A quick button click addressed that issue and the large firmware file was on the way. Some of the higher impact updates include:
  • Decrease in call set-up failures and dropped calls.
  • Significantly better battery life for most users.
  • Dramatically reduced time to backup to iTunes.
  • Improved email reliability, notably fetching email from POP and Exchange accounts.
  • Faster installation of 3rd party apps.
  • Fixed bugs causing hangs and crashes for most users with lots of third party apps.
  • Improved accuracy of the 3G signal strength display.
  • Genius playlist creation.
My iTunes inner Genius is still adding zero value, so I won’t likely see benefit from the last bit. Funny that Apple has no issue recommending purchases with the Genius, but can’t build a playlist for me. All that music purchased from Amazon wouldn’t have anything to do with it, right? ;)
Regardless of your mobile handset of choice, there’s one effort I see from Apple that clearly eclipses most of the market right now: a higher frequency of firmware updates to address issues. You could argue that some of these issues shouldn’t be there to begin with, and I’d agree. However, no platform is perfect and I’d rather see updates every month or two as opposed to updates once every year.

24 Comments

Josh Einstein

In addition to continued crashing in Safari, the audio in any YouTube video now craps out after about a minute or two until I pause and restart the video. Oh but at least I can finally scroll contacts without waiting 15 seconds…

zahadum

the 2.1 update still is buggy – apps (and safari) still crashing for me even after I delete all apps & re-install via iTunes (not OTA).!

FAIL.

I think we can safely say that apple has now officially squandared the “plug and play” part of its franchise :-(

Rob

I’ve had good luck with genius on iTunes. I’m looking forward to using it on my large iPod. I’m not sure how well it would work with the small library size of an iPhone.

compudude

Firmware 2.1 does fix the emergency call security hole.

And there was an effective work-around fix published within a day of it’s discovery, while we waited for this permanent fix.

Recall that the vast majority of iPhones do not have the security code function enabled, so the numbers actually affected (and that’s “potentially affected”… I haven’t read a single horror story about someone who had critical data stolen this way) were quite small.

Jay

I have had an iphone for a month, no dropped calls, no app crashes, etc (but then I only have two screens), synching has not been a problem.
I am not in the States and and don’t think we have the carrier issues you seem to have. If they are so “bad” why are sales so high?
Anyway its just a consumer device – if you don’t like the iphone buy something else!

Nate

That’s nice, Robt. But, you are aware that there are some pretty big issues with the iPhone 3G, correct?

Chris EA

Normally I would agree with you Kevin, but the security flaw is too big to be ignored.

It’s fixed with this update, but it’s not on that big headline list of “features” on the Apple site now is it?

What we’re looking at a smattering of “improvments” a couple of new “features”, all as a vehicle to deliver the big fix for the security hole that’s been costing the iPhone in the corprate stakes over the last couple of weeks.

The RIM sales team have really been pushing their (currently) superior security at the Multinationals in the meantime in an attempt to reinforce their position.

Apple has lost ground on their push into the corporate space a little here, can they recover and regroup?

Not that the iPhone isn’t great, I really love mine, but let’s not dress this “update” up any more than we have to, eh?

Kevin C. Tofel

That could well be true Nate. I wrote the post and updated my software, but I don’t have an iPhone 3G. From my perspective, most things work pretty well on my first gen iPhone and I’m getting features added pretty regularly.

Nate

This conversation focuses on bugs because of the situation with the iPhone 3g.

I don’t think people are missing the other side of things. It’s just that, in this case, any features added are fairly unimportant in comparison to the bug fixes necessary.

If the basic features of a phone don’t work, who cares about added features?

Kevin C. Tofel

Plenty of good commentary, but some folks are equating “firmware upgrades” solely with “bug fixes”. Firmware can add features as well, so the “but my phone works fine out of the box” misses that entire side of things. ;)

Jake

Nokia had a new firmware for my N95 out within a month of me buying it. I applied the update because it was there but I didn’t really have any problems. Everything’s been working perfectly ever since so I don’t need to worry about updates.

Woadan

You’re comparing oranges to, um, apples.

Apple owns the iPhone, which is exactly how they want it. Since they control everything except the voice and data delivery, it is much easier for them to get everything out. (Most telling is that they don’t have to wait for carrier approval. And AT&T gets to pass the buck to Apple when calls come in to them.)

Microsoft owns the Windows Mobile OS, but the manufactuurers use the parts of it they want, and the carriers modify as they like. In other words, ownership is fragmented. (Most telling is that MS doesn’t own the hardware, and it is up to the manufacturer to integrate it with their hardware, with input from the carrier. Everyone can pass the buck to the others. In essence, though, it is between the manufacturer and the carriers.)

I’ll set aside that the iPhone 2.0 wasn’t ready for release when it was–it is readily apparent from all of the issues. (Whether AT&T was ready is a whole ‘nother question!) But imagine how it would have been if Apple had waited for an extra 2-3 months to release it?

Woadan

Chris EA

Q. Why don’t other phones get upgrades this fast?

A. Because the security of a lot of other phones cannot be bypassed as simply as pressing Emergency Call followed by Home twice. For a business phone this is an utter deal-breaker and Apple must fix it, fast.

Sumocat

“Why don’t other phones get upgrades this fast?” — The objective answer is other OS makers have too many variables to consider. Different devices, different carriers, too many directions for a firmware update to go, too many ways for it to go wrong, not to mention the responsibility disputes over who should provide the update: OS maker, hardware maker, or carrier. It’s amazing firmware updates get released at all.

Apple doesn’t have those problems. They have only two phone models to focus on (and they’re almost the same). They established that they, not the carrier, distribute firmware updates. They even have a bug collection system that enables quicker problem analysis. Right now, they’re focusing their efforts are fixing the bugs in their nascent product, but once their growing pains are over (and we’ll see how much progress the 2.1 firmware represents), they will be able to focus on advancement and expansion.

Aside from Nokia with their purchase of Symbian, the other guys are in poor position to counter an iPhone that outgrown its baby shoes. Android has potential to unify the market, but it could also wind up getting splintered by carriers and hardware makers. Very interesting times ahead.

mark

It does seem to be all or nothing when looking at the iPhone and HTC phones. The iPhone is laughably buggy. It’s obvious that it was pushed out the door far too early and is in DIRE need of bug fixes NOW. Not next month, next week or tomorrow, NOW. I have no idea what 2.0.1 and 2.0.2 did but it at least gave the impression that Apple was on the ball and 2.1 does seem to have addressed at least the worst of the phone’s problems. At the other end of the spectrum are HTC phones which, these days, are released with relatively few bugs. Windows Mobile is an infinitely more mature system with several times the feature set of the iPhone. But when those few bugs affect something you’d like to do, such as watch video, you can almost count on those bugs NEVER being addressed. You will, most likely, see a single update to the system on an HTC phone and, for the most part, it simply piles more crap on top of what’s already there.

It would be NICE if there was a happy medium. On one side, an iPhone that was relatively bug free when taken out of the box and received occasional bug fix and feature addition updates. Last time I looked, I still couldn’t copy/paste a URL from the browser to an email. On the other side, it would be equally nice if HTC gave a crap at all about it’s user base and addressed well known bugs sooner than six months from now, if ever. The last time I looked, my old Sprint Touch STILL didn’t play video correctly but it had a whole new set of crap I’d never use loaded on top of the system.

Nate

Man, talk about typos. I wrote that and I’m having a hard time understanding it.

Lets try this again:

@Robt

You’re right, nearly all phones have bugs.

Bugs are one thing. I don’t recall a phone being released, aside from the iPhone 3g, that can’t make and receive calls, though. That’s a pretty huge bug for a phone to have.

Nate

@Robt

Bugs are one thing. You’re right, nearly all phones have bugs.

I ever recall a phone being release, aside from the iPhone 3g, that can’t make and receive calls, though. That’s a pretty huge bug for a phone to have.

BeyondtheTech

I can tell you that I’ve seen more software updates on the iPhone than I’ve ever seen on an HTC, HP, and Compaq Windows Mobile device. And, to me, that’s a good thing. All devices are buggy, but at least companies like Apple have the decency to fix it, unlike these other greedy bastards that would rather sell you a new device than even provide a PAID (remember this guys?) update from 2002 to 2003 to 5.0 to 6.0.

Don’t be so quick to knock Apple when we had it worse with Microsoft devices. Much worse.

Scotty

Because most phones sit in testing for a year until the phone carriers tell them which features to remove so they can ship it. By the time they actually ship they’re obsolete and everyone is waiting for the next phone so there’s no gosh darned point to releasing updates for it.

Robt

Yeah right guys. Other smart phones have no bugs? Sure just keep on telling yourselves that. I’ve owned many and all have had bugs.

Nate

Most phones actually work as phones when they’re released. If they’re going to release a phone with firmware is cruddy as the 3G iPhone’s release firmware, they better get an update out quick.

I’d wager that the people sitting around with non-working iPhones would take issue with this release being considered quick.

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