Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Does Apple Show How Upgrades Should Be Done?

Jason Lackey

Sascha Segan, in, writes "Apple's iPhone Shows How Upgrades Should Be Done" in an article available here. While it is clear that Apple is doing a lot of things right, particularly with regard to getting a lot of coverage on an update that is not even available yet, when we look under the hood there is still room for improvement.

One obvious area for improvement is that iPhone upgrades are not done over the air. You need to have a PC or a Mac and you need to have the right cables and you need to have iTunes running on that PC or Mac. Not everyone who has or wants a phone has or wants or can afford a computer and not everyone who has a computer wants to run iTunes. Particularly in developing markets, a persons first exposure to data services and the internet is increasingly with mobile devices.

Another area for improvement is the updates themselves. iPhone updates are system images with file sizes in the neighborhood of 300 meg, fine with all you can eat broadband, not so fine on over the air or even with some of the low caps found in places outside the US. For example, some Australian providers have bandwidth capped as low as 2 GB/month, of which 300 meg is a significant chunk. One way around this is to send partial updates or diff packages. Instead of sending the whole system image, a partial image or just the difference between the old and the new firmware can be sent and then software on the device can use that diff package to create the new version of firmware from the old version already on the phone. This process, usually called FOTA (Firmware Over The Air), is a lot more sophisticated and is in use at many Tier 1 operators in North America and Japan and is also employed by device makers such as Nokia.

It was interesting that Sascha called out Nokia for lack of info on updates, but then again regardless of how many press releases they did I would be surprised if they got much, if any, coverage in North America. That said, it is possible to update many Symbian devices over the air and such updates can be triggered from the phone itself using just a few clicks.

In the end, it is clear that the customer experience can be shaped by different things - technology is certainly one, but policy, procedure and practice are other, equally or perhaps even more important aspects of the overall experience.

1 comment:

  1. u should check out android ota updates - slick