Lumia 535

Microsoft has begun rolling out the Windows 10 Mobile upgrade to a long list of phones. I'm not a Windows fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a mobile tech fan so I'm interested. I jumped over to Windows Central to check out the news about the rollout, to see which devices were getting it and find out when people should expect it. I immediately saw two things that made me pause:

  • The 2014 Lumia 535 is getting updated.
  • The very low-end Lumia 430 is getting updated.

You probably know where I'm going with this.

Android OEMs take note. Microsoft's phone division isn't exactly a rising star in the techosphere. At one point, nobody thought they would be able to survive as long as they have. But they are doing much better than all of you when it comes to software.

Carriers can still gum everything up, as we see with the AT&T Lumia 950 and the delayed (Windows OS updates usually take an extra seven days to roll out through AT&T) attention it gets in regards to updates (read: carriers suck). And not every phone running Windows is going to get updated to Windows 10 Mobile — the super-popular Lumia 520 didn't make the cut for example, and many others won't for a bunch of reasons. But Microsoft did their part. They put in the work required to update phones that are old or low-powered — phones that Android OEMs would have (and historically have) left behind. there's even talk of a second wave of updates that will support phones even older than the ones that got updated today. Software updates are hard, and it's great to see someone besides Google and Apple doing it right.

It's not a matter of numbers, so spare me the "they only have to update phones for a few customers" rhetoric. They're not going door to door and installing updates, and the same update they made available will work on 100 units of a particular model or 1,000,000,000. In fact, when you consider how few phones there are in the wild running Windows, it's even more impressive that Microsoft (and a few partners) were willing to update some of these models. And the way they are able to do it — by breaking the ties between the radio and operating system — means that they have been working on this for a long time. It's similar to what we think Google is doing with Android, and hopefully will have the same result. As long as the people making the phones get on board.

Android OEMs take note — Microsoft's doing much better than all of you when it comes to software.

I get the whole thing where Windows is the same on every phone, and that makes it easier to update any individual handset. But Microsoft (both as the people who built the OS and as a smartphone vendor themselves) went the extra mile to update old phones, as well as phones that have horrible hardware inside them. That's something that Android partners refuse to do.

If anyone had any doubts that mobile is the way we will compute and communicate today and in the future, you've already been proven wrong. And Microsoft just did what they needed to do to make sure the vast majority of their user base can be current and able to use the new features they have made available. Today was a giant win for just about everyone using a Windows phone.

Well done, Microsoft. It's a pity the folks making the phones Android fans love to use won't follow your lead.