Will Windows Phone 7 Devices Get Apollo? Our Thoughts

There has been a huge debate lately on the possibility of current generation devices for Windows Phone receiving and updating to the Windows Phone 8 OS, aka Apollo. Without a peep from Microsoft about this issue, speculation has run rampant after Paul Thurrott vehemently stated via a “source” that no current generation devices would be capable of accepting the new Apollo version due to hardware limitations.

It’s a rather touchy subject, specially since we are half a year away from the unveiling of WP8, and if Thurrott’s claims hold true, thousands of new Lumia 900 owners, many new to the ecosystem, could be left with outdated hardware just months into their new contracts.

With that, our Zunited team has gathered here to share their opinions on the matter, discuss the ramifications of leaving current generation devices stuck on WP7 and the possibility that some or all devices will get the new updated OS.

Josh Martin – So what I think with this whole debacle is that current gen Windows Phone devices (excluding Lumia 800/900) will get the Tango update which will bring performance improvements, as well as limited added features. I’m guessing each OEM will do a refresh of a firmware on top of that to compliment it and then development will stop there (which is fair in my opinion).

Lumia 900 will get the update in my opinion because they have the horsepower to run the type of things that Apollo is claiming to bring. They obviously don’t support NFC or things like that, but otherwise, they will become the new basic standard for future Windows Phone devices.

Randall Cloud – I believe that all Windows Phones will receive the Windows Phone 8 update, and at the very least all Windows Phone 7.5 devices definitely will. Microsoft has officially come out on record saying that all devices will be upgraded and then later came out saying that all 7.5 devices will be upgraded. They have never said anything that should cause anyone to believe that they will not upgrade all devices and especially doubt whether they will upgrade 7.5 devices. They said that all devices will receive at the very least 2 full updates. That means that 7.0 devices will upgrade to 7.5 and then to 8.0 and that might be their limit, where 7.5 devices will update to 8.0 and something after that, and that might be there limit.

All rumors and speculations that older handsets will not upgrade to 8.0 is just that, rumor and speculation. It comes from a psychological need to stir the pot, to create some controversy that makes the news sites seem like they matter. None of the claims have been substantiated. I’m not saying Microsoft can’t change their minds, I’m just saying that they haven’t yet and we don’t need to fill their mouths with things they haven’t said, if we stick to the last official reports, we’ll be fine.

The same thing happened with Skype, where they officially claimed it would be out at the end of February, and that was that. The weeks that followed were full of rumors and speculation that they had changed their mind or had new plans, but in the end, it was released in Feb.

Again the same thing has and continues to happened with WOA. Windows has said from the beginning that there will be a desktop on WOA, it may not run all the same applications, but it will be there. There were months where rumors started flying that the desktop was gone, even though Microsoft never even hinted at such a thing. Then when Consumer Release came out, they again stated in no uncertain terms, that WOA has and will continue to have a desktop.

Anna Yap – Looking at Microsoft’s history, I definitely think that Apollo will go out to all phones (that can take the firmware i.e. Mango devices). As in their Zune line, they constantly were updating the firmware of all the generations, although full use was stunted on previous iterations of the device. This would probably be Microsoft’s best option, and it would be in the interest of OEMs to do the same.

People could use Apollo on current gen devices, realize they like it and want full capability, and then buy a phone that does have it. Microsoft is trying to promote their device and create a real community out there, and I think it would be more harmful than helpful for them to cut off previous devices. Perhaps there might be a limit as to which devices get the update (super old devices may not get it) but I think the newer ones definitely will.

Tyler Rowe – Starting fresh would mean that Microsoft would be “giving up” on the pioneers of it’s new Windows Phone platform. I think that the outrage of such a move would separate these few pioneers from Microsoft all together.

Apple and Google would have a field day with this news, and I would anticipate that they would offer a deal where one would be able to trade in their “old” Windows Phone device for a new Android/iPhone for a discounted price or free. Windows Phone is picking up steam and doing well for Microsoft to cut ties, and Windows Phone users who used to be Zune fans couldn’t take the heartbreak of owning two completely unsupported devices and would most likely jump ship. Windows Phone is becoming less of an underground group and more mainstream everyday as people realize that iPhone and Android are at their peak and stale. The ramifications of leaving out the first Windows Phone users to this next update will far outweigh any benefit gained by not taking the time to support current devices. It would simply be a bad business decision to start fresh.

We all remember what happened when Internet Explorer was ignored for a length of time. Things began to get pretty hairy and eventually others took over (firefox, etc.).

Cristian Reyes – I am actually not very sure. Microsoft has already created fragmentation with the Tango refresh. Skype can’t run on some low end devices, at least from what we know, and I am guessing a few other apps won’t run on it either. I think unlike Google’s fragmentation issues, Microsoft will try to control it. They will have the low end devices with Tango, average level devices with current Windows Phone software and high end Apollo/Windows Phone 8 will support ‘Super Phones’ like the leaked road map stated. There are only a few Windows Phone devices out there and I am sure that most of the ones people have are Nokia phones.

Nokia is rumored to be testing the latest update and I believe that rumor. Nokia has been very supportive to their customers giving them $100 because of those data connection issues which were fixed via an update. Nokia hears the outcry of their Lumia owners and I am sure they will deliver. As for the other OEMs I have little hope for them. Although there has been a huge outcry on this subject I don’t think it really matters for the average consumer. In a world where most people think Droid is the name of the OS, software updates could matter less to them. Have you seen the picture of Beyonce using a Blackberry? I’m pretty sure she’s not upset it will not be upgraded to BBOS10.

Kevin Femmel – I’ll play devil’s advocate. Would it be so bad if Microsoft didn’t allow Apollo on all phones? The answer is: probably not.

It would upset some Windows Phone users for sure. Microsoft has done a good job of avoiding the fragmentation of Windows Phone by controlling the specs of phones running it, a problem many people have with Google’s popular smartphone OS.

But Microsoft is no stranger to leaving a user base high and dry. We all should remember the Xbox getting the axe months before the Xbox 360 came out.

It’s natural to shift focus to the newest product that a company is producing. No surprises there. It was a surprise however that Microsoft decided to not support the original Xbox with much software after 2005. They ceased production of the home console months before the Xbox 360’s November launch.

While this action was despised by many gamers life went on. The original Xbox was a great lesson in how to make a video game system successful for Microsoft and they rebooted the brand at the right time. After the 360 released gamers immediately turned from disappointment in the Xbox being cut off so quickly to their anticipation for Halo 3 and Gears of War.

Ultimately I don’t think Microsoft has to allow Apollo on all phones, maybe even nothing but new handsets. Should they allow it on as many phones as possible? Ideally, but they need to focus all attention on making whatever the next step in Windows Phone more awesome than we could have previously imagined just like they evolved the Xbox brand with the 360.

Dario Camacho – This might be the reason we feel Microsoft should be the Microsoft of old, and just leak information outright. How tight they have kept the info from leaking about Windows Phone 8 is rather admirable, but now it’s creating this uncertainty about just what their plans are, and how they will deal with current Windows Phone devices, and their spanking new customers. Which I might add, they want to keep loyal going into Apollo.

With the Lumia 900 selling briskly, selling out at AT&T stores as well as the virtual retail, we have to assume that Windows Phone, and Nokia for that matter, are in the upswing and obtaining marketshare as well as mindshare. This is good. This is what we wished happened from day one.

It could all be erased by Windows Phone 8 restrictions in the fall.

That being said, I doubt that Microsoft will leave early adopters and current generation owners in the wake of Windows Phone 8. It would be bad business, and it would cripple Microsoft’s reputation. They have made some good strides in that department. In fact, I think that Microsoft will have an easier time of implementing WP8 on older hardwear, just in the fact that they made such great strides in minimalizing performance setbacks compared with the competition. iOS and Android both run on higher specs, yet usability and responce between WP, iOS and Android is very minimal. Sure there are restrictions–screen resolutions, multi-core processors, 1080p playback–but let’s keep in mind that Windows Phone 7 runs fantantastic on a single processor. Why would they bog down and for that matter lock down Windows Phone 8 to only run on such high spec hardware?

We have to consider Nokia in this matter as well. Their bread and butter isn’t in the high end smartphone, but rather their low-end devices. They rule the roost for low end hardware, and all the work and expectations of Tango to minimize the Windows Phone 7 OS’s to run on low end specs would be all for naught. They need the ‘next billion’ customers, Nokia more so than Microsoft. Windows Phone 8 could hamper that development. Nokia wouldn’t want that, and I’m sure Apollo will allow for low end specs to utilize the new OS.

Not everyone will get the full Apollo update, and most likely it will be a tier of versions for the different types of hardware out there. The full version is for super phones that allow for high screen resolutions, 1080p playback and all the other goodies techies want. For functionality and general operations like messaging, calling and web surfing, you’ll get a slightly lower tier update (something along the lines of what we have now, but with added OS optimizations) and for Tango devices the barest of updates, but that add some new things to the fold.

Other than that, and I think Microsoft is playing with fire.


What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter!