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Microsoft Bug Handhelds Windows Technology

Microsoft Explains Windows Phone 7 'Phantom Data' 270

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the it-was-the-other-guy dept.
Fuzzy Eric writes "Microsoft has confirmed that some handsets running its Windows Phone 7 software are sending and receiving 'phantom data.' The problem surfaced in early January with some owners of phones running Windows Phone 7, claiming that their phone was sending 'between 30 and 50MB of data' every day; an amount that would eat into a 1GB allowance in 20 days. Microsoft said its investigation found that most problems were caused by a unnamed 'third party' service. It said that the problem seemed to only affect 'a small (low single-digit) percentage of Windows Phone customers.'"
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Microsoft Explains Windows Phone 7 'Phantom Data'

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  • NSA (Score:5, Funny)

    by qbast (1265706) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @08:51AM (#34938744)
    No wonder that this third-party service remains unnamed. After all NSA stands for 'no such agency'.
    • Re:NSA (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 20, 2011 @08:56AM (#34938806)

      No wonder that this third-party service remains unnamed. After all NSA stands for 'no such agency'.

      Ahem: "No Such Application"

  • by blunte (183182) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @08:53AM (#34938764)

    1. No Answer

    or

    2. We found the problem. It wasn't our fault, and it doesn't matter because it's not happening to anyone. (lie)

    • by Gadget_Guy (627405) * on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:27AM (#34939164)

      We found the problem. It wasn't our fault, and it doesn't matter because it's not happening to anyone. (lie)

      Until Microsoft say which service causes this (so it can be independently verified by users) then you just have to assume that it is a lie. Normally I like to give the benefit of the doubt (and it does seem feasible that a 3rd party app is responsible, but like you said, this follows the standard style of PR spin that most companies employ.

      This would not be a problem if the mobile OS actually valued the customer over the developers and phone companies. My last Symbian phone prompted the user to give permission to any app that wanted to access the Internet. No spyware under the guise of a game here, no 3rd party services chewing up quota, no apps being just thin layers over websites.

      I hate seeing that circle animation that says data access is happening on my iPhone for something that shouldn't need it. Even worse, I hate the fact that on the iPhone the developer can turn off that display so you don't know if any connection has occured. Evil. I presume that the Windows Phone does the same thing.

      • I hate seeing that circle animation

        Clearly you're looking at it wrong. Try flipping the phone over, that should fix the problem of seeing the circle animation.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:01AM (#34938844) Homepage

    That can't be true. There are more than two reports.

    • by Spad (470073)

      1.5 million as of end of December [mashable.com] so somewhere between 0 and 60,000 affected users (assuming "Low single digit" maxes out at 4%).

      • by Gruturo (141223) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:18AM (#34939050)

        Actually that number comes with a big caveat since it started circulating a few weeks earlier, that even that mashable article, or the MS link it references, are carefully avoiding to shed light on. Those reported are 1.5 million handset sold "to carriers", or "by manufacturers" (which mostly sell to carriers, gosh).

        For all we know, 90% of those 1.5 million might be still be unsold, sitting on shelves and warehouses and NOT in the hands of a customer. And that kind of carefully treading around the ambiguity is a giant, glowing, blinking warning sign..

      • That 1.5 million number represents sales of phones by manufacturers to retailers [pcworld.com], not sales of retailers to customers.

      • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:57AM (#34939534)

        This is how typically MS depicts success when it isn't. 1.5 million Windows phones have been sold to retailers and carriers, not to consumers. Considering that Dell, Garmin-Asus, HTC, HP , LG, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba and Qualcomm all made phones and they were launched on the networks: AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, SFR, Sprint, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, Telstra, T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone, Telus, Bell Canada and SingTel, 1.5 million is abysmal. That's on average 100,000 per carrier and 160,000 per manufacturer. Remember that number also represents units that were given to MS employees. If I understand the process, MS employees could buy a phone and the company would reimburse them.

        In this history of MS, they launched the Zune the same way. They showed great sales figures for the 2006 holiday season but what they didn't make clear was those were units shipped to retailers not sold to consumers. They also didn't disclose that for several months after that they shipped virtually no Zunes because the retailers were fully stocked. In the end, retailers had to get rid of the Zunes mostly at huge discounts.

  • So is there going to be compensation for users scorched by this bug/feature? Class action suit anyone?
    • If my memory serves, iPhone owners were going through this same issue of having lots of data being sent in the middle of the night. AT&T's response was that it was just the system relaying the days usage all at once but many didn't buy that.
  • Explains? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bgarcia (33222) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:05AM (#34938888) Homepage Journal
    So, Microsoft saying "it wasn't us, it was them" counts as an explanation?
  • 3rd Party? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stenchwarrior (1335051) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:05AM (#34938890)
    Can it still be considered 3rd party if the company that generated the "phantom data" was contracted by either the carrier or Microsoft to develop the app to intentionally run up the quota, hopefully going unnoticed and generating overage charges? My ex-bank, 5th3rd [prnewswire.com] has a class-action lawsuit against them for doing something similar.
    • Re:3rd Party? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RMH101 (636144) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:15AM (#34939016)
      Well, yes. My Windows 7 work phone, for example, runs on the UK Orange network. It came in an Orange-branded box, it has Orange-branding within the phone software, and Orange apps bundled with it that can't be removed. Annoying, yes, but standard practice in the phone world. It also has HTC-specific apps built into it such as the HTC hub.
      If it turns out that a network is bundling crapware with the handset that uses too much data in some conditions, or a vendor such as HTC has a bug in their app, then I wouldn't blame MS for it.
      It's a big "if", but it's a definite possibility and until we know the reason I suggest we stop getting so hysterical about it.
      • by Z00L00K (682162)

        If the telecom operator provides a branded phone with apps that can't be removed and one of those apps is eating your data traffic then you should get that data traffic for free.

        • by TheEyes (1686556)

          If the telecom operator provides a branded phone with apps that can't be removed and one of those apps is eating your data traffic then you should get that data traffic for free.

          Sure you "should". But will you, without some kind of lawsuit? Probably not.

          The new US customer service model: the customer is always wrong, and largely irrelevant.

  • It gets better (Score:5, Interesting)

    by qmaqdk (522323) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:07AM (#34938902)

    Apparently* it's an external problem and there will be "no need for a system software update." [oneindia.in].

    Makes you wonder about who can do what with your Windows Phone 7...

    *As I noted in my submission. Which was earlier. WTF editors!?

  • by chemicaldave (1776600) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:08AM (#34938910)
    They need a utility built-in to the phone that logs which processes/programs are sending how much data over which connection. None of this "unnamed third-party program" bullshit.
  • According to ars, Yahoo mail [arstechnica.com] might be the one to blame.

    "All very peculiar. The main culprit fingered by the Windows Phone 7 community over this issue (though not named in the statement) is Yahoo! Mail."

  • by confused one (671304) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:17AM (#34939038)

    I'm glad y'all RTFA and saw where it said

    "We are in contact with the third party to assist them in making the necessary fixes," a spokesperson said. The firm also said that it was looking into "potential workarounds" until the issue was solved.

    fwiw, there's evidence that one potential culprit was a yahoo mail client

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:21AM (#34939082)
    An "unnamed third party service" is an explanation? As much as "a dog ate my homework".
  • So Microsoft won't tell their users who have problems WHICH software is offending here? Seriously? I'm sure their affected WP7 users just love being denied that information while paying AT&T the bills for their nightly "activities" due to a "third party service". At least they'd be able to turn it off while waiting for a fix if they knew which software caused the problems.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @09:33AM (#34939228) Homepage

    Who does Microsoft care more about? Users or Developers and Partners? Their actions speak louder than words. They are reluctant to tell people the truth so that they can protect themselves or conserve their resources in favor of protecting developers and partners. In the world of Microsoft (and indeed Apple and most other commercial software vendors) the users are to be taken for granted and abuse of users, their information, their computers and their resources are all the norm.

    I realize this is more preaching to the choir for most people here and/or this is "stating the obvious" but I think it's sometimes useful to remind people and users of where the priorities and motivations of the vendors they use and rely on are. By knowing their priorities and motivations, you can keep yourself appropriately aware and even guarded. For example, we have a LOT og Google fans here. In the eyes of some, Google does no evil and can do no wrong. They are an advertiser and a marketer and maintain all of the priorities and motivations of advertisers and marketers. It is important to keep Google in perspective. Google is just one example. Microsoft's main strategy is to keep their markets saturated with Microsoft products and services. This is accomplished through strategic partnerships and arrangements with OEMs and resellers among others. This means they place their priorities in favor of those channels; partners, OEMs, developers and all. If Microsoft's primary channel was retail and online sales, their priority would then be focused on the people who buy their products and services directly. But this is, for the most part, not the case.

    For this reason ("Who does Microsoft care about?") I generally avoid Microsoft. It is not because they are buggy or insecure or "evil." It is the fact that as a user or customer, they are not interested in my needs or interests. That's a simple fact.

    • If they didn't care why would they fix it at all? A company that doesn't care about its customers would deny this is even happening, or simply not respond at all.
      • by erroneus (253617)

        That is a good question and I think the answer is in maintaining their position. They do only what is necessary and skip anything deemed unnecessary. This explains their reluctance to acknowledge and to fix even the most critical of security flaws. So why fix it at all? Because without it, all users would stop using it.

        So there is a state of basic functionality that must be maintained, but that should not be confused with "caring about the user's interests" beyond their ability to continue using the pro

    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday January 20, 2011 @11:48AM (#34940958) Homepage Journal

      Who does Microsoft care more about? Users or Developers and Partners?

      They have no reason to care about users, since few users are actually customers. That copy of Windows on your Dell doesn't make you a Microsoft customer, it makes Dell their customer unless you bought Windows in a box and installed it yourself. Few enough people do that to make them completely unimportant to MS.

  • If they refuse to tell anyone what this "Unnamed 3rd party service" is... then I think it's well within our rights to assume the worst. The FBI/CIA really aren't all that creative.

    My suggestion? British Petroleum. They are tracking out movements to determine the best place to have the next oil slick. If no ones around, no one will notice.

    any other suggestions? Once we decide on a winner we can go update Wikipedia with our "Facts" and start spreading it around the internet via forums and blog posts. Remember
  • ...an amount that would eat into a 1GB allowance in 20 days

    A strange expression - I would have thought even 1 byte would "eat into" any size allowance, technically speaking.

  • Carrier? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday January 20, 2011 @11:28AM (#34940674)
    I'm going to preface this by saying that I don't really know a single person who has this phone, but phantom 3rd party data seems like is would be software installed by the carrier. MS just doesn't want to throw whoever the carrier is under the bus. When I got my Droid phone, there was a bunch of bloatware installed by Verizon. That's just my guess... it could be the NSA or the FBI or NASA for all I know.
  • Somebody without a stake in the answer needs to do the analysis.

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