Two weeks ago we caught wind of some Windows Phone 7 devices sending large amounts of data for seemingly no reason. It wasn't until today that we got confirmation from Microsoft that they were looking into the issue. To be completely honest, two weeks without a reply is entirely unacceptable.
Users have been reporting that their phones have been sending anywhere from 7MB to 50MB of data per day...or night. The “phantom data” is usually being sent in the middle of the night and is using 3G even when a Wi-Fi connection is available. At first, the problem appears to be a minor issue, but when you consider the fact that most Windows Phone 7 devices in the US are on AT&T – a carrier that no longer offers unlimited data – things change a little bit.
Even for those being affected by the smaller amounts of data, this can be a pretty substantial issue. Say, for instance, they're on AT&T and have a 200MB data plan. If this data is being sent every night, over the course of 30 days that will amount to 210MB of data usage, not counting any the customer uses on their own. As soon as that 200MB mark is passed, $15 more will be added to their bill by an automated and required additional data package. Not a single bit of this is the customer's fault, but they're getting charged for it. If this is affecting as many users as it appears to be and a good amount of them have limited data plans, Microsoft could be facing a big chunk of money in reimbursements, or even worse, lawsuit settlements. Of course, that's not a huge problem for Microsoft though, their pockets run very deep.
The real problem is in the reputation of their newest mobile platform. Microsoft have fueled a lot of money and man hours into WP7, which is still fighting through a very influential and determinative period. Analysts believe Windows Phone 7 has potential and I'm right there with them. But they have their work cut out for them. With an issue like this looming over their heads, they have to be more eager to solve the problem. Waiting two weeks to tell us they are "looking into it" really doesn't make them seem too anxious for a resolution. The “phantom data” issue is gaining quite a bit of publicity, and it would be in Microsoft's best interest to silence it ASAP.
I worked in wireless sales for quite a while and an issue like this is one that customers must me warned of. Telling a customer that their phone will likely go over their data allowance on its own (without them ever touching it) probably wouldn't go over too well. Not telling them and having them return to the store, yelling and blaming you for their data overages, isn't pretty either. The platform is still in a very early phase (it has yet to receive its first update), and having discouraged customers and hesitant buyers isn't something Microsoft wants to have to deal with. They are at the very bottom of the totem pole in one of the most competitive markets in the world. Pigeon-holing a serious issue and letting it gain publicity is no way to build a good reputation or to cement their stay.
At least we know that Microsoft is working on getting to the bottom of the “phantom data.” We also know they have a major update coming in the next few weeks, so hopefully they will include the fix in the update. Microsoft isn't alone in being slow to fix glitches, though. Apple and Google both have had their share of bugs over the last couple of weeks, but at least they were both quick to respond. Have any of you been affected by this issue? How much data is it sending per night? Has it caused you go over your data allowance?