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Sony Ericsson leaves smartphone sufferers spitting

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Sony Ericsson's long-suffering smartphone users are spitting mad at a decision by the company not to issue any more firmware updates to their phones. The policy was confirmed on Tuesday, and affects owners of the P990i smartphone, M600i communicator and W950 music phone.

Sony Ericsson's head of product management for the open OS group, Niklas Sivander, confirmed the news via a developer forum rep.

"These firmware releases meet the requirements of bug fixes prioritized by our operator customers and the customer services organization within different markets. The decision to freeze the P990, W950 and M600 firmware versions at this point has been made based on meeting these requirements," he writes.

Sivander admits that Sony Ericsson hadn't devoted enough resources to integrating the new user interface UIQ3 on a new OS, Symbian 9.0, and says the products weren't good enough.

"Many users are comparing the P990 with the stable and relatively problem-free predecessor P910, which was an excellent smartphone... With the P990, the Symbian OS capabilities have, however, expanded quite significantly and as with any major platform update, this was expected to introduce some new issues to solve. Sony Ericsson, however, underestimated the complexity of the development work for UIQ 3 and it took longer than expected to implement and quality assure things like the platform security mechanisms, the multimedia framework and other advanced connectivity aspects like 3G, videotelephony and WiFi. It has been a tough journey for all of us."

Sony Ericsson ended up buying the UIQ division from Symbian last autumn.

When the P990i first reached market, it was in a barely usable state - but many loyal buyers were confident that successive firmware upgrades would remove serious problems, as they had with earlier models. However, to this day the phone exhibits serious shortcomings, particularly with memory leaks.

"SONY ERICSSON - I SPIT ON YOU!" vents one developer in reaction to the news.

"Sony Ericsson has not found any memory leakage problem in the platform or product in its testing of the latest firmware. Those additional third-party applications that users may download should be OK and not create memory leakage, provided that they have been developed according to UIQ 3-standard guidelines," says a forum representative.

The M600i is in much better shape today - it's quite usable - and there's some truth in Sony Ericsson's claim that well-written applications don't leak memory. But the P990i, with its dual mode "flip" operation, has always been more problematic.

So the fury rages on - and it couldn't have come at a worse time, with the launch of Apple's own iPhone. While the iPhone's own shortcomings have been glossed over - the SIM is sealed and locked down, there's no removable battery, and it uses an ancient data network - it's nevertheless designed with the consumer in mind - not the operator.

(Despite speculation on the forum, Sony Ericsson's Niklas Sivander isn't the same person as Nokia grand fromage and Technology Group chief Niklas Savander.) ®

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