alarm-clock-2137

Earlier today I wrote an article I was planning to post on Monday morning. The title went as follows:

Alarm Bug Fixed, Maybe Not Solved Though

Well, that was before I read a post from daniel in the original article regarding the WP7 alarm bug here. Daniel wrote:

HTC Mozart (uk) – freezes when recurring alarm sounds and allowed to self quiet, when not plugged in. Does it everytime. Sometimes locks on dismiss screen, otherwise locks when dismissed. Come on MS, push put a fix, this os is embarrassing!

After 7 days without a freeze, and 5 days without a soft reset, setting alarms each morning and doing other routine things to verify all was OK, I tried daniel’s scenario; let alarm time out and phone not on charge. And guess what, yep frozen like an icicle. Damn. I know at least two of my three original alarm freezes occurred when my phone was on charge, but thinking back I may have unplugged the phone before actually dismissing the alarm. All of my recent testing had been done while on charge and while I did wait a couple times for the alarm to time out, I didn’t by default. I think my proposed solution is still good maintenance, but it won’t prevent all alarm freezes. See the end of the post to find out what I did.

Still frustrated by not having a conclusive scenario I decided to do some additional testing. Here are the results

-Test1 – Off charge / Alarm rang 5 times then stopped. Waited 10 minutes and turned on phone. Dismissed alarm and Start screen froze (this was the first test based on daniel’s scenario). Soft reset phone.

-Test2 – Off charge / Alarm rang 2 times and then only the dual vibration bursts repeatedly, but no more alarm. Dismissed alarm and no freeze, but discovered sound was off, even though volume was set to 30 and vibrate was off. Toggled volume and vibrate button, but still no sound. Soft reset

-Test3 – On charge – Alarm rang at least 20 times, along with dual vibration burst before each ring. Waited for sound to stop and then dismissed alarm. No issues or freezes. Sound OK.

-Test4 – Off charge – Alarm rang and dual vibrated 25+ times. After it stopped I dismissed the alarm and the sound was gone again. Did not reset yet.

-Test5 – Off charge – Sound not working from previous test – Alarm never rang but 50+ dual pulse vibrations, so I finally turned the phone on and dismissed alarm. Sound still off, so soft reset.

-Test6 – Off charge – Interrupted by a phone call, but during call alarm sounded and was dismissed without issue

-Test 7 – On charge – Alarm rang 27 times (the actual number it rings) and dual vibration started on 5th ring and continued through to the end. After alarm stopped, turned on phone and dismissed alarm. No issues. Sound OK.

-Test 8 – Off charge – Alarm rang twice and tapped snooze. Five minutes later alarm sounded, dismissed and all OK. No freeze or sound issues.

So I still believe the length of time between soft resets does play a part in causing freezes, but as evidenced above, even right after a soft reset the sound on my device cut out twice when I allowed an alarm to time out while off charge. Obviously something is screwed up. But it takes a certain set of circumstances for the problem to reveal it’s ugly head. I for one am tired of doing Microsoft’s work and will turn off all my alarms today. I am having too much fun with the phone to be bothered by this silly crap. For those new to Windows Phone, Windows Mobile devices and Pocket PC’s before that were all plagued by alarm problems; not working when they should, turning the screen on and killing batteries, not snoozing when directed to, and so on and so on. Alarms were consistently one of the weakest links in the old OS. And now, even though Windows Phone is supposed to be all brand spanking new, here we go again.

So I have some advice for Microsoft:

1. Run an update today to remove Alarm functionality from ALL WP7 devices, Cut out the cancer before it destroys this new platform.

2. Call every member of the WP7 team  involved with alarms and tell them they all qualified for early retirement and don’t ever have to come back to work. In fact, insist on that last point. I assume they are all older anyway cause the same people have been spitting out this garbage code for more than 10 years.

3. Find every reference to alarms in any written or documented code in Microsoft’s catalogs and archives, AND BURN IT!

4. Hire a few new people on Monday and task them to create an alarm function, from scratch, for Windows Phone 7. I can wait for something that will actually work reliably.

It’s all about a positive user experience, and this simple but important feature needs to work, every time. No excuses. Oh, and if users from other platforms; iPhone, Android, Blackberry & Symbian, want to chime in about how well the alarm function works on their devices, by all means please do. Don’t expect it will help, but it may shame Microsoft into doing something about this issue. Or it could help with those new hires they will be looking for come Monday, assuming they follow my advice above.

 

 What I though was a fix for the alarm bug

Open Zune on your desktop, go to Settings (upper right) > Phone > Reserved Space. You will find the below explanation and slider. Not sure what this does exactly, but my device was defaulted to 5%, which I assume is the same for all WP7 devices, or at least all HTC devices. As I had already loaded 3-4GB’s of music, video & photos to my phone, plus at least 70 apps/games, I decided to move my slider to 10%. Since this change, no freezes (until tonight that is).

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I presume this creates some kind a reserve or virtual memory area on your device. The below graphic shows the summary of space allocated on my 16GB Surround. The first three dark areas represent; music (3.42GB), video (257.49MB) and pictures (104.02MB). The second graphic shows the reserved space on my device. I have been watching the FREE number over the past several days and have seen it move down, and up, from day to day, so I still don’t know how downloads, new apps and new pictures/videos affect the “RESERVED” and “FREE” numbers.

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Just a theory at this point, but my guess is users who load a lot of media on their devices and/or download/ use a bunch of 3Party apps may push the 5% reserved space to its limit, spilling over into some other memory territory. I would bet there is still something wrong with the code relating to WP7 & alarms (some things never change) but moving the Reserved Space slider to 10% may be enough to keep all of your added stuff away from the OS.  So, if you have been experiencing alarm freezes, give this fix a try and share your thoughts.

25 COMMENTS

  1. great article. It also makes me very happy that I decided that sleeping with a cell phone is a bad idea and I reverted to an old school clock (plugin with battery back up) about a year ago.
    But you’re right – you can’t screw up something as simple as this, not fix it and continue to act like there’s no ramifications as to how your platform is viewed when you can’t get the simple stuff right.

  2. I haven’t had any problem with my alarm on the Samsung Focus. I’ve had it on and off charge. Maybe it’s an HTC problem.

  3. Based on all the feedback, it may very well be an HTC only problem. Verified on; HD7, Surround and now Mozart, with one possible but unconfirmed Focus issue.The one key thing you need to do though is let the alarm time out, which can take five minutes or more (27 rings on a 10-15 second cycle). Dismissing before the timeout does not appear to cause a problem. Aside from a different memory structure or other specific HTC device hardware design differences, I can’t imagine what would be different with the WP7 OS itself on different brand devices.

    But regardless, Microsoft has to take responsibility and solve the problem. If WP7 fails, HTC will still be selling devices, just with a different OS. As far as I know HTC can’t push out an update, only Microsoft can do that so they need to take charge. And if Microsoft needs somebody to kick ass and take names, I can be on a flight to Redmond Monday. Seriously.

  4. I bet your WP7 alarm works better than my Wp7 alarm despite all the problems, seeing as my WP7 device does not yet existh. Dell you suck.

  5. I haven’t had this experience on a Trophy yet. Maybe it’s because I set Reserved space to 15 % on the first day?

  6. I’ve had my Samsung Omnia 7 for about month now and I’ve not had any issues with the alarm, and I’ve always used my smartphones as an alarm for a few years now.

  7. Not suggesting this is a problem on every device but to truly be sure your device must NOT be plugged in AND you have to let the alarm time out, which can take 5 or more minutes. So say you set an alarm to call someone in the morning, then you jump in the shower and don’t hear it go off. When you wake up your device and dismiss the alarm, see if you get a freeze. Or, in my case after a recent reset, no sound.

  8. Regardless of whether its HTC or MS’s problem, this is the kind of problem they should have picked up in their alleged “most tested” WP7 testing. Guess I’m lucky I still use my HD2 as an alarm.

  9. @erdoke: Thanks for the update. So now we have ALL HTC devices verified with this glitch, and most likely at least one or two Focus users (DavidK’s post above and a post from original article). Would sure like to get some absolute verification, using the criteria described here, from Focus, Quantum, and maybe the three or four lucky Venue Pro (sorry cjc) users. Then we can all organize a march on Redmond. Otherwise it will be a longer trip to HTC headquarters.

    I know this is not a big issue, especially if you never let the alarm time out, but it still should not be. Note that plugged in, the alarm will sound 27 times, but off charge the alarm may only sound a few times before timing out. So I would guess that somebody wrote some silly routine to check if the device is plugged in and to conserver power, change the way the alarm works. Good job BOZO.

  10. Just did a test with my Venue Pro – no lockups. The alarm rang until it timed out (5+ minutes), I woke the screen up 30 seconds after that, hit dismiss, and unlocked my screen. Sound still works – playing music from Zune now.

  11. @kitye: Thank you for the informative feedback. And happy to hear your Venue Pro is not afflicted. I will presume you were not plugged in to anything at the time.

    As speculated, this may have something to do with the way HTC handles sound or vibration on their devices, so I may (reluctantly) try a few more tests, turning vibration off/on, alert sounds off/on, etc.

    Hope we can get some feedback from LG and Samsung users though who actually ran the test as descrbed so we can narrow this issue down.

  12. @jimski: Yeah I wasn’t plugged in, but the battery was full (just pulled off the charger when I set the alarm). Anything else you want me to test, feel free to Tweet me @kltye.

  13. I had a feeling that it is caused by HTC’s Attentive phone application, but it persisted after an uninstall and restart, so forgot about the idea…

  14. Well doctor, I am calling this one: November 27, 2010 3:14pm. Dead on the slab.

    Just spent the past 4 hours trying all kinds of scenarios; turning off vibration, turning off All other notifications, removing HTC’s Sound Enhancer & Attentive Phone apps, soft resetting, pulling the battery, and listening to that gosh ugly Alarm 2, about a thousand times the past few days. And just to tease me, after removing Sound Enhancer and resetting after a freeze, the damn alarm worked “perfectly”. Rang 27 times and no freeze, or loss of sound. But that was only once. The next six tests all failed for either no sound or freeze. All these soft resets reminded me (shudder) of a day in the life of WinMo.

    So that’s it folks. Still don’t know if this is an exclusive HTC problem, but as noted either way, its still Microsoft’s responsibility. If I could delete the Alarm app I would. While I have been know to fib from time to time, when someone asks me for technology advice I will always be brutally honest. No one can buy my positive thoughts. So the next time someone asks me, “how do you like that new Windows Phone”, my reply will be, “the phone and new OS is great, but alarms still suck!” Just being honest.

  15. @jimski: @ Jim Ski – Have you notified Microsoft of this issue that you are experiencing? If not, what is your strategy to notify them and how soon will you do so?

  16. Well, I have “Send Feedback” activated on my phone and with all the resets I have done the past few days, all for the same reason, they should be getting the hint by now. I also made sure that “Microsoft” was in the title of this post, because the Internet is a very powerful medium for change.

    Over the years I have sent numerous emails to Microsoft and only rarely have they responded, usually with a polite, but meaningless reply. I have called them for support on three occasions, and paid my obligatory $30 each time. They are one for three in actually providing me with any kind of help.

    A few minutes ago I downloaded Alarm Clock Pro ($1.29 – wrongwaygames), a nice alarm clock app. It actually worked without freezing my device or turning off sound the two times I tested it, even while it was only running on battery. But like all 3rd party alarm apps, it must remain in the foreground in order to work, although it survives behind a lock screen. You see, I am 54 years old and have been waiting 10 years for Microsoft to get alarms/notifications right. Not sure if I will live long enough to see them finally get it. But I will place my bet on the fact that apps like Alarm Clock Pro will be allowed to run in the background (like the default alarm app) long before Microsoft gets around to fixing their own alarm.

    Sorry for my cynicism, but with a company the size and depth of Microsoft, along with the locks and restrictions they have put into WP7 to keep it pure and free of rouge code, there is absolutely no reason for me to be dealing with this issue. If they really want to know what’s wrong with something they can send it to me, cause when it comes to finding fault I am merciless.

  17. @ Jimski: Just curious… Since you’re a previous WinMo and Android owner, maybe you can weigh in. I’m split between upgrading from the Fuze to a Captivate or a Focus. Essentially the same hardware, just Android vs. WP7.
    I’m looking to get away from combing XDA looking for rogue developers to fix oversights and flaws in the OS. God bless them, but I have better things to do with my time. I want to just use my phone as a great organizer, music player, and web browser, without having to tweak the hell out of everything to get the performance I want. Now that you’ve spent some time with both, do you think WP7 can really hold up for that kind of wish?
    I know it’s a loaded question, but appreciate any insight!

  18. @Eddie: Sorry, but never owned an Android. Not knocking the platform but I was so imbedded with WM (apps and general understanding) I didn’t see any reason to switch to something similar.

    With WM I too spent a part of almost every night checking at least 15 different XDA threads, as well as more than a half dozen commercial app blogs to see what had been updated, changed or tweaked. Although I didn’t flash new ROM’s every week, I customized the crap out of my Fuze and Tilt2, with four pages worth of customization notes in OneNote (one full page just for TodayAgenda settings) so that when my device ultimately had a crash, I could get back to where I started in maybe 12-15 hours of reloading (about 150 apps) and resetting, that’s assuming my full nightly backup did not work for some reason.

    Now, with WP7 I am not even thinking of it, and I honestly shudder at the thought of side-loading and all the extra overhead that goes with it. I am in a different place now. Browse Zune Marketplace every couple nights, going through each category, sorting by release date to see if there is anything new or interesting. Downwload one or two free apps, and maybe a .99 app. When there are updates Marketplace takes care of it. I don’t have to do anything except say, OK. I have only changed 5 to 10 settings collectively on all the built-in, plus the 85 or so apps/games I have downloaded, so don’t really need to compile a list.

    So I can’t tell you if Android is a better choice than WP7. But I can say that most everyone who touts Android talks about how they can change everything and personalize the phone to their liking. Aside from newer devices, with faster processors and bigger screens, that sound painfully familiar. So if you want a phone that may allow you to customize the crap out of it, after rooting of course, and then finding all the tweaks and mods to make all those changes, then go out and get a Captivate. But if you want a phone, that has mostly black screens with similar while lettering, and does not allow you to change much of the way it looks, but it’s really snappy, never laggy, and just works, then maybe you want to look at a Focus. Ultimately the choice is your. Enjoy your new phone.

  19. HI, I have a HTC 7 Mozart for one month yet (orange fr).
    I have this sound issue.
    I would like to add the fact that when you have the sound bug (even though volume was set to 30), there is a problem also with the speaker. If you make a call without paying attention of that bug, the speaker is off and your correspondant will not hear you.

  20. @quoirez julien: Interesting observation. The more I think about it the more I believe this alarm bug and the new mute bug are specific to HTC devices and related to the sound enhancements they added to all their WP7 devices.

    I have been trying send off a product support message to the HTC customer support team all day, referencing the links to both bug posts, but I get an error each time I try to send the message. And their support forums are still down.

  21. Great article…

    I was really bugged with everyday boot of Windows Phone HD7 and it used to freeze post the Alarm …

    Thanks – I’ve switched off the alarm

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