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Advice for Microsoft WP7 Alarm Team: START OVER!


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).


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.



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.