Mobile phone firmware updates

Some notes on how backing up the data on your (Nokia) mobile phone has gotten better. And how much further we still need to go before upgrades are really usable.

I recently updated the firmware on my work phone. It isn’t that first time I’ve done it and it won’t be the last. And it seems like I face the same problems and issues every time. Well, not quite so. In the following I’ll walk through how things have changed since my first firmware update in 1998 (to a Nokia 8110i).

I must admit that during the last five years in which I’ve had phones that have required firmware updates things have gotten slightly better. Nokia currently offers the Nokia Data Suite for free and it can be used without any special cables with phones that support infrared or Bluetooth. The software allows you to backup the data on your phone. I downloaded the latest version (5.8) of the data suite and backed up all of my data with it before taking my phone for an upgrade. The following details all of the problems I’ve had after the update and restoration of my data.

I was overjoyed to see that all of the contacts that I had stored in my phone where there once I restored the backup of my data to the phone. I thought that all I had to do was change the default ringtone and all would be set. Oh, how naive I was. The first thing I noticed was that none of the ringtones that I’d ordered and paid for worked anymore. The copyright protection that is built into the ringtones doesn’t survive through a backup/restore cycle. Why? I’ve paid for the content once, why do I have to do it a second time? And the last time I checked, by Finnish law I have the right to make functioning backups of any media that I legally purchase…

Well, reorder (and pay) for the ringtones and set them up correctly. Start with the default ringtone and work onto changing the ringtones for caller groups. This is where I noticed that none of the caller group data that I had setup previously had survived the backup. Time to go through a hundred or so contacts and put them in the correct caller groups.

While fixing these issues I noticed that many smaller things that I’d done to cutomize my phone (how the different buttons work, custom menus, etc.) had all gone missing since the update. Fixing all of these small settings back to the way they were took some time. Not too much, but enough to be annoying. What is the reason in allowing such customizations if I have to recreate them after each update.

Now its time for the first (fire) call to come through. I was at work, so close the laptop lid and walk over to my turnout gear and start putting them on. In the engine on the way to the scene I took out my phone to send Anna a message telling her that I’m responding to a call. She had set up my phones templates so that I had ready messages that informed her of my status. Surprise, surprise, none of the changes had survived. All of my other SMS messages had survived the backup, but not the templates. Again: Why?

The list above is a mystery to me. Why do we still have to lose so much data even though we have tools that are supposed to make backups of the data we have. Can it be so difficult for the engineers of a phone manufacturer to come up with a scheme that allows all the data on the phone to be backed up and restored without any hassles to the user? The software engineer in me says that it can’t be that difficult. In fact it should be a service that comes automatically when you take you phone in for a firmware update. Luckily though, I didn’t have to restore all of my GPRS settings. That would have been a real hassle.

I’m looking forward to seeing if I can make a backup of the addressbook and messages on one phonen and transfer them all to another phone. But that’ll have to wait until either Anna or I decide to change phones (again). I’ve had seven different models from the same manufacturer, and I’ve yet to see a phone upgrade that doesn’t involve sending address book entries either via infrared or SMS. And the address book format is something that Nokia has kept fairly similar over the years (at least the way it’s sent from one phone to another). Phones are mainy tools for me, I’d like to spend my time hacking with other appliances and not setting up my phone (for the umpteenth time).

Time to stop ranting now. I’ve been quiet for quite a while. Work and a small (but very relaxing) vacation have kept me busy. But I also have a backlog of ideas to write about, so please stay tuned.