October 18, 2009

V30.0.011 firmware for the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic

It's been out for something like two months already, so why the interest in it now?

The thing is, there was a major snafu at Nokia, which delayed firmware updates for S60v5 handsets such as this one and Nokia's flagship device, the N97, but only for unbranded handsets intended specifically for the UK market. Nokia has since admitted that they were the cause of the snafu that resulted in these excessive delays.

Applying the update and getting the full benefit of the improvements that it brings was a bit more of an epic adventure than it should have been. The features that are supposed to make updating the phone easy only half work in this instance and end up making things unnecessarily convoluted.

Not only that but V30 also includes some serious bugs that, in my opinion, mean that it's wiser to wait for V31 to be released instead of installing this version.

As soon as the update was released via FOTA (Firmware Over-The-Air, the phone itself downloads the update from Nokia and installs it) I installed it. I took the usual precaution of backing everything up to my memory card beforehand and then updated. The phone rebooted and everything was still intact as promised by UDP (User Data Preservation).

One of the major selling points of V30 is an indicator on the home screen of any new e-mails received. A bug in the new firmware (where have I heard this before?) prevents this feature from working until you perform a reset on the phone. I was somewhat unwilling to do that because of the risk of losing some commercial software I'd bought. Since acquiring this phone I've bought Adobe Reader LE from quickoffice.com and something from the OVI Store to export messages from the phone in order to archive them. I was expecting to lose this stuff and had to find out how to recover it.

Anyway, once I'd located sources for all the stuff I'd installed I did another full backup to the memory card, reset the phone with the usual *#7370# trick and supplied my security code. The phone went blank, rebooted and asked me for the usual stuff it asks for when it's new out of the box. So far so good.

The first thing I did after the phone rebooted was to restore the backup I'd just made. The next step was to reinstall all the stuff I'd lost by reformatting the phone. As it turns out, most of what I'd installed was still there! There are two possible reasons for this. Either the reset no longer does what it used to do and some software survives it, or that software was included in the backup (I did select "user files" in it) and reinstalled when I restored the backup. If the latter, why did it only preserve some software and not all of it? There was no clear pattern to what was preserved. Some Nokia software was preserved, some was not, some third party software was preserved, some not. Themes were not preserved.

Going through the settings, in particular security settings that were clobbered by the reset, I needed to input my security code. It was no longer accepted! Taking a guess at what had happened, I tried the default Nokia security code, which is "12345", and it worked! The reset also put the phone's security code back to the default "12345", which is not expected behaviour and is something that's never happened on any other S60 Nokia device I've used.

Having reinstalled everything that did go missing I went through the settings with a fine-tooth comb and got the phone set up as I used to have it, with the e-mail indicator on the home screen this time. I'm glad I decided to go through with the reset, painful as it was, because that e-mail indicator is a useful feature. It shows you at a glance how many unread e-mails you have, allows you to get straight into the e-mail account by tapping on it and lists details of the first two messages in the inbox. If you have multiple e-mail accounts set up on the phone, it will however only show details of one mailbox, not all of them, but you can choose which one to display on the home screen.

I had to redefine all my speed-dials since I didn't back up the phone's settings (doing so would have defeated the purpose of resetting it). The phone crashed and rebooted once when I defined the first one but didn't crash again subsequently.

After altering a contact, I used the OVI Sync service to ensure that my online contacts were up to date. However, after the sync was done, all the custom labels in my contacts were lost, as were some of the defaults. The defaults are a mechanism used to tell the phone which number or address to use by default if more than one can be used for the operation about to be performed. For example, if you want to send someone a text message and there's more than one number for that person, unless you tell the phone that one of those numbers is the default for text messages, you will be asked which one to use. The defaults for voice and video calls were preserved, as were those for e-mail. The defaults for SMS and MMS messages, on the other hand, were lost for some reason or other, and I had to go through my contacts redefining them.

Now that the update is complete and the phone set up as before, it's time to make a note of the improvements that I've noticed.

First of all, the unit seems more responsive. Text input when composing a message seems to be more snappy as does entering letters to search through the contacts choosing one to use as the recipient of the message. Switching from portrait mode to landscape mode and back seems faster and smoother than it was before. Entering and navigating the phone's menus seems fast enough, even with theme effects enabled. This is a definite improvement on V21.0.025.

WLAN connectivity seems more stable than previously. Once connected I'd never have problems with V21, but sometimes it wouldn't detect the WLAN at all and would fall back on the 3G packet data service instead. It's a good job I have the "unlimited web" bolt-on with my contract... Running V30 the phone seems to "see" the WLAN much more often and uses it rather than O2's service.

Power management seems to be improved hugely. It is now 72 hours since I last charged the battery and there are still 3 bars (out of 7) left on the gauge, which is not, however, linear, meaning that I'll probably have to charge up again today some time. That's still a massive improvement on battery life with V21.

A couple of niggling bugs seem to have been found and eradicated. Firstly, the "unread message" indicator. The menu key can be set to flash when any one or more of the following conditions is/are met: you have missed calls, you have unread SMS/MMS messages, you have unread e-mail. With V21, the indicator would sometimes still flash even if none of the conditions were met, especially after reading and then deleting new messages. This appears to have been fixed. Secondly, the battery gauge would indicate different numbers of bars remaining depending on what was displayed on-screen. This seems to have been fixed too.

The music player seems improved. The sound quality has been improved slightly, with less unnecessary emphasis put on the bass and better overall signal response (I suspect lower dynamics were being drowned out by the over-enthusiastic bass response and can now be heard). This all assumes, of course, that you've dumped the earbuds supplied by Nokia with the phone and that you're using something approaching good quality. I also suspect that Nokia know full well that this is what most people are doing and they decided to change the phone's frequency response to something more adapted to good quality earbuds.

A welcome surprise was to see an extra 9 megabytes or so of free space on my phone's C: drive (internal memory). There are now 64.5 MB free as opposed to the usual 55 MB or so that there used to be.

One thing I've not tried yet is the camera. There was room for improvement both for still images and for video footage. Maybe some progress has been made there, but for now I can't tell.

I'm sure there are other improvements in features that I rarely use. An unofficial changelog can be seen here. You'll not see an official changelog because Nokia considers them to be confidential information.

There are, however, several new bugs introduced into V30 that all seem to be related to the clock. Firstly, scheduled backups no longer work. All the phone's data can be backed up to a memory card for safekeeping and there is the possibility to have this backup occur automatically every day or every week. Even if the automatic backup is programmed, it does not occur. Secondly, the alarm clock is no good because it either doesn't go off at all or if it does, it goes off at the wrong time. Finally the timed profile feature no longer works as intended. It is possible to engage a new profile and have the phone revert to the original profile at a set time. This no longer happens. The phone remains in the set ptofile and does not revert to the original profile at the set time.

It was a bit of a struggle to get through the whole update process and I don't think it was worth it. The phone is snappier, I have more free space for applications, the music player has definitely been improved, some of the trivial yet a little annoying bugs of earlier versions appear to have been squashed, but new ones have been introduced, and they're not trivial. Even if you can update to V30 (although I suspect you have done already if you're not in the UK...) then I recommend that you do not. Wait vor V31. The update to V31 will soon be available both via FOTA and using NSU (Nokia Software Updater). Nokia's OVI Suite is now out of beta and should also be able to handle updating the 5800 XpressMusic.

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