As I’ve previously blogged, I currently have a Nokia N80 mobile phone on the Orange UK network.
The phone itself is fantastic, apart from a few things like short battery life and a tendency to run out of memory. Nokia have released a few firmware updates since the phone came out, the latest of which is version v4.0623.0.41 released on 26th July. According to people who have tried it over on AllAboutSymbian, with this firmware the phone is rock solid. In particular, it has fixed a problem with Bluetooth in which the phone dropped the Bluetooth connection after a few minutes. This was particularly annoying for users of Bluetooth GPS receivers.
Each network goes through the process of certifying each Nokia firmware release for their network, and possibly adding their own tweaks to it. For instance, Orange add a photo uploading application.
Now until recently, there have been two ways to upgrade the firmware of the phone: either take it to a Nokia Service Centre, or download some illegal cracked software and do it yourself. The latter route will invalidate your contract with the network for instance, and certainly would be picked up on if you had to return the phone for any reason. Upon release of the v4 firmware I took my phone to my local service centre and requested a re-flash of the firmware. It came back with version v3.0617.06, which whilst better than the original version, still has significant bugs compared to the v4 firmware.
The Nokia Service Centre software will only flash the phone to the latest level of firmware authorised by the network operator. The only way to get the v4 firmware would be to have a generic, unlocked version of the phone, or to take the illegal DIY route.
In the last few days, Nokia have added the N80 to the list of phones you can update yourself via the Phone Software Update page. However, reports suggest that like the service centres, it will only allow you to install firmware authorised by your network operator.
So, naturally you would hope that Orange would test the v4 firmware and authorise it for their phones? Well the answer appears to be no. Rumours are circulating that Orange have withdrawn the N80 from sale, and their web site seems to back this up. Now this could be due to the pending release of the N80 Internet Edition, but some people have been told that due to “software issues” Nokia are no longer supporting the N80. Does this mean that they won’t authorise the v4 firmware that by all accounts turns the N80 into a perfectly stable phone? Various reports of conversations with Orange customer services suggests this might be the case.
So, Orange appear on the face of it to be leaving their customers with a crippled phone, especially if you want to use it as a sat-nav device with a Bluetooth GPS receiver and software like Tom Tom Navigator 6 (which of course I won’t!) This leaves owners of Orange N80s who actually want a fairly bug free and fully functional phone with only one course of action: illegally use cracked software to update the firmware and risk invalidating your warranty with the operator and Nokia themselves.
All in all, not a very good situation. I was a customer of O2 for eight years before I switched to Orange to get the N80. I have to say at the moment I’m regretting that move, and it doesn’t seem like I’m getting much service for my £55/month. It has to be said that neither O2 or Three have yet provided the v4 firmware to their customers, but at least in the case of O2 they still seem to be selling the phone.