Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Upgrading Nokia (un)Astound back to C7

 

nokia-astound

 

Before I begin, let me apologize for the title. It may be harsh, but is the dirty truth, that the Nokia Astound’s performance and overall use is very poor. For those of you wondering what the Nokia Astound even is, it is the U.S. version of the internationally sold Nokia C7. It is a very well-made device from Nokia, and really pleasantly surprised me when I received my Astound in the mail.

 

From a hardware level, it is very well made with the materials it leverages – an aluminum battery cover surrounded in a sturdy polycarbonate plastic, with a shiny aluminum bezel at the front, and centered with a hefty and beautiful multi-touch display covered by gorilla glass. However, I’m not here to write a review about the device as much as I am to help sell you on why you should still buy an Astound, given my previous statement that the performance is flat-out horrible.

 

First off, let me help clarify for those of you who have purchased this device already – it is a GREAT device. The problem is that the device uses a firmware image that is actually a public release of the new Symbian Anna update. In other words, the firmware is based upon a beta release of Symbian Anna, which is no longer in beta and has already had a few updates to its stable release. On top of that, this is a firmware image that has been “T-Mobile-ized” – it has been cluttered with software most people don’t care about or want, and contains limitations on certain things you can or cannot do. Furthermore, most apps on the Nokia Ovi store are only really maintained on the latest version of Symbian – and T-Mobile’s is 5 versions behind, on version  20.37 (the latest version of Symbian^3 is 25.7). If you tried downloading and using Skype on the device with the base firmware, you would have noticed you can’t hear anything when you make a test call.

 

For those thinking, “Well T-Mobile has to come out with an update soon”, don’t get your hopes up. This is the only version of the C7 that sold in the states, on a carrier that does not have a majority of the market as a cell carrier, as a device that most people don’t know and would avoid for fear of choosing “the wrong” smartphone. In any case, there most likely are not many Nokia Astound owners in the states that would even be reason for T-Mobile to sweat over customizing another image from Nokia. Plus, once I show you how easy it is to update it yourself, you’ll see why T-Mobile isn’t rushing to our aid.

 

If you’ve had any history of rooting Android, installing a hacked bootloader, etc, for Windows Mobile, or any other method of installing a non-carrier firmware image, you can rest assured that this process is surprisingly VERY easy to follow through. It requires only a few simple steps and moments later you’ll be speeding along with a full update of Symbian Anna, and all that it has to offer. You’ll find typing, internet browsing (with the DEFAULT browser), and multitasking to be quite fast compared to where you came from. The biggest caveat of installing this upgraded firmware is you don’t need to reformat and reinstall any apps or reconfigure much of your phone after doing this. You can choose to wipe and load the new image, but it isn’t necessary. Within 15 minutes of waiting to load, it will be done and you’ll be back to work, play, or whatever it is you enjoy using your phone for.

 

I did this on Windows 7 64-bit, so the latest and greatest shouldn’t be a stopping factory of this success. You will need two applications to do this, from a Windows computer: Phoenix and Navifirm. Phoenix is used to load or save a copy of firmware to or from your device, respectively. Navifirm is a program to view a repository of all firmware images available for (all?) Nokia phones and specific versions for each. Below are the steps I had taken to upgrade my phone, but please, feel free to explore on your own, as this looks pretty painless. Just use FW for RM-675 as I’m not sure if you’ll brick your phone or not by installing any other phone’s firmware.

 

  1. In Navifirm, you’ll essentially want to download the latest firmware for the Nokia C7 (RM-675). The Nokia Astound (RM-691) only contains version 20.37 and is where we want to run away from as fast as possible. Click on Nokia C7 (RM-675) and wait a good 30 – 60 seconds for the second column to appear with a list of firmware versions. Select 22.14. I then selected euro2_benelux_frost_metal (059B421), as several other people have recommended. Again, this isn’t so crucial so long as you stick with RM-675. Then I downloaded this firmware using the button to the far right to obtain all necessary files.
  2. Then (after downloading and installing the latest version of Phoenix from the website link above), I copied the firmware files I downloaded from Navifirm and placed them under C:\Program Files (x86)\Nokia\Phoenix\Products\RM-691\. More than likely, RM-691 will not exist, so it will need to be created, with that spelling. Phoenix looks for a folder with the exact name of your device’s model id. Otherwise, you will not be able to flash to the phone. Keep a note of this in future cases, because the id will change to RM-675, so you’ll need a folder by that name where you’ll place any other firmware variants you want to play with down the road.
  3. I then opened Phoenix to load the firmware. I plugged in my phone, let it install all the necessary drivers, and then went to the Connections drop-down and selected my device. I then went to File –> Scan Product and it automagically detected my phone and opened the product. In the status bar, it showed my phone’s status and in the bottom left, it displayed Ready.
  4. Then I went to Flashing –> Firmware Update. Where it says “Product Code”, you’ll want to click on the button to view the available firmware for your phone. You’ll see a product code, which is the identifier for a particular variant. If you chose the above variant I mentioned, it would say 059B421. You’ll select it and then hit OK. Once selected, it will fill in the top line with the title and prod code of the firmware, and the version below it. Then once you select Update Software, it will reboot the phone to a firmware loading state. Your computer will appear like your phone is being unplugged and plugged in multiple times. This is normal as it is installing the drivers to make it work properly.
  5. Once it is finished, your phone will reboot and should be on the latest version of firmware.

 

*****!!!!!!! NOTE !!!!!!!*****

You cannot revert your phone back to an older version of firmware (even if you needed to). At least from what I’ve found, it is impossible, if not VERY difficult to revert back. Be sure you are fine with doing this. Do take it from my experience that this phone works much better than it ever has before. A couple caveats do come with doing this. You will have voided your warranty with T-Mobile, if you still have one. Also, you will not have T-Mobile’s visual voicemail app capable of working. I’ve seen some other guys do it, though, so feel free to Google searching for it. It wasn’t important to me as I use Google Voice for voicemail, and receive text messages with the transcription. So I never missed it. As always, you will be doing this at your own risk. If you tried to revert to an older version of firmware, it would appear you’ve “bricked” your phone. No worries, you most likely didn’t. Follow this guide here for more help on getting your phone working: http://montakhab.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/flashing-dead-bricked-nokia-phones/ it has saved my neck on a number of occasions.