|eschipul, via Flickr (CC license)|
|My friend Beth Kanter is keeping a close eye on Nokia, hoping to keep her new N95 from turning into a brick, like mine did.|
Recently I bought, fell madly in love with, and then sadly had to return a near-perfect moblogging tool — the Nokia N95 — after the very first firmware upgrade turned it into a brick within days of my getting the phone.
My friend and fellow blogger Beth Kanter also bought an N95 around the same time, from the same vendor (Amazon.com). So far her N95 has been working pretty well for her (with some frustrations), and she’s detailing her learning experiences with this device in a special blog. She has not yet updated her firmware. Frankly, it seems like my experience scared her about taking that step — which is entirely appropriate, given what happened to me.
Amazon sold me an unlocked N95, which was presented as a US version. I soon found out it had arrived with vastly outdated firmware — version 10.2.006. (The current US version is apparently 11.2.009 — which is far behind the latest version, not available to US users yet.) When I couldn’t make Nokia’s own moblogging service, Share on Ovi (formerly Twango) work with my phone, I suspected it might be because of the outdated firmware. So I updated my firmware using Nokia’s own tools and process. That’s whate turned my expensive moblogging tool into an expensive, unresponsive brick.
Nokia wouldn’t guarantee that they’d fix or replace the phone for free, and they’d take weeks to get it back to me in any case. Since Amazon only allows 30 days to return a phone for a refund, and I was understandably wary of trusting Nokia not to leave me holding the bag on this, I decided to give up and just returned the phone. Which totally sucked. I was devastated. I really loved this device.
Hoping to avoid a similar fate, Beth registered her phone warranty and called Nokia customer support. The rep told her, “Yes, we’ve heard of the unresponsive brick problem. The problem occurs if you have a phone that isn’t a ‘US’ phone, but try to install the US version of the firmware update.”
Beth and the rep then verified that, indeed, the phone in her hand which she bought from Amazon was a US version. And the rep confirmed that “All unresponsive brick problems were due to a mix in the firmware versions.” Meaning that it should be safe for Beth to go ahead with her firmware update.
Here’s a subsequent call Beth made to Nokia customer service to reconfirm all this information. (Beth, I love you for this!)
Note that in this case, unlike the first Nokia rep Beth spoke to, this rep specifically told Beth that they advise N95 users NOT to update their firmware unless they’re experiencing “functionality problems” — which could include incompatibility with desired services.
Despite Nokia’s assurances, Beth’s still leery of the firmware update, and I don’t blame her…
Today Beth asked me whether I was certain my phone was a “US version.” In fact, I cannot be certain of this. I’ve returned the phone, and I don’t have a record of its serial number. (The only way to verify whether your N95 is a US version is, apparently, to call Nokia, give them your phone’s serial number, and have them check.) So it’s possible that Amazon sold me a non-US N95 even though it was presented as a US version, and that’s why my phone bricked out.
Of course, I had no reason to suspect that the phone in my hand was anything other than a US version. It worked fine, including accessing AT&T’s US 3G network immediately and flawlessly. The only thing wrong with it, as far as I could tell, was that the firmware was outdated. I had no reason to verify with Nokia, prior to attempting the firmware update, whether it was really a US phone.
Furthermore, after my phone bricked out, the Nokia rep I spoke to made no mention of the US/non-US firmware conflict — even though Beth’s conversation with Nokia indicates that they are indeed aware of this problem. (Which means, in turn, that some vendors must be selling non-US N95s to US customers.) On my customer service call, I’m fairly sure the rep did ask for my phone’s serial number (which is in tiny, tiny type beneath the battery) and could have checked for this alleged firmware version conflict. But that didn’t happen. I was left with no options but to ship my phone to Nokia and blindly trust that they’d do right by me.
I wish I had kept a record of my phone’s serial number, so I could verify now whether I was sold a US phone.
This issue affects EVERY US N95 user, since we all must update our firmware at some point in order to keep using the services associated with the phone.
In the meantime, if you live in the US and have bought or are considering buying a Nokia N95, please follow these recommendations as soon as it arrives (or right now, if you already have the phone):
- Register your warranty with Nokia. Just good practice in any case.
- Make a record of your phone’s serial number. It’s on the back of the phone, under the battery, in very tiny type. Double-check this by entering this character string into your phone: *#06# — that should yield a number that matches what’s under your battery.
- Check your firmware version. Enter this character string into your N95: *#0000# — Make sure you keep a record of this, too. If your firmware is earlier than 11.2.009 as of this writing, it’s out of date. (If you’re reading this post much later than Apr. 17, 2008, follow these instructions to find the current US N95 firmware version.)
- Call NokiaUSA customer support: 1-888-665-4228. I recommend recording this call. Tell them you want to verify whether the phone you just bought is indeed a US version. Give them your phone’s serial number, and get them to confirm whether it is indeed a US version. (If it isn’t, make sure you find out who to complain to at Nokia about the vendor who sold it to you under false pretenses, and then also complain to the vendor and get a replacement. And blog it, naming the vendor, of course, so we all know who to watch out for.
Also on that call, ask the rep if they are aware of the US/non-US firmware clash that causes bricked phones, which Beth found out about from Nokia. If they aren’t, ask to speak to higher-level customer service until you get someone who knows about the problem. Ask that person whether, if you do a firmware update on your N95, which Nokia just confirmed is a US version, and that still bricks your phone anyway, whether Nokia will repair or replace it for free — and how long it will take them to get a working phone with up-to-date firmware back to you. (Definitely make sure you record this part of the call.)
- Upgrade your firmware only when you need to. For instance, if your phone menus are working too slow or you’re having other interface problems. If, in a case like mine, you have trouble accessing or using a service that’s supposed to work with your phone, don’t immediately assume that you should update the firmware to see if that fixes the problem. Instead, first call Nokia or the service provider’s support to search for other possible causes of the problem, and address those first, and specifically ask if you need a certain firmware version to use the service. (This was my mistake. There might have been another reason I couldn’t use Share on Ovi)
- When you eventually must update your N95 firmware, because you WILL have to at some point, cross your fingers, take a deep breath, and hope for the best. You’ll need to download Nokia’s PC-only update software and follow their procedures exactly — especially backing up all your phone data first.
More on this to come later, I’m sure. Many thanks to Beth Kanter for following up on this. I hope she has better luck than I did.