Nokia phones, just like other phones, contain software (or sometimes also known as firmware) that can be updated from time to time. Just like any computer program, phone software may contain bugs. Software updates allow these bugs to be fixed. Software updates can also introduce new features, improve performance, or enhance stability.
A common question raised by many Nokia users concerns the availability of updates. While Nokia may have released an update for a particular phone model (e.g. Nokia N73), the software may not be available to all owners of that phone model. Why does this happen?
Well, basically software updates are tied to the phone’s product code.
Product codes are not quite the same as model numbers. The very same phone model can have many different product codes. The different product codes come about because of slight variances in the burned in software. The software may be different because of operator-specific branding. Therefore, product codes differentiate between branding of phones even when they are physically the exact same model.
Your phone’s product code is found printed in the label in the battery compartment. I believe it is usually a 7 digit number.
The operator-specific branding means that the software loaded into the phone may be different from the generic software as well as other operator branding. Every operator wants the phones they sell to be special. They need to tell their customers that their phones have more features, or have better value. Sometimes, phone subscription plans are tied in, sometimes the phones are locked to the network, sometimes there are extra software, and sometimes features may be disabled.
It sounds strange that operators will want features disabled, but some of them do. There are usually commercial reasons behind such decisions. For example, while the generic N95 8GB may support VOIP, certain mobile operators want the VOIP feature disabled. The commercial reason behind this could be that the mobile operator having subsidized the purchase cost of your phone (and naturally put you on a contract), may want to disallow you from making free Internet based phone calls through the VOIP feature. These restrictions are typically implemented through customized software.
Availability of Software Updates
As a result of operator branding, exactly when a software update becomes available for a specific operator branded phone (which will be determined by product code) is not the same as when Nokia makes the generic phone software update available for standard unbranded phones.
This means to say that even if Nokia has announced version 15.0.015 for the N95 8GB, it doesn’t mean all N95 8GB phones out there will have version 15.0.015 available. The delay comes about from the need to customize the software for various product codes.
Nokia has to modify the software according to the operator specific requirements, then send the customized software to the operator for their endorsement or approval. After the operator has given the go-ahead, then Nokia can make the new software available for that product code. Exactly when the software becomes available for a given product code thus becomes dependent on when the respective operator gives the green light for its release.
So, if you are wondering why there is no new software for your phone when others with the same model already have upgraded theirs… well, it could be due to your mobile operator
But I Want the Latest Software!
So you have a branded phone, new software is available for your phone model but just not your specific product code. How?
Try complaining to your operator, though chances are their customer service people aren’t going to know what you’re talking about, and nothing is going to happen faster anyway.
Another solution is to try changing your phone’s product code. Officially, this is disallowed by Nokia and it will void your warranty, so you are duly warned. If you are desperate, Google will find the answers you need.
Unbranded phones carry no operator customization. If you buy a phone from a Nokia store, pay the full retail price without a mobile phone plan… that’s quite likely to be an unbranded phone.
Whether unbranded phones are “better” or not is debatable. Clearly, branded phones that have features disabled are bad. But not all branding results in features being disabled. Probably the main benefit for unbranded phone is that you get the pristine software from Nokia, and will get the most timely updates to your software.
Just to be clear, model numbers are not product codes.
Model numbers identify specific phone models. The N95 8GB’s model number, for example, is RM-320.
Okay, here are some other common questions.
So, when will software be available for my phone / product code? Well, Nokia doesn’t release any schedules.
But I need bugs fixed/new features, etc. Where can I complain? As mentioned above, it depends on your operator, so you could try complaining to them but there’s only a very slim chance that it will yield any result.
Can I find out what changes are there in the software updates? Unfortunately, Nokia doesn’t seem to release official change logs. They did briefly at one time, but it wasn’t very detailed. Your best bet is usually to Google search and watch the forums.