The Nokia N97 gets v20 and a new lease of life

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[Story updated] Yes, it's out. For some product codes at least, with a changelog below. The next-gen Nokia N97 v20.x.019 firmware (a.k.a. PR 2.0), the biggest, most ambitious and most eagerly awaited firmware update in Nokia's history, is now available via Nokia Software Update. In short, RAM management is better and you effectively get a lot more flash memory on C: (provided you go through a little wipe/update/restore data effort) - plus the delights of kinetic, intuitive scrolling in all applications, transforming the S60 5th Edition experience, and a mountain of smaller fixes. See below for the changelog and comments.

 Screenshot. v20 Screenshot. v20 

On the right, showing N-Gage, Maps, Web, Photos and Ovi Store, all loaded in RAM at the same time - with 16MB still free - a definite improvement!

You can check for updates by going into the 'Sw update' application in your phone. Although the Nokia N97 does include UDP (User Data Preservation), and you should be able to apply this update over the top of your existing v11 or v12 installation, for anyone with any technical knowledge, I'd strongly suggest taking a slightly longer route.

Firstly, I'd suggest a backup (to memory card or PC), just in case. And then a sync of your data (e.g. to Outlook or Ovi or Google), just in case(!) Then, if you don't want to apply the update straightaway, wipe your N97's C disk with the usual *#7370# (default password 12345) and THEN apply the update. Then you can restore your data and any document files from memory card, PC or online source in the usual way.

Doing what I suggest might seem like a pain, but this is a major operating system update and you will end up with a faster, leaner phone with more space on C: free (around 55MB flash disk free on a virgin v20 N97).

Improvements in firmware 20.x.019 are: (the x varies according to region and product code)

  • A reworked memory mapping model - this means that applications use the (relatively) limited RAM much more efficiently and you should rarely see any memory errors. Note that the available 'Free RAM' after booting is now a lot less (around 47MB), but don't take this raw number too literally - apps apparently use less RAM than before
  • Kinetic scrolling in the User Interface in all lists and larger-than-screen views and the elimination of 'double-tap' (highlight and then action) operations in some parts of the interface
  • The keyboard driver has been enhanced so that a long press on any key brings up its associated 'function' symbol (or number). Also, (e.g. after highlighting text) a long press on the shift key brings up a 'Copy/Paste' dialog.
  • Music player shows album art more reliably, plus extra MP3 ID3 information
  • Some new social media and services widgets have been added by default, depending on region
  • Camera still and video improvements
  • Improvements to stereo speaker volume
  • Offline mode for homescreen widgets (shown below)
  • The N-Gage client is now included (shown below, saving 10MB of your C disk, compared to the current situation)
    (apparently not in the final distro after all)
  • Ovi Maps 3 is now included (shown below, saving 7MB of your C disk, compared to the current situation)
  • Ovi Contacts and Ovi Store clients now integrated (saving more space) (Ovi Contacts also not in the final distribution as expected)
  • More responsive touchscreen driver (so fewer 'missed taps') and the usual minor bug fixes across the board
  • Improvements to Sync system (hopefully paving the way for more reliable syncing with, among others, iSync on the Mac)
  • Under the hood support for VoIP (though clients and documentation for using this aren't yet public)

What's missing from the v20 firmware:

  • A Skype client - this will arrive as a separate download in 'Sw update', ref VoIP support mentioned above
  • Nokia Internet Radio - when, oh when, will Nokia realise that, while not a show stopper, it's a much-desired application that surely can't be that hard to adapt for a touchscreen?


Comments welcomed on all aspects of this new release.... [FX:Steve lights the blue touchpaper and retires.....]

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian