When I was living in Germany (back in the days) – Vodafone Germany used to be the most annoying mobile services provider ever. They basically took any phone they were selling, disassembled the firmware and the OS and rebranded the whole bloody device with their Vodafone corporate red, Vodafone live! and all sorts of other sh*t (yes, I mean it exactly this way). Those branding efforts often used to happen so deeply inside of the device that it was literally impossible to revert them (without sending the phone to dedicated obscure de-branding services in Germany) and Vodafone often locked the devices even people on postpaid contacts.
Recently I was in Germany to deliver a Flex training course and to attend webinale in Berlin. Toying with the idea of getting an Android phone to run Flash and AIR on it, I purchased a Google Nexus One at a Vodafone store in Berlin. Note: Vodafone Germany is the only official way to get the phone in Germany. I had done some research before and it seemed that the phone was totally unbranded (it really is when you get it – no trace of Vodafone branding on there) and in fact there are huge amounts of people using it successfully on one of the other networks in Germany anyway.
One of the reasons getting the Nexus One was the thought that it’ll be the first Android device to get Froyo (Android 2.2) so that I could get Flash Player 10.1 and the AIR runtime on the device. Towards mid/end of May, “leaked” updaters for various versions of the firmware bubbled up and most of them were geared towards the T-Mobile US version the the Nexus One. Now – in a phase of beta-testing and somewhat unofficial updates such a selection is fair enough, the guys who run the AT&T version didn’t get many upgrades either (I understand the firmwares are essentially identical, the only difference are the radio band frequencies).
But now it’s release time. Last week, Google lifted the Android 2.2 codebase into the daylight and there’s even a manual updater to firmware FRF85B that works “from ANY version of the firmware” according to some of the commenters. Unfortunately that’s utterly wrong as some people have now realised. Google has basically released and OTA’ed Froyo 2.2 for devices sold through their own channel.
Where does that leave users who purchased their Nexus One in Europe or other places in the world (I can see the same scenario happening in AU/NZ if it will ever hit the shelves here)? Basically – you’re lost and at the fate of the mobile network of your “choice” – in most cases that’d be Vodafone <yuk>. The underlying problem is that your phone has been modified to a special “Vodafone” version of the firmware (EPF30) that doesn’t get an OTA update any time soon and that you can’t manually update by just applying the signed-passion-ota-42745.dc39ca1f.zip all-in-one updater (trust me that I tried it and the phone wouldn’t access the update.zip with a verification failed error).
On the Android support forums, a google employee wrote:
“Nexus One customers that bought the phone from Vodafone will be getting Froyo, albeit a little delayed. We have to make a few changes to Froyo to optimize it for the Vodafone network (small stuff around Emergency calling, etc.), so it will take at least another couple of weeks (changes + testing).”
This is at least deceiving if not utterly bullsh*t. Lots of people who purchased the phone from Vodafone don’t even use it on the Vodafone network and what changes “around Emergency calling” would there be necessary. Funny enough – Vodafone UK is telling a totally different story: http://forum.vodafone.co.uk/topic/61110-google-nexus-one-android-22-froyo/ – according to them it’s about default APN settings (Funny, my German Vodafone Nexus One picked up the APN settings just fine from my NZ SIM card…). Oh and this is Vodafone’s policy on upgrades according to the same thread: “In regards to firmware updates once they have been released by Google, we approve them and then they get rolled out”
Given the history of Vodafone heavily branding and customising phones they sell (in a negative way), I shouldn’t be surprised about all this. Still, with the phone coming from Google I thought it would be different this time – I was wrong. Note: this is a typical #firstworldproblemblogpost and I’m aware of that. I’m 100% sure that the European Vodafone Nexus One phones WILL eventually get Froyo (Android 2.2) coming from EPF30, but I’m just sick of waiting another few weeks to start playing with Flash and AIR on mobiles and also sick of being tied to the decisions of the most annoying global mobile network ever when and how updates of my phone will happen. I’m also disappointed of Google and I seriously wonder what made them enter such an agreement with Vodafone.
Lesson learnt: Never ever buy a phone through those channels unless you’re either happy with their way of doing things or willing to hack the phone. My solution (and be aware that this will instantly void the warranty of your phone) was to unlock the bootloader, downgrade the firmware to the official Google version and upgrade to Froyo from there. Absolutely smooth process, took me about 15 minutes and was def. worth it. Not just because I’ve got Froyo now and with that the phone is so much better now than it was with Android 2.1 but also because I’ve cut the ties to the Vodafone firmware for good now.
I’ll write another blog post tonight or tomorrow about how to do the upgrade, more to come.