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REVIEW: T-Mobile USA MDA 2.26 ROM Update
Posted by Thomas Chan - on Tuesday, 08.08.06 - 08:36:08 CET under 08 - Reviews - Viewed 24747x
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T-Mobile USA MDA 2.26 ROM update was released last week. It even has an updated manual that goes along with it.
I just came back from vacation and couldn't wait to try this out. This is probably one of the most anticipated and needed ROM update. I have my MDA for couple months now. The most annoying thing about this phone is the reception. T-mobile coverage in the San Francisco Bay Area is already not one of the best. In spotty areas where Motorola Razr gets 1-2 bars, this MDA gets either none or at most 1 bar. Worst, after it went through a dead spot, sometimes it takes 10-15 minutes to reacquire a valid signal. So to me, this is a no-brainer decision for upgrade.

Stock ROM:

  • ROM or OS version: 1.8.10.2 WWE
  • ROM date: 12/10/05
  • Radio version or GSM: 01.09.10
  • Protocol version: 4.0.13.20
  • Extended ROM version: 1.8.10.104
  • IPL and SPL 1.08

Updated ROM:

  • ROM or OS version: 2.26.10.2 WWE
  • ROM date: 6/7/06
  • Radio version or GSM: 02.25.11
  • Protocol version: 4.1.13.12
  • ExtROM version: 2.26.10.105
  • IPL and SPL 2.26

The first step was to do a full backup via Spb Backup, to make sure I could recover program store and data when things go wrong. This is probably just for the peace of mind, as once the erase ROM process is in place, you are in the hand of the upgrade program for recovery process. I then downloaded the software, and launched the setup/upgrade. It went through the usual checks and warning about data would be erased, need 50% or more battery power, don't touch anything or breath during the process ;-) and prompted me to connect the MDA via ActiveSync and USB.

My heart dropped when I heard the ActiveSync connection drop tone, saw my laptop trying to reacquire the device, and upgrade failed with my MDA showing the infamous 3 color screen. Luckily, the recovery program kicked in and it only took a battery reseat and a soft reset to get back to stage zero. Apparently the original ROM, program store and data were still intact. It was 3am and I was brave/unconscious enough to give it another try. This time, ActiveSync still drops the connection, but I could see the progress bar proceeding, and my laptop did not try to re-acquire the device. The upgrade process went to completion without incidence. What a relieve! After the unit reset, I immediately noticed besides the new Windows Mobile interim screen,

Improvement #1, boot up time is about 40 seconds versus the 90+ seconds before. Still a long time, but certainly a significant improvement.

Right after the reboot, I configured the GPRS/EDGE to point my APN to internet2.voicestream.com. I saw...

Improvement #2, EDGE connection time and data transfer are both faster than before, most likely attributed to the improved radio software/firmware. I tried streaming audio and video via Orb, speed test gives 150-200k download/web speed, which is quite impressive comparing to the 50-130k before.

That certainly overshadows...

Improvement #3, the E icon update at the top. It is still a welcoming improvement to indicate accurately whether you are on GPRS or EDGE data though. The pic on the left is without data and the right is with data connection active.

Improvement #4, both memory and real time utilization seem to be better as well. I have yet to install imov Instant Messenger and Skype, but looks like I got a lot more memory storage room than before. I have memory readout and program installed pics below for illustration purpose. This is taken after clearing out IE cache and a soft reset. Response time for dialing is also much smoother than before.

I proceeded to test out...

Improvement #5, official A2DP support. This works just like the hack I did on the prior ROM version (provided by xda-developer site), except that the handsfree option of my Jensen WBT212 Bluetooth Stereo Headset now works instead of not working before. Now I can confirm that my $60 Jensen does work as a stereo headphone as well as a headset for phone conversation. Note the Wireless Stereo service option and the special stereo headset icon at the top. Sound quality is decent for both stereo playback as well as phone conversion. However, the two minor issues with having to refresh services every time you turn off/on the headset, and the very minor/low phono-type click noise during mp3 playback still exist.

Other areas that attracted my attention are...

Improvement #6, ActiveSync works a bit faster. However, my old problem of needing to reboot my laptop after couple of syncs still exists.

Improvement #7, Connection Manager now controls DirectPush, Data Connection, Vibrate/Ringer and IR/Beam besides the existing four (Phone, Bluetooth, WLAN and ActiveSync). It looks nice even though I don't use the new ones too often. I press and hold the connection manager key to toggle between Vibrate and Ringer. And I use the E icon to disconnect data connection instead.

Now for the main fix/enhancement...

Improvement #8, improved radio software/firmware and the fix for signal search and acquisition issue. I can see the improvement at home already. I used to get 3 bars in my work room, now I have the full 4 bars (as shown in all pics). I used to get 1-2 bars in the garage, now I get a consistent 3. I went to my in laws house, I used to get very weak or no reception there prior to the upgrade. Now, I get 2-3 bars consistently. I have yet to test out the re-acquisition fix. I usually run into that issue when I go to Fry's and come out, no reception for about 15 minutes. Will report the result later in the week (get another reason to go shopping ;-)).

I did notice two more things...

Improvement #9, it used to be that when you are on a data connection, any incoming call will be routed to voice mail directly. With this new ROM update, the call actually rings through providing you are not transferring data actively. You can choose to ignore the call and continue your surfing (as illustrated below). Note the miss call icon at the top of the pic on the right as well as the small E icon indicating EDGE connection is still active. If you choose to answer the call, the data connection will be terminated. If you are actively streaming/transferring data, the call will then get rolled over to voice mail. This is definitely a big improvement as I usually do some light web browsing while waiting for phone calls. The ideal situation is to give users the control of whether voice calls or data would take precedence. But this is certainly one step closer to that ultimate goal.

Improvement #10, Bluetooth seems to be more stable. I have not run into the issue before the upgrade, where I had to restart the device to get my non-A2DP headset working.

Other areas of interests that I probably won't be using and could not test. Sorry for not being able to provide the pics here as I uninstalled them to optimize memory before I have a chance to take the snapshots.

Improvement #11, it has a dedicated t-zone software.

Improvement #12, it has a new Hotspot login utility. I am not near any T-mobile Hotspot, so cannot provide snapshot of that neither. May be in the update later in the week.

Improvement #13, MSFP for Direct Push email and the associated Vibrate fix. This is a big thing for enterprise users.

Conclusion:

In summary, this is definitely a worthwhile upgrade. The new ROM update might just push this convergent unit over the edge of being one of the most usable, instead of tolerable before the upgrade, Smartphone/PDA phones around in the US at the moment.


 
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