tenpastmidnight blog

Making hay while the sun shines

New lease of life for my Nokia N73

I've had my Nokia N73 mobile for a little over a year. It's OK, but not the best phone I've had. It's slow to switch between functions (i.e. going to text messaging) and my top right button had stopped working and I had a lot of dust inside the screen.

Why not just get a new phone? I have a contract with Orange and don't care enough about mobiles to want to buy one separately and I don't want to get a new free phone from Orange because that'll mean extending my contract and I want to get to the end of it in case I decide to get an iPhone now the new ones are out.

However, I knew I could upgrade the 'firmware' - the software that runs on the phone - and sometimes there are useful updates in those. I'd done this a few months after getting the phone and it hadn't made any difference that I could notice, but maybe there was another one out. I hoped that my button had stopped working because of a software problem, rather than it being physically broken.

I found out what firmware I was running by typing *#0000# in to my phone, then found out there was a newer version out from Nokia.

A little Googling led me to download the Nokia Software Updater for N73, which works by connecting the PC (doesn't work on Mac) and phone together with a cable that came with the phone, then letting them talk for a while. Or it should, it turned out I needed to install the Noka PC Suite first, then run the software updater which then worked.

Before updating, I backed up my photos, texts and other bits on to the separate memory card I had in the phone - I did this by going in to Tools -> Memory -> Options -> Backup phone mem.

So, connected everything up, let it run, got worried when it took ages to finish, it finished OK, calmed down, turned phone on. And... woo, it's quicker! Not blindingly quick, but noticeably quicker than it was. Broken button still broken, bugger.

One fix I didn't notice immediately: my N73 has always shown the icon saying there's a voicemail message for me, even when there wasn't. This firmware update fixed that, which is very nice. Although I've lived with it for so long I now think there's something missing when I look at the phone.

Having decided I had a hardware problem, I went looking for instructions on taking the phone apart. I found links to pictures and videos that Nokia has had removed, which was not helpful, then a post with useful pictures (may take a while to load.) It looked like the screen dust could be under the plastic screen which is between the world and the actual LCD screen. Cool, that means I could take the phone apart and clean it.

Getting the phone apart was quite awkward and involves lots of prising and not losing your temper and breaking it. I found the worst part is the bottom corners as they have tabs much closer together than the top, so expect those parts to take a bit longer to get free.

I could clean the screen as soon as the top case was off, but decided to go further to try to get the top right key working again. This required a size 6 Torx screwdriver, which my friend Jamie was kind enough to lend me - he makes presentation equipment for exhibitions and has all the fiddly tools under the sun.

To get at the keyboard you have to take the main case completely off as there are small tabs that need releasing on the side of the keyboard which you can't do without getting the case off. Once I had access to the membrane under the buttons I gently prised the edge up under the broken button and scraped the shiny metal of the contact that gets pressed down by the phone key. When I put everything back together this was enough to get the key working.

Warning - putting the phone back together is rather fiddly and takes some time and patience. I found I had to take the little plastic tab which covers the SD memory card slot off to make it easier to fiddle everything back in to position - it's easy to slot back in later. I got my case back on then realised I'd forgotten to screw the keyboard back down and had to take the case apart again - it's much easier the second time!

All back together and the phone has a new lease of life. It's faster because of the firmware update, the button works again and the dusty screen has gone, now I just have the array of little scratches I always get because I tend to put the phone in the same pocket as my keys. I can now see out my Orange contract with my N73 and decide whether or not I want an iPhone in a couple of months, which will let the furore over the new iPhone die down a bit so I should be able to get one without any silly queuing up. I may be British, but I don't see queuing as a form of entertainment.

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What has happened to Paul Silver? What has happened to his very useful Spider Test? I recommended it to someone only to find it had gone 404 as has his .co.uk website.
Hi Keith,

My host's server was unfortunately caught up in a big hack attack at the server farm where he hosts last night. So at the moment Spidertest and my other work-related sites are all down while it gets sorted out.

Very frustrating but Spidertest will be back and hopefully in the next day or two.
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