The Nokia N8 PR 1.1 update broke my email!

Posted on 02/08/2011

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EDIT: Hard reset (delete data and restore factory settings) , start from scratch and it’s fine again

Well not quite, but close.

The PR 1.1 update for the N8 has brought in some nice improvements. Some might see it as insignificant but little things like a Symbian ^3 optimised document editor is nice. The update will be done to death in the coming days, but what I have liked particularly about it, is the improvements in the email client. I wouldn’t consider myself a power user when it comes to email but I am at ease with using it on my device, and my three email accounts are synced to my phone. I use Gmail as my personal email but don’t use features like starred items and the priority inbox (this I find quite a hassle and will be turning it off). My Ovi email account is to deal with service providers and subscriptions like Amazon, newsletters and that sort of thing. An exchange account is necessary for work. I used to keep my work separate but other things like bank accounts, my real estate agent, and medical aid contact me through this address. What is important for me however is contacts and calendar sync for which as I’ve said in the past, I use Google Contacts and Calendar for. I thus need a smartphone that can sync all my email accounts, and deliver my personal information data to my device.

Since the days of the 6710 Navigator, I have been happy with Nokia Messaging. For commercial email accounts and my work account, I had no issues with 6710 Navigator. With the N8 I did have one issue where Ovi Mail was bringing old and read messages flagged as unread, and sync with Gmail was not happening according to my sync schedule. This was temporary thakfully. Overall it has been rock solid from the email perspective. Google sync of course supports active sync so one can use Mail for Exchange, and theorectically get mail, contacts and calendar syncing with one account. This is where I encountered problems. On the old phone, email sync to Google through exchange was dodgy at best and somehow worse on the N8. On the N8 I couldn’t even compose a new email. So I ended up using Mail for Exchange for contacts and calendar and was always greeted by an empty inbox if I opened the mailbox. Symbian devices can only have one exchange accounts which also meant I had to choose between Google sync opr my work email, so I chose the former. I have also been experimenting with Visiarc’s impressive Mobile Documents, specifically the S^3 optimised version at Nokia Beta Labs. It’s lightweight, intuitive and handles attachments beautifully. As expected with a beta app, I did encounter a few bugs, specifically with emails read on device not flagged as such. It also doesn’t support active sync as yet though that is planned for future releases. Before PR 1.1 was released I went back  to exclusively using Nokia Messaging for my three accounts. To pull contacts and calendar I now use SyncML. Instructions for contacts are available from Google themselves and though don’t have support for calendar sync via SyncML I use a third party service called synme.se. I use the free service which syncs events from two weeks in the past and 180 days to the future. The paid service, at a cost of €9.95, allows syncing 10 years either way. Syncing for 180 days is fine for me as I never plan much more ahead than two months, but either way I can still access Google calendar on mobile web using Asri al-Baker’s wonderful WRT launcher, which is better than the mobile version. This all sounds convuluted  and it would be nice for better support for Google in Symbian devices, or at least the ability to have more than one exchange accounts, but Nokia is obviously pushing their Ovi Sync service at the moment. The nice thing with SyncML on the N8 is that one sync profile (yet another limitation sadly), so I set calendar to sync once a day, and do contacts manually when  I male changes.

So what has PR 1.1 brought to the table?

The good first. The compose email bug with Gmail using exchange is gone. So for those with no corporate account who use Google services, this is now a workable solution, more importantly a one step solution! An important part of exchange is meeting requests, something that i’m using more and more often, which was not supported previously and now works flawlessly. It tells you if the invite conflicts with an event already in your calendar. I also like the deeper integration with Ovi Maps allowing to view the location specified in the invite in maps. Moreover the speed of the application has improved dramatically. If you read back in my orginal N8 review, I complained about the speed of the email client, retrieving email followed by loading just seemed to take n age, at least 30 seconds, even over 3.5G. And was easy to tell when new email arrived without waiting to for the notification as the phone would almost grind to a standstill, bad if you get lots of emails. I would place the speed improvement for opening email at at least two thirds, and the phone no longer slows down.

This all sounds great but what about the bad?

Well a few hours after I updated to PR 1.1, I noticed that email sync had mysteriously stopped. PR 1.1 had broken my email! I sent myself a couple of test emails, and sent a few from the client and nothing. Even exchange was broken! I tried setting up a new account on device to test, and was kindly informed that the server was down. But surely not exchange too. This was around 14:00 yesterday. I rebooted the phone late at about 17:00, and ten minutes later email sync was alive. Phew! Alas it was a false dawn. My widgets were not updating. I suspected a third party app was playing foul and I uninstalled the lovely Bubbles lock screen app, the only thing I had installed recently prior to updating. No that wasn’t it. So I removed the widgets and added them back. Now they were blank, tapping on the space leading to nowhere. Even worse I no longer get notifications of emails, yes my email tone goes off, but if the phone is not on hand and I miss it, I will never know. I’ve tried removing the widgets and rebooting, deleting the email accounts and setting them up again, nothing works. I really do not want to do a hard reset, I’ve read about Qt libraries disapearing and issues with Ovi Store. Yes emails are coming through but there’s a good chance I’ll never hear about them and what’s the use of a widget that doesn’t work. I’ll try and reinstall the update using Ovi Suite and see if that fixes things but I am not hopefully.  Some critical bug fixes and new features added, but so something else breaks. What’s even more disappointing is that the limit of one exchange account aside, and I understand that most people and at least those in my friend have no need for more than one, Nokia Messaging was now perfectly usable, certainly for my needs. A case of three small steps forward and a massive step backwards sadly.

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