Update: HMD Global/Nokia Missing Android Security Updates

Update 28/04/2018

Recently I was in contact with the HMD Global/Nokia support team and I had two very different experiences. The first support person I was in contact with I explained my situation and wanted to know why my Nokia 8 had not received the Android Oreo 8.1 update and the April 2018 security patch. They were extremely friendly and happy to assist. They tried a number of different methods to force the update and were not sure why some Nokia 8 devices received the update and others did not. I was told to contact the support team again later on in the week if the update had not arrived. My second support contact was no where near as friendly or helpful however.

Unlike the first support person I was in contact with, the second support person was hostile, rude and did not seem interested in helping me at all. As the first support person instructed me I let the second support person know what was happening and that I was told to ask for further assistance if the update had not arrived. This second support engineer did nothing or try to find answers to my problem. Instead all they kept responding with was to “just wait and the updates may come”. This right here is not really reassuring to a customer who just wants a little explanation as to why this is happening and to be so rude and completely unwilling to assist helps no one.

Yesterday I got a little notification on my phone that allowed me to update to Android Oreo 8.1 and also update to the March 2018 security patch (not the April 2018 security patch unfortunately). I will be closely monitoring the situation and if HMD Global/Nokia continue to delay patches to their Android smartphones then I may have to bite the bullet and buy a Pixel phone in 3 years time.

Original

I was really hoping that I would not have to write this post.

When I was looking for a brand new Android mobile phone, one of the requirements that I had was that the mobile phone would be supported by Google and the manufacturer for at least three years (two for the major Android OS and three for the Android security updates). The only manufacturer that I could find that met this requirement was HMD Global/Nokia (not including Google) and why I chose to pick up the Nokia 8. On the Nokia Android home page it clearly states:

Regular security updates and two years of OS upgrades…

If you navigate to the Nokia Smartphone Security Maintenance Release Summary page you can see that HMD Global/Nokia are pushing updates to various Nokia mobile phones (including the Nokia 8). However, not all models are receiving the updates. The security patch release information is done on a Device – Build_number basis it appears. My Nokia 8 has a Build_number ’00WW_4_390_SP02′, which unfortunately does not appear in both the March and April security patches.

When contacting the HMD Global/Nokia support team about this, they could not provide a valid reason why my Nokia 8 was not getting the security patches even though my device (not the build number though) was listed in the security patch release. Looking through the forums shows the same confusion and frustration from other customers. Some sort of answer would be greatly appreciated by HMD Global/Nokia.

Has HMD Global/Nokia gone back on their promise of regular security updates? I would say partially yes. They are updating some devices but leaving other devices based on build numbers it would seem. In saying that however how regular is regular? Is a monthly security patch regular? Is a two month or three month interval regular? Right now I wished that HMD Global/Nokia would have been more specific about the regular security updates. To their credit though, compared to Samsung, LG, HTC, etc. they are trying to ensure their devices are up to date.

Recently I came across an article on The Verge discussion manufacturers lying to customers about the security level on their Android devices. That is even more concerning. I would not want to “update” my mobile phone only to not be properly protected even though it appears that it is protected. Hopefully HMD Global/Nokia is not one of these companies.

Right now I am sitting and waiting for the latest security update for my Nokia 8. But if it never arrives then when it comes to buying a brand new mobile phone it may be time to switch to another manufacturer. Perhaps going back to the Google products (RIP Nexus line) and buy a Pixel mobile phone is the only option. Are Android security patches and OS updates worth the premium price of those Pixel phones? For me the answer is yes. I would happily pay more for a device that is supported and updated timely.

I will update this post if my Nokia 8 receives the April security patch, but will not be updating it after April as a two month gap between security patches is not regular IMO. Am I making too much of a fuss? Or should HMD Global/Nokia and other manufacturers take more responsibility and ensure that customers are protected while using their devices?

Android and Split Screen

Recently I have been noticing that sometimes when I unlock my Nokia 8 which runs Android Oreo, I see that the split screen mode has been enabled/triggered. At first I was extremely confused as the device was supposed to be locked in my pocket, but yet the apps at times (mainly Spotify) would go into split screen mode.

Looking through all the settings I could not find a way to disable this split screen mode. Again I find that odd and slightly confusing because the new picture in picture mode can be turned off. So why did Google not provide a means to disable the split screen mode for the apps?

While doing some more reading I managed to find how potentially I was triggering the split screen mode in my pocket. The app switching button if it is held for a short period of time triggers the split screen mode. The 9to5Google Android N quick-tips: How to activate split-screen multitasking mode outlines the same method that I have detailed above how to trigger the split screen mode, but they list two other methods.

Perhaps Google when they finalise Android P they will offer a way to disable the split screen mode. If someone does know of a way to disable split screen mode then please do let me know because the only pieces of information that I could find on the Internet are articles about how to ensure your app handles split screen mode.

Nokia 8 and Android Oreo

HMD Global was touting that the 2017 branded Android Nokia mobile phones will be receiving Android OS and security patches extremely quickly, as of December they have delivered on this. They also said that the mobile phones will also be one of the first to receive Android Oreo, before the end of 2017 I might add. This is a mighty claim, many have tried and failed with many manufacturers like HTC and Samsung holding out on the Android updates due to software issues with their launchers and skins. The Nokia mobile phones run a stripped down and pure Android OS with no bloatware or skins; this should make the update process much quicker and smoother.

Last night I got a little notification that allowed me to download and install Android Oreo on my Nokia 8. There were rumours that this version of Android was in testing and would be ready sometime in December (no indication whether it would be at the start, at the end or somewhere in between). I applaud HMD Global in pushing out the update extremely quickly. HMD Global is only one part of the update puzzle however. Your mobile phone provider also has to ensure that the update still works on their network and does not completely render your mobile phone useless on their network.

Telstra has been notoriously slow with pushing these updates to consumer’s mobile phones (even if you bought the mobile phone outright and not through Telstra). You can go to their forums and support channels to see a number of posts with people complaining that Telstra is blocking mobile phone updates. This time Telstra has pushed the update out fast. Have they changed their tune and business practices regarding mobile phone updates? Perhaps, but it is too hard to tell. One Android update coming to your handset in a timely manner does not excuse or disregard the numerous other delayed or blocked updates.

After the update was installed I noticed really only a couple of differences compared to the previous version of Android; there are probably more but these are the ones that stood out to me straight away:

  1. Notifications Bar – now with white icons and the expanded notifications bar has a white background with dark icons.
  2. Battery Percentage Indicator – other launchers and skins already had this but now Android comes with this handy little feature right out of the box.
  3. Nightlight – another feature that required either a third party app like Twilight or a custom launcher. The ability to change the blue hue on your display based on the time of day now comes standard with Android Oreo.
  4. Picture in Picture –  some apps have the ability and option to now work in “Picture in Picture” mode. You can easily browse the Internet while having YouTube running in a small window. Personally I have disabled this feature.
  5. Settings Cleaned – the entire Settings app has been cleaned up and made streamlined. There is no more confusion or ambiguity of where a particular setting sits. Well done Google.

Under the hood I imagine Google has made some improvements regarding battery life, optimization of the Android OS and other little improvements to make the Android experience that little bit more fluid, consistent and uniform. I use the Microsoft Launcher so I cannot comment on the default Google/Android launcher and if there has been any changes to that, but it most likely also has been improved like previous versions. So if you have a Nokia 8 (or potentially any other Nokia 2017 mobile phone) and you are on the Telstra mobile network then see if your device has an update.

Enjoy your new version of Android Oreo 😀

My New Nokia 8 Smartphone

My time with the Motorola Nexus 6 has unfortunately come to an end. I loved that smartphone and it has served me well since I purchased it. To Google’s credit the smartphone received constant system and security updates; unfortunately October 2017 would be the last month that Google would officially support the device [1]. So it was time to move on to a new and shiny toy.

I didn’t just purchase a new mobile phone because the software would no longer be updated, but the battery that once lasted me a good work day would now only last around 5 hours. So after doing my research and weighing up all my options the one smartphone that had what I wanted and not break the bank was HMD Global’s new flagship smartphone, the Nokia 8. If you would like to see my Android journey so far and what I want in an Android smartphone, check out my post here.

Premium Build and Feel

Much like the original Nokia handsets, the new Nokia 8 is designed and built extremely well. When I took the smartphone out of the box it was heavy (personally I felt that it is heavier than the Nexus 6 even though it is supposed to be 24g lighter), and it easily and comfortably fit in my hand (most likely because of the curved edges/side). The Nokia 8 appears to be a smartphone that is built to last. I appreciate the high quality design and build, kudos HMD Global. If you would like to see how durable the Nokia 8 actually is then take a look at JerryRigEverything’s Nokia 8 Durability Test. Going forward I will always be looking at these types of tests because I want my smartphone to last at least 3 years.

A 3.5mm Headphone Jack

Last year Apple was “courageous” when they removed the 3.5mm headphone jack. Some other mobile phone makers followed suit like HTC. Google this year followed in Apple’s footsteps by releasing two new Pixel smartphones without a 3.5mm headphone jack. To Samsung, LG and HMD Global’s credit they have kept the 3.5 mm headphone jack in most, if not all their smartphones. As someone who does not have wireless headphones and listens to podcasts and music on the way to work and while at work, a 3.5mm headphone jack is vital. Personally I feel it hurts the mobile phone maker’s brand and it turns people off future devices when they remove such fundamental components. Nearly everyone that I talk to say that they will never consider buying a smartphone without a 3.5mm headphone jack. It is just an option that they are taking away from the consumer.

Stock “Pure” Android

I am a massive fan of the Android OS, however manufacturers see the need to add unnecessary apps, skins, launchers and other elements to their smartphones without the consumer’s choice. By having all these extra items over time the phone begins to slow down due to poor support and optimization, and updates to the OS nearly never come or come months later. The Nokia 8 comes with stock Android :D. When I mean stock Android, I really mean stock Android; there are no fancy skins or launchers, there are no extra or unnecessary apps pre-installed. It is how the Android OS is supposed to be experienced IMO. Google’s own productivity suite (Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides) is not installed on your device for example; for me this is great because I use Microsoft’s Office suite instead along with an Office 365 subscription allowing me access to 1TB worth of OneDrive storage. If you are like me and want the bare minimum with the ability to add what you want and with timely OS and security updates from Google, then the Nokia 8 will most likely fit the bill perfectly.

My Experience So Far

From the 3.5mm headphone jack to the micro-SD card slot next to the nano SIM card, the Nokia 8 has everything I need from a hardware perspective. Sure it might not have dual front facing speakers like my Nexus 6 but the bottom speaker it does have is perfectly fine, and it isn’t waterproof but I don’t plan on taking it swimming with me and if it does rain, it is splash proof. There is also no wireless charging either, but I am not going to pay another $300-$400 AUD for wireless charging capabilities.

Instead of a fingerprint sensor on the back like most Android smartphones, there is a fingerprint sensor where the dedicated home button is usually placed. This is the first smartphone I have ever had with a fingerprint sensor and it is responsive and accurate. I don’t take many photos but the front and rear cameras both do the job; it also has a “boothie” mode where it shoots the front and the back cameras simultaneously (doubt I will be using this mode much).

The battery life is incredible on the Nokia 8. My Nexus 6 had a 3220 mAh battery and my Nokia 8 has a 3090 mAh battery, so you would expect the Nexus 6 to have a better battery life. When I purchased my Nexus 6 it would last close to a full 24 hours before needing a recharge, while my Nokia 8 does better getting closer to 36 hours. The display is also bright and the colors are perfectly acceptable. Moving back to a smaller sized screen would seem difficult but I have adjusted fine.

Using the stock Android experience is just as I expect. Fast, and responsive without any hiccups or stuttering. When I switch between apps there is no lag or delay, and I can easily scroll through web pages loading different media with no problem (something my Nexus 6 eventually had trouble doing). The first thing I did when I started my phone up was check for updates and to HMD Global and Google’s credit there were three security patches waiting for me (one for each month up to October).

I cannot find a flaw at the moment with this device, but if I had to really complain about something it would be the slight camera bump. I am getting a case for my smartphone so that should fix that problem. If HMD Global keeps their promise of keeping the Android OS updated [2] and ensure that security patches are rolled out ASAP then this smartphone is going to last me a long time.

Nokia is finally back through HMD Global and giving everyone a run for their money. Other mobile phone manufacturers watch out.