The painful road to ICS firmware upgrade on Galaxy S2

by Karthi

Prelude

List of problems observed on Samsung’s ICS firmware.

  1. At times, phone is dead, nothing works. Battery should be removed and inserted to get it working.
  2. Issue with switching on/off of WiFi.  Requires restart of the phone.
  3. Tamil fonts are no more mono-spaced and they look bit weird.
  4. The Email client has broken UI flow, for example pressing the back button exits the application rather going to previous view.
  5. It takes more than four touch to reach the Inbox folders and there is no other easy way.
  6. The Twitter application has issues with pasting the copied text, not sure if the issue is with Twitter application or the OS.
  7. The gallery still has old interface and completely unusable.
  8. The lock screen looks little ugly.
  9. The battery drains fast, especially when WiFi is on.
  10. The GMail app has become a visually complex.
  11. Misses many features present in stock ICS.

In summary, I think that the upgrade was not worth enough and I will never dare to use Kies again.

Now to main part…

It was a big surprise, Samsung had finally released a ICS firmware upgrade for Samsung Galaxy S 2. With huge expectation (which one should not have in the first place) I tried to upgrade.

I launched Kies software (this software is used only for firmware upgrades)  and connected the phone via USB interface. I was expecting (should I?)  a smooth upgrade process  but the reality was different. To begin Kies needed an upgrade so that I will be able to find the firmware upgrade for the phone.  I click the update option and bloatware (~65Mb) updates it self by requiring multiple start/kill procedure.

The new version of Kies came with it’s own set of problems, first it did not recognize the phone, being skeptical I checked the connections and cables, restarted the Kies, restarted the phone but nothing happened.

Later,  ran the built in diagnostics, which re-installs the USB device driver on my Windows XP, this steps takes ~15 minutes. There is no feedback on when it will finish, no progress bar or any other indications. It’s painful.

After installing the USB driver, the Kies recognized the phone and indicates the availability of new firmware upgrade.  Just the upgrade, with no change lists or what’s new feature. You don’t know what you can expect from the new firmware.  This is bad release management from Samsung.

Now Kies goes on to fetch the firmware from the official repository, this again takes lot of time on a super fast Internet connection. Ideally this step should not require the phone to connected to the computer/Kies, but Kies requires it. This step takes approximately 30-40 minutes.

While, the image is being fetched, it stops in the middle due an unexpected error. The error is for the phone being disconnected from the computer. When this error happened the phone is still connected to the computer and is very active, this completely baffled me. Why would downloading firmware image from repository stop if the phone is disconnected? I cannot get the connection here.

The connection to server timed out multiple times, every time I had to start from the beginning. After spending some two hours, Kies finally the downloads the firmware image on to the computer. It later decrypts and inflates the image during which no feedback is given to user. You are expected to wait for long long time.

Now the firmware is ready to be burnt on to the phone, you get the dialog box as shown below, for the first ten minutes nothing happened and later got a warning that download failed and asked to boot the phone into recovery mode, I failed to get the screenshot as I too frustrated.  Luckily the old firmware still active on the phone, I repeated from this steps again.

Second time, it tuned out lucky, I was able to flash the firmware image on the phone. The whole exercise took some 3 hours.

Kies is very difficult to use, this piece of software was supposed to reduce the burden on the user, instead it inflicts deep scars and pains. This is one badly designed software out there and only few are listed below.

  1. Kies dialog boxes do not have minimize option, they always stay on top of every other window.
  2. When they are always on top, it is easy to click the wrong choice.
  3. No feedback to the user. The progress bar doesn’t make sense most of the time.
  4. Cryptic error message, doesn’t tell what really went wrong.
  5. Every time the USB device driver need to re-installed.
  6. Kies expects the phone to be connected, even when it’s downloading the firmware form the server.
  7. The connection to server is always flaky and download an image, one has to try multiple times.

I am keeping my fingers crossed for the phone to boot normally and it happens with some suspense. Finally the phone gets the Samsung’s official ICS update.

But the upgrade to ICS was not worth the effort, I was very comfortable with Gingerbread, the new firmware has lot of unresolved issues.

 

Uncomfortable tamil fonts.

Serious WiFi issues. Switching on and off the device doesn’t work and needs a complete restart.  No workaround present. The WiFi just freezes. 

WiFi Freeze

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