Editorial: What To Do After The Nokia Store-pocalypse
The year is 2014. The remaining users of the Symbian and MeeGo platforms, once given assurances that their environment will be maintained until 2016, wake up to a post-apocalyptic landscape, one where essential services have been cut off, left in a state of stasis or put in cold storage until the end of time. Thankfully, the platforms were designed to be independent entities that would survive long after their stewards packed up and left for greener pastures.
In this post-apocalyptic landscape, survival is essential. A significant number of users have chosen to leave the environment, leaving their devices behind, but others choose to stay on resolutely. Small, unofficial communities huddle together in various pockets across the wasteland, pooling resources together to ensure continued life. “Homebrew” development becomes a vital and important activity in the townships, fixing things that inevitably break and maintaining links to the world outside the wasteland.
The trading of SISX and DEB files becomes a common practice among the survivors. Some choose to disable platform security through homebrew software in order to lift restrictions on apps that were first enforced when the stewards were in power, a long time ago. Hardware repairs are done using replacement parts obtained unofficially, and users are encouraged to take good care of their devices as repairs can be difficult and/or costly.
If you still use a Symbian or MeeGo device as your primary smartphone, here is your survival guide.
Download and back up the last firmware for your device.
You are no longer able to use NaviFirm to do this, but thankfully an alternative exists in this website. Be sure to verify that you’re downloading the firmware files for the correct variant number (RM-xxx) of your device, which can usually be found under the battery or on the box of your phone. Often, multiple variants exist of a single phone model, so be careful. Also, check that the sizes of the files you have downloaded correspond to the file sizes listed on the download page. Back up your device’s firmware files to a service like Dropbox – you never know when you will need them!
Download and back up a copy of Phoenix Service Suite (Symbian) or Nokia Flasher (MeeGo) that will work with your device.
The firmware files you downloaded are useless if you do not have a program that is able to flash these files to your device. Many links exist on the Internet for both Phoenix Service Suite (this will allow you to flash Symbian devices) and Nokia Flasher (this will allow you to flash MeeGo devices). Download and install a copy of the appropriate program, verify that it will work with your specific device and then back up its installer to a service like Dropbox.
Download and back up a copy of your desired Nokia Maps offline country maps
Nokia’s offline map servers may one day disappear, so you should maintain a backup of your desired country maps on a service like Dropbox before they do disappear. Follow this excellent guide on All About Symbian for more details.
Download and back up a copy of your Nokia Store purchases
Now that the Nokia Store is closed and effectively frozen in time, it may go offline at any point in time. Therefore, it is important to attempt to back up a copy of apps and games that you have purchased from the Nokia Store; the same applies to free apps that can only be downloaded from the Nokia Store alone. On MeeGo, you may use N9QTweak to accomplish this. Back up your downloaded copies to a service like Dropbox so that you will have your own collection of app installers that will come in very handy in the event that you need to do a hard reset on your device.
Consider installing a custom ROM on your Symbian device
The warranty on your Symbian device is probably long over. Installing a custom ROM (such as the ones documented on All About Symbian) can make life after the Nokia Store-pocalypse much easier because these custom ROMs typically include hacks that circumvent Symbian’s built-in platform security, allowing for the installation of “unsigned apps”. While this does mean weakened security, it is common knowledge that one should not install packages from questionable sources. With the closure of the Nokia Store also signalling the closure of Symbian Signed, it is no longer possible for developers to release signed apps if their apps take advantage of lower-level Symbian APIs, leaving unsigned releases as the only way forward. In addition, custom ROMs also include a whole host of other tweaks (both cosmetic and under the hood) that can potentially make using your Symbian device a better experience.
Consider installing Inception on your MeeGo device
Any seasoned MeeGo user will probably have applied Inception to his/her N9 or N950. Inception is required for a whole range of low-level hacks and tweaks, which makes it essential if you intend to take full advantage of the openness and hacking potential of the MeeGo platform.
Save essential how-to guides to Evernote
How-to guides that you may need (for example, guides for changing the font on your Symbian device or flashing a custom ROM) may not necessarily remain online forever. Therefore, a good way to ensure that they will remain available as long as you need them is to clip them to a notebook in Evernote, where you will be able to refer back to them as many times as needed.
Take advantage of the resources you do have
For Symbian users, the only resource you need is All About Symbian, which remains updated to this day. MeeGo users will no doubt be familiar with EverythingN9 (still the best source for MeeGo-related how-to guides) while any development activity that takes place in the MeeGo space can be found on the TMO Forums. These are important resources that continue to be available to any remaining Symbian and MeeGo user, so you should bookmark them and check them every now and then. There are still developers working to update apps and resolve issues on both platforms.
Switch to a third-party app repository
OpenRepos.net aims to provide a replacement app repository for MeeGo (taking over from the Nokia Store), and an on-device client called Warehouse is currently under development. If you are on Symbian, your best bet right now is Steve Litchfield’s Curated Symbian Application Store and Curated Symbian Game Store.
Care for your device in order to avoid costly and/or difficult repairs
Be careful with your precious smartphone! Don’t break it or subject it to undue physical harm. Depending on your location, it may no longer be possible to send your device to Nokia Care for repairs and replacement parts may be difficult to come by or challenging to install.
Have patience and gratitude for the developers working to keep your platform and its apps alive
There is no significant money to be made from investing developer time and effort into Symbian and MeeGo in 2014. Donations and thanks go a long way towards justifying continued effort from the remaining developers, not bad attitudes. Be nice in comment threads and forums, and remember that no one is obliged to do anything for you or your device.