Crippled Branded Symbian Phones

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Now that the S60 3rd Edition phones are shipping in volume, I am receiving email from people having problems installing my SExplorer and Dictionary. They are getting the error… "certificate error contact the application supplier". As is typical with Symbian, the error message doesn’t help the user at all.

It turns out that some operator branded phones cannot accept self-signed applications – they can only accept those that have gone through the Symbian Signed (tested by 3rd party) process.

To recap, all unbranded phones allow running of limited capability applications and just warn the user at install time or run time when a particular phone feature is accessed by the program. This type of application is still signed by the developer but hasn’t undergone Symbian Signed testing.

So what are the implications of this?

If you are a developer and want to distribute to the largest number of end-users then you will need to get your application Symbian Signed. This is irrespective of whether you need the extra capabilities afforded by Symbian Signed. If you don’t do this you will not only limit your distribution to people with non-crippled phones but you will also get support problems from people with crippled phones. This will be disappointing news to Python S60 3rd Edition developers as most of them will be anticipating using self-signed applications.

If you are purchasing a S60 phone and are the type of person who wants to install the greatest range of applications then make sure the phone you buy is uncrippled by any operator branding. How can you tell? Well, therein lies a problem. Your retailer certainly won’t know. I can guarantee your network operator customer service won’t know. I would recommend you ask a retailer to see a working phone – difficult I know as many only stock empty plastic models! Alternatively, buy a SIM free phone which won’t be branded.

Go to the App Manager and examine the options. An uncrippled phone will show three options…

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Incidentally, I got this image from the S60 blogs which explain how to change the settings to allow installation of all apps (on uncrippled phones).

Here’s are some screens from a crippled (Vodafone Japan) phone. Notice the ‘Software Installation’ option is missing…

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I am interested to know the full scope of this problem, in particular which network operators are currently affected. Please email me if you know a particular branded phone is or isn’t affected and I’ll share the information.