Updating the au Sharp IS03 smartphone to Android 2.2 Froyo

First off, it was very disappointing to see that Sharp decided against OTA (over the air) updating and instead opted to need Japanese Windows and .NET (!) to update the Android (Linux) OS of the IS03 to Version 2.2 – although they were probably right in thinking OS X unnecessary. Anyway that is what they did and so let’s look at the steps required to get Froyo onto this phone, even if the process is somewhat confusing.
In short, there are two utilities to install in Windows (USB driver & update utility) and two IS03 phone settings necessary (USB Fast transfer mode & Start update in Major update menu) for this update.

  • To start, first make sure all previous updates on the IS03 have been installed by doing a check and ensure that the battery is fully charged, otherwise the phone will complain.
  • Ensure that the Windows PC you are going to use has an Internet connection and is connected to power (don’t want the battery to run out during the update!), then install the relevant USB driver – Microsoft Windows XP(32bit)/ Windows Vista (32bit/64bit) or Microsoft Windows7 (32bit/64bit) – by letting the installation file ‘is03_driver.exe’ expand and then running it. The USB driver installation manual is03_InstallManual.pdf is available here, albeit only in Japanese, but there are some pictures that help.
  • Set the phone to ‘Fast transfer mode’ in Settings>USB connection mode and do what the ‘is03_InstallManual.pdf’ manual suggests and check, using the pictures, that the USB driver has indeed installed correctly.
  • Next for the actual update: get the is03_update_manual.pdf here and the MajorUpdatePcTool_Setup.msi file here (scroll down, click the right box to accept the licencing requirements and then on the next page click the light blue box to download the ‘MajorUpdatePcTool_Setup.msi’ file which when clicked will also first install .NET and then gets down to connecting to the update server.
  • Now connect the IS03 phone to the Win PC – and then…
  • The following is something I read nowhere: not only must the phone be set to USB fast transfer mode, but also in the Settings>About phone>Major Update menu the phone must be set to ‘Start update’ which, after entering your secret number (default: 1234), will give you a white screen with a message about the phone being updated. Then the MajorUpdatePcTool utility that is installed on the PC can be run.
  • Finally, when the update is finished, you’ll have to set the phone back to English, if that’s your preferred language. Also, all WLAN passwords must be reentered otherwise you’ll be using costly 3G time.

The whole process takes quite a long time, actually some 50 minutes, so patience and a full battery are necessary. In my case I used Windows XP on a very old laptop. I believe all my apps and email accounts were still there after the update, so I only had to set the language to English and re-enter the WLAN passwords.

The update seems a bit messy as there are so many different bits that have to work together and again, only through Windows. A WLAN update solution would have been imaginably more elegant and probably easier for consumers to execute. I wonder why it was done this way – perhaps there are some valid reasons or maybe I’ve just watched too many spy stories…

Files needed for the update
USB driver:
Microsoft Windows XP(32bit)/ Windows Vista (32bit/64bit) or Microsoft Windows 7 (32bit/64bit). USB installation manual is03_InstallManual.pdf
Update utility:
The actual update file MajorUpdatePcTool_Setup.msi or first here if they insist on licence acceptance. The update manual is03_update_manual.pdf

The IS03 phone is definitely faster with Android 2.2 Froyo and landscape screen orientation can be now left or right. Operation has become snappier, applications load faster and are more responsive.
I was thinking to change the phone for one with a quicker processor, but now I can wait a bit longer for one with a screen that is visible in daylight!

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