Nokia 6190 Performance
Now that the Nokia 6190 has been around for a few months, many people have upgraded their previous GSM phones to one of these beauties. Because these phones are so new however, Nokia has been updating the firmware of the phone on a regular basis. The earliest phones came with version 3.70, while later phones came with 3.94. Both of these versions seemed to have some nasty bugs, and reports of performance problems filtered in from everywhere.

Last Updated: 23-Sep-1998

The most recent 6190s now ship with version 4.12 (some US carriers are shipping 4.22, but I've heard some nasty horror stories about that). I when had my 6190 upgraded from version 3.70 to 4.12, and I wanted to find out what sort of performance improvements had been made. In this article, I will explain the techniques I used to make the tests, and how the new phone compares to its "older self" and to a Nokia 2190. To find the version of the firmware in your 6190, type:


The first group of tests I performed were carried out in a moving car. I drove to areas I knew to be weak on Fido, and then I drove along a fixed route while listening to a recording. The use of a recording provided two benefits. First I did not have to bother someone, and second I would have constant audio. The latter was important since I wanted to listen for dropped packets and audio disturbances.

In these tests the 6190 proved it had what it takes to retain solid audio with minimal dropped or damaged packets. Compared to my 2190 under the same conditions, it provided audio that was at least a bit more stable. During similar tests I performed when I first bought the 6190, it couldn't even do as well as the 2190. The improvements in this area have therefore been quite dramatic.

The second group of tests I performed were carried out at a local shopping mall with no close Fido sites. For those who live in the east end of Mississauga, the mall chosen was Rockwood at the corner of Dixie and Burnhamthorpe. This mall provided signals that ranged from quite descend (up to 3 bars) down to none at all. What is more important however, it provided a smooth transition between these two extremes.

These conditions gave me the chance to test two facets of the phone's operation: its penchant to drop service while waiting for a call; and to find out how well the transmitters would perform. Concerning the first issue, the new 6190 firmware did very well. Not only did it hang on to service for much longer, it also regained service more rapidly. The 2190 (and the previous firmware releases of the 6190) seemed to lose service far too readily, and then they would take forever to regain it.

Transmitter performance was still the domain of the 2190 though. The 2190 could place calls in weaker signal areas than the 6190, but the margins were minimal. In other words, the 2190 might allow you to walk another 15 to 20 feet further into a building than the 6190. Remember however, that even though the 2190 may be able to place or receive calls a little further in, the audio won't be all that good when you get through. I can't see this difference between the two phones is very important.

My third test was performed while riding on the subway. I was underground with no service for a period of 20 to 25 minutes, which on the older firmware release would have ENSURED that the phone would "go to sleep". Much to my amazement, the phone re-found Fido service within 20 seconds of coming out in the open at the Eglinton West station. I have performed similar tests since that time, and the phone has regained service just as rapidly.

I have also noticed that the microphone sensitivity problem SEEMS to have been fixed. In the previous releases of the firmware, you would hear a crackling or distortion in the ear piece when you talked LOUDLY. I have been unable to duplicate this distortion on the new firmware.

This version does provide ONE new feature not found in pre-4.12 releases. Group Graphics are now supported, but chances are you will ended up with a phone that has the graphics defined as BLANK. It is possible to receive new graphics over the air, and I have received a few of them from a guy in Montreal. You can assign and activate a different graphic to each Caller Group, and then when a call comes in from someone in one of these groups, that graphic will flash on the top of your screen.

To see if your phone has a graphic assigned, press the "Name" soft key, then scroll up to the "Caller groups" option. Select one of your groups, then scroll down to an entry entitled "Group graphic". Press "Select" and scroll down to "View graphic". Press "Select" and the graphic should display on your screen. If the screen is completely BLANK, it means that no graphic is defined. If you DO HAVE a graphic, you can turn it on by pressing "Back", and then pressing "Select" again. Scroll down to the "On" menu option and select that. Do this for each of your Caller Groups.

My overall impression of the 6190 with the 4.12 firmware is very positive. Its ability to retain service, and its smoother audio makes it a no-brainer choice over the older 2190. Add to that its bevy of advanced features, small size, and incredible battery life, and the 6190 now stacks up as one terrific phone.