On the Lambda

Programming, Technology, and Systems Administration

On the Lambda

Issues with HTC 8x 8.1 Upgrade

February 14th, 2015 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I have an HTC 8x phone on a Verizon MVNO (Page Plus). Today, I was excited to see that the Windows Phone 8.1 update was finally available for my device. That excitement was to be short-lived.

As the update finished installing, the final step is to reboot the phone into the new OS. Unfortunately, this didn’t go so well. My phone now continuously restarts in a never ending cycle. It reboots in a loop that I can’t get out of.

After consulting Google, I learned that my only recourse is a full factory reset. Unfortunately, the normal procedure for this does not work for my phone. What you are supposed to do is hold down the volume down button while the phone is off, and after turning it on tap the power button again at just the right time. Unfortunately, after many many attempts, I gave up and determined that this would not work for my phone.

Using the online chat features for HTC, Page Plus, Microsoft Windows Phone Support, and Verizon also got me nowhere (I would have called, but, well…). Page Plus particularly was unhelpful, which was disappointing. After 5 straight hours of work on this problem, I am still without a phone.

Early on in the process I was able to get to the screen with the ! icon on two occasions, but was not able to complete the hardware reset, nor was I able to reproduce the steps that produced that screen. I was also able on three occasions to get the lightning bolt/gear screen, but I wasn’t able to find any useful information on the purpose of that screen.

The good news is that I can force the phone to shut down and stay shut down. That’s really why I made this post: I haven’t seen that information anywhere yet. To do this, hold down both the volume up and volume down buttons at the same time. This will bring you to a new screen with three bar codes. From here, you can turn the phone off by holding down the camera button. Unfortunately, as soon as you connect the phone to a charger, it will start up again and re-enter the reboot cycle. The other thing you can do from this screen is connect the phone to a computer. You can make it work with Vista and XP, but Windows 7 and Windows 8 will have drivers out of the box. You can’t really do anything normal with the link, but later on this link may be required to replace the system ROM.

I have a theory as to what went wrong. I believe that the update botched the battery calibration, such that it believes that the battery is nearly empty (clearly is not, or the phone would be dead now). When the phone starts, it reads the battery state and believes that the battery is too low to boot into the OS, or even reset screen, and instead restarts itself. One other thing I was asked to do was to charge the phone for 10 minutes, and then hold down the volume down, volume up, and power buttons for 2 minutes. This is another item that I haven’t seen recorded anywhere else yet. They never said what this was supposed to do, but I have a suspicion that it was intended to reset the battery calibration.

Perhaps allowing the phone to fully discharge will make the battery calibration more accurate, allowing me to charge it somewhat and enter the factory reset screen, or even avoid the need to do the factory reset at all, if that is enough to allow the phone to finish booting (I’m not holding my breath here). Before I let that happen, though, I have one other option.

At this point what I believe I really need is to restore the original ROM. My time on chat with HTC and Microsoft leads me to understand that, for this product at least, Microsoft supplies materials to make a stock ROM to HTC. HTC much customize it for the phone’s specific hardware, and in turn provide materials for the customized ROM to Verizon. Verizon then customizes it further for their network and produces the final ROM update to distribute. Therefore, in this case, the only place to get the ROM that I need is Verizon. As I am not a direct Verizon customer, I was unable to communicate with them on the issue. I had to go through Page Plus, who seriously dropped the ball here in supporting me. They may have lost a customer over this issue.

Page Plus did suggest I try bringing the phone to a dealer, but I am an online customer and the nearest dealer is, shall we say, less than convenient. What I will do instead is try to bring the phone to a Verizon retail store, and see if they can help. I may be able to bypass the barrier in person that I could not over the web (seriously Verizon: if you’re going to allow MVNOs, accept the MVNO phone numbers as valid for creating support accounts). If that doesn’t work, I’ll have to let the phone drain and start looking on shady bittorrent sites for a download with the software I need (and am licensed for).

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