BlackBerry KEYone OTA updates for different variants

By | 15 Sep 2017

Variants and update situation

The KEYone is sold as different models: BBB100-1 (US model), BBB100-2 (EMEA1Europe, Middle East, Africa model), etc. And each model is distributed in multiple variants, expressed in the last 3 digits of the PRD2Product Requirements Documents number.

Here are a few models and variants:

ModelPRD numberVariant
BBB100-1PRD-63116-001Unlocked US
BBB100-2PRD-63117-003Unlocked UK
BBB100-2PRD-63117-011Unlocked Germany
BBB100-2PRD-63117-015NL, Belgium
BBB100-2PRD-63117-023AZERTY Belgium
BBB100-2PRD-63117-027Unlocked UAE3United Arab Emirates

While the variants of a model all have the same hardware, the different variants allow for different features being enabled, e.g. for different carriers.

The downside is that different carriers also release updates at different times. Sometimes weeks to months after other variants got them already. Luckily, all different variants of a model seem to use the same firmware. This allows to install updates from another variant should they not be available for the own device.

Update process in general

On the KEYone, there’s an app called Updates pre-installed which sends the device’s PRD number and current firmware version to TCL4Telephone Communication Limited, nowadays: The Creative Life‘s servers which then reply with “There’s no update for you.” or the link to the update file.

The app then downloads said file and puts it at the right location so the Android bootloader can find and install it.

Such OTA update contains a script with all instructions about what is to be updated. This script also does various checks first to make sure it can be installed properly. So the risk using the method described below is very small as a wrong update would abort automatically.

Enabling advanced mode in Updates app

The Updates app on the KEYone has a hidden advanced mode with additional features. You can activate that by tapping the three dots in the upper right and selecting Help to get to the help screen. There, tap 8 times on the last item Checking for updates. A dialog box will appear asking you for a password.

After you’ve entered the correct password, three new menu items appear in the Updater’s main menu: Update manually, FOTA5Firmware Over-the-Air test and Project test.

Menu item: Update manually

This one allows you to install a full firmware update manually from the device. You need to name the update file something like (replace the PRD number with that of your device) and put it in the root directory of your MicroSD card or the internal storage.

It should then appear in this menu in the Updates app. You can install it by tapping the three dots behind the filename and select Install.

Menu item: FOTA test

Here you can simulate different phone models/variants with different firmware versions and test if the updater works correctly. This is exactly what we need during the process below.

Menu item: Project test

This menu item shows a few parameters like your PRD number (called Device CU6Customer Unit Reference here), current firmware version, your IMEI and a few more parameters. You can also test the notification Spark in the BlackBerry Launcher and the Play Services.

Finding out which variant gets what update

OTAs are always differential updates for a specific firmware version to a newer one. To install it, you must have the correct initial firmware installed. Otherwise, the updater script will fail and abort the update.

To find out which updates are available for which variant, I found this script which I rewrote and improved. My version can be found here:

For convenience, I put up a matrix here.

Let’s say we have a UK BBB100-2. The PRD would be PRD-63117-003 and as of September 2017, we’d run firmware version AAM481. However, that’s the July patch, not the September patch.

But we can see from the matrix, that other variants already got the August patch (AAN358) and the PRD-63117-034 even is on the September patch already (AAO472). However, the -034 never ran version AAM481. So we have to get our device to AAN358 first to be able to patch it to AAO472. For that, we can use any variant that has our current version AAM481 and AAN358, e.g. PRD-63117-011.

Doing the actual update

Now that we’ve chosen a variant that has the update we want, we just have to make the updater think our device is that variant.

To do this, go into the new menu FOTA test and there:

  1. enable Test mode
  2. set the Emulated CU Reference to the chosen variant: PRD-63117-011
  3. set the Emulated current version to your current version: AAM481
  4. tap the START TEST button below

You should end up back in the updater’s start screen. Tap the CHECK FOR UPDATES NOW button. It should search for updates and find the OTA to version AAN358. It should also start to download the new version. When done, tap the button to start the installation.

Your phone will reboot and install the update. It’ll boot up to the new version.


Disabling test mode

After you’ve updated your device, it’s important to disable the Test mode of the Updates app so it will notify you of further updates. To do this, go into the FOTA test menu and slide the switch for Test mode into the “off” position.

Removing already downloaded update

It might happen that the updater starts to download the same update (which we just installed) again. If that happens to you, first make sure the Test mode is disabled (see above), then go into the updater’s Settings menu. You should find an entry about the downloaded file with a dustbin/trashcan icon. Tap that to delete the wrong file.

Disabling advanced mode

There’s no built-in way to disable the advanced mode of the Updates app. So the only way is to reset all settings for the app itself. To do this, you need to go into the Android settings → Apps. There, tap the three dots menu and select Show system. Now scroll down the list to tap the Updates app. There, tap Storage and hit the CLEAR DATA button. After that, the Updates app is in “Basic” mode again.

  • 1
    Europe, Middle East, Africa
  • 2
    Product Requirements Documents
  • 3
    United Arab Emirates
  • 4
    Telephone Communication Limited, nowadays: The Creative Life
  • 5
    Firmware Over-the-Air
  • 6
    Customer Unit

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