Honestly, I'm not sure I would be able to tell the difference between a good PRL/profile update and a bad one, since I pretty much get a lousy data connection at home, at work, driving around, and pretty much everywhere. If it weren't for the unlimited dataplan, I'd have abandoned Sprint a long time ago.
When you update your profile, your phone connect to Sprint's data network and makes a request to the OMADM (Open Mobile Alliance Device Manager), and it pushes a provXML file to your phone. This file contains your MDN, MSID, username, primary and secondary HA ip addresses, HA password and AAA password, and some other information in regards to 4G and WiMax.
Your PRL (Perferred Roaming Location) is a database file with a list of Tower ID's and capabilities. Carriers typically release a new PRL when new towers are put up over time, and when carrier roaming contracts change or are dropped completely. This PRL is what your phone looks at when it comes to when it's allowed to roam, where, and what towers it can/should connect to when it needs to roam on another carrier's network. When you check for a PRL update, you do the same thing as a profile update - your phone connects to Sprint's data network and requests a new PRL list from the OMADM.
You will typically want to update both your profile and your PRL when you activate a new device (my Evo Shift 4G did this as a requirement when I powered it on for the first time). If you find that you're having trouble making or receiving calls, or that text messages are coming in delayed or are not being sent/received at all, updating your profile and PRL is a good place to start. As far as checking for these updates on regular intervals, you don't really need to be doing it religously if you haven't made any updates or changes to your phone and if you are not activating or using a new device. When my phone broke and I was forced to pull out an older phone that I hadn't powered on and used for over a year, I updated my profile and my PRL. I'm a software developer and I use custom ROM's and I program custom phone kernels and applications. When I flash a different ROM on my phone, I also will perform a profile and PRL update.
Don't get me wrong, it's good to do once in a while, but unless you're having network/data problems, are switching to a new/old phone, or are flashing different ROMS or software on your phone, it's not something that you need to keep in mind all of the time. Over time, your phone will check and update your PRL and profile automatically (well, most should...)
Hope this answers your questions.
I'm having network problems. A ton of them. At home, at work, and anytime I'm roaming around elsewhere doing other stuff. Hence my questions.
I'm also curious about how the network upgrades affect all of this. Presumably those of us whose towers are being worked on right now (as is the case at home), I expect more frequent updates of PRL will be necessary.
There generally should be no such thing as a "bad profile" or "bad PRL" - all of these come from Sprint and if anything, should help with coverage and performance issues.
Where are you located? Have you used the sprint coverage map to see what your ideal coverage will be at your home and job? I live in Southern Oregon and Sprint coverage is limited here. Sprint has a roaming agreement with US Cellular in Oregon, and US Cellular only provides 1X data speeds in my city.
The data speed provided by a roaming network is limited by the capabilities of that tower. That tower is leased, operated, and maintained by the roaming network and there is nothing Sprint can do about it. If you're within Sprint coverage range, what technology are you typically connected to when trying to access mobile data? 1X? 3G? 4G?
One random and possibly important thing I do is to make sure I am in Sprint coverage (not roaming on another network) when I perform a profile/PRL update and that I am within good coverage when I do so. If you haven't noticed, your phone will disable WiFi connectivity and switch to Sprint's data network (if you're currently connected to a WiFi network) when it checks, downloads, and applies these particular updates. After performing both updates, REBOOT. Again, I don't know if it really matters, but I do it. They're important updates and the phone should be rebooted so it can load the Operating System with the new updates.
If you've tried the above and data is still show, make sure you remember to do the usual: uninstall applications you no longer use, and disable update checks and syncing for applications that aren't important to you but want to keep (or at least change how often the application checks and synchronizes). All of those weather widget updates, stock quote widget checks, e-mail and facebook update syncing, etc - all require and consume mobile bandwidth. I suggest simply disabling ALL widgets and applications from syncing in the background and see if your performance improves. Trust me when I say so: it does make a difference and you just never know :-)
I hope my advice helps you out. Update this thread if you have more questions.
i came across this post and saw that you seem pretty well versed. i'd like to ask you about updating the PRL and profile. do you think i have to update mine? the phone is pretty new. i got it in late December. will doing so help my crappy reception? re: http://community.sprint.com/baw/message/543145#543145
also, a friend of mine has a rooted phone(is that the same as "custom ROMS" you mentioned?) he has bad reception as well. would his bad reception be a result of him rooting his phone? and if he were to update his PRL and profile would he lose his root?
Rooting a device shouldn't "create" bad reception. And updating your profile and PRL won't do anything bad to your device; there are no "risks" of doing it. If your phone is brand new out of the box, then yes, you should update them if your phone did not automatically do it when it first booted.
Sorry it took so long for me to get back to your message. Good luck.
@ xmarine67 - the Dallas/Ft. Worth coverage for Sprint - voice & data - in my experience is overall plain ol' poor. I spoke with a Sprint rep about this about a week ago. I'm tied down to a 2 yr. contract, which I hooked up with for the unlimited data, however the quality of service is at least embarrassing compared to family & peers whose service is with AT&T and Verizon. It's not the sort of thing you can walk into a sprint store and hope to get anything done by stating, "Well, I randomly am unable to place or receive calls, and the data connection is often on par with dial up."
As for the this thread's purpose, I am choosing to believe that the information is legit and I don't need to bother with manually updating the PRL & profile Cheers.