Unlocking the iPhone

So my dad’s been looking to get a smart phone so that he can purchase stocks over the web while he’s at work. Unfortunately the company he works at doesn’t provide internet access to employee’s computers.

Anyway, initially I was looking for mobile broadband solutions, where he could stick an USB or PC Card device into his laptop and just go online like he normally does. Unfortunately, all mobile broadband services at all the service providers I looked at (AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon) all charged $60/mo for about 5GB of bandwidth. Verizon did have a cheaper plan at $40/mo, but only came with 250MB.

I then started looking at tethering options. With tethering, the data plans for T-Mobile is only $20 extra per month. Only certain smart phones allow tethering and if you search online, you should be able to easily find a compilation like this: How To: Tether Your T-Mobile Smartphone as a Modem (2008 Edition)

I asked Derek for his advice in this regard and he mentioned that tethering to the phone is a bit cumbersome and definitely a disadvantage for my dad. He’s not technologically-impaired, but the fewer the components, the better for him. Derek suggested that I consider the iPhone. It unfortunately doesn’t support tethering (yet), but its screen is pretty big and simple to use. I decided to do some research.

I started looking at prices on eBay and then remember that Xyon might actually still have his old phone since he upgraded to the iPhone 3GS recently. I pinged him asking if he still had it and was willing to sell it or not. We reached an agreed upon price and I just needed to confirm with my dad if he was okay with the iPhone. He visited a cell phone store and gave the iPhone a whirl.

He liked it, but wished it had a stylus since he has big fingers. I looked into stylus for the iPhone. I recall the regular stylus don’t work since the iPhone uses human capacitance to detect fingers, it would have to be some special pen. A quick search resulted in the Pogo Stylus, which cost about $10. I went to DealExtreme and found they had several variations of iPhone stylus and I suggested my dad pick up one of these for $3.45 since it had the best reviews/ratings.

Anyway, I got the iPhone today and spent most of tonight trying to unlock it. The same sets of instructions for unlocking the 3.1 firmware were plaster across the web: Unlock iPhone 2G/3G with Firmware 3.1 on Windows. Unfortunately, I hit into the issue where it would be stuck in the “Preparing iPhone for restore” phase and eventually return a 1604 or 1600 error code. Researching this further, it looked like a common issue many people where hitting: How to Jailbreak Unlock iPhone 2G 3G OS 3.1 Custom Firmware.

I tried the suggested solution of getting iH8sn0w’s iREB which would apply some patch to ignore these errors, but never was able to get my screen to flash white/red. It would just remain off.

I gave up after several attempts. I also had issues flashing to an earlier version as iTunes 9.0 didn’t like iPhone firmwares before 3.1.

Before calling it a night, I decided to give it one more try. I installed iTunes 8.2.1 on my laptop (since I didn’t want to touch my existing iTunes installation on my main desktop) and decided to try to flash back to 3.0: Unlock/Jailbreak 3.0.x (iPhone 2G) Using RedSn0w – Windows. It actually worked without a hitch. I inserted my T-Mobile SIM card for testing and was able to make a call to my VoIP line.

Looks like it’s a success!

By the way, the iPhone should come with a paper clip. It took me forever to find something that I could actually stick into that tiny hole to pop out the SIM card holder. Needles and tacks didn’t quite work that well.

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