Wednesday, September 19, 2007

iPhone Unlocking

OK. So I don't have an iPhone and I don't really have a desire for one. But my boss is crazy over it. But he hates AT&T. Which I understand is a fairly common sentiment. So he's been reading all this stuff on the web about unlocking the iPhone and Monday he comes into my office to ask me if I think I can unlock his phone. I started looking on the web and found a bunch of confusing and often contradictory instructions. Nonetheless I decided to take a shot at it. The effort did not go particularly smoothly and all in all it took me about 5 hours until I got it working with T-Mobile. But I did get it working and my boss was psyched. So this morning he brings in his girlfriends iPhone and wants me to unlock it too. Now, I certainly wasn't looking forward to spending another 5 hours on this nonsense so I was really hoping my previous experiences would allow me to improve that time. And they did. This time it took about 20 minutes and nearly all of that time was just waiting for various operations to complete. Since I feel like I've got it pretty well figured out at this point I figured I'd share my method here. The most helpful source of info I found was this page. But it's poorly written and repeats itself often so here's my quick guide to getting it done. This procedure was performed on a phone that had been activated with AT&T but then had the AT&T account cancelled so when I started the phone was activated but had no service. The first phone I unlocked was brand new, never activated and I'm pretty sure the steps would be similar. These instructions also assume that you've got your phone's firmware upgraded to 1.0.2. You can use iTunes to upgrade the firmware if you need to. First you need to download a Windows app called iBrickr. You can get it here. Once you've got it plug your iPhone into your computer and run it. The program should detect your iPhone and tell you that the first step is to 'free your iPhone'. A lot of sites refer to this step as 'jailbreaking'. Just follow the instructions given by iBrickr. NOTE: iBrickr will prompt you during this process to restart the iPhone in 'restore mode'. To do this you need to first turn off the iPhone by holding down the power button until a red slider appears on the screen to shut it down. Slide the slider and once the phone has powered down hit the power button again to restart it. When the gray apple logo appears press and hold both the power and home buttons until a yellow triangle with and exclamation point appears. It takes a while for the triangle to appear and while you're holding the buttons and waiting the phone will appear to shut down and restart twice. Just keep holding those buttons! You've got to wait until the triangle appears. It will, but it takes longer than you'd probably expect. The next step is to patch and activate the phone. This is done with a batch file (that comes with a bunch of supporting files) that can be found here. Just download this package, extract it from the archive and then find the file named '(CLICK HERE) activate.bat'. Double click this file and follow the instructions it gives you on the screen. Once that's done you need to go back into iBrickr and install the applications that actually do the unlocking. With your phone connected to your PC open iBrickr and click on 'Applications'. This will cause iBrickr to notify you that you first need to install PXL. PXL is apparently some sort of installer application on the iPhone that allows you to install third party software. Once you've followed all the instructions for installing PXL iBrickr should present you with a button that says 'Browse Applications'. Click this button and then wait for a list of applications to appear. Scroll through the list and select an item called anySim by clicking on it's graphic. iBrickr will let you know that it's downloading the app from the internet and then uploading it to your phone. When this is done repeat the steps but this time choose BinKit from the list and install that. Now we're almost there. First power down your phone and put an activated T-Mobile sim card in the phone. This should be a card that works in your T-Mobile phone currently. Then power up the phone. You may or may not get an 'unauthorized sim card' error. Just ignore it if you do. Next make sure your phone isn't going to go to sleep during the unlocking process by going into Settings - General -AutoLock and set it to never. Now go back to your home screen on the iPhone and you should see an icon for anySim. Tap the icon and then slide the slider displayed to unlock. anySim will then display a rather long disclaimer which you need to scroll down to the bottom of. At the bottom of the disclaimer is a red button. Tap this button and wait. This process takes probably close to 10 minutes. Just let it churn away. When it's finally finished it's supposed to tell you that the unlock was successful. But in my two times doing this it hasn't. Instead at the end it says something to the effect of 'The flash was successful but the unlock failed.' Don't panic! In both of my tries I got this message. But when I powered down the phone and then restarted it up in the upper left corner was that sweet, sweet 'T-Mobile' with full signal strength bars. Once you see that the phone is unlocked and working on T-Mobile. Congratulations!

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