Playing With Wire » iPhone The Internet Startup Blog Wed, 20 Jul 2011 18:45:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Prisonbreak: iPhone Unlock Review Sat, 15 Sep 2007 02:07:18 +0000 Over the last few days, iPhone unlocking has seen a couple of sharp turns. First iPhoneSimFree promised to deliver a commercial solution to unlock your iPhone. Then they hesitated and decided to become a wholesale only company, further delaying their release. Ultimately, they missed the train and the hacking community stepped in (Free iPhone unlock supposedly pending (Updated x2)), and released a free hack: iUnlock by the iPhone Dev Team (no association with Apple).

The box for a 4GB iPhone.Since vendor lock-in is never a good thing for the customer, the release of this software is great news. And as fans of the free market may be aware, cell phone unlocking is legal. But does it work? Playing With Wire decided to find out. We picked up a 4GB Apple iPhone, headed out on the internet and soon found a great unlocking tutorial at modmyiPhone. The guide is Mac specific, but we also stumbled across which appears to offer a guide for Windows users – we didn’t try it though.

The Unlock Process

The process is a little bit lengthy but everything is done using simple graphical tools. For starters, you need to make sure your iPhone is entirely up to date. iTunes does this for you after you trigger the ‘recovery mode’ of your iPhone, by pressing Sleep and Home for 25 seconds.

iPhone in recovery mode.
The iPhone in recovery mode.

Once you’re in recovery mode you can just connect the iPhone to your computer and iTunes will offer you the option of restoring the phone. Prepare yourself for the first of a couple of lengthy downloads – for us iTunes downloaded 96 MB of software updates (we used iTunes 7.4.0 and iPhone Firmware 1.0.2 for this article). When it’s all done, iTunes will tell you so and you can close down the application.

So now we had an updated but not yet activated iPhone. The Mac application “iNdependence” makes activation a breeze, but this is where the second lengthy download comes into the picture as you have to download the firmware a second time. We did run into a minor snag: when we followed the instructions on the page we couldn’t get the activation to work on our first attempt. Disconnecting the phone, restarting iNdependence and then reconnecting the phone took care of it though – iNdependence unlocked the phone without complaint. Voila, now we had an iPhone that was basically like Apple’s latest iPod, the iTouch: it could play music and video, but it couldn’t make phone calls.

iNdependence activating an iPhone.This is where the Unlock application comes into play. To actually get it onto the phone, you need SSH installed though. Just like the guide says, the AppTapp application allows you to install third party software on your iPhone. We ran into trouble here though: when we ran AppTapp we got an indefinite progress bar. We waited a good 15 minutes for the application to finish, but it never did. What’s worse, our iPhone locked up in ‘recovery mode’ and could no longer be started. We realized that we had left iNdependence running from the previous step, and perhaps this application conflicted with the AppTapp installer. Regardless of the reason, the iPhone was dead at this point.

AppTapp making no progress.
AppTapp never got any further than this for us.

We restarted the iPhone and connected it to iTunes to restore it to factory settings. We were horrified as iTunes crashed very early on in the process. We mentally readied ourselves for creating our own Will It Blend episode, thinking the phone was a goner. Luckily after a full reboot of both the computer and the phone, the software reset went through.

We were back to square one, and had to go ahead and again activate the phone with iNdependence and then go for a second attempt at installing AppTapp. To be on the safe side, we downloaded the most recent version of AppTapp from its homepage. We made sure iNdependence was turned off.

This time we got an error message instead – something about a boot strapping process failing and a reference to the console. So we pulled up (/Applications/Utilites/Console) and took a look. To our surprise, the iPhone installer software was still working despite the error message.

AppTapp is reporting stuff in the Console.
Look! Something is still installing.

A couple of minutes later the phone restarted and all was well. The Installer icon appeared on the iPhone desktop and we could install the required software as described in the guide. on the iPhone.
Some of the applications the AppTapp Installer can install.

An activated iPhone with it’s SIM card removed.In the final part of the guide, the actual Unlock software is installed using SFTP. The guide recommends transferring the application bundle using Cyberduck, but we figured any SFTP client would do it. We had Panic’s Transmit installed, which worked just fine. After copying the files as instructed, and restarting the phone one more time, we finally had the Unlock icon on the iPhone desktop. It was time to install our T-Mobile SIM card and hope for the best.

25 minutes later we were making T-Mobile phone calls.

Notes and Observations

During the above process SSH was installed on the iPhone. This allows anyone who knows the default root password to log into your iPhone and do anything they want, as long as the phone is on a wireless network. We strongly recommend that you change your password as soon as possible using the ‘passwd’ from an SSH session.

With the same IP as before, SSH in using Terminal and run ‘passwd’ to change the root password.
Using SSH to change the default password (dottie).

So far, our iPhone has worked very well with T-Mobile. Initially there was an artifact ‘missed call’ icon hanging around over the Phone icon – a red circle in the upper right corner of the phone. Obviously, visual voice mail isn’t enabled as that’s an Apple and AT&T special feature, but the voice mail indicator works. When you press the icon, the phone calls your voice mail like a regular cell phone would.


The Unlock application works just as advertised. Including the time it took us to take photographs and the time we spent resolving our few problems, the whole unlocking process took no longer than 2 hours. At no point was a non graphical tool needed, which surely will come as a relief to some users.

Unfortunately, the process is not entirely simple even with the graphical tools, since there are several opportunities to brick the phone or otherwise get tripped up. Still, if you feel confident with your technical abilities, and you don’t feel confident in AT&T’s cell phone abilities, this is the tool you’ve been waiting for. The iPhone is free.

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Apple’s new iPhone – In depth Analysis Thu, 11 Jan 2007 16:31:00 +0000 As many of us, both Alex and I were both chocked and very impressed when Apple announced their new iPhone. Sure, there have been rumors for quite some time, but the fact that Apple managed to keep this secret is quite amazing.

I was really impressed by the phone when I watched the keynote speech (online). This phone really does make all other phones look like they belong in the stone-age. Even my new Sony Ericsson P990 looks old in comparison with the iPhone.

Why is this phone so great?
To start with, it’s really good looking. But that’s not enough to make me impressed. What made me really impressed was the speed of the phone. If the iPhone that Steve Jobs was demoing during the keynote speech is the same phone as the ones that will be available in June it’s really cool. The performance of that phone was truly amazing. When he was showing photos, there was no delay or lag whatsoever. In addition to this, when he zoomed in and out of the photos there was no delay either. This means that this is one fast phone. My P990 is quite slow when I display photos, and the photo-software doesn’t even have any fading-feature.

The phone does not run a desktop-version of Mac OS X. Some people on Engadget‘s and Gizmodo‘s forum seems to think that it is running some full blown installation of OS X. Of course this is not the case. It’s probably running the BSD-kernel (like OS X), and then a OS X-like GUI, but I doubt that it’s the regular OS X. Sure, it probably inherited many components of OS X, but they were all rewritten to be more light-weight. I don’t have any proof of this, but I’d imagine that the version of OS X running on the iPhone probably is as similar to ‘Desktop OS X’ as Windows Mobile / Pocket PC is to Windows 2000/XP. Yes, that means that it’s probably easier to port an OS X application to the iPhone than it would have been to rewrite the application for a brand new OS. However, don’t think you can run Photoshop CS2 on you iPhone. That will be like trying to install Photoshop for Windows on a Windows Mobile-phone.

Even though it’s not running a full installation of OS X it still has great potential. To start out with, the BSD-kernel is a far more stable and a more well-written kernel than the one used in Windows and Windows Mobile, which creates a solid foundation. I mean, a chain is never stronger then its weakest link, and that’s why it doesn’t matter how great programmer you are when developing an application. If the operating system that your software will be running on is unstable, you’re out of luck and there’s little you can do about it.

I can imagine that Apple identified a big market opportunity after Palm almost gave up on their Palm OS and started shipping their devices with Windows Mobile. That meant that the only two ‘serious’ competitors were Microsoft and Symbian for the mobile-market. Since Apple sure knows Microsoft’s weaknesses from before, the only remaining threat would be Symbian (which is used by Nokia and SonyEricsson). Personally I prefer Symbian over Windows Mobile/Pocket PC, but both Series 60 (used by Nokia), and UIQ2/3 (used by SonyEricsson) are really not that sophisticated. I’d imagine that both Series 60 and UIQ are far more memory efficient than Windows Mobile, but it falls short when it comes to usability and multitasking. This is where the BSD-kernel and OS X Mobile will beat their competitors by far.

There’s one thing I’m not sure if I consider good or bad, and that’s the lack of keyboard. Sure, you can use the space where the keyboard is more efficiently, and yes, as Steve pointed out, a keyboard is static, and software is not. However, I don’t know how convenient it is to type on an on screen keyboard. Maybe it’s something we’ll get used to, but I never use the on-screen keyboard on my P990, simply because I don’t like it.

What are the drawbacks?
There is no product on the market without any drawbacks. Of course, the iPhone has a couple of drawbacks as well. First out is the lack of office software. I’m not requesting Microsoft Office in the iPhone, but maybe a mobile version of iWork (with Keynote and Pages) and some spreadsheet software. This is something that is required if the iPhone wants to gain market share from the serious mobile business-users.

The next drawback would be the lack of 3rd party software. This, of course is probably something that will be solved quite quickly as soon as the phone hits the market, but at this point the amount of software for Windows Mobile, Palm OS and Symbian gives them an advantage here. The iPhone comes with a lot of good softwares, but a GPS software would be great (that connects to a GPS-bluetooth device).

The price of the iPhone is a bit high. Sure, I’ll probably buy it anyhow, but $599 for the 8Gb version with a 2 year plan is a bit too much. Most smartphones are available for just a bit more than that without a plan.

Another drawback is a minor one, but it’s obvious that the phone is not ready yet. Sure, Steve demoed it on stage, but they didn’t have any available for demoing at the show. They had a couple of phones running behind glass, but no one could try them out. I interpret this as the phone simply not being ready yet and/or that it’s not stable enough. Well, it won’t be released until June you say. Yes, but if they want this phone to be available in June they need to start manufacturing them soon, and they can’t start manufacturing them until they’re ready (they can patch them later, but not fix the hardware on thousands of phones).

No VoIP software is a disappointment. This is probably something that Apple is working on right now. I guess that they will write a mobile-version of iChat, and offer VoIP thought their services. However, I’d rather see a mobile version of Skype of Gizmo Project (which I guess will see shortly after the phone will be released).

Why I want the iPhone
It’s everything I need in a phone. Lately I’ve stopped carrying my iPod around, and started using my phone as an mp3-player. Right now I only got a 512Mb card in it, but I’m was planning to buy a 4Gb one. To combine a phone and mp3-player makes sense. Why carry two devices when you only need to carry around one?

Also, it’s got WiFi (my P990 does too), and I believe (as I wrote above) that we will see several VoIP softwares soon. Then why would I pay for expensive cellphone-plans when we have WiFi-connection almost everywhere we go? Imagine being able to call Europe for free from your cellphone.

UPDATE: Another proof of that the iPhone runs a different version of OS X is the fact that it runs on a Samsung-processor, and not a Motorola or Intel CPU as the regular macs.

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