Well, after the Apple/iTunes update I found that many of the apps I downloaded will only work on the newer iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4, and that some of my earlier purchased games along with many of my Cydia installed apps would crash or not work at all. Even mobile substrate crashed regularly enough for me to want to call it quits with iOS 4.2.1, but yeh, I don’t blame Apple for the problems.. it was more so a HARDWARE issue, because the earlier iPhone 3G has a much slower processor and has less built-in RAM than the newer devices, so it’s like trying to run Mac OS X on a old PowerPC based Mac, or run Windows 7 on something that was more so designed for Windows 2000 for example. (sigh). So back to iPhone OS 3.1.3 I went. Yeah well I thought I would post this since I happen to like taking things apart and figuring out how stuff works.
For those that didn’t follow my earlier iPhone rants, I have a older iPhone 3G, I bought it the day they came out, standing in line at an Apple store with a bunch of similar early adopters eager to fork over their cash to Apple and AT&T for the next best thing since the original iPhone, yet predecessor to the now “old” iPhone 3GS and newer iPhone 4 (soon to be replaced by the iPhone 5, I am sure..)
What does it mean to “unlock” a phone, you ask?
Most phones sold by mobile carriers are configured to work with that carrier out-of-the-box, as is the iPhone. Some phones are “hard coded” to work ONLY with that carrier, often referred to as “locked,” while others can have their software (firmware ROM) updated to work with other carriers, or with ANY carrier who happens to use the same set of mobile frequencies, often referred to as a “world band” or “unlocked” device. Most of these phones can switch carriers simply by removing the SIM card and swapping it out with the SIM card from a different carrier as you travel around the world. The SIM is essentially a glorified memory card that has some unique code in it which acts like a sort of MAC address on the telephone networks to identify your device.
Back to my iPhone: It originally came at a discounted price, the caveat being you agree to be locked into a 2 year contract with AT&T. I bought the phone in 2008, and then in 2009 I left the USA for Canada, bringing my iPhone with me. Since international (or cross-country) roaming charges were ridiculous and AT&T wouldn’t let me leave the contract and unlock my phone for free, I paid them off several hundred bucks, closing the contract, taking my AT&T SIM card out of the phone, and following a URL given to me by the AT&T rep, proceeded to unlock my phone. (There is a way to unlock your phone over a webpage, but that’s beyond the scope of this post).
iPhone OS 3.x advances to iOS 4.x
The software on my iPhone, at the time, was on an earlier build of iPhone OS version 2.x.x or 3.x.x (which later became iOS version 4.x.x, until the final release, 4.2.1 thus ended support for the iPhone 3G.
Well, anyway, while in Canada I had a cheapo old Samsung phone added as a secondary phone along with my wife’s Motorola phone on a Telus mobile account. This freebee, no frills phone is locked and doesn’t have a SIM card to swap out for another carrier’s chip, but I didn’t care because I primarily used the phone for texting or calling her exclusively, leaving my iPhone disconnected from any network, acting more like a glorified iPod Touch (which is like a Wifi enabled iPhone without the Phone part)
iPhones in Canada vs. USA
When along came iOS — I tried it out, and it was buggy and slow, so I went to the Telus office and spoke to them, and they said, oh no- don’t upgrade to iOS, it’s laggy and buggy and what-not, stay on the older iPhone OS unless you have the new iPhone 4. I asked if they would give me a 3G SIM to pop into my older iPhone, but they said no, they can’t do that, instead they would be happy to give me a free upgrade to a iPhone 3GS if I wanted to go into a contract. Well, I thought that over then declined that option, having already freed myself from one monopoly and not wanting to join another in AT&T’s place.
Both Rogers and Bell (carriers in Canada) also carry iPhones, but they have a similar deal, they want you to use their locked phone with a contract and specific plans that include voice, text, and data, and not use some older unlocked phone on the cheapo $20 a month plan (shrug!). My other option was to go with another carrier that could do month-to-month on a GSM type network (Edge/3G) but, where I was living in rural Alberta wasn’t quite 3G ready, so, I stayed where I was at, using my Telus-approved locked Samsung thing on the month-to-month no-contract plan, and kept my glorified iPod Touch as it was.
Meanwhile, back in the States..
I moved back to the USA, but, not having any ties to AT&T, I shopped around and found T-Mobile had a plan more suitable for my usage– voice only with some texting, and no data usage.
The obvious question may be, why have a smart phone if you don’t have a data plan? Well, for me I use data when it’s FREE over WiFi, because Edge and 3G are both too expensive and too slow for what I use data for, IMHO.Yeah, I am cheap like that. So I just turn data off completely if I am not on a WiFi signal. This should really be a “instant” sort of option switch on the iPhone, but it isn’t. It’s a drag to configure this manually every time via the System Preferences/Options app.
I found that if I install a Debian Linux kernel and package loader (called Cydia) into the iPhone, it gives you more control over the phone’s settings, as well longer battery life, a selection of thousands more free apps for the phone, and stuff, however this requires you “jailbreak” the phone out of exclusive Apple/AppStore control, thus voiding the warranty. As my phone is already out of warranty and discontinued from Apple I figure why the heck not, let’s do this thing. I like many of the Cydia apps, like Cycorder, which is a better video recorder than the iPhone’s built-in video app, and even works on iPhone 3G (which Apple’s doesn’t, for some odd reason I don’t know), and I like Winterboard, which is a theme manager that enables you to skin the iPhone interface, home and other screens, icons, sounds, etc! Neato.. There’s other things too, like instant SMS replies, video downloaders/streamers, file management, improved searching, and all sorts of goodies you’d expect from a public opensource linux repository.
Then came iOS 4.2..
The announcement of iOS 4.2 came out with much fanfare and hype that Apple apparently fixed all the major security holes and bugs by now, and people were encouraged to update to get new features, apps, and such. So, I figured why the heck not? I will try iOS 4.2.1 and download a bunch of apps too!
Unfortunately, iOS 4.2.1 killed my Debian Linux “jailbreak” by removing all non-appstore apps from the device, as well updated my baseband — part of this thing’s job is to tell your iPhone if it’s locked to a specific carrier or not. It was easy enough to restore the Cydia apps and again “jailbreak” the phone as it is so strangely called.
Worse yet, I found that iOS 4.2.1 was still just a laggy slow and unstable on the iPhone 3G as the earlier builds, alas I needed to go back to iPhone OS 3.x once more.
Since I was back in the states, I grabbed a T-Mobile pay-as-you-go SIM at a local BestBuy store, activated it online and entered in all my iPhone’s details. When I popped my phone out of airplane mode, it searched and searched for a signal but just stayed at “No Service” — hmm, that’s odd, I thought.
Going to iOS 4.2.1 updates the baseband to 05.15.04, which can’t be unlocked using the most common unlocking tool, named “ultrasn0w” but there is a app for that..
Once I downgraded to iPhone OS 3.1.3, I found out that my iPhone was no longer unlocked. This is because iTunes has no way to check to see if your phone is officially, legally unlocked or not, and just assumes if you are in USA, then your iPhone is locked into the AT&T network, so it happily updates your baseband without asking if you want to do so or not.
So there I was, at iPhone OS 3.1.3, with a locked phone, and a T-Mobile SIM card that couldn’t talk to the network. Thanks a bunch for that, Apple iTunes, mighty neighborly of you, NOT.
How to fix iPhone 3G and unlock a iOS 4.2.1 on baseband 05.15.04?
Enter redsn0w and ultrasn0w.
After searching around the net, I found the fix for this issue was to download something called “redsn0w” which is like the iPhone Dev Team’s Pwnage tool, just uh, not as pretty looking 😉
A funny thing is, while you can’t unlock the 05.15.04, you can unlock later versions, like the iPad’s 06.15.00 baseband. Well, what? You mean, put an iPad baseband into a iPhone? That’s just weird! Yup, it is, but it is said to work. So I went for it.
Redsn0w lets you select options and do funny things like upgrade the baseband, change the boot logo and restore logo of your iPhone, if you so desire. I made two logos which I will post as a fan of Apple and T-Mobile, though I don’t own the copyright or have any connection or endorsements with either company so use of these is at your own risk. Standard legalese warnings apply.
Yet, installing this iPad baseband onto an iPhone isn’t without its consequences and warnings like “if you make your phone a brick or break it, you get to keep both parts” as it effectually tweaks out the the mostly useless iPhone 3G’s pseudo-GPS feature.
Please don’t ask me for tech support, if you don’t feel comfortable doing any of this on your own then you probably shouldn’t be messing with your phone, and should get someone more tech savvy to do said mods at your own peril 😉 For me, it’s totally easy to do this stuff (shrug) but oh well, I see lots of comments from people who can’t grasp it on lots of other blogs, so there ya go..
There are other apps which run on the iPhone itself, like fuzzyband, which will work to change the baseband if your iPhone is on a certain version bootloader and baseband– though my iPhone had the right bootloader, it didn’t have a changeable baseband, so this iPad thingy was my only real option to get the phone working again. One caveat (if you can call it that), is you have to do all this patching thing under Apple’s stock iOS 4.2.1
Anyway, once your phone is successfully patched to a changeable baseband, you can use a iPhone app called “ultrasn0w” to unlock it.
But what was I to do? I want my T-Mobile on my legally unlocked iPhone. I downloaded a specific yet older version of redsn0w onto my MacBook Pro (redsn0w_mac_0.9.6b5) along with the stock IPSW file (iPhone1,2_4.2.1_8C148_Restore), specifically engineered for my Apple iPhone 3G and iOS 4.2.1
Now I am looking at my iPhone 3G, running iOS 4.2.1, patched with said baseband updated, and with my T-Mobile SIM card in there, once again I have service. I didn’t need to enter any other information anywhere or download any other programs, it was pretty straight-forward and didn’t take ages to do. Redsn0w and ultrasn0w are good like that, you don’t need to poke around in the command-line, it’s all GUI driven on both the Mac (or Windows PC) and iPhone itself. Neato. Here’s screenshots to prove it:
So what now, well, I guess I can downgrade to 3.1.3 again, or hold out with 4.2.1 until the lag becomes unbearable again 😉 I can’t run Cycorder under iOS 4.x because the author (Saurik) hasn’t bothered to update it in ages (shrug) but maybe, just maybe, if he gets enough time he’ll do that, as well update the Cydia website (chuckles) — I can’t say much about that, I barely keep my own silly blog updated 🙂
If you liked this blog/rant, or hated it, or whatever, please comment and subscribe and all that stuff .. Cheers!