Monday, October 22, 2007

Unlocking the iPhone

Due to a ... ahem... billing disagreement with AT&T, I have need to unlock my iPhone.

Simply put, I was charged for data roaming to the tune of $800. AT&T was unwilling to help me out here, I was unwilling to stay as a customer. Strangely enough they were uninterested in keeping me as a customer when I informed them I wanted to leave.

So I signed up with T-Mobile. Number portability is really really great. Here are my plan details:

  • $40 for 300 minutes, unlimited to top 5 callers (statically chosen by me), unlimited nights/weekends after 9pm.
  • $5 for 400 text messages. International texts (sending and receiving) are on-plan (included in the 400). It's $10 for 1000, and $15 for unlimited.
  • $6 for T-Zones, which gives me unlimited "web data".


Bottom line is my bill pre-taxes will be $51.

The iPhone plan:
  • $60 for 900 minutes, unlimited mobile 2 mobile (on AT&T), unlimited evenings/weekends, and rollover.
  • $20 for unlimited data
  • International texts are .20-.25 each. Texts sent while in Canada - .10.
  • $10 for 1000 texts.


Bottom line is $90 pre-taxes.

Another major difference is the roaming charges. T-Mobile charges me .49/minute in Canada, and another .20 if I'm calling "Long Distance" - eg: calling the US from Canada. Calling locally and incoming is .49. AT&T was charging me (on paper) .79 then an additional .12 cents of "tax" for a grand total of .91/minute.

I estimate it will take me about 3.5 months to earn back my $175 early termination fee (sadly T-Mobile's is $200).

Basically the bottom line is that T-Mobile is much much cheaper than AT&T. T-Mobile's customer service is better, and here in Seattle they have better coverage.

Ok, so how did I do it? Basically these steps:



Now after all of that, you are free and nearly everything works. Things still broken for me: Visual Voicemail (of course) - the voicemail tab in the Phone app calls the T-Mobile Voicemail line. Youtube - I hear there are hack to make this work, but I don't really use Youtube. I'll fix it one day.

Interestingly enough, EDGE data on T-Mobile seems a bit faster - I think because of the proxy.

However, sending EDGE data is slower right now for me. On AT&T it normally takes about 10 seconds to send a plain email, and about 1 minute to send a picture email. But on T-Mobile (at home and at work) it takes 30 seconds and 3-5 minutes for the same activities respectively. An email to T-Mobile indicated that they had nothing on their side.

One experiment is to try the total internet package (for $19.99/month) to see if that's a difference, but I'd rather not. Maybe I'll borrow someone's SIM that has total internet.

And that's a wrap. 4 months after waiting in line for the iPhone, paying the higher $600 price, getting my $100 rebate, dealing with AT&T's excessive roaming charges, I am back to T-Mobile like I was before.

I still like the iPhone, and now that Gmail does IMAP it's even better (previously Gmail POP was a very weak experience). I'm just glad I can pay much much much less.

Not to mention sticking it to AT&T for refusing to forgive my stupid high data roaming rates. They really suck, not to mention double suck for being unwilling to retain my business.

3 comments:

Lewis said...

Hi Ryan --

I saw your cool Jobs O'Lantern and wondered if I could post one of your photos on Wired News' Underwire blog. Please drop me a line at lwallace AT wired.com.

Thanks!

-- Lewis Wallace
Culture editor, Wired News

TitaniumDreads said...

I love that you can get "unlimited data" but text messages have a semi-fixed cost. That would be like comcast giving me free access to bit torrent but charging me 15 cents for each email.

Anonymous said...

hi ryan, im writing in from canada and was wondering if your direct my anywhere in seattle to get the iphone unlocked ( as in store or little shops) and how much that costs. are the iphones still $400 retail price? thx you kindly