Recently a friend of mine commented that my articles (posts) on the iPhone and its usage in Hong Kong are very helpful, but they are a bit technical for layman user like himself. So, for the sake of helping as many potential iPhone users understand what's involved before committing to a purchase of an iPhone in Hong Kong, I decided to summarize some key points here.
- All iPhone sold in Hong Kong are "carrier unlocked". That means you can take the iPhone purchased through legitimate channels1 straight out of the box, place a carrier SIM2 card in the phone and the it will work.
- You should not use any "carrier unlocking" software (like Yellowsn0w from the iPhone Dev Team) on iPhone 3G sold through legitimate channels in Hong Kong, because of point #1.
- When the say "iTunes" this is the application that manages the synchronization of your iPhone with your computer and all your music. Where as "iTunes Store" is the online store where Apple sells3 music, videos, audiobooks and iPhone applications. The section that sells iPhone applications is called the "iTunes App Store".
- All iPhone 3G sold in Hong Kong requires activation, this is accomplished by connecting it to iTunes,
and logging into iTunes Store. So a free iTunes Store Hong Kong account is required. No longer requires an iTunes Store Hong Kong account.
- Even if you do not want to pay for any iPhone applications from the iTunes App Store you will have to provide a valid Hong Kong credit card to create an account in the iTunes Store Hong Kong.
- All carrier plans have limitations on the type of data traffic included. Therefore you need to be very specific with the sales person when choosing your data plan. For example, Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack" data plan only covers "web browsing traffic". It is hard to know what they mean by "web browsing", but it does not cover traffic generated by the built-in iPhone Mail application, and 40% of the traffic generated by iPhone 3rd party applications. Details of choosing a plan can be found in my post Is Smartone-Vodafone’s IOM Value Pack Right for iPhone?
- Unlocking and Jailbreaking software are easily available from iPhone Dev Team for FREE. At this stage, because the procedure is so simple, I would not pay anyone to do either for your iPhone (whether it is a 2G or 3G version) purchased outside of Hong Kong, unless you really have a phobia of technology.
- Jailbreak means to hack the iPhone so that you can install Apple unauthorized iPhone applications onto the phone. Jailbreaking does not include unlocking.
- The term "Carrier lock" means the iPhone is only usable on a particular mobile phone carrier's network and SIM card. So "Unlock" means to remove this restriction, and performing an Unlock will include Jailbreaking. Also see point #2.
- All iPhones sold outside of Hong Kong usually requires a 2-year contract commitment with the Apple's carrier partner. In most cases if an iPhone is not activated within 30 days the difference is charged to the purchaser's credit card. So you should think twice before asking a friend to purchase an iPhone for you overseas.
1 Legitimate channels as of this writing are: Three ("3") carrier outlets, or Apple Hong Kong Online Store. [Update: February 28, 2009] All Apple Authorized Resellers.
2 The mobile SIM card needs to support GSM frequencies 850, 900, 1800, 1900 or 2100MHz
3 iTunes Store in Hong Kong only sells iPhone Apps as of this writing.