iPhone 3G imageRecently 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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".
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. Jailbreak means to hack the iPhone so that you can install Apple unauthorized iPhone applications onto the phone. Jailbreaking does not include unlocking.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Chunghwa Telecom LogoWhen Apple made the iPhone 3G available on the little island, Taiwan, these phones sold through the official carrier partner, Chunghwa Telecom, are all carrier unlocked. Just to remind readers that, ever since the availability of iPhone 3G back in June 2008, all iPhone sold here in Hong Kong, whether through the official carrier partner, Three ("3"), or through Apple Hong Kong's Online Store, are also carrier unlocked.

The official price for iPhone 3G (8GB) and (16GB) from Apple HK Online Store are HKD5400.00 and HKD6200.00 respectively.

Apple HK made the iPhone 3G available to everyone with a HK shipping address via Apple Hong Kong's online store. This made Hong Kong the hub (and "source") of iPhone 3G that are free from the shackle of the money hungry, backward thinking mobile carriers. As of the writing of this post Apple Hong Kong's online store shows a 24 hours delivery time and free shipping. I am certain when news spread of this availability, the inventory will go quickly.

I was always against the idea of having to commit to Three HK for a 2-year contract just to gain the privilege of purchasing an Apple iPhone 3G. Now I have less of a barrier to bring this great device to the mobile carrier of my choice ("Smartone-Vodafone").

Ah... my first generation iPhone worth even less now. Them are the breaks, especially with technology devices.

Is this move by Apple a sign of things to come for other (47) iPhone selling countries? Is this Apple's way of changing their strategy to put as many iPhones in the hands of consumers as possible? This has always been one of the pain points of critics.

In hindsight, did Apple make the right move, by first capitalizing on the revenue gain from the few carriers reselling iPhones, Apple not only stir up the excitements for the device, but was also able to string the carriers along with the privilege of exclusivity.

Steve Jobs always says that Apple is a software company focus on delivering the best, complete user-experience to the end-users. Assuming this action in Hong Kong is indeed a change in Apple's iPhone strategy, this means they are indeed focusing more on what one can do with the iPhone rather than simply selling iPhones. You can say it is a means to an end.

As a result more focuses will be placed on the AppStore in iTunes Store, and the debacle approval process that Apple had employed thus far for 3rd party applications. If Apple really going to focus on what one can do with the iPhone; aka software, then Apple will need to improve the development process, making it much more seamless and less of a walled garden.

May be Apple should consider the Mac OS X and Darwin approach, where it takes an open operating system like FreeBSD created Mac OS X and then released a version of it as Opensource called Darwin. Imagine Apple taking something like Google's Android, transform it into a new version of Mobile Cocoa and then contributing back to the Opensource Android platform.

With this proposed approach Apple will differentiate itself among the handset manufactures in terms of design, which Jonathan Ive consistently delivers. And on the great user experience of the Apple version of the Android compatible mobile phone.

Back when Apple first announced the availability of the iPhone 3G to 73 countries around the world, with many of those having more than one carriers receiving the privilege of selling the phone. I had predicted the plan of Apple is to introduce the iPhone through exclusive carrier to build up the hype. Then it allows certain countries more than one carriers to sell the iPhone so that consumers receive a choice, but when the carriers not able to differentiate themselves among its competitors, Apple steps in and say, "you [the carriers] cannot say we did not let you try.", they had for a year and a half. Now [the end of 2008] they take over and sell the phone independent of any 3rd parties and no one can complain they did not give them a chance.

If my analysis is correct, you may not want to rush out and get the iPhone 3G from Apple Hong Kong's online store. That is because the third phase of Apple's iPhone strategy will happen in Hong Kong when Three ("rumored") looses its exclusivity late October. Just in time for Apple to lower the price for the Christmas shopping season.

Most people; especially the critics, need to remember that Steve Jobs manages Apple like a chess master, he is always thinking many moves ahead of all of us. So don't be so quick to criticize his decisions. Over the years [24+], being a user of the Macintosh and making it my computing tool of choice, I have learnt to accept the fact that Apple; particularly Steve Jobs, knows better.

Three HK logoThere was a report last night that the iPhone 3G sold by the carrier, Three, in Hong Kong is unlocked; meaning it is not tied to a specific carrier. This news was a bit hard to believe as news from other countries like US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, the iPhone 3G sold there are all locked to the respective mobile carriers.

Therefor, if you do not want to stick with Three's service you now have a choice, but the cheapest choice is:

HKD4680.00 + HKD188 x 24 months + MTR Fee (HKD12 x 24) = HKD9480.00 - HKD1742 = HKD7738 (including the rebate you will receive over 2 years)

Three HK Tariff in HKD

Now I have first hand confirmation from a friend who purchased one of these iPhone 3G at Three HK. He was able to put in a PCCW SIM card while having full access to all functionalities of the phone including EDGE and GPRS functions.

Is this really worth it. I say not, especially if you already have an iPhone (1st generation). Wait for the other carriers in Hong Kong; namely PCCW and/or Smartone-Vodafone receive the rights to sell the iPhone 3G.