Pwnage Tool logoOver the past year and a half I had assisted many people with the unlocking of their iPhones. Many more people ask me about unlocking. So instead of answering each of these people over and over again, I thought I post an article in my blog, which I can refer them to for more details.

  1. What Does iPhone Unlock mean? Many carriers around the world will "carrier lock" a cell phone that they had subsidized for their customers. To ensure the purchaser of the cell phone stays as a customer of the carrier after the purchase, the carrier will normally do two things:

    • Make the purchaser commit to a contract that bounds them to the carrier for a number of years (2 years is common). Of course the purchaser can break the contract, but there is usually a penalty to compensate the carrier for the subsidizing the cell phone.
    • Carrier Lock the cell phone to the carrier's network, meaning the cell phone cannot be used on any other cellular network in the world.

  2. Is "Carrier Unlocking" the iPhone Illegal? In most countries with consumer protection regulations it is not illegal, but I am not a lawyer so I will not attempt to advise you with this matter. If you are concern I suggest you seek legal advise in your local area.
  3. Is It Illegal to Use a "Carrier Unlocked" iPhone on My Carrier? In almost all countries there are some regulations that prevent the use of unauthorized equipments on a mobile carrier network. In Hong Kong the individual carrier is responsible for managing the OFTA license, and has the rights to disallow the use of any unauthorized cell phone on their network including the canceling of an individual's cell phone service for using an unauthorized cell phone.
  4. What is the Difference Between Jailbreaking and Unlocking the iPhone? Jailbreaking is to process of hacking the iPhone so that "unauthorized" 3rd party applications can be installed on the iPhone. Ever since the launch of the Apple "iPhone AppStore" it is less important to jailbreak, unless there are applications that one really need. For me one such application is BiteSMS. Unlocking includes jailbreaking and it is the process of hacking the iPhone so that it is not carrier restricted (carrier locked) to a particular carrier partner. As of this writing you can find a list of Apple worldwide carrier partners for the iPhone at Apple.com.
  5. How Do I Jailbreak/Unlock My iPhone? Since June 2007 there had been many methods to jailbreak or unlock the iPhone. First there were the 23 steps method, including the use of SSH client and various other manipulations of proprietary files on the iPhone. Fortunately, since then we now have simple programs like the Pwnage Tool from the iPhoneDev Team, who has been the major hacking group coming out with methods and software to "carrier" unlock the iPhone. If you have a 1st generation iPhone you can follow the guide at ModMyi.com for the 1G iPhone. If you have the iPhone 3G, you should follow ModMyi.com's guide for the iPhone 3G. The same site you will find Windows equivalent instructions for both versions of the iPhone.
  6. Can I Unlock my iPhone 3G? As of the writing of this post there are no software unlock method for the iPhone 3G. The only way to "carrier" unlock an iPhone 3G is to use a hardware unlock; tools like TurboSIM. I do not recommend this hardware unlock, since in many case it will damage the iPhone. The iPhoneDev Team claims to be making available a tool on New Year's Eve 2008 that will unlock the iPhone 3G, similar to the ease of use of the current Pwnage Tool. To prove that their method is successful and simple, they have released a video of this tool; code name "Yellowsn0w".
  7. What is the Best Carrier Plan for the iPhone in Hong Kong? Although, carrier plans changes almost monthly, like anything in Hong Kong, mobile carrier price plans (tariff plans) have been very competitive. Over this past year and a half I had examined most of them. You can read my findings of these mobile carrier plans analyzed from an iPhone user in Hong Kong's perspectives.

Smartone-Vodafone logoOver a month ago I decided to switch to the Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack". You can read why I make this move in my previous post, New Tariff Plan from Smartone-Vodafone for iPhone. I had shared my experience here on my blog with my experience of using the iPhone in Hong Kong since June 2007. You can follow all of these posts by using the iPhone category.

Today is the last day of my bill cycle at Smartone-Vodafone, so I am now able to report if this "IOM Value Pack" is suitable for iPhone users in Hong Kong.

First I will provide some statistics on my iPhone voice and data usage in the past 30 days.

Internet Browsing as they called it = 27.378MB Data Usage = 4.373MB RSS Usage = 13.579MB POP Usage = 0.340MB

As the IOM Value Pack at HKD136/month includes 600MB/month (20MB/day) Internet Browsing, I am within the limit. The Data Usage, which is most likely the result of IMAP email and other application usage. The POP usage is from one of my email account that I grab mail from, and the RSS reader, these all total 18.292MB, Since the IOM Value Pack charges HKD15/15MB, the extra usage resulted in an additional charge of HKD30.00, giving me a final total of:

HKD136.00 HKD30.00 (extra data usage) HKD12.00 (MTR fees)

Total = HKD178.00

This is still cheaper than what I was paying prior to switching to the IOM Value Pack.

Smartone-Vodafone logoAs I still found my Smartone-Vodafone charges too high, I decided to look for alternatives, including those from competitors, like: PCCW, Three and People. For those of you who've been following my ideal iPhone tariff plan search in Hong Kong, you will know that I had been using Smartone-Vodafone's 3G voice plan (HKD128/month) + Internet Browsing (HKD38/month)+ Data plan (HKD118/month), giving me a total monthly bill of HKD296/month (including the MTR and administrative fees).

What did these combinations of plans gave me? I will only focus on the features that matters for an iPhone user.

Smartone-Vodafone (Option 1):

  • 1200 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 800 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 20MB/day of Internet browsing (HTTP traffic)
  • 20MB/month of Data traffic (all traffic except HTTP, ie. POP3, IMAP, etc.), extra usage will be at a rate of HKD0.01/KB

I looked at my bill from September and notice that I had approximately 8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol. I used approximately 700 minutes within the Smartone-Vodafone network and 130 minutes outside of the network.

I then looked at PCCW's "Web + Talk" HKD98/month tariff plan, to see if it is something more appropriate for my usage habits. I found that for HKD98/month, there is no contract commitment. Plus the plan gives you the following.

PCCW "Web + Talk" (Option 2):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the PCCW network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the PCCW network
  • Free SMS within the PCCW network (the sales person told me there was no free SMS, but their web site claims there is)
  • Unlimited use of PCCW WiFi hotspot
  • 60MB/month of data usage (the sales person claims this is HSDPA, but the web site claims it is GPRS), any extra data traffic will be charged at a rate of HKD10/10MB, with a maximum of HK298

Basing on my September usage, I use on average 18MB per day of data traffic, I am expected to pay and extra HKD298/month to cover the extra data usage. Giving me a total cost of HKD98 + HKD12 + HKD298 = HKD408/month.

So I decided to give Smartone-Vodafone's new Internet Browsing plan a try. Starting on November 12th, I am using their new Internet Browsing Plan, "IOM Value Pack" for HKD136.00 per month + HKD12.00 for MTR and Administrative charges = HKD148/moth.

Note that the HK96.00/month and HKD116/month plans require contractual agreements of 15 months. As many of you know I am against committing to any contracts for mobile tariff plans, as these prices usually drops within 6 months time. Due to the heavy competition in Hong Kong's mobile market.

Smartone-Vodafone "IOM Value Pack" (Option 3):

  • 600 minutes of talk time outside of the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • 600 minutes of talk time within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Free SMS within the Smartone-Vodafone network
  • Voice mail, Call forwarding, Caller number display, Call waiting and Conference call
  • 600MB/month (20MB/day) data usage.

The thing about Smartone-Vodafone's data allowance is that it only covers HTTP traffic, or in their words "web browsing". They really should be more specific than calling it "web browsing". I understand that anything more technical may be confusing for the average user, but they should clarify what "web browsing" mean in a footnote, detailing the Internet protocols. For the moment I can only deduce that "web browsing" covers any traffic using the HTTP protocol (ie. HTTP GET, HTTP POST, HTTPS activities).

Any extra data usage over the 600MB/month (20MB/day) or outside the HTTP protocol will be charged at HK15.00/15MB. Given my September month's usage (8MB of data usage outside of the HTTP protocol and less than 20MB/day HTTP traffic) I am expected to be charge an extra HK15.

This gives my monthly bill under the IOM Value Pack plan to be HKD136 + HKD15 +HKD12 = HKD163/month.

So my options are:

Option 1 Option 2 Option 3
HKD296/month HKD408/month HKD163/month
Smartone-Vodafone PCCW Smartone-Vodafone

I will report back in a month's time to see if my new plan choice is the right one for an average iPhone user in Hong Kong.

China's going to launch their own mobile TV technology in time for the Olympic games' opening ceremony on August 8, 2008. Mobile TV standards have been largely incompatible, with systems in the North America, South America, South Korea, Italy and Japan. Now we see yet another incompatible system to be introduced in one of the largest potential user based. Shall we keep starting these standards wars? We saw the battle of BetaMAX and VHS. We recently saw the HD disk format war between HD-DVD and Blu-ray.

China had always wanted to come up with their own standards. They attempted to do so with WiFi, but failed drastically when the Chinese businesses complain that the China WiFi system would not be compatible with 802.11, hence forcing all Chinese businesses to equip their staff; who travels outside of China, with connected devices compatible with dual WiFi system.

Then China choose a HD TV standard that is incompatible with the rest of the world's HD TV standard, but this time there are no Chinese businesses available to fight the decision for the consumer. So due to business survival, TV manufactures are making converter boxes that will sit between their HD TV sets and the signal coming at Chinese cities. For what have to be a patriotic decision, Hong Kong choose to go with the China standard rather than the standard that is use in majority of the countries outside of China.

Standards wars are never good for the ultimate consumers. I call for the technology decision makers and government officials, to consider the ultimate consumers in their decisions.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesopinion

Over the past 3 months in preparation of my eventual iPhone usage on the Smartone-Vodafone network, I began testing to see which is the best combination Smartone-Vodafone data plan to subscribe to. Prior to August of this year I subscribed to Smartone-Vodafone's "HKD118.00/month Data Plan", which gave me 10MB of usage per month and a HKD15.00/MB thereafter. While using my Nokia E61i at the time I frequently exceeds my 10MB allocation for the plan. I also did not use the GPRS access freely due to the limit imposed by the plan.

In August I found out about Smartone-Vodafone's "Internet Browsing Plan". With a 12 months commitment the plan cost HKD28.00/month and HKD38.00/month without a contract. Being someone who does not believe in signing any contracts I chose to pay HKD38.00/month.

This "Internet Browsing Plan" came with 20MB of usage per day. If the usage of any given day went above the 20MB limit, Smartone-Vodafone will automatically upgrade the plan to the Unlimited version for HKD78.00/month for the month in question. It will downgrade to the 20MB/day version on the subsequent month if the user did not cancel the plan.

I was very excited about this new "Internet Browsing Plan". I confirmed with the sales person at the Smartone-Vodafone store about the definition of "Internet browsing". They assure me it covered all browsing using my built in "browser" on my phone (Nokia E61i). I even confirm that it did not mean having to go through Smartone IN to do the browsing (via the Smartone-Vodafone WAP site), and they confirmed that Smartone IN is just one of the two methods where this plan would allow for "Internet browsing". I then asked them the ultimate question of why was there a "HKD488.00/month Unlimited Usage Data Plan", when it only cost HKD78.00/month through the "Internet Browsing Plan"? The sales person's respond was that the Unlimited Usage Data Plan is an old service offering.

So I cancelled my HKD118.00/month Data Plan and subscribed the new HKD38.00/month Internet Browsing Plan. At the end of my bill cycle for the month of August, I found that Smartone-Vodafone was charging me HKD119.00 for "extra data usage". To say the least I was upset and confused.

I contacted Smartone-Vodafone Customer Service and they told me the "extra data usage" charges were to cover my GPRS usages that were not "Internet browsing", hence not covered by the "Internet Browsing Plan". I told them about my conversation with the sales person at the store before I subscribed. I further ask her to explain what was meant by "Internet browsing".

All she told me was that "Internet Browsing" was "browsing using the built in browser of my mobile phone". I told her, she did not tell me any thing, but simply reworded the title of the plan. I told the Customer Service representative that I was using my built in browser through out the month of August, and asked her to provide me a more detailed and technical definition of "Internet browsing". I also told them not to charge the HKD119.00 for the "extra data usage" until I have the definition resolved.

A few days past and the same Customer Service representative (Jay) called me back and told me that "the Internet Browsing Plan covers Internet browsing through certain browsing ports". I told her that her statement was not clear, and for her to name the ports covered by the Internet Browsing Plan and get back to me after I return to Hong Kong. In the mean time I asked her to cancel the Internet Browsing Plan for the month of September and re-subscribe the HKD118.00/month Data Plan.

When I came back to Hong Kong after 2 weeks, I contacted Jay to find out the status of my enquiry. She still could not tell me exactly which ports were covered by the Internet Browsing Plan. So I asked her to get a technical person to contact me with the details. I also told her to pass along a message to their Product Development people, informing them that this was no way to create a plan for Internet browsing. It was ridiculous to have an internal restriction on certain ports and not make these ports know to the customer prior to the customer subscribing to the said plan.

Now I have my iPhone I will be performing my own experiment to see which combination of Smartone-Vodafone's "Internet Browsing Plan" and "2G/3G Data Plan" will be sufficient to cover the GPRS (EDGE) usage of the iPhone through daily use.

Since no one at Smartone-Vodafone seems to know or willing to tell me exactly what the Internet Browsing Plan covers. I will perform my own experiment. Fortunately, Smartone-Vodafone does not have commitments for any of their services. Unfortunately, I have to do this using my own money.

Due to my Bill Date at Smartone-Vodafone, I will not be able to begin my test until October 12. So I will be reporting my findings after I see my October bill the 2nd week of November.

Please stay tune.

Posted
AuthorVinko
Categoriesiphone, opinion

Repost from: Vinko’s Satellite Blog EQO LogoAs many of you may have heard of VoIP (Voice over IP). There are some very popular service like: Skype and Gizmo Project.

Last year EQO Communications launched the EQO service, which extends these VoIP service back to the mobile phone, and in addition to offering free IM (instant messaging) service to popular services like: ICQ, MSN Messenger, Google Talk and Jabber.

You may ask, why do you want to have VoIP on a mobile phone? Why does one just use the mobile phone itself to make the call required. The answer is cost. In most cases, there is a discount of about 95%. Like other VoIP providers, EQO offer free calls to other registered EQO users.

Although it offers this service to 29 countries it does not yet offer its service to Asia and more specifically Hong Kong. I am calling everyone in Asia to help convince EQO to begin offering their service in Hong Kong and rest of Asia. Please go to EQO's country suggestion page to add your respective countries to their list of desired countries.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews

Blue Sky has developed a technology to allow one to add GPS capability to a mobile phone without buying a new phone. I had always believe in location based application. I even lead a team while employed by Arthur Andersen to come up with location based solutions for a client way back in 2000.I think if Blue Sky's technology takes off we will have a whole new set of applications for the mobile phone in the coming years. I for one wish Blue Sky great success. read more | digg story

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews

I still hear people say, "It's about time I learn how to use xxxx". You can replace the "xxxx" with almost any technologies now a days. From SMS (text messaging) to Instant Messaging (IM), doing word processing on a computer to downloading HD (High Definition) movies from the Internet, video chatting to voice over IP (V0IP).

In many cases these people would clarify their statements with something like, "I really don't know how xxxx works". That is usually their reasons for not using the technology in question.

I believe a technology is ready for "prime time"; general consumption, when it is easy enough to use, such that people do not need to know how it works, but understand what it can do for them.

The latter is what I believe technologist or versatilist like myself is specialized in. Especially in terms of aspiring technologies that has yet to reach the pervasiveness I described above.

Technology should always be thought of as serving a business objective or solution. In very rare cases does technology dictates the business model or objectives.

Apple Inc. for one has captured this essence of technology perfectly through its products; may it be hardware or software. Their computer operating system (Mac OS) and personal computer ("Apple" and then "Macintosh") are my computing tools of choice for the past 25+ years.

Technology companies out there should stop pushing technologies, which are not ready for prime time, down consumers' throats.

In recent years, many such technologies existed:

  • 3G (third generation) mobile telephone. This technology and mobile phones were at least 3 years ahead of its time when mobile phone carriers were pushing the 3G phones onto consumers. Of course, now 3 years later much of European Union (EU) countries and Asia are 3G capable.
  • HD (High Definition) TV was another technology waiting for content when it was shown at CES 10 years ago, and then made widely available 3 - 4 years ago. In this case the United States, source of majority of the English TV content, took the lead in generating HD content for the massive adoption in the past 2 years. Now there are almost just as many HD channels as SD (Standard Definition) channels in the United States. Unfortunately, the rest of the world are still playing catch up with China only recently finalized their national HD standards.
  • Windows OS (operating system), until Windows Vista, was really a technical tool designed more for geeks and technophiles. Especially when we speak of the software Microsoft produced for these operating systems and the Mac OS. Microsoft Office is a very power suite of software, but for the untrained user, they are only able to use the tip of the iceberg of these tools' capabilities.
  • Another Microsoft OS, the Microsoft "Windows Mobile", is a bloated operating system that majority of the devices and software manufacture would not be able to take advantage of, hence, the consumers who purchase these devices are under utilizing. Majority of the consumers who purchase a Windows Mobile device; PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), has three simple requirements:
    1. Make telephone calls.
    2. Keep their business and personal contact details organized.
    3. Keep track of their business and personal appointments.

    From this set of consumers a small percentage also have the following requirements:

    1. Take photos for sending to friends via email (307,200 pixels or less). Because of the size of the average photo size requirements, a camera with less than 1M pixel resolution is sufficient.
    2. Read emails from their personal account (normally POP type), and if the device is subsidized by their employer also read corporate emails (either Microsoft Exchange, POP, IMAP or Blackberry type).

    From this smaller set of consumers a small percentage may find the following requirements necessary:

    1. They want to listen to music in MP3 format (with an average quality of 128kbps sampling rate). This quality means that the average 3 minutes song is about 2.8MB (Mega Bytes) in size.
    2. They may want to keep track of where they are via GPS and GPS software.

    Finally a very very few people wants to edit MS Office documents and/or presentations on these devices.

    As most of my readers can agree, they fall into the first set of consumers, and may be less than half of that falls into the 2nd set.

    Therefore, I believe using the Microsoft Windows Mobile OS for a PDA is like using an aircraft carrier to cross a river when a simple row boat is sufficient.

Doing the above in many cases will cause the technology in question to have a very slow up take and in some cases risk of being discontinued before their time.

Over the past decades many great and arguably superior technologies had seen such demise:

Now in the past 6 months and the next 12 months to come we may see Blu-ray and HD DVD having the same fate.

Image courtesy of IT Media

Apple launched a new Apple Store Japan for mobile phones users in Japan from their AU and NTT handsets. To be able to use this new Apple Store, you will need to be within service coverage of the NTT and AU handsets, since Apple had programatically blocked access to this new store from users other then the ones with the correct browser.

According to reports (IT Media), Apple had made the full line of iPod devices and the Mac Mini available for purchase on this new site. Whether there is a discount or special offer compares to the regular Apple Store Japan I do not know. May be some of the Japanese readers can comment on this article and share this with my readers.

So, if you are one of the lucky users of the following handsets you can go check it out:

  • AU:
    • Wシリーズ(W01K除く)
    • INFOBARシリーズ
    • A5000シリーズ
    • C5000シリーズ
    • A3000シリーズ
    • C3000シリーズ
    • A1400シリーズ
    • A1300シリーズ
    • A1100シリーズ
  • NTT:
    • 210i以降
    • 503is以降
    • FOMA

I realized that Japan has one of the largest, if not "the largest", mobile content consumers in the world, but the rest of Asia also have a very big intake of mobile technology. For example:

  • Hong Kong citizens changes their mobile phone the most frequent in the world.
  • South Korean citizens is the most wired [to the Internet] in the world.
  • Philipine citizens sends the most SMS in the world.
  • China citizens now make up the largest population within a country of installed cellular phone.
  • India citizens has the highest density (based on spending power) of potential cellular phone user base.

Are we (the rest of Asia, Hong Kong in particular) always going to be playing "second fiddle" to the Japanese consumers? Are we really that phobic towards mobile content? I am sure Apple's Marketing and Product Development teams had done their homework before launching the site in Japan, but please don't leave the rest of Asia out.

SImilarly, the news of iTunes Music Store for Japan had been in the air for over a year now; ever since the rumors of a EU specific Store 2 years ago. Recent news place the launch date of the iTunes Music Store - Japan for end of 2005.

Throughout these rumors and announcements, no one seem to want to comment about the rest of Asia. Yes, during the recent rumors there is also news of a iTunes Music Store for Australia by end of April 2005, but what about the other large non-English speaking music consumers: Cantonese/Mandarin (Chinese), Hindu (Indian), Korean, Barhasa and Thai.

Apple's iTunes Music Store for US already have some foreign languages music listed, but speaking to local [Hong Kong] record companies (Avex, EMI, etc.) individuals, it seems that over the past 2.5 years they have grown to accept the inevitable of music download and online distribution for Hong Kong and rest of Asia. Of course like many other things that Apple does they do not comment on unannounced products or service offerings, but I hope they are already well on its way discussing with these regional record companies (Apple, if you're reading, please send me a personal note and I will forward some of these "record companies individuals" to you... :P).

WE WANT OUR iTUNES MUSIC STORE - HONG KONG!!!

Posted
AuthorVinko

In an blog entry back in January, "Digital Convergence I pointed out some of the trends of converging the functionalities of different technologies into the same digital device. Well today Samsung has done it also. The maker of various digital devices from LCD TV to mobile phone, cameras to rice cookers, has launched their "SCH-V770" CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) mobile phone with technical specs jealous by most digital camera manufactures at this physical size and (expected) price point.

When I start listing the features you will wonder whether I am describing a digital still camera or a mobile phone, but in this case the answer is both.

The new "SCH-V770" comes with:

  • 1/1.8 inch CCD image sensor
  • digital still camera resolution of 7 megapixels
  • 3x optical / 5x digital zoom
  • auto focus
  • flash
  • focal length off 7.8 to 23.4 mm
  • manual focus
  • shutter speed from 15 seconds to 1/2000th of a second
  • record video at 15 - 30 frames a second
  • 2" QVGA TFD LCD display that is capable of 16 millions of colours
  • internal memory of 32MB
  • MMC micro media card slot
  • direct connection to a TV for playback of digital images and videos

My readers may notice some obvious omissions for a mobile phone specifications above, these are the number of bands and the typical CDMA functions. All the articles about this phones had been focused on the digital camera features and not the mobile phone part of this device. The only information I have is that it does not support any of the GMS bands in the world.

As most people find that 4 - 5 megapixels is enough for a digital phone, one begs the question if Samsung, LG and the alike have their focus on the appropriate features of their mobile phones.

I guess the consumer will be the final judge when this and other phones become available later this year.

Posted
AuthorVinko
CategoriesNews