Slip this in your iPhone

07 May 2008

So the iPhone is finally coming to select bits of the Asia-Pacific via Vodafone, who will be selling the handset in ten markets, including India, Australia and New Zealand. No word yet on just when they'll go on sale, if they'll be the new 3G version when they do hit shelves or the 2.5G original, and - most importantly for consumers - if they'll be locked or open to all networks.

If they do turn out to be locked, have no fear - the Internet is here to help.

Now available on the site: an unlocking gadget guaranteed to unlock "most GSM phones" and 3G dongles - and yes, that includes the iPhone.

How does it work, you ask‾ According to the product blurb, it's basically a 0.10mm-thin flexible printed circuit (FPC) with a RISC microcontroller mounted on it. Cut the SIM card (which is harder than it sounds), slip the unlocking device between your SIM and the phone's SIM slot, and hey presto! You're unlocked, and your hardware/firmware warranty is still valid.

Does it actually work‾ Beats me. But another company, UK-based 24/7 Mobile Solutions, has a similar product out called SIMable, though it doesn't work with iPhones. Yet. Either way, it'll cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $25 to find out for yourself. So caveat emptor, as usual.

DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only, and is not meant to infer advocacy for unlocking phones.

That said, I don't blame people for trying. I've gone through headache of trying to get a competing SIM card to work in a locked phone after changing carriers, and the chief thing I've learned from the ordeal is: NEVER buy a phone that's locked to a carrier unless you fully intend to stay with said carrier for the rest of your life. Or have nothing better to do with your time.

Which is why I find it interesting that the decision to make the iPhone a carrier exclusive - a practice that's been around for years, as cellcos have often offered boutique phones to differentiate themselves - has spawned a cottage industry in unlocking products and services that other locked phones never inspired. When iPhones finally do make it out this way, perhaps Apple and its cellco partners will take the hint and make iPhones available to anyone who wants one. I know I won't be buying one until they do.

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