Hacking the iPhone Proves Useful Again

March 27th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

When I traveled to Australia over Christmas with my mum, though we understood that cellphone calls overseas would start to rack up an impressive bill, we neglected to realize that SMS messages would incur a similarly hefty charge, being billed at something like $0.75 per message, including both incoming and outgoing messages. By the time we returned to the states, we’d sent and received enough text messages to generate a whopping bill from T-Mobile. So when Alex and I went to London last week, I figured out a solution: use my unlocked iPhone in the UK by purchasing a domestic pay-as-you-go SIM card, pop it in, and I’d be good to go. Instead of hundreds of dollars in call and SMS charges applied to my T-Mobile bill upon my return, I paid £10 for the SIM card and £10 for call credit, and that was more than enough to last a nine-day trip full of SMS messaging and calls.

Interestingly, I didn’t have to register with O2 in any way at all, I simply plunked down a £20 note and got, in return, a UK telephone number; the transaction took roughly two minutes. Thanks to the excellent ZiPhone software, all I needed to do was exchange my T-Mobile SIM card for the O2 one, and I was away. There was an über-nerdy moment where I exchanged SIM cards on the street, using one of Alex’s earrings to pop out the SIM door on my iPhone.

It’s fairly easy to see why US carriers are scared of SIM-unlocking; their International business, in particular, stands to suffer when consumers are free to choose their own carrier on-the-fly when traveling. It appears not to make a great deal of sense from a customer-retention standpoint, either. Since most US cellular customers pay on a monthly contractual basis, not allowing them to use their GSM phone with another carrier if they wish seems foolish, since they are already obligated to continue paying their bill until the end of their contract. In the US, this is only really applicable to T-Mobile and AT&T, the only two networks that operate a GSM-compatible network. Still, I think it would be healthy for competition if both networks and their hardware vendors allowed open access to phone handsets.

iPhone SDK is Here! (Sort of)

March 7th, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

If you’ve been online for more than a nanosecond today, you’ll no doubt have heard that the Software Development Kit for the iPhone is being released today as a public beta. This is a huge deal: Upon its intoduction, development on the platform was strictly limited to Apple only.
As someone who’s spent the last few months (quietly) studying the iPhone hacker community for the past few months, I wonder what will happen to the vibrant, largely noncommercial group that has been devoted to enabling third-party applications on the iPhone, minus official Apple support. My bet is that the community will redouble its efforts to surround distributing SDK-created apps that have not been vetted by Apple through a mechanism other than the new iTunes App Store. Hackers tend to favor entirely open systems, and while the new SDK makes the platform far more accessable than it was yesterday, it will still be somewhat restricted, notably in the areas of SIM unlocking and VoIP via cellular data. I expect to see the SDK fully reappropriated to those tasks.

Infamous Overbite Picture

March 2nd, 2008 § 0 comments § permalink

Back in high school, some friends and I played in a ska band that we named (for reasons that I have now forgotten) Random Fact. It was an absolute blast, probably the most fun I’ve ever had playing music.

During one of our concerts, somebody took a picture of me playing the drums, in mid-swing at the crash cymbal. Somehow, I lost this fine document, but this afternoon while I was digging around some old photos it resurfaced. I think it’s time it made a comeback:

Infamous Overbite