Torsten Curdt’s weblog

The iPhone Odyssey

Already a couple of months ago it was clear that somehow I need to get hold of the new iPhone 3G. Let me tell you – it was a long journey! When it came out everyone was just going crazy about it. Getting a new iPhone was -to say at least- challenging. Options were either waiting lists or out of stock. But I didn’t really want a locked phone anyway. And I wasn’t very fond of switching carriers. So the waiting began. How long can it take to jailbreak and unlock theses phones? But more importantly: Where could I get one without a contract?

Holding off
Real life suppressed the desire for geek gadget mania. Vacation was coming up. Destination Bali. No computers, no gadgets – beside the camera. So there was no point in getting an iPhone before. I felt the urge: I want one! But I figured – it’s just the hype. That said – my previous phone had seen better days. On the way to Bali we stopped in Singapore. And I had to at least check. And there it was. At the airport. Unlocked and just there for me to buy. My precious gadget. But 900 EUR? Ouch! I knew there are a few (sane) countries in Europe where you get the phone without a contract for about 580 EUR. So just a few more weeks.

Hope for the easy way
Back in Europe a friend offered me to ship me one from Italy. Shipping, money transfer, …it seemed easier to go with the one I found on Amazon Marketplace for 640 EUR (which is pretty much the same price in the end). In stock and everything. I had hope to hold it in my hands just after 1-2 days. Boy was I naive. The seller did not have many recommendations but given that it was under the Amazon umbrella I placed the order anyway. The 2 days turned into 2 weeks. And after a few emails it was clear. It’s not going to come anytime soon. After the first 5 negative ratings for goods that never arrived, it was quite obvious that this was a con. At least there was the insurance from Amazon Marketplace that covered it. And indeed after only a few weeks I got my money back.

The second attempt
Instead of wining I turned to my pal in Italy. After such a long time availability was gladly no longer an issue. Shipping with UPS was a steep 54 EUR but at least it took no longer than a day. So at a total of about 630 EUR I got a properly unlocked iPhone 3G. End of story? Well …keep reading. Unboxing was the usual geek pleasure. Activation was no problem at all. I’ve setup wifi right away but also tried 3G to make sure it’s all working OK.

The data plan
At this stage I was still on my old time based data plan. So after the test I deliberately removed the ATN settings again. I guess I was lucky that I finally left for the BarCamp in Berlin and so also left the range of my wifi connection. At about three days later, sitting on the train I realized: Dammit! Why do I have internet?! Some research quickly explains the unexpected. In August 2008 O2 has changed their APN settings. You no longer need any settings at all! The iPhone switch only turns on/off the 3G but not EDGE/GPRS. In fact there is no such switch! (WTF!) Ergo I was online on my time based data plan for the whole 3 days. That’s a couple of hundred EUR. I was furious! Not sure whom to blame first. Apple for not having a switch to turn off data completely, O2 for not requiring any ATN settings at all or me for not verifying what falsely was listed on the provider’s web page. The only way to turn off GPRS/EDGE with O2 is to call them and have them turn if off for you.

I right away called up O2 and explained the situation. Of course the girl on the phone had no clue. ATN? iPhone with O2? But fortunately she passed me on to someone from the mobile data devision. He was very understanding and as I wanted to get volume based data plan anyway he said he will work this out for me. Next day (a Sunday!) I had my proper data plan. Today I got my bill. And indeed it was just a few bucks. *relief*

The End!
…of this story is just the beginning of another. While the iPhone has still many quirks it is a big step forward. Having at least the ability to be online virtually everywhere is a big change. Not sure whether it’s always is for the better. But it surely fosters a transformation in how we live with the internet.

  • TheGuru
    Thanks for relating that experience. I too had the iPhone craving, but that died when I heard about LiMo - now the wait for something decent to enter the market. Until then, and having been paid to work with these latest gadgets, internet on a phone just doesn't do it for me yet as there needs to be major progress in both bandwidth management with internet over narrow pipes (3G) and growth in what I call the small screen content culture. Then it will be all good.
  • I'm on O2 which is the tied iPhone provider in the UK but apart from me not wanting to get thumb and iPhone finger its the lack of control over when being connected which is worrisome. On the Windows mobile brick I have the wireless turned off all the time (it sucks the life out of the battery anyhow) but I am kind of interested in the Google phone but that's tied to a single provider as well, T-mobile at 40 quid a month.

    I don't crave it enough for that :-)
  • The iPhone is a mobile carrier's dream. It's so hard to disable data on it that they get people racking up huge data roaming bills all the time.
blog comments powered by Disqus