The Hack: Unlocking the Phone

As explained earlier, the T68i is a tri-band phone, meaning it is compatible with GSM 900, GSM 1800, and GSM 1900 networks. The phone is available through several different providers. However, some providers are very protective and restrictive, trying to ensure that the phones they sell are being used only on their network. For this purpose, they “lock” the phone so it only works with their service.

The reasoning behind it is that the provider sells the phone at a heavily discounted price, usually at a loss to them. When you buy a phone for $100 from the provider, it might cost you $300 to get the same phone from the manufacturer. You then sign a contract with the provider to use their service for a certain period of time, which allows them to earn back the difference and hopefully make more money with additional services etc. If there was no contract and a phone that worked with any provider, the user could walk away at any time with the equipment and the provider would experience a serious loss.

Having a multi-band phone enables you to take the phone to another location, another country, another continent, and use the phone there by simply switching the current SIM card for one that works with a local provider’s network. With a locked phone, this is not possible, defeating the purpose of having a multi-band phone and swappable SIM cards.

Another issue is the resale value of the phone. Naturally, somebody would pay more for a phone that can be used with any provider than for one that can be used with only a certain provider.

Thankfully, the lock is only a setting in the phone’s software, not a permanent hardware-based lock. To unlock a phone and make it available on any network, a hidden service menu needs to be accessed and a special unlock code needs to be entered.

Policies for unlocking phones vary widely between providers. Some providers seem to provide the code upon request, some do after a certain time period, some do after the contract is over, some do not at all. Before going to a third party, check with your provider to find out if they are willing to unlock the phone for you.

The code needed for unlocking is unique to every phone and needs to be calculated based on certain parameters contained in each phone. You can not just go and look up the correct code for your phone online, enter it, and be done. To find out the appropriate code for your phone, it needs to be connected with a particular type of cable to a program that can read the phone’s parameters and calculate the appropriate unlock code.

There are three ways of getting this code if your provider won’t unlock the phone upon request:

1) You can find a company that provides unlocking services and mail your phone in. After receiving your phone and payment, they will unlock the phone and mail it back to you. The disadvantage of that is that it takes time to send the phone back and forth, leaving you without a phone for a week or longer. Then there is the danger of the phone being lost or damaged in transit. Also, you have to pay shipping cost each way.

2) You can find somebody locally that provides unlocking services. The hard part might be finding someone, and having to take the time to drive there.

3) You can purchase a special unlock cable and a log from an online unlock service provider. You connect the phone with a cable to your computer (be sure that there is no firewall between the computer and the Internet), download and install a small application, and use it to connect the phone to the unlock service provider via the Internet to calculate and enter the unlock code.

If you go with option 3), you need to get the T28 service cable for the phone. A regular serial data cable will not work. There are serial and USB data cables available to transfer pictures, themes, ringtones, etc. to the phone, but they will not work for unlocking the phone.

Whichever way you choose, make sure you use a reputable service for unlocking the phone that has a positive track record. Do some research and check with others that have used them before. Good places for this type of information are user forums (see resources and links at the end of this article).

 

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